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The momentous new book from the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Gulag and Iron Curtain. In 1932-33, nearly four million Ukrainians died of starvation, having been deliberately deprived of food. It is one of the most devastating episodes in the history of the twentieth century. With unprecedented authority and detail, Red Famine investigates how this happened, who was resp The momentous new book from the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Gulag and Iron Curtain. In 1932-33, nearly four million Ukrainians died of starvation, having been deliberately deprived of food. It is one of the most devastating episodes in the history of the twentieth century. With unprecedented authority and detail, Red Famine investigates how this happened, who was responsible, and what the consequences were. It is the fullest account yet published of these terrible events.The book draws on a mass of archival material and first-hand testimony only available since the end of the Soviet Union, as well as the work of Ukrainian scholars all over the world. It includes accounts of the famine by those who survived it, describing what human beings can do when driven mad by hunger. It shows how the Soviet state ruthlessly used propaganda to turn neighbours against each other in order to expunge supposedly 'anti-revolutionary' elements. It also records the actions of extraordinary individuals who did all they could to relieve the suffering.The famine was rapidly followed by an attack on Ukraine's cultural and political leadership - and then by a denial that it had ever happened at all. Census reports were falsified and memory suppressed. Some western journalists shamelessly swallowed the Soviet line; others bravely rejected it, and were undermined and harassed. The Soviet authorities were determined not only that Ukraine should abandon its national aspirations, but that the country's true history should be buried along with its millions of victims. Red Famine, a triumph of scholarship and human sympathy, is a milestone in the recovery of those memories and that history. At a moment of crisis between Russia and Ukraine, it also shows how far the present is shaped by the past.


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The momentous new book from the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Gulag and Iron Curtain. In 1932-33, nearly four million Ukrainians died of starvation, having been deliberately deprived of food. It is one of the most devastating episodes in the history of the twentieth century. With unprecedented authority and detail, Red Famine investigates how this happened, who was resp The momentous new book from the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Gulag and Iron Curtain. In 1932-33, nearly four million Ukrainians died of starvation, having been deliberately deprived of food. It is one of the most devastating episodes in the history of the twentieth century. With unprecedented authority and detail, Red Famine investigates how this happened, who was responsible, and what the consequences were. It is the fullest account yet published of these terrible events.The book draws on a mass of archival material and first-hand testimony only available since the end of the Soviet Union, as well as the work of Ukrainian scholars all over the world. It includes accounts of the famine by those who survived it, describing what human beings can do when driven mad by hunger. It shows how the Soviet state ruthlessly used propaganda to turn neighbours against each other in order to expunge supposedly 'anti-revolutionary' elements. It also records the actions of extraordinary individuals who did all they could to relieve the suffering.The famine was rapidly followed by an attack on Ukraine's cultural and political leadership - and then by a denial that it had ever happened at all. Census reports were falsified and memory suppressed. Some western journalists shamelessly swallowed the Soviet line; others bravely rejected it, and were undermined and harassed. The Soviet authorities were determined not only that Ukraine should abandon its national aspirations, but that the country's true history should be buried along with its millions of victims. Red Famine, a triumph of scholarship and human sympathy, is a milestone in the recovery of those memories and that history. At a moment of crisis between Russia and Ukraine, it also shows how far the present is shaped by the past.

30 review for Red Famine: Stalin's War on Ukraine, 1921-1933

  1. 4 out of 5

    Dan

    Red Famine: Stalin’s War in Ukraine by Anne Applebaum The absence of natural borders helps explain why Ukrainians failed, until the late twentieth century, to establish a sovereign Ukrainian state. By the late Middle Ages, there was a distinct Ukrainian language, with Slavic roots, related to but distinct from both Polish and Russian, much as Italian is related to but distinct from Spanish or French. Ukrainians had their own food, their own customs and local traditions, their own villains, her Red Famine: Stalin’s War in Ukraine by Anne Applebaum The absence of natural borders helps explain why Ukrainians failed, until the late twentieth century, to establish a sovereign Ukrainian state. By the late Middle Ages, there was a distinct Ukrainian language, with Slavic roots, related to but distinct from both Polish and Russian, much as Italian is related to but distinct from Spanish or French. Ukrainians had their own food, their own customs and local traditions, their own villains, heroes and legends. Like other European nations, Ukraine’s sense of identity sharpened during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. But for most of its history the territory we now call Ukraine was, like Ireland or Slovakia, a colony that formed part of other European land empires. The Ukraine has experienced a mind-boggling amount of horror over the last century. Geographically sandwiched between perhaps the two most murderous governments in world history, Nazi Germany and Stalin’s Russia, we know in any scenario that it could not have turned out well for the Ukrainians. Looked down upon by the Germans and the Russians who would fight over this territory in both world wars. For Germany, the Ukraine was largely an impediment to get to Russia and for Russia the black soil and wheat fields of Ukraine were vital. If anyone ever thought communism could work on a wide scale, please read this book. There is no way that collectivism can prevent famine and in some cases causes it even in the absence of malevolence. In a non-capitalist society there is little incentive for farmers to produce more crops as the central government just takes it away and does not store the surplus. So when droughts come there is not enough food. Not too dissimilar to what happened during the Irish Potato famine where the British government would not return the non-blighted potatoes to the Irish. In the Ukraine however there was an even more insidious situation with Stalin. The focus of this book is on Stalin’s policies toward the Ukraine for the years from the Russian Revolution through the 1930 Stalinist era. There is also plenty of historical context prior to and after this period that is provided by Applebaum. I think the analysis is the best part of the book. Before going deeper here is the list I compiled on some of the horrors of the past Ukrainian century. These are not in any particular order. 1. 1918 to 1920 Jewish Pogrom in Ukraine. Between 1918 and 1920 combatants on all sides—White, Directory, Polish and Bolshevik—murdered at least 50,000 Jews in more than 1,300 pogroms across Ukraine, according to the most widely accepted studies, though some put the death toll as high as 200,000. Tens of thousands were injured and raped as well. Many shtetls were burnt to the ground. Many Jewish communities were blackmailed out of all their worldly goods by soldiers who threatened to kill them unless they paid up. 2. The ban on using the Ukrainian language. This started long before the Russian revolution but its effect was widespread illiteracy. The Ukrainian language was a primary target. During the Russian empire’s first great educational reform in 1804, Tsar Alexander I permitted some non-Russian languages to be used in the new state schools but not Ukrainian, ostensibly on the grounds that it was not a “language” but rather a dialect. In fact, Russian officials were perfectly clear, as their Soviet successors. 3. The Chernobyl disaster in the Ukraine in the 1980s and its harmful effects on the people there. Not much covered in this book but there is ample evidence that the lack of an adequate Soviet response to the meltdown had a lot do with Moscow’s disdain for the Ukraine. 4. The Ukraine was briefly a sovereign state from 1918 to 1921 but this changed with Lenin’s Red invasion. Apparently the Whites didn’t think highly of the Ukraine either. Hundreds of thousands died there in the Famine of 1921 and countless others were eventually saved by Herbert Hoover’s relief efforts. Yes the same Herbert Hoover who failed miserably as America’s president during the early Depression of the 1930s. Lenin, who was very reluctant to accept the aid, capitulated but continued to accuse the Americans of spying on Russia during this period of relief. 5. In WWII more than 2 million Ukrainian soldiers who were conscripted into the Red Army died on the front lines at places like Stalingrad. The number of military deaths versus the populace in the Ukraine Republic was one of the highest proportions in any WWII country. Many memorials have been installed since. 6. The heaviest focus of this book is on the death of nearly 4 million Ukrainians in the famines of 1931 to 1933. These famines were almost completely caused by Stalin’s regime. Through collectivization they forcibly took the Ukrainian wheat for use in Russia and intentionally starved many regions to suppress revolts. 7. The average life span of Ukrainians after the famine of 1932 was eight years! The Ukrainian children had been so malnourished during these years that more than half of those that initially survived did not live to adulthood. Yikes. 8. The effects on the psyche of the people from the tens of thousands of incidents of cannibalism. There is a large section of this book that speaks to the horror that is cannibalism. 9. The Nazi SS slaughter of millions of Jews and Ukrainian soldiers in WWII. Other than The Jews in Poland no group suffered more deaths attributable to the Holocaust than the Jews of the Ukraine. 10. Ukrainian deaths from the current conflict with Russia began in 2013. The thousands of deaths are perhaps as not overwhelming as some of the earlier periods in the Ukraine but these numbers are high by today’s standard of limited wars. If you want to understand at least some of the historical reason for the bad feelings on the part of Ukrainians towards Russia then you need to read this book. We must remember that Jewish people had been living in the Ukraine since 1030 A.D and they suffered more than any group during the last 100 years and that is saying a lot. 4 stars. Overall this book was exceptionally well researched. It is a little dry in the middle though and lacks a personal narrative. Also be forewarned — the evil that Stalin perpetrates towards the Ukrainians in this book is quite detailed and graphic. Overall I’m glad I read it. I am reading Applebaum’s more famous book Gulag next.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Susan

    Although this book is about the ‘Holodomor’ (the word is derived from the Ukrainian words, ‘holod’ or ‘hunger’ and ‘mor’ or extermination) or famine of 1932-33, it is actually about much more than that. It is about the repression of the Ukrainian intellectual and political class, of the Sovietisation of Ukraine, the collectivisation of agriculture and the attempts to wipe out Ukrainian culture and language. Ironically, it was the fertile soil and relatively mild climate of Ukraine, which led to Although this book is about the ‘Holodomor’ (the word is derived from the Ukrainian words, ‘holod’ or ‘hunger’ and ‘mor’ or extermination) or famine of 1932-33, it is actually about much more than that. It is about the repression of the Ukrainian intellectual and political class, of the Sovietisation of Ukraine, the collectivisation of agriculture and the attempts to wipe out Ukrainian culture and language. Ironically, it was the fertile soil and relatively mild climate of Ukraine, which led to them becoming so valuable to the Soviet Union. The country had two harvests a year and was responsible for feeding far more than their own region. The author takes us back to the revolution of 1917 and traces how the period of upheaval saw optimism for Ukraine, but, by 1918, Lenin was making plans to occupy the area. In fact, the first half of this history looks at the various uprisings, uneasy periods of peace, discontent, crisis and rationing, which led up to the events of 1932/33. By 1930, collectivisation of farming led from what had been a loose organisation of farming, by the Soviet Union, to tight control and grain requisitioning demands which were impossible to fulfil. There was pressure on the agricultural peasants to send more and more grain outside Ukraine, but the farmers themselves lost control of their lives – and lost enthusiasm for working the land. However, Stalin’s policies led to famine across the grain-growing regions of the USSR and nowhere more than Ukraine. Not only was the country under pressure to keep producing – and yet not keeping - enough crops to keep them alive, but anyone caught stealing food faced many years in a labour camp, or death. By the end of 1932, over 100,000 people had been sent to camps and 4,500 were executed. The author then goes on to the actual famine period which is terrible to read about. All grain now was t be collected to fulfil Russian demands and no excuses were accepted. However, although activists swept through villages; taking not only grain, but fruit, seeds, vegetables, flour – indeed everything from crusts on the table to the family cow – there was no sympathy for the Ukrainian people. It is clear that Soviet newspapers presented the starving population as unpatriotic; arguing they did not care about the workers or the 5 year plan. Although this is a serious historical work, it is not dry or dull in any way. There can be nothing about this book which fails to move you – reading of children who die during lessons at school, of the distrust, suspicion and lack of empathy as witnesses became indifferent to the suffering around them, is both tragic and horribly real. Yet, this is as much about the attempts by the Ukrainian people to retain their culture and language, as it was to resist the government’s attempts to starve their nation. I must admit I knew little about Ukrainian history, but this was an eye opening read about a terrible period of history and of a people who survived against the odds.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Beata

    Ann Applebaum does not disappoint. A thorough account of the most terrifying times in the history of Ukraine. Superb panorama and the background. Ms Applebaum presents us with not just the several years of the famine itself but also explains in detail the reasons behind the tragedy of millions of innocent people. The Author colleced accounts by ordinary people, and some are truly horryfing, making us aware of the fact that often our own suffering makes us immune to the suffering of others.

  4. 5 out of 5

    happy

    In Red Famine, the author, Anne Applebaum, does an extremely good job of explaining just what happened in 1931-'34 when an estimated 3.9 million people starved to death and why. Starting with the Russian Civil War that followed World War I, the author looks at the Ukrainian desire for independence and why Ukraine had never been able to obtain that independence. She looks at the Bolsheviks' strategy to subdue the Ukraine and keep it part of Russia and by extension the USSR. While discussing Ukrai In Red Famine, the author, Anne Applebaum, does an extremely good job of explaining just what happened in 1931-'34 when an estimated 3.9 million people starved to death and why. Starting with the Russian Civil War that followed World War I, the author looks at the Ukrainian desire for independence and why Ukraine had never been able to obtain that independence. She looks at the Bolsheviks' strategy to subdue the Ukraine and keep it part of Russia and by extension the USSR. While discussing Ukrainian desire for independence, Ms. Applebaum also looks at the Ukrainian culture, language and religion. She explains just how close the Ukraine came to independence during the civil war. She opines if the various independence groups could have cooperated with one another and with the White Russians, there was very could chance independence could have been achived. She also gives reasons as to why that cooperation never took place. After the Civil War, the author looks at the Bolsheviks first attempts to collectivize agriculture and its failure in the early 20’s. The collectivization was not successful and less grain was collected than projected. This led to famine. During this famine, the gov’t admitted they had a problem and accepted outside help including from the US. Lenin and by extension the Soviet gov’t ended up backing down and leaving the Ukrainian agriculture system alone, allowing the peasant farmers to own their own land and animals and keep their language and religion. In this section the author also give a pretty good summation of why the collectivization failed. However, I found this section to be a little dry and text bookish. Fast forward to the late 20’s and after the power struggle was resolved following Lenin’s death, Stalin again decides to force the collectivization of agriculture, not only in the Ukraine, other agriculture regions of the USSR. One thing I found interesting about Stalin’s initial attempts, is that they used a carrot and stick approach – the peasant could keep his land, but had to pay very high taxes. If he collectivized, the peasant would have access to the latest techniques and equipment. At the same time this was going on the Government in Moscow was in dire need of hard currency and signed contracts to deliver more grain than the area was producing. Moscow and by extension, Stalin, thought the deference could be made up with the collectivization of agriculture. Ms. Applebaum’ s descriptions of what happened next are heart rending! I feel that her descriptions of the famine is by far the best parts of the book. They are difficult to read! She describes the efforts the Soviet Gov’t made to collect grain and other food stuffs. In addition to grain, the collectors took seeds, the produce of the small vegetable gardens people were allowed, farm animals - both food and working, any stored food, food sent in from the outside, and even farm equipment. The collectors literally took every morsel they could find, leaving both the collective farmers and the Kulaks both without anything to eat or plant the next spring. As this is going on, the author also recounts the Soviet efforts to stamp out the Ukrainian culture, language and religion. Finally while recounting the famine, the author looks at just what extreme hunger does to people. She tells of the apathy in the starving population. People would literally step over dead and dying children as they went about their daily tasks with out a second thought. Many attempted to leave the Ukraine Steppes (which was forbidden) and make it to the cities, which were relatively well fed or out the Ukraine entirely. Finally she looks at the cannibalism that occurred and the rationale behind it. It boils down to, “They are going to die anyway so…” While not universal, parents ate children, children ate parents and many people just ate those who died. Ms. Applebaum looks at the effect of this on the culture as a whole and how some accepted it and others looked on it with horror. Ms Applebaum includes several pictures of the starving and dead that are believed to be the only photos taken of famine victims. The final section of the book looks at how the Soviet Officials from Stalin down covered up the famine. They did this through travel restrictions, just flatly denying anyone was starving, manipulating the foreign press amoung other methods. The author looks at the NY Times correspond William Durranty’s reporting, which also denied anyone was starving in the Ukraine and won him a Pulitzer Prize. The gov’t also refused to release the 1937 census that showed 8-10 million people missing from projection and eliminated (killed) many of those who worked on it. Until the day of its breakup, the USSR denied that there was ever a famine in the Ukraine during the 1930s To sum this up. This first half of the narrative is a little dry and some ways reads like a text book. However, when the author starts describing the hows, whys and effects of the 1931-’34 famine, it is in many ways mesmerizing. One niggling criticism, the author uses the Ukrainian/Russian spelling of all place names with out a cross reference to the common Western spellings. Some are easy to figure out, others I still have no idea. Even with that, this is still a solid 4 star read.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Chrissie

    This book has two interrelated themes - Ukraine’s path toward independence and the famine that occurred there 1932-1933.The history of Ukraine and Russia must be viewed together, and so the Bolshevik Revolution, the Civil War that followed, first Lenin’s and then Stalin’s reign are discussed too. The book starts in 1917 and concludes in the present. The famine that occurred 1921-1922, and for which international aid was given, came to be followed by the Great Famine of 1932-1933. The latter fami This book has two interrelated themes - Ukraine’s path toward independence and the famine that occurred there 1932-1933.The history of Ukraine and Russia must be viewed together, and so the Bolshevik Revolution, the Civil War that followed, first Lenin’s and then Stalin’s reign are discussed too. The book starts in 1917 and concludes in the present. The famine that occurred 1921-1922, and for which international aid was given, came to be followed by the Great Famine of 1932-1933. The latter famine came to be known as the Holodomor. This word in translation means “to kill by starvation”, thus inferring that the famine was not simply due to natural causes but was instead purposefully instigated, an act of genocide led by Stalin. In an epilog, the author discusses if the latter famine should be classified as genocide. In any case, be that so or not, to understand the relations between Ukraine and Russia today, the past must be understood. It is this that is the purpose of the book. A clear and succinct introduction explains all of this. Knowing at the start that the genocide question will be discussed at the end, a reader reads with this question prominently at the fore. The book begins with the first Ukrainian War of Independence,1917 to 1921. The February Revolution of 1917 led ethnic groups in the Russian Empire to seek increased autonomy and self-determination. The Ukrainian National Movement was formed. In June 1917, in Kiev, the Ukrainian People's Republic was declared, a sovereign state to be governed by the socialist-dominated "Central Rada". But it was short-lived. Year by year we follow events - collectivization, blacklisting, deportations, the famine of 1920-1921, liquidation of the kulaks and then unrealistic grain, livestock and vegetable requisitions imposed on a people without food. Travel restrictions so people could not flee. The first half of the book, covering the years before the famine, were a struggle for me. I was seriously considering putting the book aside. The background information is essential, but dry in its presentation. Too many examples to prove one point. Too repetitive. Not engaging. The famine is heartrendingly depicted. Physical and psychological effects of famine are documented. What was eaten when no “food” was available. What was done with the dead. Personal experiences are told. People who lived through the famine are quoted. There is however little reference to source material. We are told “a memoirist” or “multiple witnesses” or a “Polish diplomat” claim …… but why are we not give the names of those making these statements?! Yet I do not doubt the validity of the claims made or the horror of what occurred. Thereafter follow chapters devoted first to a discussion of death statistics and then the years after the famine. The absence of international aid, resettlement programs, Russification, purging of Ukrainian officials and destruction of evidence that the famine had occurred. Stalin claimed the 1937 census to be invalid! It showed all too clearly how many had died. These chapters were not dry. Finally, the epilog. It presents a straightforward analysis of whether the famine should or should not be considered a genocide. Well, it all depends on whose definition one goes by – Raphael Lemkin (1900 – 1959), who coined the word “genocide” and who initiated the Genocide Convention signed on December 9, 1948 OR the United Nation’s Convention on the Crime of Genocide itself. Lemkin referred to the mass killing of Jews in the Second World War, the killing of Armenians by the Turks and the Great Famine of 1932-1933 as genocide, but the Convention, which today constitutes the basis for international law, states that genocide is a state sponsored assault on an entire group of people or on a whole nation. That not all Ukrainians were targeted means the famine should not be classified as genocide. To properly judge the events that took place in the Ukraine one must compare these events with what was happening elsewhere. I wish more had been spoken of the famine in the Volga region and Kazakhstan. There is some information, but not enough. I very much liked the narration by Suzanne Toren. The reading is clear and at a tempo that allows listeners time to think. Many Russian names are given in the book’s first half; these are too often hard to distinguish. This is no fault of the narrator, but it does make listening more difficult than reading. I do not like that her intonation and pauses emphasize which events are evil. I am perfectly capable of figuring this out myself! I have given the narration four stars.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Bettie

    The Holodomor (Ukrainian: Голодомо́р); derived from морити голодом, "to kill by starvation"), also known as the Terror-Famine and Famine-Genocide in Ukraine, and—before the widespread use of the term "Holodomor", and sometimes currently—also referred to as the Great Famine, and The Ukrainian Genocide of 1932–33—was a man-made famine in Soviet Ukraine in 1932 and 1933 that killed an officially estimated 7 million to 10 million people. It was part of the wider Soviet famine of 1932–33, which a The Holodomor (Ukrainian: Голодомо́р); derived from морити голодом, "to kill by starvation"), also known as the Terror-Famine and Famine-Genocide in Ukraine, and—before the widespread use of the term "Holodomor", and sometimes currently—also referred to as the Great Famine, and The Ukrainian Genocide of 1932–33—was a man-made famine in Soviet Ukraine in 1932 and 1933 that killed an officially estimated 7 million to 10 million people. It was part of the wider Soviet famine of 1932–33, which affected the major grain-producing areas of the country. [wiki sourced] Description: In 1929 Stalin launched his policy of agricultural collectivization—in effect a second Russian revolution—which forced millions of peasants off their land and onto collective farms. The result was a catastrophic famine, the most lethal in European history. At least 5 million people died between 1931 and 1933 in the USSR. But instead of sending relief the Soviet state made use of the catastrophe to rid itself of a political problem. In Red Famine, Anne Applebaum argues that more than 3 million of those dead were Ukrainians who perished not because they were accidental victims of a bad policy but because the state deliberately set out to kill them. Applebaum proves what has long been suspected: after a series of rebellions unsettled the province, Stalin set out to destroy the Ukrainian peasantry. The state sealed the republic's borders and seized all available food. Starvation set in rapidly, and people ate anything: grass, tree bark, dogs, corpses. In some cases, they killed one another for food. Devastating and definitive, Red Famine captures the horror of ordinary people struggling to survive extraordinary evil. Red Famine by Anne Applebaum review – did Stalin deliberately let Ukraine starve?

  7. 5 out of 5

    Czarny Pies

    Anne Appelbaum’s “Red Famine: Stalin's War on Ukraine, 1921-1933” is a dazzling work of synthesis history that addresses much more than the Ukrainian Famine of 1932-33 (a.k.a. “The Great Famine”, a.k.a. “The Holodomor”, a.k.a. “The Ukrainian Genocide”). It also covers the Ukrainian War of Independence (1917-1921), the resistance of the Ukrainian peasantry to collectivization of agriculture in 1931, the attack on the use of the Ukrainian language and the elimination of the Ukrainian intellectual Anne Appelbaum’s “Red Famine: Stalin's War on Ukraine, 1921-1933” is a dazzling work of synthesis history that addresses much more than the Ukrainian Famine of 1932-33 (a.k.a. “The Great Famine”, a.k.a. “The Holodomor”, a.k.a. “The Ukrainian Genocide”). It also covers the Ukrainian War of Independence (1917-1921), the resistance of the Ukrainian peasantry to collectivization of agriculture in 1931, the attack on the use of the Ukrainian language and the elimination of the Ukrainian intellectual classes that coincided with the famine, the subsequent purge of the Ukrainian communist party, the cover-up that followed and the active assistance of Western journalists in the cover-up. It was Robert Conquest’s “Harvest of Sorrow” published in 1986 that first established for the Anglo-Saxon world that there had indeed been a state induced famine in the Ukraine that killed somewhere between 3 and 6 million people in the Ukraine in the years of 1932 and 1933. Conquest suggested that the famine might have been the result of a combination of unfavorable climatic conditions and communist incompetence rather than evil intentions. Appelbaum instead argues that bad weather was not in any way a factor in the disaster. Stalin had simply decided that he needed to crush the Ukrainian peasantry which had supported an independent Ukrainian state during the four years following the 1917 Russian Revolution and which had violently resisted the collectivization of agriculture. In 1932, Stalin decided to act. He ordered the seizure of grain and food in the Ukrainian countryside to create food shortages. Those districts which had most actively resisted collectivization and given the greatest support to Ukrainian independence were the ones subjected to the most drastic food seizures. “Red Famine: Stalin's War on Ukraine, 1921-1933” is an extremely important book that should be read by anyone interested in European history in the 20th century.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Chris

    A wrenching and thorough account of the way Stalin created the famine that killed easily 3.5 million Ukrainians, and maybe far more. The eyewitness testimonies of the starvation are devastating. The last chapter is an especially interesting discussion of where the famine fits in the history of Genocide. For anyone interested in the history of the first decades of the Soviet Union, this is a must-read.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Theresa

    Anne Applebaum's Red Famine is an important history of the Ukraine (and USSR by default). Applebaum provides meaningful context beginning with the 1917 Ukrainian Revolution, famine of the 1920s, Stalin's agricultural collectivation policies of the late 1920s and early 1930s, and Ukrainian nationalist sentiment and peasant resistance prior to focusing on the terror famine known as the Holodomor occurring between 1932 and 1934. Holodomor is a term derived from two Ukrainian words for hunger and ex Anne Applebaum's Red Famine is an important history of the Ukraine (and USSR by default). Applebaum provides meaningful context beginning with the 1917 Ukrainian Revolution, famine of the 1920s, Stalin's agricultural collectivation policies of the late 1920s and early 1930s, and Ukrainian nationalist sentiment and peasant resistance prior to focusing on the terror famine known as the Holodomor occurring between 1932 and 1934. Holodomor is a term derived from two Ukrainian words for hunger and extermination. This famine was not created by crop failure or poor weather, it was a man made famine created by Stalin's agricultural policies, grain quotas (and associated penalties, including food confiscation inside homes, for not meeting those policies), etc. Ukrainian peasants, especially the Kulaks, that exercised resistance, were treated especially harsh. At least five million died during this famine, the vast majority in the Ukraine. Despite this tragic history and subsequent struggles, the Ukraine stands today as an independent nation.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Paul

    Red Famine – Stalin’s War on Ukraine As someone from a Polish family who before the Second World War lived in the Kresy (East Poland now in Ukraine) it has always surprised me how little of this war against Ukraine and her people is not widely known in the West. My Grandfather often used it as an example of how evil Stalin was in the way he allowed policy, to kill people and relieve him of a troublesome part of the country of its affluence. As a child, he lived in Podwołoczyska, a border town on t Red Famine – Stalin’s War on Ukraine As someone from a Polish family who before the Second World War lived in the Kresy (East Poland now in Ukraine) it has always surprised me how little of this war against Ukraine and her people is not widely known in the West. My Grandfather often used it as an example of how evil Stalin was in the way he allowed policy, to kill people and relieve him of a troublesome part of the country of its affluence. As a child, he lived in Podwołoczyska, a border town on the river Zbruch, and when playing alongside the river he often heard the machine gun fire of the Soviet border guards killing Ukrainians trying to escape, in order to feed their families and themselves. He would often talk of his childhood and the knowledge that on the other side of the river Zbruch, evil things were happening to Ukrainians. After 17th September 1940, my family would also feel the wrath of Stalin. Following rural unrest in 1932, the harvest in the Soviet Union dropped by 40%, and between 1928 – 1932 the livestock fell by 50%. One of the reasons being the peasants would rather feed themselves and their families instead of handing the cattle to the Communists. All this from Stalin’s New Economic Plans which enforced collectivisation on the people, brought resistance, the liquidation of kulaks and a famine which would extend across the Soviet Union. Better known to Ukrainians and many East Europeans as the Holodomor, since independence has meant that this episode of cruelty and killing can become better known in the West. Stalin knew what was going on in Ukraine, and what some readers might find hard to understand is that the Holodomor was completely man- made. It was his decisions, and that of his ministers that led to the famine, through the collectivisation of land and the eviction of kulaks, identified as enemies of the Revolution. There are some historians who dispute the fact that the famine was man-made, I happen to agree with her assessment. Like Katyn, the Holodomor was the great unmentionable, Ukrainians could not talk about or acknowledge until 1991. Now is the time to tell the world and remind it what happened and not allow Stalin to be rehabilitated. Anne Applebaum is not afraid to investigate and write about controversial parts of history, and the world is a better place for the light being shined into the dark corners. This is an excellently researched, well written book, this is not a dry history, this is a book that draws you in, and the writing keeps you captivated. I hope this book gets a wider audience, as it is compelling and tackle the ignorance that exists.

  11. 5 out of 5

    A.L. Sowards

    This is the first book I’ve read by Applebaum, and I’m impressed. It’s not a happy book, but it’s an important book, covering a state-created famine that killed around four million people in Ukraine in the 1930s. The deaths weren’t caused by a drought, but by forced collectivization of farms, then a Soviet plan to export grain to gain foreign currency, then a series of confiscations that left peasants with nothing to eat. The deaths are tragic, made even more so by the malice behind Soviet polic This is the first book I’ve read by Applebaum, and I’m impressed. It’s not a happy book, but it’s an important book, covering a state-created famine that killed around four million people in Ukraine in the 1930s. The deaths weren’t caused by a drought, but by forced collectivization of farms, then a Soviet plan to export grain to gain foreign currency, then a series of confiscations that left peasants with nothing to eat. The deaths are tragic, made even more so by the malice behind Soviet policy. They could have been prevented. Instead, the Soviet government left men, women, and children with no food, turned neighbors against each other, and destroyed entire villages. Then they covered it up. Applebaum also covers the years leading up to the famine, and the years beyond it up to the present. I listened to the audiobook, which had a really good narrator.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Luba

    Frankly, I don’t care whether we can call Holodomor a genocide or not. What I do care about is for people to remember and recognize that 4.5 million Ukrainians were killed purposefully by the Soviet State. I want people to know that “the elimination of Ukraine’s elite in the 1930s – the nation’s best scholars, writers and political leaders as well as its most energetic farmers – continues to matter.” This is an incredibly well written and documented narrative about one of the most tragic but hid Frankly, I don’t care whether we can call Holodomor a genocide or not. What I do care about is for people to remember and recognize that 4.5 million Ukrainians were killed purposefully by the Soviet State. I want people to know that “the elimination of Ukraine’s elite in the 1930s – the nation’s best scholars, writers and political leaders as well as its most energetic farmers – continues to matter.” This is an incredibly well written and documented narrative about one of the most tragic but hidden pages of Europe’s 20th century history. A must read for everyone who does care.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Mandy

    Superb authoritative examination of the famine in the Ukraine. Meticulously researched, detailed, accessible and often shocking, this is essential reading for anyone interested in Ukraine and Russia, the relationship between the two countries and the current tense situation.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Marks54

    This is a wonderful book on a really horrible subject - the famine in the Ukraine in the early 1930s (1932-33 in particular). The argument is that this was not just a matter of bad luck for the millions who died but a matter of murderous state policy on the part of the USSR towards the population of Ukraine - that this was a case of genocide in its original general meaning. Given the history of the Ukraine having resisted the Bolsheviks in the Russian Civil War and having resisted collectivizati This is a wonderful book on a really horrible subject - the famine in the Ukraine in the early 1930s (1932-33 in particular). The argument is that this was not just a matter of bad luck for the millions who died but a matter of murderous state policy on the part of the USSR towards the population of Ukraine - that this was a case of genocide in its original general meaning. Given the history of the Ukraine having resisted the Bolsheviks in the Russian Civil War and having resisted collectivization, the move to collective farms, the Soviet Government’s policies towards the Ukrainian people represents an effort to eliminate Ukrainian nationalism as a political threat to the Bolshevik state. This is nothing less than a case of purposeful mass starvation used as a political weapon against millions of political opponents. This is difficult material to read and it is easy to get numb to the extent of the crimes involved here. Ir is a common feature of books on famines of the last two centuries, whether the focus is on Ireland, India, China, or Russia. The numbers of people involved is truly staggering. The Ukrainian famine has been controversial. The Soviet Union refused to acknowledge its existence for decades and the story did not really come out until the 1980s with the publication of Robert Conquest’s book “Harvest of Sorrow”. Telling the full story as richly as Applebaum has done here only became possible with the opening up of archives with the demise of the USSR. Along with Conquest’s book, this famine was a central part of the story that Timothy Snyder told in his book “Bloodlands”. The famine is central to an understanding of the current conflicts between Russia and Ukraine and is thus a central item in contemporary affairs that is affecting the US as well. What is the big deal about Russia, Ukraine, and the US elections? It is a long story. It is tempting to imagine an account like this as being tied to conservative US politics but that is not the case and the horrors of the famine can be appreciated independently of political party affiliation. Applebaum is a marvelous writer and historian who combines a sharp macro level perspective with an almost limitless access to heartbreaking case studies of how the famine affected people. She brings multiple levels of analysis together here with a style that seems effortless. This is all the more amazing once one realizes that Applebaum literally wrote the book on the Soviet Gulag and the Soviet regimes in Eastern Europe after WW2. There is only so much of this that I can take at a time - and the 100 year anniversary of the Russian Revolution puts that to the test. This is an important book and well worth reading despite the really horrible subject matter.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Dem

    Parking this one for the moment....... may come back to it but for now now really keeping my attention.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Kelly

    This book needed to be written, and it needs to be read. Actually, I feel it should be required reading. Especially if you chose to or are required to read The Communist Manifesto, this book should be your immediate follow-up read. The former describes ideal communism; the latter describes the realities of communist policies and dictators. A book about horrible people committing horrible atrocities against other people, it was both heart-wrenching and eye-opening. Applebaum’s style is straightfo This book needed to be written, and it needs to be read. Actually, I feel it should be required reading. Especially if you chose to or are required to read The Communist Manifesto, this book should be your immediate follow-up read. The former describes ideal communism; the latter describes the realities of communist policies and dictators. A book about horrible people committing horrible atrocities against other people, it was both heart-wrenching and eye-opening. Applebaum’s style is straightforward and factual with extensive end notes - it used personal testimonies without meandering into manipulative storytelling and seemed to present an accurate historical account of the Ukrainian famine of 1932-33 created by the Soviet policies of collectivization and grain requisitioning. While Applebaum touches on how the famine may have shaped Russians’ and Ukrainians’ present-day attitudes about one another in the epilogue, she began researching for this book before recent Ukraine-Russia tensions resurfaced in 2014 which was a plus because it made her accounting seem less biased than one might expect if she began researching for this book right now.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Roman Baiduk

    For me, as a person whose relatives suffered in this disaster, it was very difficult to read this book. But it is necessary to read such studies. To remind yourself of the evil that is possible in this world. How a totalitarian regime can justify any cruelty, normalize the killing of millions of people in the name of a certain ideology. To remind yourself of this, so that you never let this happen again.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Kirk

    Anne Applebaum does a superb job of placing the Holodomor in its historical context, both the past and the present muddled conflicts between the Ukraine and Russia. There were sections that were extremely difficult to work through regarding the horrors and depravities that took place during the famine, so reader (or listener) be warned. Sadly, this is the type of book necessary to expose the dangers of slavish commitment to a political ideology. Highly recommended.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Olksndr

    Very insightful book, specifically due to highly vivid and thorough description of the pre-history starting from 1917 and the reasons which led to the famine. Last chapter is the must-read to all contemporary ukrainians

  20. 5 out of 5

    Jonathan Kidd

    Important book

  21. 5 out of 5

    Swimfan

    As a student of history, (my dissertation was on the factors behind the collapse of the USSR) I had not before come across a book that dealt specifically with not only the 1933 Famine in Ukraine, but also behind Stalin and the Bolshevik's obsession with destroying any lingering notion of Ukraine nationality and national identity. There have been books dedicated to the famine in Russia, and other parts of the Soviet Union, but not one that focuses explicitly on Ukraine. The trove of new informati As a student of history, (my dissertation was on the factors behind the collapse of the USSR) I had not before come across a book that dealt specifically with not only the 1933 Famine in Ukraine, but also behind Stalin and the Bolshevik's obsession with destroying any lingering notion of Ukraine nationality and national identity. There have been books dedicated to the famine in Russia, and other parts of the Soviet Union, but not one that focuses explicitly on Ukraine. The trove of new information that Applebaum has unearthed means that this a must read for any student of Eastern European or Soviet history. There is a great introduction which, to the uninitiated reader, explains the geographical physical terrain of the country, and just why it has been considered an important strategic country for both Russia, and Poland to the East. This history comes to the fore during the famine and it is important that the reader has a knowledge of this. If you have read "Iron Curtain" by Applebaum, you will know what to expect with regards to the way she writes and structures her books, but the content that she has unearthed and compiled is staggering. The way that she breaks down the lead up to the famine, the decisions that led to it, the attempt at a cover up and how disproportionately it affected Ukraine is nothing short of masterful. The descriptions of just how famine dehumanizes peoples are very moving and in some cases quite upsetting, however the need for these powerful images to be portrayed outweighs whatever shock you may get from reading about exactly how starvation and hunger destroys people from the inside out, literally. This is the only way to convey just how desperate people were during the famine. As with other instances of mass famine and hunger (the most comparable on occurred in China between 1958 - 61) the lengths humans go to in order to survive is nothing short of shocking. And it is in theses similarities that you really begin to get a fuller picture of just how dehumanizing famine is. And one of the thing all famines have in common: all famines are man made. That really comes out in this book, just how man made and as a result, avoidable the famine really was. For me, the most revealing part of this book was the chapters about the cover up that the Soviet government attempted, and how the use of foreign journalists to help portray an image of the Soviet Union abroad, even during the famine, played such a crucial role in convincing the world that there were "food shortages, but no famine" in the USSR. You would imagine it would be incredibly hard to cover up a famine where millions possibly lost their lives (the number is almost impossible to quantify due to the cover up, and the terrible record keeping of the Ukrainian Communist Party and the Soviet Government) however, the USSR did as good a job as any in keeping the true nature and scale of this disaster from the watching world. The book focuses on Ukraine and how Stalin sought what could now be called a campaign of genocide or ethnic cleansing. A must read book for anyone interested in Soviet history, or Eastern European history. The afterword helps the reader understand how the historic issues between Russia and Ukraine have re-emerged recently in the axing of Crimea and Putin's general stance towards the Ukraine. At just over 350 pages it isn't that long, but she manages to capture all the relevant information and the general mood in Ukraine at the time of the famine. Once again, I feel I must add that this book does not deal with the Russian aspect of the famine. It deals entirely with the affect it had on Ukraine. A brilliant book detailing one of the more darker periods in Soviet history. However, as a book on famine, it comes second only to Tombstone, by Yang Jisheng, detailing the great Chinese famine of 1958 - 62. Although the price for the hardback is a bit steep at £25, see if you can find it for cheaper, but if not, its well worth the investment

  22. 4 out of 5

    Mauri

    (You know, I told myself that Ravensbrück was all I could take this year in terms of "people being awful to people," but here we are.) I had a two "good" history teachers in high school, Mr. Munsen and Mr. Ostlund. You know how you'll hear on the radio "American students can't find [insert country or physical geographical feature here] on a map"? Mr. Munsen World History I students could find every country on Earth. The book Lies My Teacher Told Me? I found out that Mr. Ostlund had filled in the (You know, I told myself that Ravensbrück was all I could take this year in terms of "people being awful to people," but here we are.) I had a two "good" history teachers in high school, Mr. Munsen and Mr. Ostlund. You know how you'll hear on the radio "American students can't find [insert country or physical geographical feature here] on a map"? Mr. Munsen World History I students could find every country on Earth. The book Lies My Teacher Told Me? I found out that Mr. Ostlund had filled in the gaps left by our AP US History textbook, gaps that repeatedly tripped up my college classmates. This book covers something that Mr. Munsen (who had grandparents from Romania) had only hinted at, the kind of thing that happens between two non-USA countries and is only briefly mentioned, if it is mentioned at all, because it doesn't seem to have had an effect on later events or was overshadowed by them: The famine that hit Ukraine, Kazakhstan, and Russia proper, and was exacerbated in Ukraine (and likely Kazahkstan, though that's out of the scope of this book) by the exportation of the grain grown there, including the seed held back for sowing from the previous year. A nature-made famine, as it were, made horrifying and genocidal by the deliberate, unfeeling intervention of man. (Which of course, reminds me of the Irish Potato Famine - Mr. Ostlund was actually the first one to introduce me to the concept that the potato blight was a contributing factor...to a tragedy caused by England figuratively bleeding Ireland of food while her people starved.) Applebaum writes an engaging account of the circumstances leading to the famine of 1933, its effects and aftermath, but the real stars of the book for me were the last two chapters and the epilogue: The Cover-Up, The Holodomor in History and Memory, and The Ukrainian Question Reconsidered. Just as the famine in 1840s Ireland poisoned relations with England (both in-country and in the diaspora) right up until the end of the 20th century, the Holodomor and how it is discussed in Ukraine and Russia and around the world is still affecting elections, protests, and conflict in the 21st.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Yvonne

    This is a well laid out book that covers a very large and important piece of Russian and Ukranian history . It is very compelling reading and I think would be an invaluable book for those who want to know more regarding this area. I know very little about the Ukraine and the atrocities that were committed upon it and it’s people. I have vague memories from very generalised history lessons at school as a teenager. But now, after reading this account of events, I am aware of the depths people have This is a well laid out book that covers a very large and important piece of Russian and Ukranian history . It is very compelling reading and I think would be an invaluable book for those who want to know more regarding this area. I know very little about the Ukraine and the atrocities that were committed upon it and it’s people. I have vague memories from very generalised history lessons at school as a teenager. But now, after reading this account of events, I am aware of the depths people have gone to, to achieve power. For me, this book seems to be a very comprehensive account of the Ukraine between the years of 1917-1934. It discusses how the rich, fertile soil made for the ideal conditions of growing grain, it then follows through the history to tell how Ukraine wanted to become autonomous of the Imperial Russian Empire, this is something that Russia did not want to happen, due to it’s reliance on Ukraine being a valuable food provider. It is quite disturbing how the peasants from Ukraine are seen by Russia, they are viewed as worthless , their culture and language to be ignored under the overpowering Russian rule and how they were persecuted beyond belief. This book goes through the chronology of events that include a huge and and vast amount of bloodshed and atrocities. As I said this is comprehensive, there is a huge amount of information and it also includes sources. It discusses the politics, revolts and fighting for the power to rule a country, and what methods were employed to maintain the power for as long as possible during a time of huge unrest. This is a book I have found quite hard to review due to the vast amount of detail. There is so much detail I could include, but I have decided to limit myself. What I really want to say is “Just go and buy this book, you will not be disappointed” I would highly recommend this book to Historical and Factual readers, and especially for those with an interest in Europe, Russia and Ukraine. I would like to thank NetGalley and Penguin UK for allowing me a copy of this book. My opinion is honest, unbiased and is my own.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Myles

    Where others have summarized this marvellous book detailing the genocide perpetrated on Ukraine by Stalin and his henchmen, I will take a sidebar into things as they stand today. The Soviet Union is no more. Its apologists are no more, we think. But an equally diabolical regime in China has decided that millions of Muslims within its borders require “reeducation” and this same regime has: 1) Among the most sophisticated systems of electronic surveillance imaginable; 2) Access to personal information Where others have summarized this marvellous book detailing the genocide perpetrated on Ukraine by Stalin and his henchmen, I will take a sidebar into things as they stand today. The Soviet Union is no more. Its apologists are no more, we think. But an equally diabolical regime in China has decided that millions of Muslims within its borders require “reeducation” and this same regime has: 1) Among the most sophisticated systems of electronic surveillance imaginable; 2) Access to personal information unimaginable even a few years ago such that it is poised to leapfrog other industrialized nations in a race to develop machine learning and artificial intelligence. 3) Scientists who are apparently applying gene editing to humans without agreement on the moral limits to applying this technology. We live on a hungry planet. The race for resources will accelerate as the poorest among us become richer, as our population goes apace, and as we have no consensus to reverse the devastation of pollution or to deal with the hundred or so million climate refugees likely to result. China may soon have the power to put us out of business. And China is not transparent, or the least bit concerned with the future of its neighbours or, for that matters, with us. What is to stop China from redirecting the resources of the planet toward its aggrandizement and away from the welfare of the five or so other billion people on the planet. Its belt and road program is one step in that direction. It may not even need the cadres that Stalin used to terrorize the Soviet Union’s neighbours. Information and the incompetence of its regime stopped the Soviet clown show in its tracks. But once the machines have been programmed, who will stop them?

  25. 4 out of 5

    Olli

    A huge book about holodomor, famine of 1932-33 in Ukraine. Great background knowledge for anybody interested in current Ukrainian-Russian relations and annexation of Crimea and Donbas separatism.

  26. 4 out of 5

    blake

    This is an exhaustively researched review of the Holodomor which starts with the 1921 famine, caused by a combination of collectivization and natural events under Lenin, then details the events that led to the Stalin-caused famine of '32-33. This is followed up with details on the subsequent cover-up, the intellectual dishonesty/laziness that allowed Western historians to lump any references to it as fascism or Naziism (some things never change), and the post-Cold War struggles to get at the tru This is an exhaustively researched review of the Holodomor which starts with the 1921 famine, caused by a combination of collectivization and natural events under Lenin, then details the events that led to the Stalin-caused famine of '32-33. This is followed up with details on the subsequent cover-up, the intellectual dishonesty/laziness that allowed Western historians to lump any references to it as fascism or Naziism (some things never change), and the post-Cold War struggles to get at the truth. It's a compelling combination of stats and anecdotes. It's rather plain—though certainly some of the anecdotes are evocative, to say the least—but much like writing about the Holocaust, a non-sentimental approach is best. It's awful beyond ordinary conceptions of awfulness; we can't really appreciate how awful. Playing up the awfulness or wallowing in lurid details isn't going to get the point across. That said, it is...interesting...to make comparisons. The Holocaust is sort of the touchstone of evil in modern culture. But the Holodomor turned the entirety of rural Ukraine into a camp with no food and (essentially) guards to make sure that any food found was stolen or destroyed. So you tell me which is worse. Good to have a lot of hard facts on it now, as it has gotten short-shrift in the past.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Biblio Curious

    I listened to this on audiobook, the lady reading does a fantastic job with her intonations to make it sound like someone's telling a story. She hits all the emotional phrases perfectly but she never over emphasizes anything. I could give this 4 or 5 stars, let's go with 5 because of how Applebaum arranged her material. She begins with a brief history of Ukraine and concludes with the strength of the Ukraine people. Everything in the middle is heartbreaking with the storytelling skill of a great I listened to this on audiobook, the lady reading does a fantastic job with her intonations to make it sound like someone's telling a story. She hits all the emotional phrases perfectly but she never over emphasizes anything. I could give this 4 or 5 stars, let's go with 5 because of how Applebaum arranged her material. She begins with a brief history of Ukraine and concludes with the strength of the Ukraine people. Everything in the middle is heartbreaking with the storytelling skill of a great novelist. I need more time to think about this review. I finished this over a week ago & am still floored by everything that happened. I'd recommend this to anyone who reads Russian novels, especially in the Soviet Era. Also for anyone who's interested in food security & would like an example for how delicate that entire system actually is.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Graham Catt

    In order to repress Ukraine nationalism while, at the same time, implementing the Soviet collectivization policy, Stalin introduced brutal laws that directly resulted in the deaths of over 3 million people by starvation and malnutrition. Anne Applebaum's 'Red Famine' explores the causes of the 1933 famine, recounts the testimonies of people caught up in the disaster, and reviews the aftermath and its effect on modern-day Ukraine. This book is essential reading for anyone interested in Eastern Eur In order to repress Ukraine nationalism while, at the same time, implementing the Soviet collectivization policy, Stalin introduced brutal laws that directly resulted in the deaths of over 3 million people by starvation and malnutrition. Anne Applebaum's 'Red Famine' explores the causes of the 1933 famine, recounts the testimonies of people caught up in the disaster, and reviews the aftermath and its effect on modern-day Ukraine. This book is essential reading for anyone interested in Eastern European or Russian History. It is an invaluable account of one of the 20th Century's darkest periods.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Yuliya

    It is a very painful topic for the Ukrainian people... Having a family who had suffered from Holodomor, it is especially difficult not feel angry at all the atrocities committed by the Soviet government. All I can add is that history is here to learn from it and never repeat it again. Despite everything, Ukraine has a bright future in front of it, and as much as many people would like it, this future is separate from the Russian state and Russian influence.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Kelly

    Such a great book! Riveting, fair, and completely uninterested in settling for easy answers. Applebaum knows how to keep her focus on what's important, and keeps her narrative lean, efficient, and straightforward. Red Famine isn't fodder for debate—it's authoritative history. Good stuff.

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