Regional variations of 1932–34 famine losses in Ukraine

Oleh Wolowyna, Serhii Plokhy, Nataliia Levchuk, Omelian Rudnytskyi, Alla Kovbasiuk, Pavlo Shevchuk

Canadian Studies in Population 43, no. 3–4 (2016): 175–202.

Abstract: Yearly estimates of urban and rural direct losses (excess deaths) from the 1932–34 famine are presented for the oblasts of Soviet Ukraine. Contrary to expectations, the highest losses are not found in the grain-producing southern oblasts, but in the north-central Kyiv and Kharkiv oblasts. Several hypotheses are proposed and tested to explain this finding. No single hypothesis provides a comprehensive explanation. Losses in some oblasts are due to specific factors, while losses in other oblasts seem to be explained by a combination of economic and political factors. Quantitative analyses are presented of resistance and Soviet repressions in 1932, and effects of the food assistance program and historical-political factors on direct losses in 1933 are analyzed.

The 1932–34 famine in Ukraine, also known as the Holodomor (death by hunger), is an extreme example of a man-made famine that resulted in millions of losses. As a result of our research, Holodomor losses have been estimated at 4.5 million, with 3.9 million excess deaths and 0.6 million lost births (Rudnytskyi et al. 2015). Direct losses or excess deaths (these terms will be used interchangeably) are additional deaths caused by the famine; indirect losses or lost births are births that did not occur due to the famine, i.e., they would have occurred had there been no famine. In this article, we present estimates of yearly direct Holodomor losses by oblast for urban and rural areas, and propose explanations for the differences found.

Oleh Wolowyna, Center for Slavic, Eurasian and E. European Studies, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Director of the Shevchenko Scientific Society’s Center for Demographic and Socioeconomic Research of Ukrainians in the US.

Serhii Plokhy, Director, Harvard Ukrainian Research Institute

Nataliia Levchuk, Omelian Rudnytskyi, Senior Researchers
Alla Kovbasiuk and Pavlo Shevchuk, Researchers
Ptoukha Institute of Demography and Social Studies at the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine (NASU), Kyiv.