ALMATY, Kazakhstan -- A monument honoring the victims of a 1931-33 famine widely blamed on the Soviet government's forced farm collectivization campaign has been unveiled in Kazakhstan’s largest city, Almaty.
The 3-meter-high statue shows an emaciated woman holding a starving boy and stands near the former headquarters of the Soviet NKVD and KGB secret police.
Hundreds of attendees included poets, writers, and historians, as well as the Almaty mayor and other city officials. President Nursultan Nazarbaev, who has ruled the Central Asian country since before it gained independence in the Soviet breakup of 1991, was not there.
May 31 is marked in Kazakhstan as the Day of Commemoration of the Victims of Political Repressions.
The monument was initially set to be erected in 1992. A stone saying "The monument to the victims of 1931-33 famine will be raised here" has been at the site since then.
Historians believe that at least 1.5 million Kazakhs died during the famine on the Kazakh steppe, part of a broader Soviet famine that also affected Ukraine, the Northern Caucasus, the Volga region, the southern part of the Ural Mountains, and western Siberia.
Ukraine, which lost millions of people in the famine, considers it an act of genocide organized by Soviet authorities against Ukrainians.
Authorities in Kazakhstan, which also suffered a Soviet-imposed famine in 1919-22 and lost more than half of its population in the two famines, have long avoided ascribing political motives to the famines.