THE SOUTHERN UKRAINIAN PEASANTS’ ATTITUDE TOWARDS THE MEASURES OF THE SPECKLED GROUND SQUIRREL FORCED EXTERMINATION
This article provides an analysis of the role of speckled ground squirrels (Spermophilus suslicus) in the life of the Southern Ukrainian peasants. A speckled ground squirrel may seem a common pest on the face of it, who inhabits the whole area of the European Steppe and partly Asia. Nevertheless, it was this small animal who the Southern Ukrainian peasants considered to be the one of the most “vicious” enemies of their harvests of cereals. A speckled ground squirrel represents the only wild animal that was always close to men during almost 200 years of the Ukrainian Steppe’s colonization. It was constantly annoying peasants, competing with them for the harvests. However, it eventually became an opportunity to survive for many people during the Holodomor of 1932-1933 and Soviet famine of 1946-1947. We will try to find it in this article. Considering all mentioned above, the aim of the article is, firstly, an analysis of the stages of the Southern Ukrainian population’s struggle with speckled ground squirrels. Secondly, it is evaluation of the special features of the measures taken by the state and local authorities in order to struggle with pests. Therefore, the research objectives are the following: to analyze the imperial and Zemstvo’s programs on the Steppe pest extermination; to describe the common people’s attitude towards the issue and to define the consequences of this struggle. We come to the conclusion that there was a constant struggle with Steppe pests in the agricultural areas of Ukraine. Both adoption of special rules of pest extermination and introduction of fines for the pest law violation contributed to the significant pest population decline. This trend persisted during the first years of the XX century. After having seized the territory of Ukraine, the Bolshevik authorities got a new perspective on the pest control issue by solving it “anew”, “in a revolutionary way”. They resumed old methods and implemented new kinds of punishment for the pest law violation. The crisis of all agriculture forced the Soviet authorities to start a “struggle for the harvest”, which was primarily needed to support their own regime in the towns, comprehensively. Thus, this pest control obtained other forms, not only pre-war natural methods, but also new approaches. At the same time, the arch enemy of harvests will be the savior of many Ukrainians during the Holodomor and famines of the 1930s and 1940s. It was during these tragic decades that speckled ground squirrels became the only source of protein for many people, saving tens of thousands of lives.
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