Reflections on Stalin and the Holodomor


  • Françoise Thom Paris-Sorbonne University (Paris IV)



The mechanisms and the chronology of the great crimes committed by totalitarian regimes are now well documented. While they may explain the mechanics of these events, they do not always explain why they transpired. The implementation of Stalin’s policy of collectivization and de-kulakization relied on dissimulation. Moreover, the pace of collectivization was justified by external threats, initially from Great Britain and Poland, and later extending to Japan. This made possible the branding of any political adversary as a traitor. As long as Stalin faced organized political opposition, he was unable to launch any maximal policies. After the defeat of Trotsky in December 1927 he was able to create crisis situations that ultimately furthered his own power. The offensive he unleashed against the peasants became a means of reinforcing his increasing dictatorship. The collectivization campaign employed the rational argument that the backward countryside needs to modernize production. Its ultimate aim, however, was the crushing of an independent peasantry. There are enlightening comparisons that can be made between collectivization in China and the USSR, which are explored in this essay. The resistance to collectivization was particularly strong amongst Ukrainians. Stalin, who had long regarded the national question as inseparable from the peasant question, deliberately chose mass starvation to break resistance to his will. The history of these events was for a long time shrouded in great secrecy until it began being discussed by Western scholars, becoming a matter of considerable debate between the “totalitarian” and “revisionist” schools of Soviet historiography.


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Author Biography

Françoise Thom, Paris-Sorbonne University (Paris IV)