How is it possible that all this was covered up at the time?

In Russia, Stalin carried out a massive disinformation campaign, to cover up the massive famine he himself had created. Throughout the crisis, he outright denied that a famine ever took place:

He forbade foreign journalists from ever traveling to Ukraine and prohibited the Soviet media from covering the famine.

However, he purposefully permitted wording that would downplay the Holodomor.

For instance, in his reporting on Stalin’s success with the Five-Year Plan, Walter Duranty, a Pulitzer Prize-winning New York Times correspondent in Moscow, referred to the famine as a “food shortage” rather than a famine. Others challenged Duranty, such as journalist Gareth Jones, who surreptitiously entered Ukraine and published a string of articles arguing that ‘Famine rules Russia.’

Many journalists at the time referred to the Soviet Union, which included Ukraine, as “Russia.” Jones wrote: “Everywhere was the cry ‘there is no bread; we are dying.'”

Duranty, who was more powerful than Jones, responded by publishing a second piece in which he emphasized that “Russians were hungry, but not starving”:

Several photographers who also tried to expose the humanitarian crisis were arrested for their photos.

Although some were able to get their pictures in front of Western leaders, the pictures failed to spark sympathy for Ukraine. The West was unwilling to become embroiled in Soviet politics. The most sobering lesson is to keep in mind that the world did not save Ukraine. Stalin not only manipulated the narrative being presented by the media, but he also destroyed records and ensured that the term “starvation” was not listed on death certificates. Instead, “freezing” and “pneumonia” were mentioned as causes of death. And then there was the 1937 census, the results of which indicated that Ukraine’s population had decreased. Stalin thus concluded that he could not permit this to be revealed to the public. The majority of those who completed the census were detained; some were even put to death; the results were never made public.

The Soviet Union kept repressing the Holodomor throughout the ensuing decades. However, the truth was subtly transmitted through the generations in Ukraine.

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