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Bloodlands

Europe Between Hitler and Stalin

By Timothy Snyder
21-minute read
Audio available
Bloodlands: Europe Between Hitler and Stalin by Timothy Snyder

In Bloodlands (2010), author Timothy Snyder tells the tragic story of the people caught in the crossfire between Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union during World War II. The victims of the “bloodlands,” or territories that after the war became the Eastern Bloc, were pushed and pulled by two ruthless powers and treated like pawns both before the conflict and afterward.

  • Historians with a particular interest in World War II
  • People interested in the modern history of Eastern Europe
  • Students of German or Russian history

A professor at Yale University, Timothy Snyder specializes in European history and the Holocaust and has written several award-winning books, including The Reconstruction of Nations and The Red Prince.

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Bloodlands

Europe Between Hitler and Stalin

By Timothy Snyder
  • Read in 21 minutes
  • Audio & text available
  • Contains 13 key ideas
Bloodlands: Europe Between Hitler and Stalin by Timothy Snyder
Synopsis

In Bloodlands (2010), author Timothy Snyder tells the tragic story of the people caught in the crossfire between Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union during World War II. The victims of the “bloodlands,” or territories that after the war became the Eastern Bloc, were pushed and pulled by two ruthless powers and treated like pawns both before the conflict and afterward.

Key idea 1 of 13

Under Stalin's forced farm collectivization, millions of people starved to death.

The year 1933 was a difficult one in the West, as people lost their jobs and suffered with poverty and hunger during the Great Depression. For some people in Eastern Europe, however, life was a series of crises, as government policies led to a disastrous famine and millions of deaths.

This same year, the leader of the Soviet Union, Joseph Stalin, completed a five-year economic plan begun in 1928 to industrialize the mostly agrarian country. Part of this plan included the collectivization of farms.

Collectivization policy stipulated that individual farmers must move from their small holdings to larger farms, to work the land together. Many farmers refused, so the government passed laws that gave collective farms legal advantages over smaller, private farms.

Among other things, collective farms were granted the right to vote to take seed grain away from private farmers. Thus farmers were virtually forced to join collective farms to survive.

The goal of collectivization was to make agriculture more efficient, but once farmers moved from their own holdings to larger collective farms, the incentives to work were less. Farm machinery at the collective farms were also outdated and faulty; what’s more, the winter of 1931 had been especially rough. Farmers weren't able to meet their quotas, and people were dying of hunger.

But Stalin still demanded that the quotas set in his economic plan be met, refusing even by 1932 to accept that collectivization was a failure. He ordered farms that had missed quotas to hand over grain and livestock – leaving starving peasants with literally nothing to eat – to the state.

Seed grain that farmers were saving for the following season was also seized, pushing an already precarious situation into a full-blown crisis. Particularly in the Ukraine, famine was widespread.

By the end of 1933, an estimated 5.5 million people had died of hunger in the Soviet Union. Of those, 3.3 million alone died in Ukraine.

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