Organized famine of 1946-1947: victims, murderers, memory. IPN debate

The famine witnessed after World War II is not a new theme in the public sphere in Moldova. There are many painful stories of survivors of that crime against humanity, which was organized by the then regime. But these stories often lack key elements, such as the persons who are to blame for what happened to victims of the famine and what should be done for such things to never repeat again because the population under that regime didn’t know the full story, in all its complexity. The subject was discussed by experts invited to IPN’s public debate “Organized famine of 1946-1947: victims, murderers, memory”.

The permanent expert of IPN’s project Igor Boțan said that mass famine is a social disaster caused by continuous absence of food, which leads to weakening of the body and to even mass death in a large region. At national level, the Government is responsible for the prevention of famine and has the obligation to ensure decent living conditions, as the Constitution of the Republic of Moldova provides.

At international level, the UN adopted the Universal Declaration on the Eradication of Hunger and Malnutrition in 1974. The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) is the specialized UN agency that leads the international effort to fight famine. Its goal is to achieve food security for all and make sure that people have regular access to enough high-quality food. With 195 members, FAO works in over 130 countries worldwide.

“If we refer to historical memory, this is acknowledgement of the past together with its positive and negative features, the wish to recreate real events of the past so as to draw conclusions and to pass them on to the future generations for avoiding such cataclysms. The Republic of Moldova was part of the Soviet Union. The famine endured by our citizens occurred in the Soviet Union and historical memory matters therefore,” noted Igor Boțan.

The expert said that there were three waves of mass starvation in the Soviet Union. Three of these covered also the Transnistrian region, while one wave covered also the right side of the Nistru. It goes to the famine of 1921-1922, which embraced 35 provinces in Soviet Russia, including southern Ukraine. Another wave covered the years 1932-1933. This period is known as Holodomor. Then, the peasants were dispossessed of food as the Soviet Union was in the process of industrialization. The third wave, of 1946-1947, covered southern Ukraine, Bessarabia. Our people remember better the third wave.

Doctor of history Lidia Pădureac, pro-rector of the Balti State University “Alecu Russo”, said that the Moldovan Soviet Socialist Republic was created by dictatorship. In 1939, Hitler and Stalin, by the Ribbentrop-Molotov Pact, agreed to divide the spheres of influence in Europe. This way, by the ultimatum notes of June 26 and 28, addressed to Romania, the Soviet Union occupied by force Bessarabia, Northern Bucovina and Hertsa Region. Immediately afterward, the Soviet state started to implement those policies that were typical of it.

“There was a period in Bessarabia when things returned to normality – 1941, when Bessarabia formed again part of Romania. But in 1944, the territory of Bessarabia returned under the domination of the Soviet Union. The creation of the Moldovan SSR itself generates a big question as that republic included several territories from the Moldovan Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic - Transnistria and six counties of Bessarabia. The other territories were again torn away and added to Ukraine. This way, in 1944 we had the Moldovan SSR where exactly the same processes and repercussions as in other regions of the Soviet Union started,” said the doctor of history.

Lidia Pădureac noted that since the summer of 1946, the local authorities had informed the authorities in Chisinau about the shortage of food owing to the excessive taxes. Everyone was affected by that famine. They say that 10% of Moldova’s population died from hunger in 1946-1947, but this figure refers to the whole population of the Moldovan SSR, from both sides of the Nistru. Statistics from archive documents show a much more dramatic situation. In 1947, the birth rate and the death rate on the left side of the Nistru were equal, while on the right side of the Nistru, the death rate was three times higher than the birth rate.

Olga Trandafilofa, museographer from Avdarma village of ATU Gagauzia, said that historical facts show it was a famine in the region in 1902-1903, but no deaths were recorded due to dystrophy and famine. Another serious hunger was witnessed in 1933, but no one died from starvation then. At that time, the Romanian authorities opened shops, canteens for the poorest sections of the population and made sure that the people went there together with their children.

“The liquidation of private land ownership, thwarting of the established lifestyle and the two-year famine led to the mass starvation of 1946-1947 in the region. The tragedy didn’t bypass Avdarma. Over 800 people died from hunger in the village. There were determined the name, age and death day of 583 persons. The research work continues,” stated the museographer.

According to her, the mass death of people didn’t stop the Soviet authorities. The meat and dairy products were confiscated from people as tax in kind even for the overdue taxes for the war years 1944-1945. There were issued death certificates stating dystrophy as the cause of death. Many were taken to mass graves in cemeteries without the death being registered. The famine of 1946-1947 caused the death of about 25-30% of the inhabitants of modern Gagauzia, which includes three towns and 23 villages.

Vasile Șoimaru, MP of the ruling PAS party and author of the draft decision to celebrate the Day of Remembrance for the Victims of the Organized Famine of 1946-1947 on the third Saturday of April, said that he tried to promote such an initiative in all the three legislative bodies of which he formed part, but didn’t enjoy support. “In 32 years, the children of the members of the first Parliament, who in the 1990s tried to adopt such a document, entered the legislative body and adopted the draft decision that enables us to commemorate the victims of the famine organized by the Communists in our region. If you noticed, the MPs of the left withdrew from the Parliament sitting as they do not want to admit that the famine was organized. They say that there was hunger because it was drought. But this is not so. People were dispossessed of everything and were murdered. Something like this cannot be forgiven,” stated the MP.

According to him, collectivization was the major goal pursued tens of years ago. They wanted to make the people obedient. Those who obeyed were allowed to stay, while those who didn’t were taken to clean Siberia as this all in weeds, from Ural up to the Pacific Ocean.

Vasile Șoimaru noted that last autumn he went to Avdarma for the first time and was surprised to see that it was a very beautiful village and to learn that the local Gagauz people were the first who commemorated the victims of the organized famine. He also had the occasion of seeing the museum and the memorial complex. The MP called on the people to go and visit this village and to follow the example and commemorate those who died without bearing any blame. There were concrete persons who worked out the famine project and Ukraine was the first target.

The debate entitled “Organized famine of 1946-1947: victims, murderers, memory” was the tenth installment of IPN’s project “Impact of the Past on Confidence and Peace Building Processes” that is supported by the Hanns Seidel Foundation of Germany.

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