The Harvest of Sorrow by Robert Conquest

The Harvest of Sorrow by Robert Conquest – Soviet Collectivisation and the Terror-Famine – is a classic. I bought it a few months ago and read parts of it. This month I read it cover to cover. What a fantastic book. It is the first major book on the Holodomor and it is incredibly well made, covering all the topics pertinent to the events, from what happened to the children to estimates on the death toll, from western attitudes to soviet lies. His style of writing is beautiful. He covers data in a clear and uncomplicated way, he uses a lot of primary sources to create the real feel of the tragedy.

The Harvest of Sorrow by Robert Conquest

I will share 10 few quotes from the book.

‘As Lenin frankly admitted, the communists in fact knew very little about economic reality. And this must be borne in mind continually when we consider the efforts of the soviet government to guide, or to master, the rural economy.’

‘… everywhere the old intelligentsia was hounded from its posts, and often enough into exile or death as well. Their children were expelled from universities – indeed the universities virtually collapsed until 1934.
By 1930 more than half of engineers had no proper training: only 11.4% had had higher education, and some had not even been put through crash courses.’

‘In many cases, the women succeeded in retrieving the collectivized horses and sometimes grain was also taken and redistributed.’

‘the biological yield was introduced, estimating the crop as it stood in the fields rather than actually counting it in the farms’

‘The peasants were usually infuriated into revolt by the fact that there was grain available to feed them…In Tsarist times, when lesser famines raged, every effort had been made to help. … and here, under the government of workers and peasants, not even one kernel of grain was given them.’

‘A foreign journalists, on an afternoon’s walk in the country, came across nine dead bodies, including two boys of about eight and a girl of about ten.’

‘The empty village was cordoned off, with a black flag hung up to indicate that it had an epidemic’ [it was the cover-up of the famine]

‘one of the most vehemently pressed charges against him [Postyshev] was that he had helped introduce a soft L and a new symbol for a hard G into Ukrainian orthography’ [Postyshev killed himself]

‘The village of Yareski had often served as a location for soviet films because of its beautiful scenery along the river Vorskla: its population of 1,500 went down by 700. In a village of 1,532 inhabitants in the Zhitomir Province, 813 died in the famine. In another village of 3,500 inhabitants, 800 died in 1933 alone, while one child, the sone of an activist, was born. A former soviet journalist testified that in his home village about 700 of the 2,011 inhabitants had died in 1932-9…. In the village of Ryazhska… that of a population of about 9,000, 3,441 had died in the famine.’

‘The scandal is not that they [apologists for the communists] justified the soviet actions, but that they refused to hear about them, that they were not prepared to face the evidence.’

The Harvest of Sorrow by Robert Conquest

Details about the picture: –
My rating: 5/5 Stars
Would I recommend it: yes
Published by: BODLEY HEAD
Year it was published: 2018 (first published in 1986, a second edition in 2002)
Format: Paperback
Genre(s): History – Ukrainian
Pages: 448

About the author: George Robert Ackworth Conquest was a British historian who became a well known writer and researcher on the Soviet Union with the publication, in 1968, of his account of Stalin’s purges of the 1930s, The Great Terror. He published books such as:
Stalin and the Kirov Murder; What to Do When the Russians Come: A Survivor’s Guide; Reflections on a Ravaged Century.
Website & Social Media Links: –

2 thoughts on “The Harvest of Sorrow by Robert Conquest”

    • I liked the first quote too. It’s very much how he built the argument. I think this is a great book, which stood the test of time. Especially as it was first published when the soviet archives were closed (in 1986), and what he said remained just as valid after the fall of the ussr.

      I’m glad that you liked the book. xx

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