Iryna Skubii, Queen's University, Food waste, famine, and survival: the environmental history of the Holodomor in Soviet Ukraine

Helsinki University Humanities Programme, Helsinki Environmental Humanities Forum, September 28, 2021 (Tuesday), at 16.00- 17.30 (Helsinki time) via ZOOM. Please sign up for this event via the link below.


The social and economic transformations of the early 1930s and the series of famines significantly changed the consumption patterns in Soviet society and resulted in the transformation of the value of discarded food. As a part of the collectivisation campaign, the requisitions of grain and edible food forced the starving to explore the environment and surrounding landscapes. In famine, the social life of food became prolonged, as the survival circumstances forced consumers to develop more informed, knowledgeable, and resourceful behaviour. Searches for food incorporated uncommon and distant spaces signalling the changing patterns of food geographies. Focusing on waste consumption and its diverse topographies, this research presents the history of the early Soviet famines and the Holodomor in Ukraine, in particular, by studying its role in the life-saving strategies of the hungry. The critical view on food practices contributes to discussions regarding often omitted issues of cultural and ethical boundaries during famines. Bringing the environmental turn into famine studies aimed to facilitate our understanding of the power of wasted resources under extreme circumstances. How did the consumption of food waste and other discarded commodities help the contemporaries to survive? How have these practices changed their food behaviour and foodways?  What does the history of waste tell us about famine?


Iryna Skubii is a PhD Candidate at Queen's University (Canada).  Her project is focused on consumption, material culture, and environment during the famines in Soviet Ukraine in the first half of the twentieth century. Before coming to Canada, she received a Candidate of Sciences degree in History (2013) and worked at the Petro Vasylenko Kharkiv National Technical University of Agriculture. She is an author of the monograph Trade on Kharkiv in the Years of NEP (1921-1929): Economy and Everyday Life (Kharkiv, 2017). 

Iryna Skubii's professional website