Ukrainian demographers have assessed this country’s losses in the 1941-45 war. Nine million is Ukraine’s death toll in World War Two. This figure includes irretrievable losses of Red Army servicemen (2.4 million), Red partisans and militia (0.2 million), the Ukrainians who fought in the military formations of other states and the UPA (0.3 million), and the Ukrainians who died while migrating from the USSR (1.7 million). Unfortunately, the civilian population accounts for a half of the total death toll – 4.4 million (people would die as a result of the invaders’ mass-scale terror and a catastrophic deterioration of the living conditions). This information is the result of the latest study of WWII’s consequences for Ukraine conducted by the Mykhailo Ptukha Institute of Demography and Social Studies (National Academy of Sciences, Ukraine).
The institute’s academics generally characterize the first half of the 20th century as a period of the mindless waste of human resources. If Ukraine had managed to avoid the last century’s disasters, wars, manmade famines, and other social upheavals, there would be over 85 million Ukrainians at present.
Unfortunately, assessing the number of World War Two’s victims still remains a too politicized question. Russian President Vladimir Putin said last year that Russia could have done without Ukraine in the Great Patriotic War. Our academics are saying to this: a fifth of those killed in that war were Ukrainians. Omelian RUDNYTSKY, a research associate at the demographic modeling and forecasting section of the Mykhailo Ptukha Institute of Demography and Social Studies, told The Day more in detail about our losses in that catastrophe and the impact that it had on the current demographic situation.
“IN THE PERIOD OF WAR THE NUMBER OF UKRAINE’S RESIDENTS DROPPED BY 7.5 MILLION”
To begin with, what was Soviet Ukraine’s population in June 1941 and in 1945?
“For Ukraine, the war began on September 1, 1939, as it did for Europe, but we will be speaking about the losses that Ukraine suffered between 1941 until 1945. Ukraine was in the center of the theater of operations for a long time – almost 3.5 years. In the period of war, the number of Ukraine’s residents dropped by 7.5 million (from 41.5 million as of June 22, 1941, to about 34 million as of May 9, 1945). It is the consequence of a war that lasted 1,417 days (Ukraine was under occupation for 1,224 days – from June 22, 1942, to October 28, 1944). Ukraine managed to regain the prewar number of the population only 12.5 years later – in mid-1958).”
How many people liable for draft were in fact mobilized and what were Ukraine’s battle casualties?
“During the war, 7 million Ukrainian men born in 1886-1927 and more than 100,000 women were mobilized to the Red Army. Following the mobilization on the liberated Ukrainian territories, the troops of the First, Second, Third, and Fourth Ukrainian Fronts were 60 percent manned by residents of Ukraine.
“The irrevocable demographic losses of the servicemen that resided in Ukraine in the 1941-45 were 2.4 million, including 1.7 million battle casualties. Incidentally, irrevocable casualties include those who were killed in action, died of wounds during transportation to and treatment in hospitals, missed in action, and died in POW camps. Besides, irrevocable losses also include non-battle casualties who were not killed on the battlefield as such but died as a result of extraordinary events, were executed by a court-martial sentence, committed suicide, and died of an illness in hospitals. By far the best known assessments of irrevocable losses are given in Declassified (1993), a book written by military historians under the guidance of Grigoriy Krivosheyev. According to this book’s authors, irrevocable losses in the USSR Armed Forces come to 8.7 million, including 6.3 million battle casualties. This is the official estimate of the losses. The same team of authors assesses the number of Ukrainian irrevocable casualties as 1.3 million. This figure was definitely spun out of thin air. The latest research of military historians and demographers suggests that, in reality, the irrevocable losses of servicemen make up 11.5-12, not 8.7, million. We estimate that Ukraine’s battlefield losses are 2.4, rather than 1.3, million.
“It is worthwhile to note that the official number of the USSR’s wartime casualties was manipulated on the governmental level for political expediency in order to hide the enormous losses of the population. For 16 years after the war, all the Soviet Union’s human losses in WWII were estimated at 7 million. In late 1961 Nikita Khrushchev note in a letter to the Swedish prime minister that the last war “claimed 20 million lives of Soviet people.” In May 1965 Leonid Brezhnev said the country had lost mote than 20 million people in the war. For a quarter of a century, these “more than 20 mullion” were officially considered as Soviet losses in the Great Patriotic War. In March 1989, a governmental commission began, on the instructions of the CPSU Central Committee, to reassess the number of Soviet human losses in WWII. The result was a new figure – 26.6 million – which is still considered official.
“Irrevocable losses were assessed on the basis of military statistical materials of the Central Archive of Russia’s Ministry of Defense and 250 volumes of the historical memorial serial Memory Book of Ukraine.”
“IT WAS A TRAGEDY FOR THE CIVILIAN POPULATION”
Why were the losses of civilians so high – 4.4 million?
“The seizure of Ukraine by the Nazis was a tragedy for the civilian population. It lasted for 2-3 years in most of the occupied regions. The civilians were being barbarically exterminated in line with Hitler’s plan OST. This plan of Nazi colonization and Germanization of the ‘Eastern Space’ called for wiping out not only the Ukrainians and Russians but also the other peoples that resided on the republic’s territory. The Jews got the cruelest treatment. The Nazi criminal policy of genocide left more than one million Jews massacred in Ukraine but it was also aimed at the Gypsies, Moldavians, and other ethnicities. On the whole, more than three million civilians were intentionally eliminated during the occupation. The other losses of the civilian population (1.4 million) were caused by an essential rise in mortality due to a catastrophic fall of the living standards, lack of proper medical care, as well as epidemics and mass-scale starvation.”
What generations suffered the most in the war?
“The number of wartime excess deaths was just awful. For example, each generation of those born in 1910-20 (they were 20 to 30 years old when the war started) lost more than a half of its number. On the whole, more than 25 percent of all the men born in 1892-1927 died as a result of wartime excess mortality. The generation of those born in 1918 incurred the heaviest losses: 79 percent of them had died by May 1945 (both on the battlefield and in the rear). There were also heavy losses among those born in 1918-22: their number dropped by 63 percent in 4 years. The number of those born in 1923-27 diminished by 41 percent during the war. Those born in 1913-17 were the largest group that saw action, with their death toll being 59 percent.
“We found in the course of the research that the hostilities claimed the lives of 18 percent of the Red Army servicemen aged 20 and below, 22 percent of those aged 21-25, 18 percent of those aged 26-30, 17 percent of those aged 31-35, 12 percent of those aged 36-40, and 8 percent of those aged 41-45.”
“THE ETHNIC COMPOSITION OF THE PRISON CAMP POPULATON CHANGED IN THE POST-WAR YEARS, WITH WESTERN UKRAINIANS FORMING A CONSIDERABLE PART OF IT”
What was the destiny of the inmates of German and Soviet concentration camps in World War II, and how many Ostarbeiters were there?
“About three million young people aged over 14, including 2.2 million Ukrainians, were taken as slave labor from the Nazi-occupied USSR territories to Germany. After the war more than 80 percent of the Ostarbeiters repatriated to Ukraine and over 100,000 refused to repatriate and stayed behind to live in the West. Ostarbeiters were kept in special high-security camps. They were separated from the Germans and other foreign workers at the workplace, paid an allowance which was a half or even a third of a German worker’s wages and from which the maintenance cost was deducted. Food rations were the lowest among all the foreign workers in Germany. There was a wide range of penalties for working and political transgressions, from corporal punishment to a few weeks’ term in a punishment or concentration camp.
“As for the Soviet prison camps, they saw an essential intake of Ukrainians after the liberation of territories from the invaders in 1944. In the prewar time, Ukrainians did nor form the bulk of camp inmates. For example, ‘only’ about 150,000 Ukrainian were deported to prison camps during the Great Terror. To be more exact, 300,000 Ukrainians were arrested from July 1937 until the end of 1939. About a half of them were executed. The ethnic composition of the prison camp population essentially changed in the postwar period, with Western Ukrainian forming a considerable part of it. They numbered in the hundreds of thousands. There were also Baltic people and Moldavians from the territories the USSR had annexed in 1939-40. More than a million people died in concentration camps and prisons in 1942, when prisoners’ starvation reached its peak.”
“THE ABSENCE OF AN OFFICIAL ‘DEMOGRAPHIC PRICE’ OF WORLD WAR II IS A FERTILE GROUND FOR SPECULATIONS”
The birth rate was very low during the war, which resulted in a men-women disproportion thereafter. To what extent was this conducive to the current demographic crisis?
“The war had a destructive effect on the population’s gender-and-age structure. It is highly probable that all our demographic troubles are rooted in the social upheavals that occurred in the first half of the last century.
“Firstly, they trigger what is known as demographic waves. World War II was a time when the flower of the nation – the younger generation – was dying. Secondly, a war upsets reproduction of the population, as men go to war and women remain behind. A war essentially brings down the birth rate. We estimate that more than 3 million people were not born in Ukraine due to an essential birth rate fall in wartime.
“On the other hand, the situation partially changed after the war owing to a compensatory wave, when men are coming back en masse, new families are started, and children are born. This occurs in the first 2-3 years because nature itself usually wants to restore the situation after every disaster. So this phenomenon creates the effect of demographic wave. For example, the birth rate has come down in wartime, which resulted in a small number of newborns. Then the latter achieve the reproductive age and reproduce themselves – in a smaller number – through children. Then the children of these children (‘grandchildren of war’) give still fewer births. At the same time, this upsets the gender proportion. The women-men ratio was 1:1 a hundred years ago (in fact, there were more men because women used to bear many children and there was a high maternal death rate). The war had a destructive effect on the population’s gender proportion. While there were 100 women per 110 men before the war, there were 138 women per 100 men by the end of the war.
“I’d like to note that, although Word War II ended almost 70 years ago, there is still no official assessment of the scale and structure of Ukrainian human losses, even though the Ukrainian factor was very essential in the war – by the number of total human losses of the warring sides, Ukraine is only second to Russia. Even Germany’s population sustained fewer losses. The absence of an official ‘demographic price’ of World War II is a fertile ground for all kinds of speculations and falsifications in the media, political writing, and fiction.
“There are a lot of publications on this problem which seems, at first glance, to have been sufficiently studied, but there are still many questions and doubts about the assessment of human losses in these publications. There are too many unclear, disputable, and unreliable points here.
“The work of the Mykhailo Ptukha Institute of Demography and Social Studies is aimed at getting a true picture of the demographic dynamics of Ukraine within its current limits over the past 150 years. We made a thorough assessment of human losses by applying the demographic balance method based on scientifically-established principles of broad-range demographic dynamics for each calendar year between the 1939 and 1959 censuses.”