Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Red Famine: Stalin's War on Ukraine, 1921-1933” as Want to Read:
Red Famine: Stalin's War on Ukraine, 1921-1933
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Red Famine: Stalin's War on Ukraine, 1921-1933

4.36  ·  Rating details ·  3,269 ratings  ·  464 reviews

The momentous new book from the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Gulag and Iron Curtain.

In 1932-33, nearly four million Ukrainians died of starvation, having been deliberately deprived of food. It is one of the most devastating episodes in the history of the twentieth century. With unprecedented authority and detail, Red Famine investigates how this happened, who was resp

Hardcover, 384 pages
Published October 10th 2017 by Signal (first published September 7th 2017)
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Red Famine, please sign up.
Popular Answered Questions
Ksenia What is the point of your accusatory question? She did state that there was, a famine all over (an unnatural famine) but Stalin had an agenda to crush…moreWhat is the point of your accusatory question? She did state that there was, a famine all over (an unnatural famine) but Stalin had an agenda to crush Ukraine and thus enacted specific policies that killed a disproportionately large amount of Ukrainians. (less)

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 4.36  · 
Rating details
 ·  3,269 ratings  ·  464 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of Red Famine: Stalin's War on Ukraine, 1921-1933
In 2008, Canada (and several other countries) established the Ukrainian Famine and Genocide ("Holodomor") Memorial Day Act, and that the 4th Saturday in November shall be known as "Ukrainian Famine and Genocide ("Holodomor") Memorial Day.

Holod = hunger
Mor = extermination

Being of Ukrainian descent, I thought it only fitting that I read this book at this time, with the hope of gaining more knowledge about this historical atrocity. Author Anne Applebaum didn't let me down! Her extensive research de
Sep 05, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Although this book is about the ‘Holodomor’ (the word is derived from the Ukrainian words, ‘holod’ or ‘hunger’ and ‘mor’ or extermination) or famine of 1932-33, it is actually about much more than that. It is about the repression of the Ukrainian intellectual and political class, of the Sovietisation of Ukraine, the collectivisation of agriculture and the attempts to wipe out Ukrainian culture and language.

Ironically, it was the fertile soil and relatively mild climate of Ukraine, which led to
Oct 14, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Ann Applebaum does not disappoint. A thorough account of the most terrifying times in the history of Ukraine. Superb panorama and the background. Ms Applebaum presents us with not just the several years of the famine itself but also explains in detail the reasons behind the tragedy of millions of innocent people. The Author colleced accounts by ordinary people, and some are truly horryfing, making us aware of the fact that often our own suffering makes us immune to the suffering of others.
Jan 02, 2020 rated it really liked it
Red Famine: Stalin’s War in Ukraine by Anne Applebaum

The absence of natural borders helps explain why Ukrainians failed, until the late twentieth century, to establish a sovereign Ukrainian state. By the late Middle Ages, there was a distinct Ukrainian language, with Slavic roots, related to but distinct from both Polish and Russian, much as Italian is related to but distinct from Spanish or French. Ukrainians had their own food, their own customs and local traditions, their own villains, her
Mar 05, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history-general
In Red Famine, the author, Anne Applebaum, does an extremely good job of explaining just what happened in 1931-'34 when an estimated 3.9 million people starved to death and why. Starting with the Russian Civil War that followed World War I, the author looks at the Ukrainian desire for independence and why Ukraine had never been able to obtain that independence. She looks at the Bolsheviks' strategy to subdue the Ukraine and keep it part of Russia and by extension the USSR.

While discussing Ukrai
Nov 25, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
You know how in every election in the USA there is always a divisive question about abortions? In Ukraine one of the main issues forever was to give Russian a status of a second official language or not. It sounds kinda stupid from outside, right? I mean, Switzerland has 15 of them, what’s a big deal. Well this book shows how huge a wound and how deep it goes in Ukrainian history. Ukrainian culture and language was meticulously eviscerated by the Russian Empire and then Communist government. Mos ...more
This book has two interrelated themes - Ukraine’s path toward independence and the famine that occurred there 1932-1933.The history of Ukraine and Russia must be viewed together, and so the Bolshevik Revolution, the Civil War that followed, first Lenin’s and then Stalin’s reign are discussed too. The book starts in 1917 and concludes in the present. The famine that occurred 1921-1922, and for which international aid was given, came to be followed by the Great Famine of 1932-1933. The latter fami ...more
Czarny Pies
May 23, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Anyone interested even remotely in European history.
Shelves: european-history
Anne Appelbaum’s “Red Famine: Stalin's War on Ukraine, 1921-1933” is a dazzling work of synthesis history that addresses much more than the Ukrainian Famine of 1932-33 (a.k.a. “The Great Famine”, a.k.a. “The Holodomor”, a.k.a. “The Ukrainian Genocide”). It also covers the Ukrainian War of Independence (1917-1921), the resistance of the Ukrainian peasantry to collectivization of agriculture in 1931, the attack on the use of the Ukrainian language and the elimination of the Ukrainian intellectual ...more
Nov 10, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Anne Applebaum's Red Famine is an important history of the Ukraine (and USSR by default). Applebaum provides meaningful context beginning with the 1917 Ukrainian Revolution, famine of the 1920s, Stalin's agricultural collectivation policies of the late 1920s and early 1930s, and Ukrainian nationalist sentiment and peasant resistance prior to focusing on the terror famine known as the Holodomor occurring between 1932 and 1934. Holodomor is a term derived from two Ukrainian words for hunger and ex ...more
Sep 17, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
Red Famine – Stalin’s War on Ukraine

As someone from a Polish family who before the Second World War lived in the Kresy (East Poland now in Ukraine) it has always surprised me how little of this war against Ukraine and her people is not widely known in the West. My Grandfather often used it as an example of how evil Stalin was in the way he allowed policy, to kill people and relieve him of a troublesome part of the country of its affluence.

As a child, he lived in Podwołoczyska, a border town on t

The Holodomor (Ukrainian: Голодомо́р); derived from морити голодом, "to kill by starvation"), also known as the Terror-Famine and Famine-Genocide in Ukraine, and—before the widespread use of the term "Holodomor", and sometimes currently—also referred to as the Great Famine, and The Ukrainian Genocide of 1932–33—was a man-made famine in Soviet Ukraine in 1932 and 1933 that killed an officially estimated 7 million to 10 million people. It was part of the wider Soviet famine of 1932–33, which a
Aug 29, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This book gives a thorough overview of how Ukraine got into existing (occupied in part or full by Poland, Austria or Russia over hundreds of years), the bureaucratic bungles (read "collectivists being themselves") that set the stage for famine, the holodomor itself, and decades worth of efforts by the Soviets (and Western leftists) to cover it up.

This is an extensively researched and very detailed -it really gets into the nitty gritty so its great if you want specifics, but perhaps a bit overwhe
Dec 07, 2017 rated it it was amazing
A wrenching and thorough account of the way Stalin created the famine that killed easily 3.5 million Ukrainians, and maybe far more. The eyewitness testimonies of the starvation are devastating. The last chapter is an especially interesting discussion of where the famine fits in the history of Genocide. For anyone interested in the history of the first decades of the Soviet Union, this is a must-read.
A.L. Sowards
Sep 24, 2018 rated it really liked it
This is the first book I’ve read by Applebaum, and I’m impressed. It’s not a happy book, but it’s an important book, covering a state-created famine that killed around four million people in Ukraine in the 1930s. The deaths weren’t caused by a drought, but by forced collectivization of farms, then a Soviet plan to export grain to gain foreign currency, then a series of confiscations that left peasants with nothing to eat. The deaths are tragic, made even more so by the malice behind Soviet polic ...more
Apr 17, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Frankly, I don’t care whether we can call Holodomor a genocide or not. What I do care about is for people to remember and recognize that 4.5 million Ukrainians were killed purposefully by the Soviet State. I want people to know that “the elimination of Ukraine’s elite in the 1930s – the nation’s best scholars, writers and political leaders as well as its most energetic farmers – continues to matter.”

This is an incredibly well written and documented narrative about one of the most tragic but hid
May 28, 2021 rated it it was amazing
This is what happens when the new Director of the Department of Agriculture's only previous experience is bank robbery and murder. It is a chilling account of the crimes that Stalin and his murderous regime perpetrated upon the poor people of the Ukraine shortly following the revolution. Lining the Ukrainians' up against the wall and shooting them would have been more merciful.

Read about how Stalin stole the land and deported just about every successful farmer in the Ukraine, labeling them as K
Nov 30, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Superb authoritative examination of the famine in the Ukraine. Meticulously researched, detailed, accessible and often shocking, this is essential reading for anyone interested in Ukraine and Russia, the relationship between the two countries and the current tense situation.
Oct 14, 2017 added it
Shelves: russian-history
Parking this one for the moment....... may come back to it but for now now really keeping my attention.
Jul 18, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history
It would be easy to get bored with the minute details of political maneuverings and numerous military campaigns in the beginning chapters of this book. But as you see them starting to line up to create such a horrific disaster, they suddenly aren’t boring. Instead, they become creepingly chilling. It reminds you how immediately, vitally, important they were to men and women who wanted nothing more than food for their children. Because just as you almost lose the personal aspect of the tragedy a ...more
Jun 16, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Outstanding work. Definitive and devastating book on the Holodomor. A must-read for anyone interested in human rights, the power of propaganda, and genocide.
Dec 06, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a wonderful book on a really horrible subject - the famine in the Ukraine in the early 1930s (1932-33 in particular). The argument is that this was not just a matter of bad luck for the millions who died but a matter of murderous state policy on the part of the USSR towards the population of Ukraine - that this was a case of genocide in its original general meaning. Given the history of the Ukraine having resisted the Bolsheviks in the Russian Civil War and having resisted collectivizati ...more
Oct 13, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history, politics, russian
Whether the 1932-33 Ukrainian famine is called a genocide, a crime against humanity, or simply an act of mass terror; it was a horrific assault, carried out by a government against its own people, one of several such assaults in the twentieth century, the brutality of Stalinism, the barbaric justification of communism.
That the famine happened, that it was deliberate, and that it was part of a political plan to undermine Ukrainian identity, is widely accepted just now. Because it was so devastat
Oct 12, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This is not an easy book to read. But it is important to read, know and understand Stalin’s Soviet policies against Ukraine. Not just the man made famine that Stalin caused with his policies but also the various means of oppression that the Communists implemented against Ukraine. The book was at many times shocking to read. In an age where some think a government controlled economy is a good thing this was a jolting reminder that the government is not omniscient and statism hurts real people. Ju ...more
Jul 30, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This book needed to be written, and it needs to be read. Actually, I feel it should be required reading. Especially if you chose to or are required to read The Communist Manifesto, this book should be your immediate follow-up read. The former describes ideal communism; the latter describes the realities of communist policies and dictators. A book about horrible people committing horrible atrocities against other people, it was both heart-wrenching and eye-opening.

Applebaum’s style is straightfo
Omar Fakhry
Nov 16, 2020 rated it did not like it
History News Network | Review of Anne Applebaum's "Red Famine: Stalin's War on Ukraine":

A review by Mark Tauger (Professor of History at West Virginia University) on the book Red Famine by Anne Applebaum (who's an American journalist.)

Applebaum (who has worked at the American Enterprise Institute and the National Endowment for Democracy) gives an extremely distorted and dishonest account of the famine, in an attempt to support the long-discredited argumen
Roman Baiduk
Feb 26, 2018 rated it it was amazing
For me, as a person whose relatives suffered in this disaster, it was very difficult to read this book. But it is necessary to read such studies. To remind yourself of the evil that is possible in this world. How a totalitarian regime can justify any cruelty, normalize the killing of millions of people in the name of a certain ideology. To remind yourself of this, so that you never let this happen again.
Dec 19, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Anne Applebaum does a superb job of placing the Holodomor in its historical context, both the past and the present muddled conflicts between the Ukraine and Russia. There were sections that were extremely difficult to work through regarding the horrors and depravities that took place during the famine, so reader (or listener) be warned. Sadly, this is the type of book necessary to expose the dangers of slavish commitment to a political ideology. Highly recommended.
Nov 11, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Very insightful book, specifically due to highly vivid and thorough description of the pre-history starting from 1917 and the reasons which led to the famine. Last chapter is the must-read to all contemporary ukrainians
Nick Hernandez
Aug 12, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
Tons of detail and names which is difficult to follow in the beginning of the book. Once you get halfway though, the pace picks up quickly and I found it very hard to put the book down in the second half.
Jonathan Kidd
Dec 31, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Important book
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »

Readers also enjoyed

  • The Gates of Europe: A History of Ukraine
  • Bloodlands: Europe Between Hitler and Stalin
  • The Last Days of Stalin
  • The Harvest of Sorrow: Soviet Collectivization and the Terror-Famine
  • The Anarchist Handbook
  • Mao's Great Famine: The History Of China's Most Devastating Catastrophe, 1958-62
  • Láska nebeská
  • Black Earth: The Holocaust as History and Warning
  • A People's Tragedy: The Russian Revolution, 1891 - 1924
  • Winter 8000: Climbing the World's Highest Mountains in the Coldest Season
  • Rzeczy osobiste. Opowieść o ubraniach w obozach koncentracyjnych i zagłady
  • Wojenka. O dzieciach, które dorosły bez ostrzeżenia
  • Kiedy wybuchnie wojna? 1938. Studium kryzysu
  • Zapaść. Reportaże z mniejszych miast
  • Stalin: The Court of the Red Tsar
  • Lenin the Dictator
  • Hungry Ghosts: Mao's Secret Famine
  • Białe płatki, złoty środek. Historie rodzinne
See similar books…
See top shelves…
Journalist and Pulitzer Prize-winning author who has written extensively about communism and the development of civil society in Central and Eastern Europe. Since 2006, she is a columnist and member of the editorial board of the Washington Post.
She is married to Radosław Sikorski, the former Polish Minister of Foreign Affairs (2007-2014). They have two children, Alexander and Tadeusz.

Related Articles

As this strange summer of staying put winds down, one thing remains truer than ever: Books offer us endless adventure and new horizons to...
62 likes · 28 comments
“The archival record backs up the testimony of the survivors. Neither crop failure nor bad weather caused the famine in Ukraine. Although the chaos of collectivization helped create the conditions that led to famine, the high numbers of deaths in Ukraine between 1932 and 1934, and especially the spike in the spring of 1933, were not caused directly by collectivization either. Starvation was the result, rather, of the forcible removal of food from people’s homes; the roadblocks that prevented peasants from seeking work or food; the harsh rules of the blacklists imposed on farms and villages; the restrictions on barter and trade; and the vicious propaganda campaign designed to persuade Ukrainians to watch, unmoved, as their neighbours died of hunger.” 4 likes
“Some searched for metaphors to describe what had happened. Tetiana Pavlychka remembered that her sister Tamara “had a large, swollen stomach, and her neck was long and thin like a bird’s neck. People didn’t look like people — they were more like starving ghosts.” Another survivor remembered that his mother “looked like a glass jar, filled with clear spring water. All her body that could be seen . . . was see-through and filled with water, like a plastic bag.”
A third remembered his brother lying down, “alive but completely swollen, his body shining as if it were made of glass”.”
More quotes…