MOSCOW - The 1930s famine that killed millions of peasants, mainly in Soviet Ukraine, should not be considered genocide, Russia's lawmakers said in a resolution yesterday.
Renowned writer and Soviet-era dissident Alexander Solzhenitsyn backed the Kremlin line on the divisive issue, dismissing Ukrainian assertions that the famine was genocide as a "fable."
The 370-56 vote in Russia's lower parliament house, and the rare comment from the 89-year-old Solzhenitsyn, were a pointed rejection of contentions by Ukrainian leaders that the Soviet authorities engineered the famine to target Ukrainians.
They came amid Russian anger over the pro-Western Ukrainian leadership's drive to join NATO, which will decide at a summit this week whether to grant the nation a road map for membership.
Russia has opposed the Western alliance's eastward expansion and is particularly concerned about potential membership for Ukraine, a large country with far closer cultural and historical ties to Russia than any other that has joined NATO.
Historians agree that the 1932-33 famine was engineered by Soviet authorities under dictator Josef Stalin to force peasants to give up their private plots of land and join collective farms.
Ukraine, with its rich farmlands, suffered the most. Authorities confiscated grain from village after village and prohibited residents from leaving, effectively condemning them to starvation.
Some are convinced that the famine targeted Ukrainians as an ethnic group. Others argue authorities set out to eradicate private landowners as a social class and that the Soviet Union sought to pay for its rapid industrialization with grain exports at the expense of starving millions of its own people.
"There is no historical proof that the famine was organized along ethnic lines," the Russian State Duma resolution said.