Stalin, historians say, saw the idea of Ukrainian independence as a challenge to the success of the Soviet state. Fearful that a peasant uprising in Ukraine could thwart his master plan, he targeted the region.
First, in 1932, he imposed impossibly high grain collection quotas on Ukrainian villages, and Soviet officials confiscated all the wheat, barley, and other types of grain that were grown. The crops were used to feed other parts of the Soviet Union and also exported to other countries, leaving Ukrainians with little or nothing to eat.
New laws made stealing grain from a collective farm punishable by execution, and authorities tore through villages and even individual homes to confiscate any hidden grain and seeds.
Oleksandra Radchenko, a teacher in the Kharkiv region, kept a diary to record the horror as it unfolded around her.
“Hunger, an artificial famine, is taking on a monstrous character,” she wrote on April 5, 1932. “Why are they taking the last grain of bread? No one understands why, and they continue to take everything down to the last kernel.”