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Chapter 22

This webpage reproduces a chapter of


Ukraine under the Soviets
by Clarence Manning

published by
Bookman Associates
New York,
1953

The text is in the public domain.

This page has been carefully proofread
and I believe it to be free of errors.
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Chapter 24

 p185  Chapter Twenty‑Three

Ukraine After World War II

At the conclusion of World War II, Stalin and the officials of the USSR were ready for the next step. They had satisfactorily fooled the Western powers, they had entered the UkSSR and the Byelorussian SSR in the United Nations and they had secured from the President of the United States and the Prime Minister of the British Commonwealth of Nations the right to return (by force, if necessary) persons with USSR citizen­ship. They had decorated the Allied leaders with medals commemorating the Russian conquerors of the past and they were ready to move ahead. They were sure that no one would care to ask about the fate of the unfortunate victims of the German slave camps because every American and Western civil or military authority of high rank had become convinced of the humaneness of Stalin and his group.

Theº Ukraine had been thoroughly devastated, as we have seen. Its factories and its fields had been laid waste. That part of its machinery which had not been wantonly destroyed by one of the two contesting invaders had been carted to work outside of the UkSSR. But even so, Ukraine was not quiet.

The population, even that part which had been more favorably disposed to the Soviets because of the persecution by the Nazis, had hoped that with the return of peace and the Soviet victory there might be an improvement in living conditions, an increase of consumer goods, a relaxation of some of the austerity that had marked the years before 1941. They were almost at once to be disillusioned, for they very soon found that out of the scanty stores of food which they had preserved from the greedy Nazis they were supposed to make generous gifts for the benefit of Stalin and the elder  p186 brothers, the Great Russians, the one people that were loyal through thick and thin to the authorities of the Soviet Union.

Yet instead of bringing in an era of peace and harmony, Stalin and his associates, emboldened by their successes in central Europe, immediately began a new campaign against the American "warmongers" and "imperialists" to prepare the people for still more rigid controls. It became clear almost at once that the return of the Soviet authorities was to usher in not a relaxation but a tightening of the old controls.

These were bitterly resented. In Odesa and Kharkiv there were serious disturbances and while there may be some question as to whether these were directly inspired and organized by detachments of the U. P. A., it seems perfectly clear that they were suppressed not only by the forces of the MVD but by the Red Army.

On the other hand, as early as 1944 when the Nazi tide began to ebb and the Western Sovietophile feeling was at its height, the Union Council of Commissars in Moscow passed a resolution authorizing the various Soviet Republics to enter into relations with foreign countries by having their own Commissariats for Foreign Affairs and their own national armies. Such devices completely fooled the Allied leaders. They did not notice or want to notice that the Ukrainian Commissar for Foreign Affairs, D. Z. Manuilsky, had long played a role as a Russian Soviet representative in Ukraine. Furthermore, the new Ukrainian and Byelorussian armies did not adopt the language of the country for which they were fighting. In theory after 1944 they were the only Soviet troops engaged against the Germans but even Stalin and the central authority did not pretend that there were no Great Russians in these armies. On the contrary, they boasted of this fact, whenever it was not necessary to hold before the world the shadow of Ukrainian and Byelorussian independence. The ruse worked and both Ukraine and Byelorussia were admitted to the United Nations, but both countries have declined to enter into diplomatic relations with any foreign country and have chosen, as was natural, to carry on all their negotiations through Moscow. Still later, in 1941, to carry this pretense of independence still further and deceive the  p187 Western world, the Soviet Union conferred upon the Ukrainian Soviet Republic the right to have its own anthem and its own national flag.

These actions were not to be interpreted as a concession from Moscow, although they were presented in that guise. They were rather intended to strengthen the Soviet position in international affairs and by an appearance of generosity to facilitate the reduction of the satellite states to the same position as that held by the Union Republics. In this sense they were a response to the centralizing tendencies which were now to be expressed in a still stronger form.

As soon as hostilities ended and even before the Soviets were assured of all their hopes, they began to purge again the Ukrainian Communist Party and within a few months some 38% of the high officials were removed on the ground of bourgeois nationalism. All those who had not retreated to the east or could not show that they were working throughout the war as zealous Soviet partisans were summarily exiled as bourgeois nationalists. In the same way, when the enforced return of displaced persons began under the Yalta Agreement, very few were allowed to return to their homes. The vast majority were either executed for surrendering to the Germans or were sent to the labor camps in the far north and east for reeducation.

The Fourth Five Year Plan which was commenced in 1946 was very definitely devoted to the restoration of the country after the ravages of the war and to the increase of the Soviet capacity for defense. It was only in Ukraine and Byelorussia that the restoration had to absorb the energies of a considerable majority of the population, for while there were areas in the neighborhood of Leningrad and Stalingrad which had been badly devastated, the situation in Ukraine was far worse. The cities and factories had been destroyed, the mines had been flooded and the population were living as best they might among the ruins which had been left by the two invading armies.

At the same time the work of restoration went very slowly. Less than one third of the miners of the Donbas had returned to  p188 their posts and the vast majority of those who were Communists received more or less sinecures above ground. Their places were taken by forcing the Ukrainian peasants, including a large percentage of young girls, to work in the pits with the minimum of safeguards. Little money was appropriated for the restoration of the damaged housing, for as the writer Korniychuk declared in one of his works, "Ukraine was so thankful for the success of Stalin that they did not care how they lived, for if he had perished, life would not be worth living under any circumstances."

With this attitude prominently emphasized by the leading propagandists, it is easy to see that the resources and energies of the population were directed by force rather toward those items that would advance the importance and the convenience of Moscow, than those that would be of advantage to the local population.

The one exception was the necessity for rebuilding immediately and strengthening the railroad communications between the Donbas, Moscow, Leningrad and the Black Sea ports — in other words, the extreme eastern part of Ukraine which was slated for a special development with roads and railroads linking the country up with the Russian centres rather than with the other Ukrainian centres to the west for these were regarded as exposed centres in case of a new outbreak of hostilities and were to be neglected until they were masked by the extension of Soviet power over the satellite countries.

The collectivized agriculture was in little better shape. In that part of Ukraine which had been under Soviet control before 1939, the authorities revived the collective farms but they had been so badly ruined that at first the authorities were often willing to be more considerate of the members. Immediately after the war they allowed them to group themselves into links or permanent sections of some eight to ten people who would thus come to feel themselves a distinct unit in the collective farm. It did not take long for the more rigid Communists to decide that this sense of permanence was in a way a defiance of the principles of collectivization, for very often members of the same household, if it were at all numerous, would group themselves into a link. In such cases the link became more prosperous, for it was in a way  p189 a revival of that form of family agriculture which had long been popular in Ukraine before the collectivization. Furthermore, it was soon suspected that the links varied in their delivery of supplies to the government, sometimes in inverse proportion to their own readiness to work. The peasants likewise as in the early days of the NEP devoted more attention to their own private plots of land, a phenomenon that had been noticed even before World War II.

The Soviet authorities had several answers to such developments. On the one hand, they forbade the operation of the permanent links which had developed to the point where they threatened the objective of collectivization, the turning of the peasant farmer into a paid proletarian worker in agriculture. On the other hand they reduced the size again of the individual plot of land and they forced the peasants to give up animal raising on their plots by charging them for even the straw from the collective farms and the wild fodder that grew in abandoned places. Then again, they levied a tax on the products of these plots and this, plus the reduction of the allotment, rendered it impossible for the peasant to improve his lot except through increased work on the collective farm. In the meanwhile the steady raising of the quota of work required for one labor day made it impossible for the average peasant, unless he was a Stakhanovist (i.e. a person who cooperated with the central regime and thereby received favorable assignments) to complete one labor day within one calendar day, no matter how long hours he worked. This had been a favorite device of the Russian landlords as we learn from Radishchev's Journey from Petersburg to Moscow, a famous Russian radical work of the end of the eighteenth century but a modern version of it was adapted by the Russian Communist leaders and used effectively.

Even these measures were not the desirable solution. This was first proposed by Khrushchov in 1947, and while it was at first looked upon with some disfavor, it was finally deemed suitable by the slave-drivers of the Kremlin, and Khrushchov, after a period of mild disfavor, was promoted to the Politburo, and another Russian, Melnikov, placed in charge of Ukraine. This was the  p190 creation of great "agro-cities" or "agro-settlements" which would unite several collective farms in one great centre which could be more easily controlled by the Communist Party with a smaller number of qualified party members in charge. By the end of 1950 the number of kolhosps (collective farms) had been reduced from 33,653, as at the end of the war, to 14,443. The number of households in one had grown from 163 households to 277. At the same time the number of collective farms in which there were definite party leaders had increased from 42% to 78%. This does not imply a growth in Communist member­ship, for the number of Communist authorities might, under the new ratio, be reduced by almost 3,000 in personnel. This would be hardly likely but it explains at a glance the increased control that the Communists could exert over the larger groups. It also made it easier by destroying the separated villages to prevent as effective help being given to the U. P. A. and the other anti-Communist movements which lingered on, as the peasants saw that the new era was to be not one of peace but of increased hardships. At the same time, the peasant was made more helpless for his holdings in the neighborhood of his home were reduced to 0.15 hectare or approximately a third of an acre.

This area is roughly equivalent to the average American suburban lot of 150 × 100 feet and on this the average peasant family was supposed, no matter how many members it contained, to raise all the vegetables, eggs and milk which the family required for the year and also any other plant or animal requirement which was needed as a cash crop. Even this was now burdened with taxes and the peasant was forbidden to secure anything from the collective farm to assist in his economy, outside of what he secured in pay for a steadily diminishing number of labor days and the accompanying cash and kind receipts which were apportioned to him for his work.

Estimates based on figures from some collective farms show that the average family receives for its year's work, if three or four members work, something in the neighborhood of three hundred pounds of grain, four hundred pounds of potatoes and about one  p191 thousand karbovantsy in money. When we remember that, as a result of the Soviet tax system, a pair of shoes cost five hundred karbovantsy and a suit of average quality a little more than one thousand karbovantsy, we can see how dependent the average peasant is upon his small plot on which his egg tax is, whether he raises eggs or not, two hundred per year. In addition, from his cash resources he must buy the grain for his hens or raise it on his own plot.

It is small wonder that the foreign visitor is not welcomed on these collective farms except in a few places which are kept for show. In all of them the Communist heads receive very satisfactory living conditions with opportunities to purchase supplies at very moderate prices in shops devised for Communist administrators, and it is these administrators, and the Communists of the Motor Tractor Stations and the MVD who receive almost the entire income that is allotted to the collective farms.

The position of the city laborer is little better, although he receives in connection with his plant the opportunity of securing whatever the factory heads feel like giving him for food in the factory dining rooms.

In 1946‑7, before Western Ukraine was fully Communized, there was another drought in the black earth region and once again starvation hung as a spectre over the entire population. Those who had the strength and courage to get to Western Ukraine in search of food were surprised how much food there was still to be found in those areas where the peasants were still allowed to use their own energy, skill and knowledge even on their own small farms which still looked like paradise to those poor devils who had passed through the period of the thirties.

Still later, collectivization was introduced into Western Ukraine and the other accompaniments of the regime in the east were at once apparent.

The Fifth Five Year Plan which was adopted in 1950 continued and intensified the process. From the figures which have been revealed, it is obvious that the increases which have been demanded of Ukraine in this period are relatively minor. There  p192 are a few large projects planned in the eastern part of the country which can be made immediately accessible to the Moscow Industrial area but which will be of little value to the Ukrainian population, for even the resorts along the coast of the Black Sea have now definitely been placed under a Union Commissariat and are being improved to accommodate the higher officials from the centre. The whole strength of the Soviet Union is being exerted to build up the industrial centres in the Urals and further to the east.

During these years there has been little progress made in many fields, and few or none of the evacuated personnel which formerly managed the factories have been returned. It is the same with machinery.

On the other hand, where factories have been restored, the new directors have usually been sent down from Moscow to administer them, and so have the responsible workmen. The deportation from the villages still continues as the native population are removed to Siberia or elsewhere and non‑Ukrainians are sent in, in accordance with a definite scheme for breaking up the homogeneity of the population.

Despite all this, there has scarcely passed a month in which the central authorities in Moscow have not stressed defects in the working of the Ukrainian branch of the party. They have found continued failures to perform the required deliveries, a lack of ideological work and definite wrecking and deliberate sabotage due to bourgeois nationalist feelings on the part of the party leaders in Ukraine. There has been a consistent and unrelenting attack on everything that has been in the country, while the heads of the collective farms and the other institutions have been attacked and changed for nationalist deviations.

The conclusion is irresistible that it is not the intention of the central authority in Moscow to relax its pressure until it has annihilated the last point in the UkSSR which differs in the slightest degree from the rules prevailing in the RSFSR and that in the meantime it, despite its lip service to the cause of a federation, is working for a complete standardization, not only in the field of economics but in every other field as well.

 p193  Theº Ukraine is regarded as a profitable colony from which the wealth is to be drawn in the manner of the old imperialism. It is to be absorbed and assimilated to the last degree and, at the same time, the RSFSR and the USSR, built around the elder brother, are working in desperation to prepare within its own boundaries new sources of supply. Within the last fifteen years, while the resources of the Donbas and Kryvy Rih have increased, according to the five year plans, some 10‑15%, the actual percentage which the fundamental products of Ukraine bear to the total production of those same products in the USSR has significantly dropped more than that.

Thus at one and the same time the Kremlin is planning to annihilate all of the salient characteristics of the economy of Ukraine and its population, on the ground that Ukraine is a necessary source of raw material for the USSR and is striving to free itself of as much dependence on that raw material as it can. This is typical of the double-faced tactics of the leaders of the Union and it easily explains the still smouldering discontent among the Ukrainian people.


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