30 October 2008
Press Conference

Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York


Calling for an open and truthful assessment of history, Yuriy Sergeyev, Permanent Representative of Ukraine, spoke with reporters at Headquarters today, on Ukraine’s proposal for a draft resolution to commemorate the seventy-fifth anniversary of the “Holodomor”, or Great Famine, of 1932-1933.

The Holodomor, which literally meant “killing by hunger”, had been caused by Joseph Stalin’s agricultural collectivization policies, because “human life [meant] nothing compared to the gigantic economic and military plans of the regime”, Ambassador Sergeyev said.  It had affected not only people of Ukrainian ethnicity, but of the many ethnic groups who lived in Ukraine at that time, as well as in other areas of the former Soviet Union.  Upwards of 10 million people, one third of Ukraine’s population, had died there, he added.

It was important to commemorate the event as a human rights issue, he said, as a reminder of the inhumanity of totalitarian regimes and to prevent similar crimes in the future.  Stressing that the Holodomor was not only a Ukrainian tragedy, he cited paragraph 2 of the proposed resolution, which “[a]lso commemorates the memory of millions of Russians, Kazakhs and representatives of other nationalities who died of starvation in the Volga region, Northern Caucasus, Kazakhstan and in other parts of the former Soviet Union”.

Noting that, in 1991, 30 October had been established as the National Day of Memory in Russia, he said that Ukraine was celebrating today with Russian human rights organizations and regretted the Russian Federation’s opposition to the proposed resolution, which had prevented the issue from being placed on the General Assembly’s current agenda.

The purpose of the proposed resolution was “to attract the attention of the world community to the greatest tragedy of the twentieth century, caused by […] cruel actions and policies of [Stalin’s] totalitarian regime”, he said.  Further, moral assessment and condemnation of the atrocities of totalitarian regimes against their own populations played an important role in educating the young generation.

Responding to questions, he noted that the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe had also recognized the importance of memorializing the victims of totalitarian regimes and had passed two resolutions to that end, one condemning the crimes of totalitarian communist regimes and the other relating to the Franco regime in Spain.  Each passed with only one negative vote.

In his opening remarks, Mr. Sergeyev had also enumerated Ukraine’s initiatives in the areas of peace and security, the rights of the child and broader human rights.  In closing, he urged Russia, on this National Day of Memory, to return to the spirit of 1991, of the Gorbachev and Yeltsin periods, “when there was an open and frank discussion of history”.

* *** *

For information media • not an official record