Stalin's Apologist

The mouthpiece for the war department reminded me of Stalin’s apologist at the New York Times, Walter Duranty, who won a Pulitzer for denying the existence of the the Ukrainian famine in 1933 — a famine created by Soviet collectivization, which Duranty supported.

Here’s the relevant snippet from Wikipedia:


Scholars such as Robert Conquest and Sally J. Taylor, have criticized Duranty for his deference to Joseph Stalin‘s and the Soviet Union‘s official propaganda in Duranty’s news stories. Conquest has written several books, starting in the 1970s including The Great Terror and Harvest of Sorrows which have been critical of Duranty’s reporting from the Soviet Union. Taylor wrote a book in 1990 called Stalin’s Apologist : Walter Duranty: The New York Times’s Man in Moscow (ISBN 0-19-505700-7).

Political commentators such as Joe Alsop and Andrew Stuttaford have also been critical of Duranty. [1]

The New York Times hired a professor of Russian history to review Duranty’s work. That professor, Mark Von Hagen of Columbia University, concluded Mr. Duranty’s reports to be unbalanced and uncritical, and they far too often gave voice to Stalinist propaganda. He also said in comments to the press, “For the sake of The New York Times’ honor, they should take the prize away”. [2] The New York Times sent Von Hagen’s report to the Pulitzer Board and left it to the board to take whatever action they considered appropriate. [3]

In his New York Times articles (including one published on March 31, 1933), Duranty repeatedly denied the existence of a Ukrainian famine in 1932–33. In a August 24, 1933 article in NYT, he claimed “any report of a famine is today an exaggeration or malignant propaganda”, but admitted privately to William Strang (in the British Embassy in Moscow on September 26, 1933) that “it is quite possible that as many as ten million people may have died directly or indirectly from lack of food in the Soviet Union during the past year.” [4]

American engineer Zara Witkin and UK intelligence have shown that Duranty knowingly misrepresented this well-documented event, known as the Holodomor in Ukraine. Several organizations have called on the Pulitzer Board to revoke his prize, but in 2003 the Board issued a statement announcing its decision not to revoke the prize, although it did state that “Mr. Duranty’s 1931 work, measured by today’s standards for foreign reporting, falls seriously short”. Duranty was also criticized for defending Stalin’s notorious show trials.


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