This article was originally published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and is reprinted with permission.
The U.S. Senate has adopted a resolution recognizing that Soviet dictator Josef Stalin committed genocide against the Ukrainian people in the early 1930s, when millions died in a horrific famine known as the Holodomor.
The “simple resolution” passed on October 3 commemorates the 85th anniversary of the famine of 1932-33, saying the event “should serve as a reminder of repressive Soviet policies against the people of Ukraine.”
The Senate “recognizes the findings of the Commission on the Ukraine Famine as submitted to Congress on April 22, 1988, including that…’Stalin and those around him committed genocide against the Ukrainians in 1932–1933,'” it said.
Millions of people died in the famine, which many Ukrainians consider to have been caused by Soviet central planners as an act of genocide, aimed at wiping out Ukrainian farmers.
In the U.S. Congress, simple resolutions are nonbinding, passed by only one chamber of Congress, and don’t become law. Typically, they are used by lawmakers to usually back a pet project or endeavor, or a potentially political controversial issue without forcing a more public vote.
The Ukrainian Embassy in Washington described the resolution as the “first-ever legal act” of Congress recognizing the tragedy as a genocide, a highly charged term that is likely to anger Moscow.
Russian historians, and others, have stopped short of saying the famine was engineered to kill Ukrainians, noting that many other ethnic groups also suffered.
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko hailed the resolution, writing on Facebookon October 4 that it was “another significant result of strengthening Ukraine-U.S. strategic partnership.”
“We hope that the rest of the world, including the EU, and international organizations, including the United Nations, will do the same,” he added.
The office of Republican Senator Rob Portman, who sponsored the bill, did not immediately get back to RFE/RL for comment. Asked for comment, the State Department referred to a 2017 statement that described the Holodomor as “one of the most atrocious acts of the 20th century.”
Congress and individual states often pass resolutions that do not necessarily reflect overall U.S. policy.
The U.S. government has not recognized the Ukrainian famine as a “genocide,” instead labeling it as a “criminal act of the Stalinist regime” against the people of Ukraine. The EU terms it an “appalling crime.”
The Holodomor famine took place in 1932 and 1933 as Soviet authorities forced peasants in Ukraine to join collective farms by requisitioning their grain and other agricultural production.
Historians say the seizure of the 1932 crop by Soviet authorities was the main cause of the famine.
Along with Ukraine, at least 15 other countries have officially recognized Holodomor as “genocide.”
Ukraine commemorates the event every November 28.
U.S. lawmakers have introduced similar resolutions in the past on politically charged historical events, like the massacre of Armenians in Turkey during World War I. Most historians and a growing number of countries consider the killings to constitute genocide.
But the measures have never passed a full vote in either the Senate or the House.
The White House, under pressure from Turkey, has stopped short of using the word “genocide” to describe the Ottoman-era massacre.