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Between four and seven million people, mainly Ukrainian peasant farmers, are estimated to have starved to death in the Ukrainian famine of 1932-33.

The famine was largely man-made, and a result of a Soviet programme of forced agricultural collectivisation launched by Soviet leader Josef Stalin in 1932. Under the plan, individually owned and operated farms were replaced by large state-run collectives. Ukrainian farmers largely resisted the policy and in response Soviet officials forced some farmers from their lands, seized property, and confiscated produce in punishment for not meeting State production quotas. Soviet authorities also sealed the borders so no one could leave the country and blocked food supplies into Ukraine. Some historians have argued the policies were a deliberate attempt by Stalin to crush a drive for independence. The policy of collectivisation was also accompanied by a wide-ranging purge of the Ukrainian intelligentsia and of the Ukrainian Communist Party.

Several countries, including the United States, have recognised the events of 1932-33 as genocide. The European Parliament recognised the Holodomor as a crime against humanity in 2008. However, in December 2022 the European Parliament adopted a resolution recognising the Holodomor as genocide and called on all countries and organisations to do the same.

The longstanding position of successive British governments is that genocide recognition is a matter for competent courts, as opposed to governments or non-judicial bodies. The UK therefore only recognises the following as genocide (PDF), as determined by international courts: the Holocaust (World War two), Srebrenica (1995) and Rwanda (1994). While recognising the Holodomor as “an appalling tragedy and an important part of the history of Ukraine and Europe”, the Government has said that is has no plans to recognise these events as genocide.

The Russian government denies that Stalin’s policies were aimed at a particular ethnicity and says that this means it was not an act of genocide.

Many observers have compared Russia’s current actions in Ukraine to the events of 1932-33. For research relating to the conflict and a parliamentary reading list on events in Ukraine dating back to 2014, see the Library’s Conflict in Ukraine hub. Do not type over or delete this non-printing text

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