Empire, Colonialism, and Famine in Comparative Historical Perspective

International Symposium | Kyiv, Ukraine | 5 – 7 June 2017

International specialists on imperial, colonial, and famine studies gathered in Kyiv on 5-7 June 2017 to attend the symposium Empire, Colonialism, and Famine in Comparative Historical Perspective. The symposium was a follow-up conference to an event by the same name held in Toronto in October 2016.

Participants included scholars Bohdan Klid, Janam MukherjeeRoman Serbyn, Frank Sysyn, and Stephen Velychenko (Canada); Lucien Bianco (France); Kiril Feferman (Israel); Andrea Graziosi (Italy); Peter Gray (Ireland); Guido Hausmann (Germany); Mark von Hagen and Paul Shapiro (United States); Ziiabek Kabuldinov (Kazakhstan);  Vladyslav HrynevychLiudmyla HrynevychYaroslav HrytsakAlla KyrydonAndrii KulikovStanislav KulchytskyHulnara BekirovaOleksandr LysenkoYurii RubanVolodymyr Telishchak, and Ihor Shchupak (Ukraine); and Tatiana Voronina (Switzerland).

Conference Concept

The nineteenth and twentieth centuries are marked by the brutal legacy of faminogenic state policies in which empires played significant roles. Political structures ensured the domination of metropolitan centres over internal or overseas colonies, including the possibility of full control over the distribution of economic resources, including foodstuffs. During natural disasters, war conditions, and even in peacetime, empires often demonstrated an unwillingness to address starvation and even manipulated the food supply for the destruction of entire strata of the population and regions so as to realize specific political goals. Examples of these practices brought about by “imperial mentalities” and systems of dependence built on a metropolitan–colonial axis are the Gorta Mor (Great Hunger) in Ireland in the mid-nineteenth century; the Ukrainian Holodomor  and the Kazakh Famine (Asharshilik) in the early 1930s;  the starvation caused by the Nazis in European ghettos and concentration camps, during the blockade of Leningrad, and in their pursuit of Lebensraum in occupied Ukraine; famine in British-ruled India in 1942–43; and Communist China in 1959–61.

Conference participants examined the mechanisms of state-involvement in these famines, the consequences of state policies, and the manners of silencing and concealing these events. The conference also examined the reactions of national, anti-imperial, and anti-colonial movements, for whom the experience of man-made famines became a powerful rallying factor and a motivation for achieving political transformations to break free of imperial influence.

The conference was organized by the Holodomor Research and Education Centre in Ukraine (HREC in Ukraine) and the Holodomor Research and Educational Consortium at the Canadian Institute of Ukrainian Studies (HREC), University of Alberta, with support from the following institutions:

  • Institute of the History of Ukraine, National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine (NANU)
  • Ukrainian Institute of National Memory
  • Ukrainian Ministry of Defence
  • Ptukha Institute of Demography and Social Research of the NANU
  • German-Ukrainian Historical Commission
  • State Scientific Institution “Encyclopedic Publishing House”
  • Ukrainian Jewish Encounter
  • Tkuma Ukrainian Institute for Holocaust Studies
  • “Study of the Holocaust in Ukraine for the Formation of an Atmosphere of Tolerance” Project
  • Ukrainian Home Conference Centre