Category Archives: History

Sign the petition: Ask the Pulitzer Board to revoke Duranty’s prize

The US Committee on Ukrainian Holodomor-Genocide Awareness has begun a national campaign to ask the Pulitzer Prize Board to reconsider its 2003 decision not to revoke the Pulitzer Prize awarded to Walter Duranty. Duranty lied about the true circumstances of Stalin’s implementation of his industrialization and collectivization policies. Duranty claimed that there was no starvation in Ukraine during the 1932–1933 genocide known as the Holodomor. The Committee asks that the Pulitzer Prize Board take a moral stand after 89 years and revoke the Duranty prize.

Please sign your name to the petition. You do not have to contribute any money to the campaign. Just share your name. Help us reach a number of signatures that will move the Pulitzer Board to make the morally correct decision.

Mendel Osherowitch and Holodomor eve

&Once upon a time there was a Yiddish language newspaper in New York called Forverts (in English, The Forward). Founded in 1897 by the Jewish Socialist Press Federation, the newspaper was devoted to Jewish trade unionism and democratic socialism.

Like the Ukrainian gazette Svoboda in its early years, Forverts also offered English lessons to its readers, as well as civic advice regarding life in America. Under the leadership of Abraham Cahan, editor from 1903 to 1951, Forverts attained a readership of some 200,000 by World War I.

Early in February and March of 1932, Mendel Osherowitch, a Jewish Ukrainian working at Forverts, was sent to Ukraine on assignment to learn about life in Soviet Ukraine. He was to go to theaters, marketplaces, cabarets, shops, Jewish houses of learning and to speak with Jews and non-Jews.

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When Science is an Institution (as opposed to a process)

Psychiatry in the Soviet Union

There was systematic political abuse of psychiatry in the Soviet Union, based on the interpretation of political opposition or dissent as a psychiatric problem. It was called “psychopathological mechanisms” of dissent.

During the leadership of General Secretary Leonid Brezhnev, psychiatry was used to disable and remove from society political opponents (“dissidents”) who openly expressed beliefs that contradicted the official dogma. The term “philosophical intoxication”, for instance, was widely applied to the mental disorders diagnosed when people disagreed with the country’s Communist leaders and, by referring to the writings of the Founding Fathers of Marxism–Leninism—Karl Marx, Friedrich Engels, and Vladimir Lenin—made them the target of criticism.

. . . .

Political dissidents were usually charged under Articles 70 (agitation and propaganda against the Soviet state) and 190-1 (dissemination of false fabrications defaming the Soviet state and social system) of the RSFSR Criminal Code. Forensic psychiatrists were asked to examine offenders whose mental state was considered abnormal by the investigating officers.

In almost every case, dissidents were examined at the Serbsky Central Research Institute for Forensic Psychiatry in Moscow, where persons being prosecuted in court for committing political crimes were subjected to a forensic-psychiatric expert evaluation. Once certified, the accused and convicted were sent for involuntary treatment to the Special Psychiatric Hospitals controlled by the Ministry of Internal Affairs (MVD) of the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic.

The accused had no right of appeal The right was given to their relatives or other interested persons but they were not allowed to nominate psychiatrists to take part in the evaluation, because all psychiatrists were considered fully independent and equally credible before the law.

Ukraine celebrating 30th Anniversary of its Independence Day

On Tuesday, August 24, Ukraine celebrates the 30th anniversary of its Independence.

Ukraine celebrates its Independence Day in honor of the adoption by the Verkhovna Rada of the Ukrainian SSR in 1991 of the Act of Independence of Ukraine – a political and legal document that certified the new status of the Ukrainian State.

Ukraine has come a long way to independence. It all started off with the existence of the state union of the Poliany people in Rus, before the unification of the Rus State with its heart in Kyiv. With the disintegration of the Kyiv-Rus, the traditions of statehood passed to the Galicia-Volyn principality. Then came the Lithuanian-Russian Grand Duchy, in which the Kyiv and Volyn lands enjoyed considerable autonomy.

In the XVII century, on the territory of modern Ukraine, the Cossack State began to shape up. The Cossacks fought for Ukraine’s independence for more than a hundred years, but ultimately didn’t succeed. In the XVIII century, the Ukrainian nation lost its statehood and found itself as part of the two empires – the Russian and the Austrian – for the next two hundred years.

In the XIX – early XX centuries, the Ukrainian national movement was conceived and then developed, leading to the Ukrainian Revolution of 1917-1921 and the revival of Ukrainian statehood. The Central Rada (Parliament) was formed, which with its Third Universal proclaimed the Ukrainian People’s Republic before the Fourth Universal declared its independence.

In 1919, the Act of Unification affirmed unity of the Ukrainian lands. However, the UPR, as a state, did not last long. Until the end of XX century, the Ukrainian people lost the chance to have their own state.

Following a coup in Moscow on August 24, 1991, the Verkhovna Rada (the Republic’s parliament) at its extraordinary session proclaimed the independence of Ukraine and the creation of an independent state – Ukraine.

This meant that the Ukrainian state had its own indivisible and inviolable territory, where the Constitution and laws of Ukraine were in force exclusively.

Ukraine gained full state independence after holding a nationwide referendum on December 1, 1991, where 90.32% of respondents supported the move.

Facebook removes account of Ukrainian Canadian journalist following her post on Soviet crimes

On July 3, Ustia Stefanchuk, a Ukrainian blogger and journalist now living in Canada, wrote a post about the atrocities of the Soviet government in Lviv. Her post described how the Soviet authorities tortured her family. On July 5, Facebook deleted Ms. Stefanchuk’s account. She reported the news from a different account.

Facebook said that the violation of the social network’s standards was the reason for the move. Ms. Stefanchuk called it an example of the destruction of the national consciousness of Ukrainians.

A writer originally from Lviv who currently lives in Canada, Ms. Stefanchuk researches the life of the first wave of Ukrainian immigrants to Canada. She also searches for and writes about abandoned Ukrainian churches.

In her post for which the social network deleted her account, Ms. Stefanchuk wrote about the day the Soviet army retreated from Lviv under pressure from Germany. As they fled on July 3, 1941, Soviet troops killed thousands of Ukrainians, including those imprisoned as counter-revolutionary elements, Ms. Stefanchuk wrote, adding that they included intellectuals, teachers and students. She wrote that the Soviets shot people and threw grenades into the cells, and the advancing Germans then opened Lviv prisons and let residents recognize their relatives.

In a photo attached to the post, Ms. Stefanchuk explained that a young woman from Lviv, wearing an embroidered dress, was clearly horrified by her surroundings. She had just seen hundreds of half-decomposed corpses. Others from the city were in the midst of trying to find their relatives among the dead. She notes also that, due to a lack of time and fear of the oncoming German army, the Soviets piled dozens of dead bodies in prison cells.

“Another photo included with the post showed a girl in uniform in an NKVD prison after the escape. This is a well-known photo,” Ms. Stefanchuk wrote in Ukrainian. A Facebook user recognized her own mother in the picture and noted it in the comments.
The post received 1,000 likes, 120 comments and 424 shares.

“At some point, I received a message from a friend asking why he couldn’t see my page and post,” Ms. Stefanchuk said. “I was a little taken aback and went to see what was going on. First Facebook sent me a standard text about a 30-day ban because of this post, which violates, it turns out, community standards. After that, I received a notification that my account has been blocked without the right to renew it.”

Ms. Stefanchuk also received a letter by e-mail stating that the page had been permanently blocked. She said that she has been blocked before for similar posts about the history of Ukraine. However, the block was lifted the past two times as soon as she wrote to Facebook support staff. She said that they even apologized.

. . . .

“Most of all, [I am hurt and sad because] there is no influence on it, that Ukrainians are again everywhere censored and disenfranchised.”

. . . .

Meanwhile, Volodymyr Viatrovych, a national deputy in the Ukrainian parliament and an ex-chairman of the Ukrainian Institute of National Memory, clarified that thanks to Ms. Stefan­chuk’s letter and that the comment on her page was made by Lesia Rudavska Kolenska, it was possible to find out that the young Ukrainian woman in the photo was Maria Lys, who was 20 when the picture was taken, according to Mr. Viatrovych.

Ms. Lys was studying in Lviv to be an accountant before the Bolsheviks came in 1939. Under the Soviets, she studied typing and began working as a typist. On the morning of June 30, 1941, she learned that the Soviets had fled and, at the same time, that thousands of prisoners had been killed in prisons. Ms. Lys, along with others, tried to find among the dead relatives or friends who had previously been taken by the Soviets.

. . . .

Ms. Stefanchuk said she wrote her post to discuss taboo topics of Ukrainian history. She also wrote about the SS Galicia Division division, adding that the people of Lviv joined the German divisions because they believed that there could be nothing worse than the Soviet military. The following day her page was blocked.

June 29, 1941 – mass murder of Ukrainian prisoners by retreating Soviets

Eighty years ago, on June 29, 1941, thousands of Ukrainian nationalists were massacred in western Ukraine by the retreating Soviet army as the German Nazis were preparing to capture Lviv. The Soviets were putting into practice the scorched-earth policy of destroying anything of value to the advancing Nazis.

In Lutsk, a Russian prison director sent 1,500 prisoners, Ukrainian nationalists, into the courtyard when Germans began to approach the city and all were shot down with machine gun fire. Those who were only wounded were later killed with pistols and hand grenades.

At Dubno, 528 bodies were found, and in Lviv, over 3,000 Ukrainians were murdered by the Soviet secret police, known as the GPU. Photos included in the dispatch by the Associated Press from Berlin showed rows of corpses as relatives attempted to identify them.

A United Press correspondent with the German armies on the Soviet front reported on July 7 that together with other correspondents he saw in Lviv evidence of mass executions by the Soviets before the Soviet army withdrew from the city. German officers declared 100 corpses were found in one military prison, 250 in another and 65 in another.

In one prison, the correspondent’s writings and included photographs showed there were between 20 to 30 corpses, and at another prison there were unmistakable signs that a large number of corpses had been buried in the prison cellar.

Many of those who were shot were political prisoners whom the Soviets had rounded up during their occupation of western Ukraine in the autumn of 1939. Many of them were shot outright, including a considerable number of clergy, a fact which the Moscow anti-religious organ “Bezbozhnik” (Godless) itself reported then.

Happy (Belated) East German Uprising Day

The East German uprising of 1953 (German: Volksaufstand vom 17. Juni 1953 ) was an uprising that occurred in East Germany from 16 to 17 June 1953. It began with a strike action by construction workers in East Berlin on 16 June against work quotas during the Sovietization process in East Germany. Demonstrations in East Berlin turned into a widespread uprising against the Government of East Germany and the Socialist Unity Party the next day, involving over one million people in about 700 localities across the country.[1] Protests against declining living standards and unpopular Sovietization policies led to a wave of strikes and protests that were not easily brought under control and threatened to overthrow the East German government. The uprising in East Berlin was violently suppressed by tanks of the Soviet forces in Germany and the Kasernierte Volkspolizei, while demonstrations continued in over 500 towns and villages for several more days before dying out.

The 1953 uprising was celebrated in West Germany as a public holiday on 17 June until German reunification in 1990, after which it was replaced by German Unity Day, celebrated annually on 3 October.[2]


As I understand, very few German newspapers acknowledge this event.

The Polish Winged Hussars and common misconceptions

The Polish Winged Hussars dominated the eastern European theaters of war for much of the early modern period. While the western European art of war of this period relied on infantry-heavy pike and shot tactics, eastern armies continued to rely on cavalry. On the battlefields of Italy, France, Germany, and Flanders, heavy cavalry such as knights and lancers found a counter in combined pikes and muskets. Western European battles, according to the historian Geoffrey Parker, were won primarily with infantry. In eastern Europe, by contrast, cavalry was still key. The Polish cavalry, most notably, not only frequently bested the Muscovites and Ottomans on their eastern and southern front respectively but also defeated western powers such as the Swedes under Gustavus Adolphus. Therefore, some scholars argue that early modern western military doctrine lacked a crucial component, namely a cavalry unit such as the Polish winged hussars that frequently and successfully charged home with steel in hand. It is not surprising that the winged hussars eventually influenced the western art of war; and they did so lastingly. To understand this development properly, the period between 1550 and 1620 is key. This video will look at how contemporary historiography discusses the early successes of the Polish-Lithuanian Hussars.

TOO MANY DECADES TOO LATE – Mendel Osherowitch’s chilling account of the Holodomor famine translated to English for the first time

Early in 1932 Mendel Osherowitch journeyed to Soviet Ukraine on assignment for Forverts (Forward), a Yiddish-language newspaper in New York City boasting a daily circulation of 275,000 copies. Born in Trostianets before the Great War, and speaking Yiddish, Ukrainian and Russian like a native, Osherowitch astutely recorded life under a Communist system he found markedly dysfunctional, sometimes criminal.

He documented a pervasive fear of the secret police, the GPU, recounting how parents were scared their children might betray them. He watched hordes of peasants clambering onto trains escaping to the cities in an anguished search for bread. He heard stories about rural uprisings brutally suppressed, saw how Western reporters self-sequestered in Moscow were failing to report what was happening and observed growing tensions between the beneficiaries of Bolshevik rule and those for whom it was an enervating nightmare.

What puzzled him most was how his beloved Ukraine, once Europe’s breadbasket, was being reduced to a land without bread:

“… Ukraine was already experiencing an appalling famine. Millions of people had been driven to the greatest desperation, to a life sometimes even worse than death. Plagues circulated in villages and in the towns. People died because they could no longer endure their terrible hunger. On many roads, covered with snow, lay dead horses, withered away from hunger. At the train stations, thousands and thousands of peasants wandered around, covered in bodily filth and dirt, waiting for trains they hoped would take them into the cities, where they could perhaps sell something, maybe get bread. The dreadful misery of these people, this harrowing state of affairs, tore at one’s heart.”

. . . .

When Osherowitch’s book was published, in 1933, its reception was mixed, despite its favorable reporting on how many Jews benefitted from the Revolution. Pogroms were of the past. Previously unheard of educational prospects had opened for younger generations, with almost unrestricted social mobility, including opportunities for joining the Communist Party, even serving in the secret police. Yet Osherowitch also deplored the negative consequences of these erstwhile gains. Jewish religious life and cultural institutions were being undermined, the Yiddish press and arts reduced to little more than tools for propagating Soviet ideology. Repeatedly, Osherowitch listened to tales of woe, almost to the point of suffering complete mental exhaustion, as his people repeatedly implored him to alert relatives abroad to their plight, begged for aid. The only exceptions were younger Jews. They spoke mostly of the Revolution’s purported achievements, of how the Soviet Union was overtaking and would soon overpass the U.S.A., of an even-better future to come.

What separated his interlocutors in Soviet Ukraine from left-leaning Jews and fellow travelers in North America, who proved unwilling to credit Osherowitch’s account, was that the former admitted how harsh their present circumstances were – after all, Osherowitch was there among them, could see what their lives were truly like. Yet they swore their sacrifices were necessary offerings, expected from everyone caught up in the messianic chore of “building socialism.”

Portentous omens were appearing. The Jewish minority in rural areas was reduced by outmigration to the big cities. Many who left, including Osherowitch’s brother, Buzi, joined the dreaded GPU. His other brother, Daniel, stayed home, an armed enforcer of collectivization. While everyone in the countryside suffered, it was the Ukrainians who were fated to starve in their millions, the principal victims of the Holodomor. By the early winter of 1932 they had begun questioning whose side their Jewish neighbors were on. Osherowitch heard tell of how, in the town of Haisyn, Ukrainians had called upon local Jews to join them in breaking down the gates of a government granary. Those Jews were warned that their refusal would be remembered as a treachery and, sooner or later, avenged.

. . . .

There were also famine deniers. As Malcolm Muggeridge, Rhea Clyman and others attempted to alert the world to what was going on, very powerful forces ranged up against them, stifling their reports by branding them alarmist, nothing but anti-Soviet propaganda. Adroitly, the principal obfuscator, Walter Duranty of The New York Times, buried the truth.

What of Mendel Osherowitch? He returned “a changed person… more politically aware,” published articles in Forverts, then a book, all a matter of record. But his words came out only in Yiddish. Why was his testimony not made available in English, to reach a broader audience? No record exists of him ever trying to reach beyond the borders of his kith and kin, among whom more than a few preferred to stay ignorant, indifferent, or even hostile to his cri de coeur.

Did Osherowitch fall into shocked silence after being denounced by his brothers or a Jewish diaspora still enthralled by Stalinism? Was he hushed after receiving news that family members had been repressed, fearing they would fare worse if he gave public witness? We will never know. All that is certain is that he did not. Though living in New York, and working for a socialist newspaper, Osherowitch remained conspicuously silent, even as Walter Duranty and Gareth Jones contested the truth of the famine on the pages of The New York Times.