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The NYPL Podcast

Podcast #190: Anne Applebaum, Fighting Against the Great Forgetting


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In the early 1930s, in the wake of Josef Stalin’s policy of agricultural collectivization, the most lethal famine in European history engulfed the Soviet Union. It killed around 5 million people. Almost 4 million of those fatalities were Ukrainians. The skewing of those numbers was a particular horrific aspect of the catastrophe that could be attributed neither to chance nor to accident. Instead, as Pulitzer Prize–winning historian and Washington Post columnist Anne Applebaum demonstrates in her latest book, Red Famine, what turned the famine so heavily against the people of Ukraine were much more deliberate, and much more sinister, forces directed by the Soviet leader as a result of political instability between Russia and Ukraine.

In the Soviet era, when even the famine itself was officially denied, airing this story of Stalin's crime against humanity would have been impossible. That changed in the 1980s, and Applebaum’s book is the latest in a series since then to shed light on the magnitude of the violence and depravity, making extensive use of the Ukrainian archives that detail what is known in that country as the HolodomorApplebaum spoke about her contribution toward recovering the story with John Podhoretz, the editor of Commentary magazine.

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