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RFE/RL Poland, Belarus, and Ukraine Report Vol. 4, No. 25, 25 June 2002

A Survey of Developments in Poland, Belarus, and Ukraine by the Regional Specialists of RFE/RL's Newsline Team


DOES UKRAINE NEED MORE NUCLEAR-POWER REACTORS? The expansion of Ukraine's electrical generating capacity by the construction of new reactors at the Rivne and Khmelnytskyy nuclear-power stations will "benefit only Germany and Russia," claims an article in the Ukrainian opposition newspaper "Svoboda" on 11 June. The article was originally written last December when an environmental group, the Youth Committee for National Safety, held a "people's hearing" in Kyiv to discuss the expediency of completing the new reactors. Until now, however, the author, Yevhen Zelinskyy, had been unable to find a publication willing to print it.

The organizers of the December event had wanted to call it a "public hearing," but to do so would have required the authorization of the state authorities. Their requests for this authorization were ignored, however, so, to stay within the law, they redesignated it a "people's hearing." This change of name gave the bodies most concerned with the nuclear program, the Ministry of Fuel and Power, the Enerhoatom state nuclear-power monopoly, the State Committee for Nuclear Regulation, and the relevant parliamentary committees, a pretext for ignoring the hearing. Had it been a "public" and not a "people's" hearing, they claimed, they would have sent representatives. Even the "green" environment minister, Serhiy Kurykin, ignored the event, though he is said to have doubts as to the expediency of going ahead with the reactors. The only person who came from the "nuclear" side was an engineer from the Khmelnytskyy station, who could discuss technical matters but was hardly in a position to deal with larger policy issues. As a result, the questions raised by the hearing remain unanswered.

These questions addressed not only the issue of safety, which, since the explosion at the Chornobyl nuclear-power station in April 1986, has held a dominant place in the Ukrainian national psyche. The hearing duly noted that the new reactors are being built in accordance with an outmoded (1984) Soviet design (not, incidentally, that of the ill-fated Chornobyl station), and that other similar reactors in Ukraine are still operating on only a temporary license. Furthermore, the hearing asserted, the state environmental enquiry regarding the new networks had not yet presented its report. Hence, their construction was both premature and illegal and should be halted immediately.

When challenged over nuclear safety, however, those concerned with Ukraine's energy strategy, particularly in the early years of independence, have repeatedly argued the need to balance conflicting threats: the possibility of deaths arising from a future nuclear accident and the certainty of winter deaths from hypothermia due to a lack of generating capacity. The surviving reactors at the Chornobyl station would then have to be kept in operation until the new reactors at Rivne and Khmelnytskyy (based on a less hazardous reactor design) are ready to replace them.

But the people's hearing therefore challenged the necessity and economics of the new reactors, saying that nuclear generators have to operate around the clock and that Ukraine now has more than sufficient around-the-clock capacity. The hearing questioned why Ukraine would construct an additional 2-megawatt capacity of nuclear power that operates around the clock, when what Ukraine needs is more top-up power to be brought on line at times of peak demand, power that could be conveniently provided by modernizing the country's conventional generators that run on Ukraine's own coal.

Finally, the hearing also raised political issues: Germany, it said, is committed to phasing out its own nuclear power over the next 20 years, and will have to import more energy; and Russia wants to sell its obsolete reactors that no other country "except possibly Iraq" will buy, together with fuel and spare parts over the next 40 years. It is they who will benefit, while Ukraine takes the risks. President Leonid Kuchma, the hearing alleged, is prepared to accept this situation in order to meet the needs of his "precious, too precious friends," Russia and Germany.

The hearing last December had a topical context: President Kuchma had just castigated the former cabinet for agreeing to a loan to finance the new reactors with the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development on terms that, he said, were tantamount to "slavery," and for confirming that the reactors would be completed with Russian help.

During the past six months, however, the issue has not lost its topicality, as a postscript to the original article indicates. On 29 March, it reports, six people appealed to Kyiv's Pecherskyy District Court, seeking the restoration of their right to "a safe life and environmental safety," which, they said, had been placed at risk by Enerhoatom upon the construction of the new reactors at Khmelnytskyy and Rivne. They offered documentary evidence that the construction is illegal and called on the court to halt the financing and construction of the reactors unless, and until, the state environmental enquiry gives its clearance. On 24 April, however, the court rejected the appeal, noting that, "the plaintiffs addressed the court in the interests of society" but they did not have the authority to make such an appeal.

Less physically hazardous, but not without its own dangers for Ukraine, are the plans for a consortium of Russia, Ukraine, and Germany to manage gas transit through Ukraine. At first glance, it seems set to benefit all three parties: Russia will supply and Germany will receive the gas, without the danger of unauthorized Ukrainian siphoning; and Ukraine will be ensured the financial benefits of transit, without the threat that Russia will reroute all its west-bound gas through Belarus. A document to this effect, signed by the Russian and Ukrainian prime ministers on 21 June, guarantees gas transit via Ukraine of at least 110 billion cubic meters annually. Russia, likewise, guarantees to ensure the steady supply of gas to Ukraine under contracts already concluded between Ukraine and Central Asian suppliers. Furthermore, according to Russian President Vladimir Putin, the creation of the consortium will make it possible to attract in the near future the $2.5 billion of foreign capital needed to upgrade Ukraine's dilapidated pipeline system.

However, "Segodnya" warns that setting up a consortium implies the "imminent corporatization of the gas transportation system," which in its turn may well prove the "first step toward privatization" of Ukraine's main gas pipelines. It is unclear what stakes the participants will have in the consortium and if future European partners will come up with "big money." Ukraine needs to walk warily, or one day it may find that "the money-spinning pipeline is no longer ours, but simply runs across our territory."

WHAT CAUSED FAMINE IN UKRAINE? -- A POLEMICAL RESPONSE. (This article by Professor Mark B. Tauger (, Ph.D., associate professor at West Virginia University, responds to the article by Dr. Taras Kuzio in "RFE/RL Poland, Belarus, and Ukraine Report" of 12 June 2002.)

Dr. Kuzio's article concerns a discussion on H-Net Russia, which began when in response to a question, I sent in a list of my recent publications (listed below) and summarized their main points. These points were that the 1933 famine was not limited to Ukraine and resulted from a shortage due to natural disasters that no other scholars have investigated. Dr. Kuzio's article distorts this discussion and misrepresents Western scholarship and my works in particular, which were the main ones at issue but which apparently almost none of my detractors had read.

Dr. Kuzio claims that Western scholars refuse to compare Soviet and Nazi crimes, and are Russia-centric. On the first point, he quotes other scholars' statements that any questioning of the Ukrainian genocide argument is "immoral and absurd." On the second point, he cites my doubts concerning Ukrainian memoirs and asserts that no one questions similar accounts of the Holocaust. He refers to my criticism of Robert Conquest's work and cites James Mace's dismissal of my work as "baseless statistical circumlocutions" and "garbage." He asserts that Western scholars ignore Ukrainian sources and publications, and that the famine left no "memory" in the Russian consciousness. Here I will briefly respond to these claims.

With respect to memory of the famine in Russia, Dr. Kuzio seems unaware of such publications as "Tragediya sovetskoi derevni," a massive five-volume collection of documents published in Russia with the support of the U.S. National Endowment for the Humanities, which evidences the severity of the famine in Russia as well as Ukraine, and the imprint of the famine on the consciousness of all the Soviet peoples. Dr. Kuzio's point is also problematic because Ukraine is a multinational state, all of whose citizens -- Ukrainians, Russians, Jews, Poles, Tatars, and others -- were victims of the famine, as documented in recent Ukrainian publications.

Dr. Kuzio is wrong to characterize me as a Russia-centered Western scholar. I use Ukrainian sources, I have worked in Ukrainian archives, and I have published a study of the Ukrainian famine of 1928-1929 that the Ukrainian scholar S.V. Kulchytskyy described as one of the "blank spots" to which Dr. Kuzio refers. I published this in a collection of articles on Soviet history in the national republics ("Provincial Landscapes," listed below) by a group of scholars, and this publication is not unique. Dr. Kuzio's criticism of U.S. scholarship, therefore, at least as it refers to me, my associates, and many other Western scholars, is unjustified.

On the question of statistics, James Mace and other advocates of the genocide argument insist that the famine was "man-made" on the basis of Soviet official statistics that the total grain harvest in 1932 was 68.9 million tons and testimonies and memoirs from decades after the event that the harvest was excellent. Their argument therefore rests on the statistical claim that no genuine food shortage prevailed in the USSR in 1932. If it can be shown that such a shortage prevailed, this argument has to be rejected.

The official statistics, however, show that the procurements taken from the 1932 harvest were less than the procurements in any other year in the 1930s (and archival documents show that the data actually overstate the amount procured). In other words, the rural remainder for the whole USSR in that year appears larger than any other year in the early 1930s, so there should not have been a famine by those statistics. Several other scholars noted this before me, including the Ukrainian emigre scholar Dmytro Solovey. These are not "baseless statistical circumlocutions" but a fundamental problem in the evidence, which Conquest, Mace, and other recent Ukrainian scholarship never mention.

Yet there was a famine, and as the archives document exhaustively, people were dying of starvation all over the country (see the article by Wheatcroft in Getty and Manning, "Stalinist Terror," Cambridge University Press 1997). So that harvest statistic is wrong. As I show, the harvest figure that Mace and others rely on was a biological yield projection, not harvest data, and was imposed on Soviet statistics by Stalin in 1933.

I obtained the archival annual reports from the collective farms themselves, including those from more than 40 percent of the collective farms in Ukraine (the remainder of the farms did not complete and submit annual reports, apparently because of the crisis). These data show that the 1932 harvest was at least one-third below the official figures. These are data from the farms, including Ukrainian farms, data gathered and prepared by Ukrainian peasants and other villagers at the time that the famine took place. I also show that even these data, which imply in Ukraine a harvest of less than 5 million tons instead of the 8 million-ton official figure, overstate what must have been a famine harvest. I show that these annual-report data are the only reliable data on Soviet grain production in the 1930s, and that peasants used them to resist outside officials' demanding high procurements based on Soviet biological yields.

So while Mace stands by Stalin's false statistics, backed up with memoirs written decades later, to argue that a small harvest did not occur, my evidence (which Mace calls "garbage") -- desperately put forward by Ukrainians and other peasants themselves, which Soviet leaders received and rejected -- documents incontrovertibly that the country had a famine harvest. This is why I question Ukrainian memoir accounts. Their insistence on the false assertion that the harvest was good undermines their credibility. It is also a general principle of evidence that contemporaneous evidence concerning an event is considerably more reliable than reports decades after the event: The memoir and testimony sources on the famine date from the 1950s to the 1980s and later. Substantial critical literatures in history and psychology have demonstrated the problems of memoirs and oral history, which contrary to Dr. Kuzio's claim have been applied extensively to the literature of Holocaust memoirs and testimonies.

The evidence that I have published and other evidence, including recent Ukrainian document collections, show that the famine developed out of a shortage and pervaded the Soviet Union, and that the regime organized a massive program of rationing and relief in towns and in villages, including in Ukraine, but simply did not have enough food. This is why the Soviet famine, an immense crisis and tragedy of the Soviet economy, was not in the same category as the Nazis' mass murders, which had no agricultural or other economic basis. This evidence also explains why it is false to describe me and other Western scholars as "deniers" of the famine. There is nothing "immoral" or "absurd" about this evidence, which comes directly from Ukrainians and other villagers at the time, and it is in no way comparable to a denial of the Holocaust.

Mace, Krawchenko, and Kuzio responded to careful research that tests received interpretations, certainly accepted scholarly practice, with derogatory comments, misrepresentations, and moral condemnations, without apparently having read all of the publications they attacked. Perhaps this is why they have encountered some opposition to their views in the United States. This kind of ad hominem attack only makes it more difficult to get at the truth behind the tragedies in Soviet history.

Mark B. Tauger, "The 1932 Harvest and the Soviet Famine of 1932-1933," Slavic Review v. 50 No. 1, Spring 1991; Tauger, R.W. Davies, and S. G. Wheatcroft, "Stalin, Grain Stocks, and the Famine of 1932-1933," Slavic Review v. 54 No. 3, Fall 1995;
Tauger, "Natural Disaster and Human Action in the Soviet Famine of 1931-1933," The Carl Beck Papers in Russian and East European Studies, University of Pittsburgh, No. 1506, 2001 (65pp); (412) 648 9881
Tauger, "Statistical Falsification in the Soviet Union: A Comparative Case Study of Projections, Biases, and Trust," The Donald Treadgold Papers in Russian, East European, and Central Asian Studies, University of Washington, No. 34, 2001 (82pp); (206) 221 6348
Tauger, "Grain Crisis or Famine? The Ukrainian State Commission for Aid to Crop Failure Victims and the Ukrainian Famine of 1928-1929," in Donald Raleigh, ed., "Provincial Landscapes: Local Dimensions of Soviet Power," 1917-1953, University of Pittsburgh Press, 2001.

"RFE/RL Poland, Belarus, and Ukraine Report" is prepared by Jan Maksymiuk on the basis of a variety of sources including reporting by "RFE/RL Newsline" and RFE/RL's broadcast services. It is distributed every Tuesday.

UKRAINE EXPECTS TO JOIN PROGRAM FOR ACHIEVING NATO MEMBERSHIP... Serhiy Pyrozhkov, the first deputy secretary of the Council of National Security and Defense, told a seminar in Kyiv on 24 June that during the NATO summit in Prague in November Ukraine expects to sign a document on joining a program that would facilitate the country's future NATO membership, UNIAN reported. According to Pyrozhkov, the alliance is proposing a document that specifies political, economic, defense, security, and legislative measures to be taken by Ukraine on its path toward NATO membership. JM

...PLANS TO REOPEN TALKS ON RUSSIA'S BLACK SEA FLEET. Pyrozhkov also noted that Ukraine's bid to join NATO may be hindered by the presence of Russia's Black Sea Fleet in Sevastopol, AP reported. He announced that Kyiv is going to reopen talks with Moscow on a 20-year lease now in effect dividing the port at Sevastopol between the Ukrainian and Russian Black Sea Fleets. "Ukraine needs to determine the status of [Russia's] Black Sea Fleet base because NATO criteria say that countries with foreign military on their territory may not be members of the alliance," Pyrozhkov explained. JM

UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT CONFIDENT ABOUT GUAM FUTURE. Following a meeting with Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze in Istanbul on 25 June, Leonid Kuchma said the GUAM interstate union (Georgia, Ukraine, Azerbaijan, and Moldova) "has prospects" for development, UNIAN reported. Earlier this month Uzbekistan announced that it was leaving GUUAM owing to lack of progress in its activities, thus reducing the union of five countries to that of four. Ukrainian Foreign Minister Anatoliy Zlenko said in Istanbul that a GUAM summit will take place in Yalta on 19-20 July. He noted that Uzbekistan has not abandoned GUAM altogether. "[Uzbekistan] wants to participate in certain [GUAM] measures linked to economy and combating terrorism," Zlenko said. JM

U.S. JUDGE REJECTS JEWISH PROPERTY RESTITUTION ACTION AGAINST POLAND. Federal Judge Edward Korman has thrown out a class-action lawsuit by 11 former Jewish owners of real estate in Poland and their heirs against the Polish government demanding the return of confiscated properties, AP and PAP reported on 24 June. The judge found that international law bars the plaintiffs from suing a foreign government in a U.S. court even though their claim may be valid. The lawsuit, filed in 1999, provoked harsh reactions in Poland because of its wording that accused the Polish state of appropriating "substantially all the assets" of Poland's 3 million Jews (see "RFE/RL Poland, Belarus, and Ukraine Report," 10 August 1999). JM