Archive for December 22, 2008

Zhanna’s Grandfather: The Impact of WWII

I. Introduction

The years of the World War II was very difficult period not only for Kazakh people but for other nations too. Because of that period of time there were real starvation, shortage of goods and clothes. These problems happened because of the long World War II which continued about four years. The war and famine diminished families so that young children struggled to survive, we have our grandparents to thank for the difficulties they endured a children in working hard in such severe conditions.

II. Soviet famine

The Soviet Union has made much of its own process of rapid economic development. One of the most severe problems of that period was the great famine. Although this famine appeared to have resulted in the death of approximately five million people, it was under secret cover for many years because of the strict rules that had a very big influence on the people. The Soviet Union, in fact, had never officially admitted that the famine had existed. American and English studies on Russia occasionally mention a famine in Ukraine but generally provide few or no details. According to Dalrymple D.G. (1964) and his analyses of Soviet famine the great starvation was noted in Kazakhstan too, but even excluding these areas, along with Kazakhstan, the area and the population in the grip of starvation exceeded the famine.

III. Ukraine experience

Ukraine experienced two very severe demographic crises during the Soviet era: the 1932-33 famine and after World War II. Authors Vallin J., Mesle F., Adamets S. and Pyrozhkov S. (2002) have made a research of Ukrainian Population Losses and showed that of all the Republics of the USSR, Ukraine country was one of the most severely hit by the series of disasters that struck the Soviet Union – World War II and the German invasion, the 1947 famine, successive waves of repression, and the massive deportations of the 1930s and 1940s. Also Soviet catastrophes had long been a prohibited subject, even for scientific research. During and after World War II, Ukrainian territory changed dramatically. However the 20 years between 1939 and 1959 represent a very long period compared with the years directly affected by the crucial events and wartime problems experienced by civil populations. Vallin J., Mesle F., Adamets S. and Pyrozhkov S. (2002) conclude that “the full impact of the war and 1947 famine resulted in 7.4 million unexpected deaths”(p.261).

IV. The World’s Hunger

Another scientist Norton (1946) found that the basic food problem during the war was how to settle the huge domestic demand for the better types of food with large commitments for supplying armed forces and allies. The author pointed out that the real difficulty was simply people’s inability to produce the food needed to meet all these demands and engagements and the basic problem of starvation continued into the post- war period. Also one of the main reasons is lack of supply and of land on which to produce the needed amounts of food.

V. Starvation

According to Seeman (2006) during the war a lack of food affected the whole population which led to diseases and caused a high number of deaths. It is very important to note that nutrition was perceived as a problem during the period from 1941 to 1943 in particular. Also in many hospitals there was a significant increase of tuberculosis which resulted because of lack of food. Insufficient food and soap shortage had become one of the reasons of infections and diseases.


VI. Soviet Society

The Great Patriotic War of 1941–45 was part of World War II, which was socially different. According to Zinoviev A. (2006) it included two types of war: one to redivide the world map between the West and Japan, countries that had the same type of social system  and one between countries with different social systems – capitalism and communism. By Zinoviev the war that Hitler’s Germany waged against the Soviet Union was, socially speaking, an attempt by the West to destroy Communist society in the Soviet Union. Also the author noted that:

“The war dragged on for almost four years. In peacetime, that is not

long, but in the midst of total war involving all the most important

aspects of life and the whole population, it is an eternity. To those

who lived through it, the war seemed endless” (p.93).


Also Zinoviev gives an interesting opinion about Soviet Union system. He distinguished that social war showed the dominance of the Communist social system over the capitalist system, its ability to endure difficulties and disasters in time and space. And because of this victory, communism began to spread across the planet.

VII. Conclusion

The great starvation during the World War II reduced families and a lot of people, especially young children and women, struggled to survive by working hard in very severe conditions. Nevertheless my great grandfather and his family experienced this war and all these disasters. My great grandfather was a very brave, honest and kind person. My grandfather Belgibayev S. (2006) said:

“…when the World War II started I was only 13 years old and when my father said about it to me I did not fully understand the meaning of these words. When the years passed and the war ended I really understood it, I felt it and saw by my own eyes how much suffering, devastation, casualties and sorrow this war brought to our nation”.


In that period of time people, especially women and small children, started to work in order to feed themselves. By my grandfathers stories I know that a lot of young children as my grandfather in the years of the war worked in the factories which produced goods for people who went away to the war. They began to earn for living and their childhood passed in very difficult environment. It was a very good experience and at the same time very hard school for my grandfather and all the children who grew up in the years of World War II.



Adamets, S.; Mesle, F.; Pyrozhkov, S. & Vallin, J. (2002). A New Estimate of Ukrainian Population Losses during the Crises of the 1930s and 1940s. Population Studies, 56(3), 249-264.

Belgibayev, S. (2006). Personal interview.

Dalrymple, D.G. (1964). The Soviet Famine of 1932-1934. Soviet Studies, 15(3), 250-


Norton, L.J. (1946). The World’s Hunger by Frank A. Pearson; Floyd A. Harper. Journal of Farm Economics, 28(2), 615-618.

Seeman, M. V. (2006). Starvation in Psychiatric Institutions in Sweden. International Journal of Mental Health, 35(4), 81-87.

Zinoviev, A. (2006). My Era on the Great Patriotic War of 1941–1945. Russian Politics and Law, 44(3), 83-97.

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