Libmonster ID: EE-592

In the early 1930s, the Latvian and Estonian public was fairly well informed about what was happening in the USSR, including the famine in Ukraine. Many Balts had relatives in this Soviet republic, whose letters about the terrible events were published in the press of the Baltic countries. Latvian and Estonian diplomats had more detailed information about the famine, which was based on their personal impressions of trips to Ukraine. In their reports, they wrote in detail about the scale of starvation and the facts of cannibalism. Although the official reaction of Latvia and Estonia to the Ukrainian Holodomor was rather passive, residents of the Baltic countries organized a relief campaign, sending food parcels to the hungry in the USSR.

The Great Famine of 1932-1933. In Ukraine, the Holodomor, which claimed several million lives over the course of a year, is considered one of the greatest tragedies of the twentieth century. The Soviet regime stubbornly denied its very existence. In the early 1930s, Moscow tried to hide the terrible events in the republic from the world by banning foreign correspondents from entering Ukraine and launching a massive propaganda campaign. Nevertheless, certain news did reach the West. In particular, such journalists as Thomas Malcolm Muggeridge, Gareth Richard Vaughan Jones, Susan Bertillon and others reported on the hunger strike. foreign diplomats accredited in the "Land of Soviets" also knew about the famine, which is clearly evident from the correspondence of British, German and Italian missions. In this article, we will consider the issue of awareness of Latvian and Estonian diplomatic representatives about the events in the neighboring USSR.

Informing the public of the Baltic countries about the Holodomor

The reports of Latvian and Estonian diplomats about the famine in the Soviet Union, especially in the Ukrainian SSR, did not differ qualitatively from those that their Baltic public received from the press. In the early 1930s, major newspapers such as the Latvian daily Jaunākās Ziasas ("latest news"), " Latvijas Kareivis "("Latvian soldier"), Estonian " Päevaleht "("diary") and " Postimees "("postman"), wrote extensively about the events in the USSR. Moreover, Päevaleht was particularly detailed, having its own correspondent in Moscow, Nikolaus Basseches, who covered the topics of Soviet foreign and domestic policy, in particular economic policy. 1 The Baltic magazines also contained digests of the largest foreign and domestic media outlets in the world.

Shnore Edvins-PhD student at the University of Latvia (Riga, Latvia), e-mail: Paavle Indrek-Doctor of Historical Sciences, Researcher at the Estonian Institute of Historical Memory (Tallinn, Estonia), e-mail:

Translated from English by Ulyana Nemchenko (Kharkiv).

1 The son of the Austrian Ambassador Nikolaus Bessekes was born in Moscow. He was an engineer by profession and a journalist by vocation, and collaborated with numerous European newspapers. See also Rannast L. Enamliselt's Master's thesis, defended in 2008 at the University of Tallinn.

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European newspapers and the impressions of those who visited "Russia", including several Estonians and Latvians who managed to escape from the Soviet Union.

Baltic readers knew about the plans of the Soviet leadership for the first five-year plan, about the industrialization and collectivization of agriculture. The general public was also aware of the dramatic side effects of these policies, such as the spread of poverty, chronic shortages of basic consumer goods, the introduction of ration cards, mass migration, unemployment and hunger. The overall picture of Soviet reality presented by the Latvian and Estonian press was rather bleak from the Bolshevik takeover of power in 1917 to the early 1930s. The unsightly image of the USSR did not change much. Even during the Great Depression, the general attitude towards the Soviet system remained much more indifferent in Latvia and Estonia than in Western Europe. Perhaps because the authorities and the public of the Baltic countries, which directly bordered the "world's first state of workers and peasants", were better informed about the events taking place there.

There were large colonies of ethnic Latvians and Estonians in the Soviet Union. Many people had relatives on the other side of the border. There were also large Russian emigrant communities, both in Latvia and Estonia, with their own information channels. Most of the Baltic diplomats were proficient in Russian. All these factors contributed to the fact that the Latvian and Estonian population received detailed and high-quality information about the"Land of Soviets". It should be noted that Western, especially American, diplomats often analyzed articles in the Baltic press about living conditions in the USSR.

The topic of famine, which became relevant in 1932, did not turn out to be something too unexpected. Memories of the last major hunger strike in Soviet Russia, which culminated in 1921, were still fresh in people's minds, forcing them to draw certain parallels. From time to time during the 1920s, newspapers reported on the difficulties faced by Soviet citizens and what the future might bring. The number of such materials increased in the late 1920s, when the Soviet Union launched campaigns for collectivization of agriculture and industrialization. The first forecasts of future famine appeared already in the autumn of 1930, and in the future their number increased. Therefore, it can be assumed that the average Latvian and Estonian reader had no special illusions about the Soviet regime. On the contrary, the public of the Baltic countries received enough critical information that, presumably, led to the fact that economic chaos, poverty, malnutrition and, possibly, even hunger were considered an indispensable part of Soviet life. Judging by the publications in the press, it is likely that the reader could perceive all of the above as the norm of life in the USSR.

It was against this background of information that the first publications about the threat of famine in Ukraine appeared in Latvian newspapers in the summer of 1932. For example,

kaldalt: Noukogude Venemaa eluolu ja suhted Eesti Vabariigiga Paevalehe ja Postimehe pohjal 1920-1929 [from the Bolshevik coast: living conditions in Soviet Russia and relations with Estonia based on the materials of "Päevaleht" and "Postimees" 1920-1929] (here and further in square brackets is a translation from Estonian and Latvian of the titles of works and newspaper publications - editor's note).

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The conservative "Latvijas Kareivis" emphasized that the growing food difficulties in the Ukrainian SSR were caused by a catastrophe in agriculture, which, in turn, was the result of an impossible program of industrialization and"machine psychosis" 2.

In the autumn of 1932, reports began to appear about the fiasco with the grain harvest and the rise in food prices "to an unprecedented level." The forecasts indicated a 50% reduction in food supply standards. 3 Alarming information appeared at the end of the year - state grain procurement plans were not implemented and the party decided to "work particularly vigorously" in this direction.

At the beginning of 1933, based on information from Soviet newspapers, it became clear that the delivery of grain to the state in the Central and Lower Volga regions, the North Caucasus, the Urals and other areas, and especially in Ukraine, was under serious threat. The cities were experiencing a shortage of bread due, as Pravda wrote, to the" passive resistance " of the collective farms. N. Bassekes, a Moscow correspondent for the Estonian newspaper Päevaleht, noted that hunger significantly affects labor productivity, and the New Year promises to be a "year of trials" for the Soviet Union, because state grain procurement plans are being implemented very slowly, especially in the Ukrainian SSR and the North Caucasus.4

Mass malnutrition, starvation, disease, and extreme poverty were reported in newspapers in 1933. In 1933, the number of illegal border crossings increased dramatically. In particular, refugees arrived in Latvia either singly or in groups. 5 The Latvian press reported that these people were fleeing from famine in the Soviet Union. Some of the fugitives made the difficult journey from Ukraine to Latvia on foot. 6 Given the surge in illegal cross-border migration, the Soviet side in 1933 took measures to strengthen border protection with the Baltic states.7

In the summer of 1933, Latvian and Estonian newspapers reported significant deaths in Ukraine from "famine typhus". In one day alone, 150 emaciated children were detained in Kharkiv, where their parents left them at the train station in desperation. In July and August of that year, the situation escalated to the edge. Articles about the famine in Soviet Ukraine and the cannibalism it caused made the front pages of newspapers, and terrible stories were published weekly about how half-crazed peasants dug up gravediggers of livestock and ate carcasses that had not yet decayed, so the number of severe poisoning increased dramatically.

Opinions about the reasons for this situation were unanimous, and the main one was determined by the "political fanaticism of the Russian communists" and I. Stalin himself

2 Bads maizes klētī [Голод у житниці] // Latvijas Kareivis. - 1932. - 19/VI. - L. 1.

3 Wenemaal oodata naljatalwe: Toidunorme wahendatud Poole worra [a hungry winter is expected in Russia: food standards are halved] / / Postimees. - 1932. - 11 / ІХ. - L. 2.

4 Kolhooside front Moskwa wastu [Kolkhoz front against Moscow] / / Päevaleht. - 1933. - 12/1. - p. 3; Basseches N. Wiisaastaku lopp [the end of the five-year plan] / / Ibid. - 1933. - 22/1. - L. 2.

5 see, for example: Latvia slepeni purbraukushi DiVi visizmi Krievijas pavalstnieku [Two wagons of Russian citizens illegally crossed the Latvian border] / / Jaunakas Zijas. - 1933. - 23 / V.-L. 8.

6 Even grandmothers are fleeing from Ukraine / / Svoboda. - 1933. - 23/ a. - p. 1.

7 see, for example: Pad. Krievijas plostu pieememšanas vietu apsargā kā karalauku [the ferry crossing in Soviet Russia is protected as a place of military operations] / / Jaunāks Ziasas. - 1933. - 9/V.-L. 5.

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("the hard dogmatism of the Caucasian dictator") 8. The article also referred to Moscow's colonial policy, which provoked a significant decrease in grain yields over the past three years. I recalled adverse weather conditions, diseases that affected grain crops. They also wrote about forced collectivization. Observers agreed that at least part of this tragedy was caused artificially, because the passive resistance of the peasantry to the policy of planting collective farms was planned to be broken with the help of the "weapon of hunger". Moreover, this applied to both newly created collective farms and individual farmers who were not subject to state measures in the agricultural sphere. 9

In early 1934, when the peak of the famine was over, the Soviet government invited Latvian and Estonian journalists to visit Ukraine and other regions of the Soviet Union. The delegation included such well-known Latvian newspapermen and writers as Edvarts Virza and Karlis Skalbe. The latter described his impressions in a series of articles published on the pages of Jaunakas Ziasas in May 1934. The tour was organized in such a way that representatives of foreign publications saw only the positive aspects of Soviet life. And yet K. Skalbe wrote: "I draw my conclusions not only from what I see, but also from what I don't see. During the whole trip, I didn't notice a single dog or cat " 10.Although the author didn't specify the reasons for this situation, Latvian readers could have guessed for themselves, because in the previous numbers of "Latvijas Kareivis" and in other publications it was explained that all cats and dogs were simply eaten by hungry residents 11.

Elmar Kirotar, an adviser to the Estonian Embassy in Moscow, was on this trip together with the Baltic journalists. He told how richly and variously they were fed, showed the natural beauty of Russia and the achievements of the Soviet government, but "the other side of the coin did not remain hidden." From the car window and at many railway stations, he saw "dozens of incredibly dirty and barefoot children dressed in rags" trying to run after the train, "begging in pitiful voices for a few kopecks for a piece of bread." The Estonian diplomat also managed to talk to two Ukrainian farmers, who said that "this year will bring such famine as has never been seen before" 12.

Latvian and Estonian diplomats ' awareness of the famine

The ability of foreign diplomatic missions to collect information was quite limited, and even more so than the press. The Soviet government carefully controlled the travel of diplomats. There wasn't much they could learn from the people who did it, either.

8 Nalg Wenemaal walismaalaste kirjeldusel [Famine in Russia, as it is seen by foreigners] / / Päevaleht. - 1933. - 2/V.-L. 4.

9 Naljahada Noukogudemaal [Famine in the Land of Soviets] / / Ibid. - 1933. - 31 / VII. - L. 2; Basseches N. Toitlusprobleem Noukogude Liidus [problems with food in the Soviet Union] / / Ibid. - 1933. - 8 / IX. - L. 4.

Skalbe K. 10 Jaunā Krievija [Нова Росія] // Jaunākās Ziņas. - 1934. - 15/V. - L. 2.

11 Par badu Pad. Krievijā [on the famine in Soviet Russia] / / Latvijas Kareivis. - 1933. - 14 / IX. - L. 3.

12 E. Kirotar to the Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, May 2, 1934 / / Riigiarhiiv (State Archive of Estonia; hereinafter-ERA). - 957.14.9, 1-8.

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they turned to embassies and consulates, because the vast majority of visitors were afraid to openly express their thoughts. Like other European diplomats in Moscow in the early 1930s, Latvians and Estonians lived in isolation. According to the Latvian mission official, they came into contact with the local population only in exceptional cases. Diplomats lived directly in the embassy building. Here they had breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Food and all the necessities of life were brought from abroad 13.

Yet the diplomats toured the country and saw something they shouldn't have seen. The crowds at the train stations, begging for a piece of bread, could not be hidden from the eyes of the train passengers. The Estonian Ambassador to the Soviet Union, Julius Seljamaa, traveled to Ukraine and the Caucasus in the spring of 1933. In his report, he wrote: "I don't think I'll ever be able to forget the pathetic voices of children whose only request was:' Uncle, give me a piece of bread!". And if you give someone bread, then dozens of people rush at him like a pack of dogs. In the end, I didn't even want to get out of the car at the bus stops, so as not to see starving people in rags who could barely stand on their feet. We didn't have anything to give them anyway - our entire supply of bread and cookies quickly ran out."14

The Latvian Ambassador to Moscow, Alfreds Bīlmanis, with whom Y. Selyamaa spoke about his visit to Ukraine, requested permission from Riga to take a train to this Soviet republic in order to see firsthand the living conditions of the local population. However, according to his regional reports from 1933, A. Bilmanis presumably did not receive such permission and did not visit Ukraine that year15. However, he collected information from all available sources and sent detailed reports to the capital of his state describing the famine, its causes and extent. In particular, in 1933, A. Bilmanis emphasized that the Soviet government, which he characterized as "communo-fascist" (!), mercilessly exploits the peasants, depriving them of their means of subsistence and sacrificing everything for the "god of industrialization".16 In another report, A. Bilmanis touched upon the causes of famine: "It is characteristic that a sharp increase in the number of people living in the Soviet Union is associated with an increase in the number of food shortages correlate with the percentage of collectivization. This has nothing to do with soil fertility, but proves that the current famine in the south is primarily due to collectivization. " 17

General Secretary of the Latvian Ministry of Foreign Affairs Vilhelms Munters, to whom A. Bilmanis addressed his messages, was busy in September 1933 preparing the visit of former French Prime Minister Edouard Herriot, who was visiting the Baltic country after returning from a Kremlin-sanctioned trip to Ukraine. After getting off the train in Riga, E. Herriot said that any talk about the famine in the Ukrainian SSR is nonsense. The Moscow newspaper Pravda immediately reported that "Mr. Herriot categorically refuted the lies of the bourgeois press regarding the famine in the USSR." 18 Members of the French delegation

13 U.S. National Archives and Records Administration (далі - NARA). - 861.5017/671.

14 impressions from a trip to the Caucasus, June 10, 1933 / / ERA. - 957.13.532, 150.

15 Latvijas Valsts vēstures arhīvs (Latvian State Historical Archive; hereinafter - LVVA). - 2575 f., 8 apr., 59 l., 579-581 lp.

16 Ibid. - L. 74.

17 Ibid. - 2575.f., 8 apr., 59 l., 337 lp.

18 Pravda. - 1933. - 13/IX.

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The delegations at the official meeting with W. Munters confirmed that" they have never seen the famine described so well in the foreign press " 19.

But from his subordinate in Moscow, the head of Latvian diplomacy received exactly the opposite information. Thus, from the reports of A. Bilmanis from the summer and autumn of 1933, impressive pictures were presented: "the situation, which can be described as famine, is currently recorded in Ukraine, the North Caucasus, the Volga region, as well as partially in the Central Chernozem region and the steppes of Central Asia inhabited by nomadic peoples. [ ... ] especially in the first three regions, it is extremely high. Statistical calculations are impossible, but it is most likely that several million people have died by this time, and the same number may die before next summer. Entire villages are dying out. A huge number of peasants run away to the cities, leaving all their property, and go barefoot for hundreds of kilometers. Many die on the way. In the North Caucasus, there are special Komsomol brigades whose job is to remove corpses from the roads. Horrific reports of cannibalism are also confirmed. " 20

In a report dated June 9, 1933, A. Bilmanis wrote that in Ukraine " 20-30 people die every day in one village. It is not uncommon for human flesh to be eaten. "21 In another report, the Latvian diplomat stressed that the worst situation was in Ukraine:" I received news from Kiev that there were 147 cases of cannibalism. There was a trial of a Russian woman who was accused of killing and eating her three children. " 22

It should be noted that the staff of the Baltic diplomatic missions located in the capital of the "Land of the Soviets" were repeatedly met by German, American and official representatives of other Western countries, who used the information received from them in their own messages about the living conditions of the population in the Soviet Union. 23 Yes, Americans, who at that time did not yet have an embassy in Moscow They were in close contact with Latvian and Estonian diplomats and relied heavily on their information, which they probably fully trusted. As noted at one of the many meetings with the Estonian Ambassador to the USSR, the head of the US Department of State's Department of Eastern European Affairs, Robert F. Kelly: "Mr. Selyamaa is one of the best-informed foreign diplomats in Russia." 24

Baltic representatives also maintained contacts with Western correspondents in Moscow. For example, Y. Selyamaa's bridge partner was New York Times reporter Walter Duranty. Despite this, in an interview with American diplomats in Tallinn, Y. Selyamaa still stated that despite his great respect for Mr. V. Duranty as a correspondent for a respectable publication, sometimes he is inclined to question the statements of an American who

19 LVVA. - 2575 f., 15 apr., 92 l.

20 Ibid. - 8 apr., 59 l., 337-340 lp.

21 Ibid. - 579-581 lp.

22 Ibid. - 584-585 lp.

23 Див., напр.: Der Ukrainische Hunger-Holocaust: Stalins verschwiegener Volkermord 1932/33 an 7 Millionen ukrainischen Bauern im Spiegel geheimgehaltener Akten des deutschen Auswartigen Amtes: eine Dokumentation; aus d. Bestanden d. Polit. Archivs im Auswartigen Amt, Bonn / Hrsg. D.Zlepko. - Sonnenbuhl, 1988.

24 NARA. - 59/861.5017/581.

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They relate to living conditions in the USSR. It is known that the latter portrayed them too optimistically and quite in the light of information that came from official Soviet sources. 25 According to Latvian diplomats, employees of Western missions in Moscow knew V. Duranty as a "friend of the Bolsheviks." 26

The famine years coincided with the period of Stalinist industrialization, so there were many invited foreign specialists (engineering and technical personnel, etc.) in the USSR. Many of them reported to the Western press terrible details of the life of the population in the country of their temporary stay. The vast majority of foreigners came from the United States and Germany, but there were very few immigrants from the Baltic States. For example, in 1930, only 10 Latvian citizens participated in the Soviet industrialization program. 27 However, in 1933, Ambassador A. Bilmanis received information from Latvians in Ukraine about famine and cases of cannibalism, which the diplomat immediately reported to official Riga.28

Estonians and Latvians - victims of famine in the USSR

In the early 1930s, there were many ethnic Latvians and Estonians in the Ukrainian SSR, BSRR, and other Soviet republics. Most of them were peasants who moved here in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and, in particular, were engaged in agriculture on the fertile Ukrainian chernozems. According to the Estonian Ambassador J. Seljamaa, in 1930 there were 100,000 Estonian peasants in the USSR. 29 For example, in Ukraine there were a number of ethnic Estonian and Latvian collective farms, which, along with German ones, were recognized as one of the most productive farms in the Soviet Union. 30

In September 1933, the Moscow correspondent of the New York Times, V. Duranti, visited Latvian collective farms in the territory of the Ukrainian SSR. He said that unlike other collective farms in the region, Latvians more or less managed to survive the famine of 1932-1933, but lost almost all their grain reserves, and, according to the journalist, they said: if this happens next year, they will collect their belongings and at least walk (like their ancestors, when a hundred years ago). they came back to these lands), but will return to Latvia 31.

Since the beginning of forced collectivization, the situation of the peasantry in Ukraine, including ethnic Latvians and Estonians, has sharply worsened. Many of them wrote about this to their relatives in Latvia and Estonia. For example, a letter sent to Tartu from Ukraine in early 1933 said: "Many people turn to their dear mother for help. However, it can't help, there is too long a queue of people who want to come, you have to wait a long time." The sender resorted to

25 Ibid.

26 Ibid. - 861.5017/671.

27 LVVA. - 2575 f., 15 apr., 70 l., 259 lp.

28 Ibid. - 8 apr., 59 l., 584-585 lp.

29 NARA. - 59/861.61/36.

30 opinion of Dr. J. Rosen, Director of the Russian branch of Agrojoint Corporation, which managed Jewish colonization projects on the territory of Ukraine (see: NARA. - 59/861. 4016/347).

31 Див.: The Foreign Offce and the Famine: British Documents on Ukraine and the Great Famine of 1932-1933 / Eds M.Carynnyk, L.Y.Luciuk, B.S.Kordan. Kingston; Vestal, 1988, pp. 309-313.

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32.The author of the article is not without reason afraid that his correspondence will be misinterpreted. The author of the letter, also published in the press, already openly wrote that they had not seen bread since the autumn of last year, people were completely exhausted, barely able to stand on their feet, and finally reported that "in this city, one mother is said to have already killed her own child and eaten it" 33.

In desperation, peasants of Estonian and Latvian origin began to turn en masse to the diplomatic missions of Estonia and Latvia in the Soviet Union, begging for help. Estonian Ambassador Yu. Selyamaa told his American colleagues that he received numerous appeals from Soviet citizens - Estonians by nationality, trying to leave the country. The diplomat noted that " the conditions that have developed at present in the rural regions of the Soviet Union are comparable to those that prevail in a madhouse." However, in most cases, Baltic diplomats were forced to refuse emigration requests, because the Soviet authorities did not allow travel abroad.

In 1932-1933, many starving peasants left their homes and went to the cities in search of food. Thousands of them flooded Moscow. They spent their days in the streets and squares, and their nights on the stairs and in the courtyards of houses. The second secretary of the Latvian Embassy, Dr. Frish, reported on a man who spent more than one night on the porch of the Latvian representative office. From the window, the diplomat watched a peasant family (mother and children) begging right outside the embassy, until the woman fainted from hunger and was taken away with her children.34

Employees of the Estonian Consulate in Leningrad, where ethnic Estonians - subjects of the Soviet Union who were looking for an opportunity to emigrate to their historical homeland-applied, more often came into contact with citizens of the USSR. According to Consul General Alexander Varma, there were a lot of people who wanted to get permission to travel to Estonia, even among Estonians who lived in regions not covered by famine. The food supply of Leningrad and Moscow was much better, but even in these cities life did not seem cloudless. For example, in 1933, famine "literally did not exist in the Leningrad region itself, but suffering from chronic malnutrition was a common occurrence." A. Varma noted that there were significant differences between the regions, and that he was familiar with the situation only in those places where ethnic Estonians lived compactly. Estonian diplomats were not able to help everyone who wanted to. Those who applied for help were assured that their requests had been forwarded to the relevant Estonian authorities, but there was no hope that the Soviet government would revoke their citizenship and allow them to leave the country.35

The Ukrainian SSR did not have a Latvian consulate, so ethnic Latvians of the republic applied to the appropriate institution in Vitebsk. Given the significant acceleration of the processes of collectivization and" dekulakization " in the late 1920s,

32 Kohutawad puhad naljamaal: Ukrainas ei jouta matta nalgasurnuid [sad holidays in a starving country: so many people die of hunger in Ukraine that they don't have time to bury them] // Postimees. - 1933. - 15/IV. - L. 4.

33 Hadahuud Wenemaalt [Cry for help from Russia] / / Päevaleht. - 1933. - 21 / IV. - L. 2.

34 NARA. - 59/861.61/36.

35 information by A. Varma from Leningrad, February 13, 1934 / / ERA. - 957.13.755, 22; E. Kirotar-to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on assistance to Estonian colonists in Soviet Russia, August 2, 1933 / / Ibid. - 957.13.532, 199-205.

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the number of users increased significantly. Almost all of them applied for emigration to Latvia. The consul explained that he could do little to help, because there was a decision of the Soviet authorities-to ban departure from the USSR. The peasants asked the diplomat to report what was happening here, to Geneva, to the headquarters of the League of Nations-allegedly one of them had heard that this international organization had helped German colonists escape from the Soviet Union. The Latvian Consul reported to Riga: "The fate of Latvian peasants is tragic. They used to serve as a role model for the Russian people, but now they have been ruthlessly destroyed... Some of them apply to the Latvian Embassy and consulate, asking for help and advice on how to get rid of Soviet citizenship and move to Latvia. They are ready to give up everything to get out of this land of violence, poverty and hunger. " 36

Latvian and Estonian newspapers published calls to help the famine-stricken people in the Soviet Union, but knowing the Communist authorities ' unequivocal attitude to any international action to alleviate the plight of famine victims, the Estonian Embassy in Moscow recommended limiting food parcels to specific addresses. The Estonian Ministry of the Interior provided people who wanted to help with contact information about people who applied for emigration to Estonia , and they were supposed to be assigned targeted assistance. In any case, public appeals to save the hungry should be avoided 37.

The dispatches of Latvian diplomats (the ambassador in Moscow, the consuls in Leningrad and Vitebsk) did not contain information about any assistance to the victims of the famine, which could have led to protests from the Soviet government. However, it is known that ordinary citizens of Latvia regularly sent food packages to their relatives in the USSR. During the famine of 1932-1933, the number of such parcels passing through the postal services of the Baltic countries increased significantly. The Latvian Post Office had a special agreement with the corresponding Soviet department, according to which the sender could pay customs duties directly at the time of registration of the shipment. Soviet customs duties were huge, totaling four times the actual value of the contents of the parcel. It is interesting that customs fees received in this way at Latvian post offices were paid in Latvian currency and transferred to the local bank as a loan to the Soviet trade delegation.38 The Soviet authorities used every opportunity, including famine, to increase their foreign currency reserves. In the middle of 1933, post offices in the Soviet Union stopped accepting ordinary parcels with breadcrumbs - dried bread was lighter than freshly baked bread, respectively, due to the lower weight of the shipment, it was necessary to reduce the amount of postal payments. 39 In addition, parcels often did not reach the addressees. For example, in a letter sent in the spring of 1933 from Kuban to Latvia, it was written in red pencil:: "don't send us flour and granulated sugar next time. Workers

36 LVVA. - 2575 f., 15 apr., 70 l., 275 lp.

37 E. Kirotar-To the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on assistance to Estonian Colonists in Soviet Russia, August 2, 1933 / / ERA. - 957.13.532, 199-205.

Day D 38. Russia in Grip of Famine; Many die of Hunger // Chicago Daily Tribune. - 1933. - 21/V. - P. 17.

Day D. 39 Russia's "Bread Basket" Empty; Thousands Die // Ibid. - 1933. - 4/VI. - P. 24.

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they made holes in the bags and stole everything. Send us some pasta. We can grind them together and make bread. And lump sugar " 40.

It is difficult to estimate the scale of such "postal aid", but it is clear that the sending of food parcels did not become a mass phenomenon 41. it should not be forgotten that the culmination of the famine and the appearance in the press of relevant appeals to save the hungry coincided with the peak phase of the global economic crisis, which also affected the Baltic countries.

* * *

Summing up, it can be argued that the public in Latvia and Estonia knew about the famine, regardless of the attempts of the Soviet regime to deny the very fact of its existence, information about the events in the USSR crossed the border line. Both the press and the state authorities of the Baltic countries did not have the opportunity to estimate the number of victims more or less accurately, limiting themselves to the definitions of "millions" and "several million". At the same time, the scale of the new tragedy was compared with the previous famine of 1921, which, as is known, killed about 5 million people.

Thus, Latvian and Estonian diplomats, as well as the population of the Baltic States, were well aware of the Holodomor that raged in Soviet Ukraine. Among its reasons were Moscow's experiments in social and agrarian policy, first of all, complete collectivization. This explains why, during the Soviet occupation of Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania in 1940, the local peasantry was most afraid of the socialization of farms, which usually led to first a shortage of food, and then starvation. According to Baltic diplomats and the press, an important reason for the tragic situation in Ukraine was the desire of the Communists to destroy the peasantry as a class, using the "weapon of hunger". The Estonian and Latvian public also believed that food shortages caused the inefficiency of the Soviet leadership model, which, combined with external factors (for example, the threat of war in the Far East, the global economic crisis, etc.), caused the collapse of Soviet agriculture in 1932. The situation in Ukraine,the main grain region of the "land of the Soviets", was particularly difficult. Granaries of the Soviet Union.

Official Riga and Tallinn distanced themselves from the issue of helping starving Soviet citizens, because the Kremlin considered the relevant international proposals as "interference" in its internal affairs, denying the very fact of the famine. It was possible to provide assistance only through personal contacts, sending food parcels to specific addresses. Interestingly, in the autumn of 1933, the Estonian Ministry of Foreign Affairs received a memorandum from Ukrainian emigration organizations on the case of mass famine in Soviet Ukraine.

40 Chicago Daily Tribune. - 1933. - 21/V. - P. 17.

41 During the fiscal year 1934-1935, 2,453 packages were sent from Estonia to the USSR. However, there is nothing to compare these figures with, because there are no statistics for previous years. The documentation of the postal service shows that in this Baltic country there was a general trend towards a decrease in the number of items. Thus, during 1930-1931, Estonian citizens sent a total of 180,000 parcels; the following year this number decreased to 155,000 (see: ERA. - 54.1.474-477).

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there is no information about the response to such a document from the Foreign Ministry or the government of this Baltic state. Also, no official statements were made in the Estonian and Latvian parliaments.

We should not forget that, in addition to the global economic crisis, 1933 was marked by political upheavals in the Baltic states, as a result of which authoritarian regimes came to power in Latvia and Estonia in early 1934. Especially violent were the events in Estonia, where during 1933 the government changed twice, the Estonian krona devalued in the summer, political scandals did not subside, the confrontation between right and left forces from the walls of the parliament took to the streets of cities, there were rumors about the declaration of a state of emergency. In such an atmosphere, anything that happened somewhere abroad was unlikely to get the proper attention.

In the early 1930s Latvian and Estonian public was rather well informed about the developments in the USSR, including the famine in Ukraine. Many people had relatives in Ukraine, who described the horrific famine conditions in their letters which were published by the Baltic newspapers. Latvian and Estonian diplomats possessed even more detailed information about the famine. Their knowledge was based on personal visits to Ukraine during the famine. Diplomats sent detailed reports to Riga and Tallinn describing mass starvation and cannibalism in Ukraine. Although the official reaction of Latvia and Estonia to the Ukrainian famine was rather passive, no obstacles were put in the way of relief campaign organised by the Baltic people, who sent food packages to the starving in the USSR.


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E. Schnore, I. Paavle, LATVIAN AND ESTONIAN DIPLOMATS ON THE HOLODOMOR IN UKRAINE // Tallinn: Library of Estonia (LIBRARY.EE). Updated: 21.12.2023. URL: (date of access: 25.06.2024).

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