In an Open Letter, 21 signatories from Swiss civil society ask the members of the Swiss National Council to recognise the Holodomor in Ukraine in the 1930s as genocide.
Addendum, June 2023: The National Council vote on the recognition of the Holodomor as genocide was scheduled for 8 June 2023. The agenda item had to be postponed at short notice. It will probably be discussed in the autumn or winter session of 2023.
In the former Ukrainian Soviet Republic, millions of people starved to death in the early 1930s after Soviet leader Josef Stalin and his aides deliberately caused a famine. Stalin deliberately had the peasants’ grain confiscated, so that people starved to death. While the Soviet Union continued to export grain, food stocks were not distributed to the population. This was to break the resistance of the independent farmers to the forced collectivisation of their farms. This was also linked to the suppression of the Ukrainian language and culture, which Stalin considered a threat to his rule over Ukraine.
Most of the victims of the Holodomor were peasant families in the countryside. In the cities, those suspected of being close to Ukrainian culture were persecuted. Tens of thousands of politicians, teachers, artists and intellectuals were arrested, deported to labour camps or executed. Scholars estimate that 4 to 7 million people died as a result of the Holodomor in Ukraine.
Raphael Lemkin, who coined the term “genocide” and was the founder of the United Nations Genocide Convention, said as early as 1953 in his speech on the Soviet genocide in Ukraine: “This is not simply a case of mass murder. It is a genocide, the destruction not only of individuals but of a culture and a nation”.
A vote will be held in the Swiss National Council on 8 June 2023 on whether to classify the Holodomor as genocide against the Ukrainian people. Worldwide, 29 parliaments have already recognised the Holodomor as genocide – most recently the Slovenian and British parliaments on 23 and 25 May 2023 respectively.
The open letter to the members of the Swiss National Council states that the recognition of the Holodomor as genocide is important “to counteract the denial and trivialisation of Stalin’s crimes and to expose Putin’s distorted presentation of history, from which he derives claims to jurisdiction over parts of Ukraine”. For decades, the world community had remained silent about the crime of the Holodomor. Today, Ukraine’s national integrity and sovereignty are once again under threat: “Ukrainians are being subjected to unspeakable suffering because of their aspirations for freedom, independence and democracy. As a liberal democracy, we must resolutely oppose this”.
The 21 signatories of the Open Letter ask the members of the Swiss National Council to side with the people of Ukraine: “Please recognise the Holodomor as genocide. Past injustices must be named as such in order to recognise and end present day crimes”.
Open Letter: Recognition of the Holodomor as genocide
The text of the Open Letter:
To the members of the National Council Ladies and Gentlemen In the early 1930s, one of the greatest crimes of the 20th century occurred in parts of the Soviet Union. Researchers estimate that at least four million Ukrainians fell victim to the famine orchestrated by Josef Stalin, which in Ukraine is called the Holodomor - killing by starvation. The aim of the deliberately induced famine was to break the resistance of the independent peasants to collectivisation. In parallel, the Soviet leadership waged a campaign against Ukrainian national consciousness and culture. The bloodiest political purge campaign in the history of the Soviet Union up to that time was directed against the Ukrainian national communists and the Ukrainian national intelligentsia. However, anyone suspected of being a proponent of Ukrainian culture could become a victim. Tens of thousands of politicians, teachers, artists and intellectuals were arrested, deported to labour camps or executed. Raphael Lemkin, an expert on international criminal law and the founder of the concept of genocide used in used in contemporary jurisprudence, called the Holodomor and the associated persecution of Ukrainian culture and identity "the classic example of Soviet genocide". A vote will be held in the Swiss National Council on 8 June 2023 on whether to classify the Holodomor as genocide against the Ukrainian population. Worldwide, 29 parliaments have already recognised the Holodomor as genocide - most recently the Slovenian and British parliaments on 23 and 25 May 2023 respectively. The recognition is important to counteract the denial and trivialisation of Stalin's crimes and to expose Putin's distorted presentation of history, from which he derives claims to jurisdiction over parts of Ukraine. Until the late 1980s, the Holodomor was censored in the Soviet Union. Russia denies the scope of the famine to this day. Only recently, Russian occupiers of Ukrainian territories removed the monuments there to the victims of the Holodomor. 90 years after the Holodomor, we see Russia committing crimes against humanity and the most serious war crimes in Ukraine. According to Article 2 of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide of 9 December 1948, today's crimes have at least genocidal features, such as the torture and targeted killings of civilians committed in places like Bucha or Irpin, as well as the forced deportation of Ukrainian children to Russia. It is extensively documented that expressions of Ukrainian identity in the form of the Ukrainian language or the Ukrainian flag are brutally punished in Ukrainian territories occupied by Russia. For decades, the world community has remained silent about the crime of the Holodomor. Today, Ukraine's national integrity and sovereignty are once again under threat. Ukrainians are being subjected to unspeakable suffering because of their aspirations for freedom, independence and democracy. As a liberal democracy, we must resolutely oppose this. We therefore ask you, as members of the Swiss National Council, to side with the people of Ukraine who have repeatedly resisted Russian-Soviet oppression for centuries. Please recognise the Holodomor as genocide. Past injustices must be named as such in order to recognise and end present day crimes. Yours sincerely Matteï Batruch, Co-President Zurich Helps Ukraine ZhdU Adi Blum, Board Member Swiss-German PEN Centre Lars Bünger, President Libereco - Partnership for Human Rights Andreas Freimüller, Co-Managing Director Campax Anja Gada, Political Secretary GSoA Andrej N. Lushnycky, President Ukrainian Society of Switzerland Conrad E. Müller, MD, President of the Pro UKBB Foundation Stefan Müller, Managing Director and Member of the Board of Osteuropahilfe Andrea Nagel, Executive Director cfd The feminist peace organisation Nadiia Olarean, President Ukraine Reborn Francine Perret, Member of the Board Swiss Peace Council Maryna Romanenko, President Association D Jean Rossiaud, Co-President GE CARE Ukraine Bettina Ryser Ndeye, Secretary General of ACAT-Switzerland Mikhail Shishkin, Writer Regula Spalinger, Managing Director Kommunikation Ost-West Aliaksandr Vashkevich, President of the Belarusian-Swiss Association "RAZAM.CH Emilia von Albertini, Co-President St. Gallen Helps Ukraine Christoph Wiedmer, Co-Director Society for Threatened Peoples Jean Ziegler, Advisor UN Human Rights Council Nathalia Zimmermann, Head of Eastward Programme SCI Switzerland