Interview with Boris Borisov
While America lectures Russia on the 1932-33 famine in Ukraine, Russian historian Boris Borisov asks what became of over seven million American citizens who disappeared from US population records in the 1930s.
RT: What made you research the history of what you call ‘American Holodomor’?
B.B: It was very simple. As I was doing comparative research of the American Great Depression in the 1930s, and the Great Depression of the 1990s in Russia, I grew interested in the social dimension of the tragedy. It was logical that I looked up official American documents and found out that the discrepancies were so obvious that any independent researcher would not but have doubt about the official U.S. statistic data. All appears to be rather interesting. I will come to that later.
The U.S. Congress added fuel to the fire by adopting resolutions nearly every year blaming the Soviet government for alleged staged famine in the 1930s in Ukraine. The first resolution came in 1988, 50 years after the events described. The current members of Congress wonder about the following, and I quote, “people in the government were aware of what was going on, but did not do anything to help the starving”.
At that very period of 1930s, the wealthy city of New York saw kilometre-long lines of people for free soup. There were no queues on the city’s main streets though, but not because there were no hungry people but because most of the cities did not have any money – they were just bankrupt.
So, I became curious about that and carried out some research that brought about interesting results.
RT: You say that America of the early 1930s made over seven million people perish. It’s a horrifying figure and it needs an explanation. What do you base your research on and why do you say the population statistics of the U.S. government of 1932-33 was falsified?
B.B.: Seven and a half million people does not mean the number of particular victims of the famine, but a general demographic loss, or the difference between the supposed population on the date of the census that was due to be held in 1940 and the factual number of people. In reality, the total demographic loss is bigger. The fact is not contested by anyone. The figure is more than ten million people.
However, when you start researching the subject, you find that there is a migration component – people were coming to the country and leaving. All can be calculated. It turns out then, that three million people can be subtracted at the cost of migration – in approximate figures, as it is not a scientific report.
What’s left is 7.5 million people still missing. The question is: where are they?
Voluntary defenders of U.S. values who venture to discuss the matter with me, normally begin with a statement that those people were simply not born. However, if we take the age pyramid and distribute the people according to their dates of birth, it becomes apparent that 5.5 million children and two million grown-ups are missing from the 7.5 million. So, those two million people could not have been non-existent – as they had been born. They could only die.
As a result, I consider the two million of grown-up victims as the limit proved from the bottom – for 10 years, let me emphasise this.
Could the remaining children out of those 5.5 not have been born? The U.S. statistics does not answer this question. If we use the method of international juxtapositions and see how demography reacted to similar disastrous events in other countries, we will see that the distribution of the demographic was divided between the children who had died and had not been born in the ratio of ? to ?. In other words, it’s from 2 to 4 million extra losses.
The overall loss in ten years could be estimated as being from four – or slightly fewer – to six – or slightly more – million.
Let me quote some figures, if you don’t mind – demonstrating how other countries reacted to the similar situation. If you believe that four or six million people is a terrible number, let me quote this: male mortality rate in Russia: 810,000 in 1984; 1,226,000 in 1994 – whereas the population is the same. In other words, as compared with 1984, the year 1996 had an additional number of 416,000 dead males. You have to add females and children to that figure.
As of now the prevalence of the death rate over birth rate yet remains, although smaller. Some say it is horrible, others say it’s normal as the country is developing. So there are different takes about there being half a million dead. Nobody tears his or her hair out to discuss this.
Likewise, there were opposing viewpoints in the USA. Some said it was horrible – “We had millions of people deprived of their land!” – those who read Steinbeck well knew the situation from his documentary-authentic novels depicting starving children. Others say, “No, it’s all right. We’re fighting depression and all is as scheduled.” Like here today, I think.
RT: Imagine the so-called “hungry marches” in the times of President Hoover and quote memories of a child about those events. Did you actually find any survivors still alive to tell the story and confirm the fact of ‘American Holodomor’?
B.B.: Let me draw your attention to the fact that it was not me who called those marches “hunger marches”. They were called so by the participants. When someone goes marching in protest against war, they protest against war because people get killed there. When someone protests against hunger, it means they protest against dying of starvation, and the people are ready for social unrest. You may know that not only the police but also regular military troops were used to disperse those marches.
There is a huge amount of evidence. Let me quote some. For example. The thing is that in summer an article by Dmitriy Lyskov was published in the English translation, with some conclusions drawn from my research. That caused active discussion in English-language blogs, also in the USA, which is understandable.
What do Americans write in their stories? Just three quotes:
1) The ancient members of my family told me how people used to come to the door asking to do a day’s work for only a meal.
2) If this story is true and our federal government knew the enormity of the crisis during the 30s, then it might explain their silence about the famine in Ukraine during the same time.
3) It's a good argument. I heard lots of stories about the Depression from all my relatives, and especially from my mother and father. People were starving, I don’t dispute that. But I don’t think it would have been seven million.
We can see flat ideological statements about democracy and freedom in the USA then, therefore such things just could not have been there. However, we have authentic stories, so numerous that one could make volumes out of them and put them on a shelf.
RT: Such outstanding historical moments are usually reflected in literature, films, and, of course, journalist reports and research articles. The American depression is definitely one of those remarkable periods. Is there any proof of your theory in an article of a newspaper of that time?
B.B.: They did write about it, of course, but in a style similar to that used in our newspapers about the 1990s. They criticised the government, parties fought each other, someone criticised local authorities, someone insisted on their programmes, others on the opposite. As a whole, however, the bigger picture of the epoch will be seen only in a while. As for sources, they can be used for reference about those real events that were happening there.
Of course, journalists may be interested in a fact about a tractor that pulled down a farm. There are many facts of this kind – Steinbeck eloquently tells a lot about such things. But as to what happened to that farm later, the fact being that ten people left but only eight came back, is seldom told – both then and now. It’s not something of big interest to journalists.
For instance, who died in your family in the past two years?
You must bear in mind that those who died are in the lowest stratum of the American society – either had been poor, or became poor and failed to get out of this level. Try to find research details about the death rate among homeless people in Russia now – you will encounter big difficulties. You may find, but that may take a long time. And you will hardly find anything in newspapers, despite the fact that mortality among the homeless is there. And it’s about citizens of Russia and most likely the number of those dying is big. Perhaps the factor that not all of them volunteered to become homeless is the answer.
RT: In your article, you write about the agrarian business lobby you claim is guilty of destroying the state food resources. Can you please tell more about it and maybe compare it to any instance of more recent economic wars or lobbies, maybe?
B.B.: The modern example is obvious – it’s a modern programme of producing fuel from food. It’s not by chance, that the Cuban leader Fidel Castro raised this question, thus dotting the ‘i’s’ and crossing the ‘t’s’. As a matter of fact, producing fuel from food is something to enrich someone, whereas impoverishing dozens of millions of others. The process is already there and the current increase of food prices is already causing political unrest and more deaths. Medical specialists don't do this in third-world countries nor in rich countries so far. The process is under way. Unless stopped, by the end of the 21st century, the programme of obtaining fuel from food will be studied in history books on pages next to Hitler and concentration camps. The scale of the consequences would be comparable, in terms of the number of victims.
This is what concerns the current situation.
RT: We had these discussions in the time of chaos and depression in the world’s financial markets. Hundreds of people are losing their jobs, credits are not paid back, the mortgage crisis is on. As an economist, do you see this as the beginning of a new great depression and, actually, a new Holodomor?
B.B.: Comparing the current crisis with the Great Depression has become commonplace in economic discussions. I would rather not over-load you with some economic terms but let me give you a simple example. The modern crisis radically differs from the one in the early 20th century. Whereas that crisis was of an industrial society, this one is of a post-industrial society and the economy of services.
What does that mean? Imagine yourself a highly-paid specialist in securities. You strike deals and earn a lot. You’re sure you’re worth it, because the deals yield good profits. Who do you need? A legal adviser. Many of them, with an office, secretaries, clerks – all of whom help you not to lose your money and do your business. Who do the legal advisers need? They need bank employees who take their lucrative salaries and deposit them at advantageous terms. This is what makes up the first financial circle.
The first circle is followed by another one, where people need property dealers, as they are very busy themselves and would not build homes on their own. They would need a tourist agent to quickly arrange that their bottoms could be warmed up in Hawaii. And they need transfer agents to arrange all the transportation.
Then follows the third circle of the services industry – including cafes where the guys from the first and second circles have coffee, restaurant where they dine, fitness centres to make them fit sometimes – an they're necessary in the centre of the city, because they cannot afford getting away from the money source spring as someone else can crawl up and scoop from it. Ninety per cent of the fee is taken by the rent of the premises in the prestigious locations.
All the rest is arranged likewise.
Now, imagine that the stock market has collapsed. You have no job and no revenue. So you pack to leave – Lehman Brothers all pack. You don’t need legal advisers anymore. If you do, however, you have no money to pay them with. No bank specialists are required. That is followed by no need for a property agent, and all the rest down the chain.
What have we got as a result? In an industrial economy, an enterprise has some safety factor – some reserves, long-term contracts, some property they can sell or mortgage at the end of the day. There is no such safety margin in the services industry. As soon as the money source stops, the services industry rumbles like a house of cards.
So, things may be developing now much faster than in the pre-WWII times. This is what we can see happening now during a very short period of time, much shorter than in the time of the Great Depression, major financial institutions collapsed, which set the alarm bells ringing, as French President Sarkozy put it, making the economy a little smarter. This is well understood by the leaders, but nobody says how to do this.