We will probably never have a final tally on how many people have died under communist regimes. But an author believes that Stalin’s Soviet Union deliberately set out to starve more than 3 million Ukrainian peasants – and she’s written a book detailing her evidence.
In “Red Famine: Stalin’s War on Ukraine,” professor and author Anne Applebaum laid out her research showing that the Soviet Union methodically starved the people of Ukraine by sealing the borders, cutting off access to any available food and forcing them to live on grass, tree bark, pets and worse.
“This should be everywhere,” Glenn said of the history detailed in the book. “Nobody knows it.”
EDITOR'S NOTE: This article provided courtesy of TheBlaze.
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This is a rush transcript and may contain errors.
GLENN: I’m really excited to have this woman on. Her name is Anne Applebaum. She has written a book that most people have never even heard of this. This is one of the most powerful stories that I have ever heard. When we were on Fox, we did a special on — on this particular topic. And I could not believe the number of people from the Ukraine that wrote us or would stop me in the street and hug me and cry and say, “I can’t believe somebody’s finally — are you kidding me?
This should be everywhere. Nobody knows it.
Now, Ann is an interesting woman, because she has all kinds of credentials. Yale. Everything else. She’s worked everywhere. Economist, et cetera, etcetera. But she is also now a professor in London. And she runs Arena, a program on disinformation and the 21st-century propaganda. I would love to have time in our interview to talk to her about that as well.
The name of her book is Stalin’s War on the Ukraine. Red Famine.
And she is with us now. Hello, Anne, how are you?
ANNE: Fine, thanks.
GLENN: Most people don’t even know this story at all. And it is — it’s shocking when you hear it. Why has it been covered?
ANNE: Well, I should say first what the story is. The story is — my book tells the story of an artificial famine. That means a mass starvation that was created by the Soviet state in the early 1930s. And although it affected many people in the Soviet Union, it was particularly targeted on Ukrainians, in an attempt to quell Ukraine’s desire for independence and to eliminate the possibility of peasant rebellion. It was carried out.
Which we can talk about if you want. It was a long — long buildup to it, including lots of disinformation and fake news, as we would now call it. And used HEP smeary grainy peasants. And then it was carried out by Soviet — Soviet Ukrainian Russian bureaucrats. It was then covered up. Very, very deliberately. So much so, that even the census — the Soviet census which — you know, which counted how many people there were in each part of the country, covered up the missing people of Ukraine. It was — there was one census that was carried out, that was suppressed, that showed the real numbers. And then another one was carried out that had fake numbers.
So it was very deliberately repressed and not discussed for many days, actually. It’s only been possible recently to go back and look at archives and understand exactly what happened.
GLENN: So this story has ramifications today, because I think some things like this — you point out at the end of your book a similar thought that this is — this is kind of repeating itself with the disinformation and — and right with the people of Ukraine. If you don’t understand this, you may not understand why the people of Ukraine are very, very worried about people like Putin and — and those who want to bring back the former Soviet Union or something like it.
So go back to the beginning.
When — when Stalin came in with Lenin, they collectivized all of the farms, and it didn’t work.
ANNE: Well, they didn’t do that immediately. The collectivization began in 1929, by which the time Lenin was dead. But it was Stalin’s initiative to repress the countryside.
And what collectivization meant was that ordinary people lost their property. So the state took over their farms and forced them to join state farms.
And many people resisted doing this. They didn’t want to do it. They didn’t want to give up their land. They didn’t want to give up their cattle. They didn’t want to give up their own tractors and give things up. But they were either coerced or forced or persuaded to do it.
GLENN: Or killed.
ANNE: Or killed. Well, and in some places, there was a very open rebellion against it. People actually took up arms and weapons. And they began shooting at Soviet commissars. And this, of course, is what alarmed Stalin.
GLENN: So it was my understanding — and I could be wrong on this. It was my understanding that at least in Russia proper, the peasants went and pretty much killed the farmers because a lot of the farmers didn’t want to go along with it and took the land. So nobody really even understands how to really farm. And so it made things much worse.
Is that true or not?
ANNE: Well, it caused an enormous amount of chaos. It happened a little bit different in different places. And some joined the farms voluntarily. And some did not. But what it did was it caused enormous chaos in the countryside. It disorganized the entire agricultural economy.
But it also made it very easy for the state to begin to coercively collect food. And this is what laid the groundwork for the famine.
So the — because food was all centralized, it meant that the state could send grain collectors who could come in and confiscate food. And the famine that was caused in 1932 and 1933 was caused by that.
So there was this atmosphere of chaos. People began to starve. And then the state began to literally remove food from people’s homes. This wasn’t about the weather. It wasn’t about some kind of pestilence.
It was literally people came into peasant’s homes. They took their food and confiscated it and left them to starve.
GLENN: It’s — in some ways, it’s very much like the great leap forward with — with Mao. What he did.
ANNE: Yes, very similar. Very similar.
The Chinese had a similar — very similar thing happened in China.
GLENN: But there is, if I’m not mistaken, there is a difference here with the Ukraine. When did they start sending in the Russians to, you know, Russianize, if you will, the Ukraine? Was it at this time?
ANNE: Well, so Russiaification, which wasn’t so much about sending in Russians, but about encouraging the use of the Russian language and sort of discouraging the use of the Ukrainian language, this did begin in the immediate aftermath of the famine. Because the famine was followed by a major attack on the Ukrainian intellectual league. So the artists, the writers, the scientists, the museum curators, these were all — they were all arrested. Many of them were killed. Many of them were sent to the gulag. The labor camps.
So the Ukrainian elite was eliminated. And in its place, Russians or Russian speakers were replaced. So the idea was to eliminate Ukraine or the nation to sort of suppress it. I mean, they didn’t really eliminate it altogether. But they suppressed the elite. They eliminated the most active part of the peasantry, and that made it easier to Sovietize it so that it became a willing part of the Soviet Union and not a problem for someone.
GLENN: So now Stalin is — his philosophy is, you know, you didn’t produce enough grain to pay us, let alone feed yourself. It doesn’t matter. We’re taking the grain.
Is that the idea? Or does he intend —
ANNE: Yes, that was the idea. That was the idea. They took — they confiscated grain. And then for Ukraine, they made a series of special rules so that people were not allowed to leave Ukraine. They blocked the border of the republic.
GLENN: Now, was his intent to kill the population? Because he killed an astronomical number of people in a year?
ANNE: Yes, he did.
Yes, it’s my contention in the book, and I’ve pulled together the evidence, that he intended to kill people in Ukraine. He wanted to suppress the peasantry and to remove its most active members. And he intended to kill people.
GLENN: And how many did he kill?
ANNE: The numbers are approximately 4 million.
ANNE: And then — then there — you know, then depending on how you count, you can add others. But that’s the. Number from 1931 to 1934.
GLENN: Okay. So, Anne, I don’t want to compare things. Because you’re comparing monsters to monsters. But even Hitler was not that efficient of killing 4 million people in one year.
Is it because the Soviets survived and buried this, or why is it that it’s not out?
ANNE: They survived — look, if Hitler had stayed in power, we might not know about the Holocaust. That’s how it works. So Stalin stayed in power. His successors stayed in power. It was many, many decades before archives were open and real history could be done in Ukraine or anywhere else in the Soviet Union.
And in a world before the internet and before cable television and before talk radio, it was much easier to keep stories separate — you know, just to suppress stories and prevent them from getting out.
Special efforts, I should say, were made to prevent western journalists and other journalists from writing about the famine. People who tried to write about it were at risk of being expelled from their job. And at that time, all news that came out of Moscow was censored. And there were one or two journalists who were deliberately collaborating. There were also some journalists who tried to expose it. But it was much easier at that time to clamp down on the story.
But not only to keep it from other Soviet citizens, but to keep it from the world.
GLENN: Duranty HEP was probably one of the more famous people that was collaborating and misled America. And said, you know, none of this is really happening. You’re being lied to.
ANNE: Yeah. So the two important journalists of the story, one of them was Walter Duranty, who was actually British, but he was at that time working for the New York Times, who wrote a famous piece saying, there is no famine. Russians are hungry, but not starving. It’s all been exaggerated.
And then there’s another journalist, a Welsh journalist, called Garrett Jones HEP on sort of somewhat — he said he was going to visit a tractor factor at hashy. (?) started walking down the tracks and actually saw within Ukraine at the height of the famine in the spring of 1933. And he wrote about it actually in — in the British press. After he left.
But the question of prestige, he didn’t have the clout that Durant had. And also, it’s important to remember, (?) people were worried about Hitler, who was just then coming to power. People were looking to do deals with the Soviet Union. People didn’t want to hear that it was a catastrophe. Interesting, if you (?) and this applies to other countries too. It’s almost always a reflection of our own politics. You know, American politics at that moment, nobody (?)
GLENN: So, Anne, I want to stop there and then come back. (?) I think there are things that people don’t want to hear. But Putin is — is cut from this same cloth. And we’ll go there, when we come back.
GLENN: Talking to Anne Applebaum. Her latest book is called Red Famine: Stalin War on Ukraine.
STU: And I know (?), but before we move on. You talk in the book about some of the real horror stories from this period. People who were imprisoned and forced to only drink snow that was dripping through and melting into, you know, their storage area where they were being kept. We’ve heard stories over the years of cannibalism and, you know, children being shot as they went to try to grab potatoes to eat. Are these stories largely true? Has any of it been exaggerated? What did you find?
ANNE: No, I found a lot of it was true. The cannibalism stories are in the archives. In that, local policemen would be told about the stories. They would investigate them. Sometimes they would arrest people as canals. And that’s part of the public (?) record. The extraordinary thing is that they were recording what was happened (?) there was no particular reaction to the extraordinary phenomenon of multiple cannibals suddenly appearing in what had been a very law-abiding part of the world up until now. There’s a huge memoir and oral history as well, I should say, and I use quite a lot of that in the book, to give people subscriptions and how think emotionally (?), but really, quite a lot of the worst stories are, as I said, they’re part of the archive. They’re part of the police record. There’s no doubt that these things happened.
GLENN: I have just about a minute here before another break. But tell me, who was it that was shooting? Were they crans shooting crans? How did they — how did you get to be on Stalin’s side?
ANNE: Well, usually what there were in each village or each part of the country, there were these activist (?) and carry out this repression. And the teens very often had Russian members or people from the cities. But very often, they had some local Ukrainian collaborate rarities as well. And this is very (?) interesting. The question being, why would people collaborate? And that’s actually the story about how you create hatred over a long period of time. You know, there was a kind of drumbeat of hatred towards the so-called ghoul axe. (?) blocking our revolution. And hiding our grain from us. And people had this propaganda drummed into their head over and over again. (?) it was in their interest to believe it. Or they were hungry. To they agreed to go along with it. So you did have some local people collaborating with outsiders in effectively the murder of their neighbors. If you go into somebody’s house (?) they’re not allowed to leave. Then you know they’re going to die.
GLENN: You can see where I’m going to take this next, on the hatred that she just talked about. It’s happening all over the world. It’s happening in Russia. It’s happening here in America. The lesson that we can learn from Red Famine. When we come back.
GLENN: What ills America now is hatred. And hatred and distrust on both sides. And we’re currently looking into Russia. And you’re on one or the other side. You know, Trump was luding with Russia. And, you know, he’s a bad guy because of it. Or Hillary Clinton was turning a blind eye to Russia. And she was working with the Russians on that dossier. Blah, blah.
We keep going back and forth. And it’s dividing us into Democrat, Republican. Instead of taking a step back. Wait a minute. What do both of those stories have in common? And that’s Vladimir Putin and Russia.
And as we have been talking about for a while on this program, Russia’s intent is to cause chaos and hatred between us. And, you know, for any role that we play in that, we’re going to be held eternally responsible. Because we’re going to tear each other apart. And if you introduce hunger and fear, it’s going to happen a lot faster than it’s happening right now.
We’re talking to Anne Applebaum. She wrote the book, Read Famine. She writes on page 358, (?) 80 years later, the Russian FSB, the institutional successor of the KGB, continues to demonize its opponents using propaganda and disinformation. The nature and form of hate speech in Ukraine has changed, but the intentions of those who employ it have not. In the past, the Kremlin uses language to set people against one another, to create first and second class citizens, to divide and distract.
In 2014, Russia’s state military described Russian forces carrying out an invasion of Crimea in eastern Ukraine, as — as suppress patriots. And those fighting fascists and Nazis. (?) an extraordinary (?) complete with fake stories that Ukrainian nationalists have crucified a baby, for example. Fake photographs followed. Not only inside Russia. But on Russia state-sponsored media around the world.
This is happening. And it’s not happening just in Ukraine. It’s happening to us as well. And we have got to separate ourselves from it.
And Applebaum joins us again. Red Famine. What do we learn now, Ann, from this? Well, I think (?) you pointed to the main link between the past and the present.
The same kinds of propaganda campaigns and the same kind of hate campaigns that the Soviet state ran in the past, are now being run by the Russian government in the present. I — if I had some early warning of it, or many (?) I travel a lot in the Baltic states. And I saw this beginning several years ago.
The attempt to — the backing of extremist political parties, mostly far right parties in the region. The use of — using the tools provided by social media to target particular kinds of audiences. The creation of fake stories and so on.
That’s actually been in the Russian intelligence repertoire for some time now. The fact that we only noticed in the United States doesn’t mean it’s been around for a while.
GLENN: People don’t understand. I know you run a program, an arena on disinformation (?) people don’t understand that this is — you know, it sounds like old school Soviet stuff. That millennials are not aware of at all. And people don’t understand, we’re being manipulated. And not just by Russia. But we’re manipulating each other.
And it’s happening. And no one thinks their side is part of it. And all sides are part of it.
ANNE: Yes. I think some sides have made — have set out to be more manipulative than others.
ANNE: I would say, you began a few minutes ago by talking about mistakes made by mainstream broadcast media.
I mean, at least those media have a procedure by which they admit mistakes.
ANNE: And they say those are mistakes. (?) he doesn’t take them back. When he says things that are dishonest.
So there are some differences here. But, yes, I think the — the system whereby both foreign actors and domestic actors are able to insert false stories into — you know, into people’s Facebook feeds, into what people see on — you know, on the internet now is certainly — it makes — all these things are much faster and easier to do than they were in the past. So these Soviet disinformation campaigns would take many years. They would plan them. (?) now it can be done in a matter of minutes. It’s very, very cheap. It’s very easy. As you know, particularly well, it’s not just the Russians who do it. Anybody can do it who has a little bit of money and a little bit of spare time.
GLENN: So when Romney was running conservatives like me, I could not — I couldn’t get the left to listen and say, no, no, Putin is a bad guy, and Russia is refighting the Cold War. Now that Trump is in office, you can’t convince the — the conservatives that Russia is bad.
How do we — how do we lock ourselves to some principles here on Putin and get the word out that he is a very dangerous character that is, you know, trying to destabilize the entire West and correct the great mistake that he saw as the end of the old Soviet empire?
SPEAKER: Yes. Well, all you have to listen (?) that’s what his officials say they’re doing. They — they openly want to unpick international institutions. They’re opposed to the European Union. They’re opposed to NATO. They’re opposed to the American — the transatlantic alliance. (?) if American troops are gone from Europe, that would give that much more leeway to (?), I mean, I suppose it was hard to take them seriously in the past. Because economically, they’re not a great power anymore. And they even seem to be shrinking. But what we I think didn’t reckon is the — (?) how inexpensive it is nowadays to do — to do propaganda and political campaigns. With very little money, they can support far right extremist groups. They’ve gotten interest now in gun clubs. I would be interested to know what their relationship is with the it, Florida (?) and they’re looking forward to support extremist, anti-systemic and anti-fascist groups all over in Europe. And I suspect they’re doing it in the US too. So pay attention to what they say and what they do. It should be enough to convince whatever American of whatever their politics. That this is something we need to be aware of. We need to be thinking about. These are — this is an anti-Democratic — an anti-American regime.
GLENN: The — the main guy here for the alt-right, I’m trying to remember his name. Spencer. Yeah, Richard Spencer. His wife is the English translator for Aleksandr Dugin, who if you think Putin is scary, Dugin is even more frighting.
ANNE: Dugin is the ideological who has created also completely contentious vision of Russia as some conservative leader or some kind of favor (?) anybody who knows Russia well and has been there and knows anything particularly about the Russian elite knows this is an entirely phony picture of how they actually — of how they lived their lives. But he has seen what he perceives to be as a weakness. And we encourages this idea that Russia can encourage some kind of antimodern — anti-Democratic conservative revival.
GLENN: So, an an, how do we accomplish one thing? (?) you said earlier that people didn’t want to look at this. (?) we haven’t changed as people. In fact, I think it’s becoming easier and easier for us just to look at the news that we want to look at.
And, in fact, we have things like Facebook that through algorithms, is helping us disconnect from anything that disagrees with us. How do we — how do we break this
ANNE: Well, one — so (?), first of all, I think it’s important for people to understand that they live in echo chambers. (?) that were recommended to you because the algorithm thinks you will like it. Or even just because your friends think you will like it. And so everybody has — I think it’s kind of a civic duty to pay attention to what the other side is saying, even though you disagree with it. It’s a civic duty to use critical thinking and (?) does it come from a news organization that facts check and that admits mistakes when it makes them? Or does it come from some kind of propaganda outlet? I think we’re all now, as never before, responsible for understanding the political world that we live in and trying to make sense of it. And also, by the way, teaching children about it.
I think younger people, in particular, need to learn how to read the internet and how to know what it is that they’re seeing, that’s true and that’s not. It would help a lot of people that read history as well. Because some of this is new because technology is new and some of it is old, as you would discover if you read my book.
GLENN: Yeah, the plans are exactly the same. The technology is (?) for those who wish —
ANNE: Exactly. The technology makes it — the phenomenon of echo chambers has also changed things a little bit. It means it’s much harder for people to — harder for people to feel decade to those who are somehow on the other side.
ANNE: Unless it’s just to denounce them. The internet enables new kinds of identity. You now identify with a group you recognize online. It doesn’t it doesn’t have to be only online. (?) who you see on TV. It gives you a sense of personal identity, as well as giving you some information.
GLENN: What sticks out is the way Stalin used traitor. And we’re hearing that — we’re hearing that now on both sides of the aisle. If you don’t toe your party’s line, if you have a party, if you don’t toe your party’s line, you can be called traitor and enemy and everything else. And, I mean, that — that has a long history.
ANNE: The fact that the American president (?) is a kind of breakthrough. That is a Stalinist phrase. It gave anybody who knows history, a real feeling of chill and fear. Because that’s —
GLENN: It did me.
ANNE: That was the kind of language that was used to demonize people and was used to eventually kill them in the past.
GLENN: Ann Applebaum, thank you so much.
ANNE: Thank you. (?)
STU: The book is called Red Famine. Stalin’s war on Ukraine. By an Applebaum. It’s definitely worth a read. We did a documentary on this back when we were on Fox that covered this as the documentary. And just attempting to find pictures to support (?) was incredibly difficult. The amount of research that goes into this book is really impressive. And she found, I mean, amazing photos and real-life accounts of what happened at that time. And it’s really in-depth. And it’s one of the most important stories that I think a person who thinks of themselves of well-informed doesn’t know.
GLENN: It’s a big piece of history.
STU: Really big.
GLENN: Big piece of history. We all know what the Nazis did. So many of us don’t know what the Russians did. And this is just an absolute horror show. And as she says in the last part of her book, it’s repeating herself. Dugin, Putin, they are doing it again.
And we must learn for — from history, or we will repeat it.