Scholarly Comments on Academic Economics

Counter-Reply to Naumenko on the Soviet Famine in Ukraine in 1933


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This rejoinder to Natalya Naumenko on the causes of the Ukraine famine addresses the following issues: (1) The general importance of accurate background information. (2) Naumenko ignored substantial evidence regarding peasant and kolkhoz private food trade. (3) The structure and functioning of the collective farms, especially the peasants’ private plots and the existence of incentives. (4) The relative importance of collectivization and agro-environmental factors in the causation of the famine. The main way Naumenko argues that collectivization caused the famine, high grain procurements, is not correct because as I documented the Soviet government sharply cut grain procurements for Ukraine in 1932. The agro-environmental factors that sharply reduced grain harvests in Ukraine and other regions were more important than Naumenko admits, and such disasters had caused many crop failures and famines in Russia and the early Soviet Union with no collectivization. Attributing the famine to collectivization would lead one to expect that more famines should have occurred as collectivization increased in the 1930s, yet the collective farm system responded to the famine crisis by increasing grain production greatly in Ukraine and most other primary grain regions in 1933.