Welsh journalist who exposed Soviet famine of 1932–33 honoured

The Soviet famine of 1932–33 killed millions of people in the major grain-producing areas of the Soviet Union. Ukraine, Northern Caucasus, the Volga Region, Kazakhstan, the South Urals, and West Siberia were included in the areas heavily impacted by the famine. In the Ukraine it is known as the Holodomor and it has been estimated that over 3 million died, with some suggesting the deaths could stand at over 7 milion. In Kazakhstan it is thought over 600,000 (15% of all Kazakhs) died. The famine of 1932–1933 has been seen as genocide by Joseph Stalin's government with a ruthless policy of forced collectivisation of agriculture being pursued. Stalin governed the Soviet Union as its dictator from the mid-1920s until his death in 1953.

Now a ceremony has been held at Aberystwyth University ((Welsh: Prifysgol Aberystwyth) to commemorate Gareth Richard Vaughan Jones (13 August 1905 – 12 August 1935) the a Welsh journalist who first publicised in the Western world the existence of the Soviet famine of 1932–1933 and helped expose Stalin’s genocide. After he visited the Soviet Union in the early 1930's and eluded authorities by entering Ukraine, he witnessed at first hand the man-made starvation and wrote of his experiences. At the time many continued to express uncritical sympathy with the Soviet regime and his reports of wide scale starvation were widely attacked. He reported:

"I walked along through villages and twelve collective farms. Everywhere was the cry, 'There is no bread. We are dying'. This cry came from every part of Russia, from the Volga, Siberia, White Russia, the North Caucasus, and Central Asia. I tramped through the black earth region because that was once the richest farmland in Russia and because the correspondents have been forbidden to go there to see for themselves what is happening."

At the wreath-laying ceremony, held on 23rd November, a delegation from the Ukrainian Embassy travelled to Aberystwyth to honour Gareth Jones, who graduated from the university in 1926. Ukranian Minister-Counsellor Andriy Marchenko said:

“The 85th anniversary commemorations of the Holodomor, the Great Famine in Ukraine in 1932-1933 will officially commence this year on 25 November. Today we pay tribute to the brave young Welsh journalist, the Aberystwyth University alumnus Gareth Jones. Despite the risks to his life, he played a significant role in disclosing the crime of the Holodomor starvation to the rest of the world and struggled for truth at the time when most others publicly denied it."

The great nephew of Gareth Jones, Nigel Colley, joined the University and the Ukrainian delegation in laying a wreath beneath the plaque in his memory and said:

“In these times of ‘Fake News’, Gareth Jones’ exemplary reporting of the 1933 famine to the world, without distortion or manipulation, stands out as a beacon for honest journalism, which is just as important now as it was back in 1933.”

Gareth Jones died on the eve of his 30th birthday. He was on a fact-finding tour of China in 1935 when he was captured and murdered by bandits under mysterious circumstances. There were strong suspicions that his murder was engineered by the NKVD (Soviet secret police organisation from 1934 to 1946) in revenge for his exposure of the Soviet famine.

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