A Moldavian Holodomor? The Great Famine in Soviet Moldova, 1946-1947

This is an Archive of a Past Event

The mass famine in Soviet Moldavia in 1946-47 is one of the least known episodes of state terror under Stalin. It took the life of at least 123,000 persons which made about 5% of the entire population of MSSR and thus the excess deaths proportionally to the total population was 5 times higher than in Ukraine and 11 times than in Russia in the same period. Among the explanations of these huge discrepancies is that the greatest part of MSSR (Bessarabia) was not yet collectivized, it was a borderland republic and part of the former Nazi Germany’s ally – Romania, and the local elites were more servile to the Center than the Ukrainian ones. At the same time, the famine in Moldavia and at the all-Union level as well was triggered by decisions taken in Moscow by Stalin personally as he was well-informed about the real situation before and during the famine erupted (Chisinau-based archives and Moscow ones – the latter accessed through Hoover Institution archives – testifies for that). 

While acknowledging the assistance that Soviet regime accorded to Soviet Moldavia to fight the famine, the high death toll that nevertheless resulted raises serious questions as to the intentions of the Soviets in the former Romanian province of Bessarabia. In conclusion, the author supports the idea that the famine of 1946-47 in Soviet Moldavia in particular and in Soviet Ukraine and Russia as well was another of Stalin’s genocides. The article thus confirms empirically the conclusions made earlier by a Russian historian (Zima, 1996) and conceptualized by a Western scholar that the famine of 1946-1947 – particularly in Soviet Moldavia – was a FAD2 famine (preventable Food Availability Decline), i.e. could be avoided had the priorities of the Soviet regime been different (Ellman, 2000). 

Igor Casu is Associate Professor and Director of the Center for the Study of Totalitarianism at the Faculty of History and Philosophy, State University of Moldova, Chisinau. In March 2000, Casu received his Ph.D. in History from Jassy University in Romania and was Fulbright Scholar-in-Residence at Lenoir University in North Carolina during fall semester that same year, during which he taught a masters course on Modern Balkan History. In 2010, he served as vice chairman of the Presidential Commission for the Study and Evaluation of the Communist Totalitarian Regime in the Republic of Moldova. Among his research interests are: Soviet Nationalities Policy and Political Repressions, Violence and Resistance in Soviet Moldavia during Stalinism and after 1953. Among his recent publications are: “The Fate of Stalinist Victims in Soviet Moldavia after 1953: Amnesty, Pardon and the Long Road to Rehabilitation”, in Kevin McDermott, Matthew Stibbe, eds., De-Stalinising Eastern Europe. The Rehabilitation of Stalin’s Victims, (Palgrave Macmillan, 2015) and The Class Enemy. Political Repressions, Violence and Resistance in Moldavian (A)SSR, 1924-1956 (Cartier, 2015). His research project at Stanford is entitled "A Moldavian Holodomor? Mass Famine in MSSR, 1946-1947".