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ARCHIVES  Danyliw Seminar 2017

Daria Mattingly

University of Cambridge, UK

Daria Mattingly is a PhD candidate in Slavonic Studies at the University of Cambridge. She received the Best Doctoral Paper Award at the ASN World Convention, at Columbia University, in 2015. Her chapter on the Holodomor Memorial-Museum in Ukraine in the volume Museums of Communism is forthcoming at University of Indiana Press in 2017.



Discrepancy of Portrayal of the Rank-and-File Perpetrators of the Holodomor in Cultural Memory


The paper explores the mechanism of the Holodomor on the ground. While the role of the the party leaders and secret police has been studied in detail, the men and women who directly facilitated the mass famine have largely been neglected by scholars. Facilitation involved not only the confiscation of foodstuffs, but preventing victims from leaving or obtaining food from alternative sources, providing intelligence, silencing the famine and many other activities that directly or indirectly related to organization of the Famine. How many people were involved? Who were these perpetrators and what happened to them after the Holodomor? To answer such questions, I propose a micro-historical analysis which is illustrative of archival evidence on district, provincial and republican levels. Such approach will seek to cast what took place in the rest of the country.


The paper draws on my doctoral research which is an interdisciplinary examination of the identities, activities and memorial traces of the rank-and-file perpetrators. The sources include mainly archival materials, memoirs and diary literature and close reading of other cultural texts created during and immediately after the Famine in Ukraine and abroad. My study challenges reductive “lacrimogenetical” readings of the famine as well as prosopographical readings of its active participants as outcasts devoid of historical agency. Methodologically, I borrow from the studies of international crimes of mass violence and perpetrator studies as well as from the Holocaust studies.


The paper argues that the existing typology of perpetrators by motivation - professional, profiteer, fanatic, sadist, follower and the compromised - can be applied to the perpetrators of the Holodomor. This allows to reconstruct previously understudied groups of perpetrators as well as to establish unique case of the Holodomor. Second, it examines the context in which perpetrators made their choices: previous experience of mass violence, as well as societal and cultural restraints on violence at the time. For instance, how different was the experience of female perpetrators in comparison to that of their male counterparts. Third, it analyses the role of the modern state in the mechanism of the Holodomor through its institution – schools, railway, state supported organizations like KNS, Komsomol, Osoaviakhim and others. Finally, it examines how rank-and-file perpetrators made sense of their experience after the Famine – whether they hid their past, justified participation or showed remorse at the loss of lives. Ultimately, what happened to them after the Famine – did they resume normal lives or was their poetic justice for the crimes they committed that survivor testimonies often tell of?


While the aforementioned questions raised reach beyond the scope of the article, I seek to demonstrate that such a detailed overview of the various groups of the rank-and-file perpetrators of the Holodomor and the roles they played elucidates the mechanism of the Famine. The study contributes to the understanding of the long-term impact the Holodomor on contemporary Ukrainian society and to the studies of mass violence in general.

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