The Instigator
Con (against)
The Contender
Pro (for)

The notion that Stalin caused the death of millions of people

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 5/9/2017 Category: Politics
Updated: 1 year ago Status: Debating Period
Viewed: 951 times Debate No: 102507
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My position: I will be arguing that Stalin is not responsible for the deaths of millions of people who died in the Ukrainian famine, or "holodomor" as other people call it. My position will be that a famine happened. I will even be arguing that Stalin attempted to combat the problem of the famine.

The holodomor was supposedly a case where millions of people died and people who believe Stalin was behind it, believe he purposely put in reforms that would lead to worsening the famine with the intent to kill people through starvation. Most people believe 7-10 million people died from the famine, but I will be showing that it was quite possible fewer people died from it.

Opponent's position: I want my opponent to argue that a specific estimate of people were killed in the famine(I would recomment the 7-10 million number, though they may argue for whatever number they wish), and to argue that Stalin was responsible for this.

Now, let's move onto the debate since we should be clear on what each contendor will be arguing for.

1) No ad hominem, insults, or personal attacks
2) The total number of rounds used for argument should be the total you see here minus one, since I am not using round 1 for argument. I would like my opponent to begin their arguments in round 1, since I believe the "innocent until proven guilty" principle applies here and it should be assumed Stalin is innocent of this until proven otherwise. So, my opponent should provide evidence that Stalin was behind the deaths of millions in round 1. They should then waive round 4, and just say something like "I waive this round as agreed upon" in it.

I hope to have a challenging debate with this, and good luck to my opponent, whoever he or she may be.


Accepted. As Con has stated that the Pro should begin arguments in the first round--I will outline my opening case now.

Although he has clarified the terms of the debate--he failed to provide a definition for 'responsible', which in a debate like this is pretty crucial. The key definition is:

1.) responsible
    • Answerable for an act performed or for its consequences; accountable; amenable, especially legally or politically.
    • Being a primary cause or agent of some event or action; capable of being credited for something, or of being held liable for something.

As well as taking into account this particular word, I will also be arguing as per the resolution, that it is in fact not a notion but an actual reality that millions of Ukrainians died in a famine, directly caused by Josef Stalin--then leader of the Soviet Union, of which Ukraine belonged to.

**Opening Argument**

In 1928, four years after coming to power, Stalin finalised his plan to introduce a new agricultural program/policy that was to assume control of all private-owned farmland and basically to make a large-scale nationalised industrial farming network (2.)

In the Ukraine, an estimated 80% of households were farming households. (3.)

Some of these farmers were indeed fairly wealthy, and earned the name 'Kulaks' (wealthy peasants) from the Stalin-led communist regime. In relation to the collectivised and non-privately owned farming program that was to exist, the plan, was to destroy the ideal of wealth aspiration among farmers and peasants. Although only 20% of land was nationalised in the first five years (1928-1933), in the very early stages of program, around five million people belonging to wealthier Kulak households were deported into Siberia and are believed to have famished there (see link 3.)

In regards to these more industrious farmers, Stalin even gave a public speech at a 'conference for Marxist students', it was referred to as Problems of Agrarian Policy in the USSR--the speech happened on December 27th, 1939, and Stalin stated:

'Now we are able to carry on a determined offensive against the kulaks, to break their resistance, to eliminate them as a class and substitute for their output the output of the collective farms and state farms. '

'Now, the kulaks are being expropriated by the masses of poor and middle peasants themselves, by the masses who are putting solid collectivization into practice. Now, the expropriation of the kulaks in the regions of solid collectivization is no longer just an administrative measure. '

'Now, the expropriation of the kulaks is an integral part of the formation and development of the collective farms. Consequently it is now ridiculous and foolish to discourse on the expropriation of the kulaks. You do not lament the loss of the hair of one who has been beheaded.'


So, it was pretty obvious that Stalin was prepared to rid this class through violent means, and do whatever it takes to implement this new system.

What is also apparent, is that the more middle and lower class farmers were being worked up against the Kulaks. In deporting the Kulaks, the problem (of them) was largely solved--that a mass deportation took place and eventual genocide (through forced hunger in Siberia) took place is again indisputable. (5.)

Just to clarify, these particular kulaks were ethnic Ukrainian~~not Russian.

The link is correct, however, in saying that what happened to these Kulaks was extremely inhumane.

Some time later--and this is what Con is mainly getting at--the less wealthy Ukrainian farmers began to suffer greatly due to dismal production; overwork, hunger, and disease. And other farmers who failed to comply, were simply executed.

One survivor from this long famine is actually quoted as saying:

'In 1933, just before Christmas, brigades came to our village to search for bread. They took everything they could find to eat.

That day they found potatoes that we had planted in our grandfather's garden, and because of that they took everything from grandfather and all the seeds that grandmother had gathered for sowing the following autumn.

And the next day, the first day of Christmas, they came to us, tore out our windows and doors and took everything to the collective farm.'

Another survivor, a man named Fedir Burtianski, also said:

'At Dnipropetrovsk we got out of the carriages. I got off the wagon and I saw very many people swollen and half-dead. And some who were lying on the ground and just shaking. Probably they were going to die within a few minutes. Then the railway NKVD [secret police] quickly herded us back into the wagons.'

The NKVD were the Stalinist-era secret police, they acted on Stalin's demand and were responsible for any shootings, deportations, and outside-stealing of food.

Due to how severe and widespread the starvation was--we are talking all of Ukraine, a country more or less France's size--cannibalism become the only option for many Ukrainians, they would have to eat people that had already died as a result of the starvation/disease, or, some families were even forced to kill their weakest child.

Burtianski actually described how I'm one trial, a son described eating his own mother.

The son in question said, during the trial:

'Thank you to Father Stalin for depriving us of food. Our mother died of hunger and we ate her, our own dead mother. And after our mother we did not take pity on anyone. We would not have spared Stalin himself.'

Going back to the vast numbers that were dying, Mykhaylo Naumenko, another survivor, said the following:

'A tragedy developed. People became swollen, they died by the tens each day. The collective farm authorities appointed six men to collect and bury the dead. From our village of 75 homes, by May 24 houses were empty where all the inhabitants had died.'

Mykhaylo's own father was in fact executed by the NKVD, for refusing to work at a local 'collective' farm.

In his account, he states how people were shot for attempting to steal any remaining grain or potatoes from 'collective' farms, which usually were surrounded by barbed wire.

Mykhaylo also was witness to the cannibalism that was occurring, when he found that his neighbours were eating human remains.

After he had helped bury the father of one neighbour, he had asked for what he assumed was chicken meat--but was refused, as the meat was fully human.

He said:

'I saw Tetyana (neighbour) eating chicken meat and saw there was a lot of it. I approached her and asked her for some, but she refused to give me any. Because it was human flesh.'

The survivor Olena Mukiak, gave an insight into her own village life at that time and stated that some people had to go through 'horse manure, stewed boots, toasted leaves and tree bark' to actually find some grain to eat.

Her own family, used to live on toasted birch leaves.

She stated how her own brother died due to starvation:

'My brother died from starvation. He was small and there was nothing to eat. What could our mother give us to eat when there was nothing?'

'My sister brought us a little piece of bread once a day and we gulped it down and waited until the next day. But you wanted food all the time. My brother was younger than I and he died because he needed to eat. And our mother could give nothing.'


(For included witness testimonies, etc.)

Con states in round one that he wants Pro to argue for some kind of official number, but that people died and suffered greatly through an authoritarian regime and forced starvation, is what should really matter. As with any genocide, the estimates vary and for one of this enormous scale it is hard to specify an exact count.

But, for arguments sake, I would give an estimate of 7-10 million people; including the earlier Kulaks who were deported by force. It is largely agreed upon that at least 7 million were died but the numbers likely go higher.

What is also important to note, is that this was a man-made famine. The Ukrainians did not suddenly decide to destroy their livlihoods, their livestock, and their entire farming community--after all, why would they? As I highlighted previously in the debate, farmers made up most of Ukraine's population at that time, so they knew how to operate their farms, and if anything, the Kulaks show that many made a success of it.

Therefore, due to the implentation of Stalin's plan and the fact so many were puroposely deported and killed, this genocide was very obviously NOT self-inflicted but was a direct of the Stalin's new policy on farming. From this, one can conclude that he was responsible.
Debate Round No. 1


I have no problem with the definition or the claim that Stalin attempted to nationalise the farming sector of the economy, so I will be skipping to when source 3 by my opponent is used.

The problems with contenders third source

First, I'd like to point out that the history place, the source that my opponent uses to cite for the number of kulaks who were deported to Siberia, doesn't cite any primary source for this information. It's literally all assumed to be true because history place is claiming all of these ideas. I think, since history place cites no primary source(that I can see) we cannot accept this as evidence of anything. Secondary sources such as history place have a job to cite the primary sources they get the information from, but they failed to do so. So, due to that history place is a secondary source, this already makes it suspect since everyone should know secondary sources are not ever as reliable as primary sources, for they might, even if accidentally, report on something incorrectly. The fact that they didn't cite any primary sources is even more suspect. So, this source can't be accepted since it provides no evidence of its claims.

Addressing Contender's fourth source

Now, this source is better because it actually cites a source written by Stalin himself, which would essentially be a primary source. The quote my opponent offers by Stalin is sound, as you can see it on page 412 of this primary source written by Stalin[1]. However, simply because Stalin admits to expropriating the Kulaks, doesn’t prove that millions starved. You would need to establish a link between the expropriation and millions dying, which it doesn’t seem you have sufficiently done so. In conclusion, this quote is rather irrelevant to determining if Stalin is responsible, or that he had malicious intent to kill off millions of people.

Problems with contender’s fifth source

Now, this secondary source cites other secondary sources for its information. These secondary sources do not cite their primary sources. For example, the information my opponent is claiming about the mass deportation that supposedly took place of kulaks, this source cites History Place as its source for that information(just follow the 5th link down at the bottom, which is cited above where this source talks about the deportations) So in other words, my opponent indirectly cited the same source as before with their third source, and I’ve already explained problems with this source as it doesn’t cite any primary sources or offer any evidence of its claims. Thus, the claim that Stalin deported millions of Kulaks is still unsubstantiated.

This is the problem I’ve found personally with looking up information about the Holodomor: nearly every source about it is a secondary source that doesn’t cite any primary sources and offer no evidence. Claims like these should not just be accepted without evidence, for I assert the widely-held belief in innocence until proven guilty. So far, my opponent has not proven that Stalin was guilty of ordering Kulaks to be mass deported, or that this resulted in millions of deaths.

Problems with the survivors my opponent quotes:

My opponent quoted several survivors recalling their times with the holodomor. They cite their source 6 for these quotes. The problem with this source, is that the video they claim to have of these survivors recalling the “horrors” of the holodomor, is that the link to the video doesn’t even seem to work. How convenient. Simply go to near the bottom of their source[2] and click on “play”, you’ll see an error that says “page doesn’t exist”. Additionally, when looking up the names of these people through a google search, for two of them, nothing of relevance comes up. Look up Olena Mikiak and Mykhaylo Naumenko in google, and you’ll see nothing comes up in pertaining to someone who is old enough to have survived through the Holodomor. Now, looking up Fedir Burtianski comes up with claims that someone named this made comments about their experience in the Holodomor, but there is still not any other information about this person. If these people actually exist, you’d think there would be more information about them. It seems there isn’t any other information about these people. For all we know, this could have all been fabricated, and since there is no other information regarding these people, and the video about this apparently doesn’t work, it’s a pretty good possibility.

The notion the NKVD was responsible

Next, my opponent claimed that the NKVD were responsible for shootings, deportations, and stealing of food from Ukraine. This is asserted without evidence as well, and even if it was true, to establish Stalin as the guilty one, there would surely be orders to the NKVD from Stalin himself to do these things. For all we know, the NKVD may have been acting on their own discretion, maybe even against the orders of Stalin. Without any sort of orders by Stalin provided by my opponent, there’s no way to know whether Stalin was responsible, and I would like to remind voters of the idea of innocent until proven guilty.

Moving onto my arguments...

My opponent has taken the more realistic number of between 7-10 million people dying as a result of the holodomor. However, I will point out through logic why this might not have been the case, and I will dispute that the Soviet government was the one behind this.

  1. There is evidence that the Kulaks were possibly the ones responsible for the famine, and not the Soviet government. According to this[3], there is record of Kulaks who destroyed much of the machinery, livestock, and other means through which farming took place, in an attempt to prevent the Soviet government from seizing the means of farming production, and giving it to their workers. One only needs to think about the results of what would happen due to much of the machinery, livestock, etc being destroyed. 11% of the population owned nearly all of the farming land in the Ukraine[3], and they were the kulaks. If it’s true that the soviet government deported the kulaks, it was likely due to them finding out that the kulaks actually destroyed all of the machinery in an attempt to prevent the Soviet Union from being able to produce the grain and food necessary for the rest of Ukraine. Thus, you could say if the deporting happened, it was a form of punishment for what the Kulaks did that resulted in the deaths of millions.

  2. If the soviet government, specifically Stalin, had the intent to starve millions of Ukrainians, why did the import of agricultural products rise substantially during the years of the famine? In 1931, before the famine, the Soviet Union exported 5,182,835 tonnes of grain, but in the following year once the famine began, they decreased their exports to 1,819,114 tonnes and began importing 750,000 tonnes during the first half of 1932. The amount exported decreased further the next year, and imports increased another 157,000 tonnes.[4][5] If they really wanted to kill off millions of people, it seems they were making an attempt to fix the problem of wheat shortage caused by the famine. If they really wanted to kill off all Ukrainians, they wouldn't’ have increased their imports of grain to those areas.

  3. Often the number 7-10 million people dying as a result of the famine comes from comparing the USSR's population from 1932 to what it was in 1934, and looking at how much the population didn't increase as it was expected to do so. Generally, most historians conclude that the population was supposed to increase anywhere between 7-10 million more than it did. There are two things wrong with this calculation: first, if Stalin wanted to kill off Ukrainians, why were other areas affected by the famine besides Ukraine? It's a fact other parts of the USSR were in famine too, not just Ukraine[6]. To conclude 7-10 million Ukrainians died is faulty since more areas than just Ukraine were affected. Secondly, the 7-10 million number assumes these were all deaths, but it is logical to conclude that in a time of famine, the birth rate would have decreased. Why would people have as many children as they previously had when there is not food for them? So, the fact the population growth was off by 7-10 million could be a result of both a birth rate decline and a death rate increase. Therefore, the extent to which the "holodomor" caused casualties for Ukraine is not nearly as bad as most people make it out to be. You really can't know how many people died during this, but it likely wasn't 7-10 million.





[4] The Years of Hunger. Soviet Agriculture 1931-1933, Davies and Wheatcroft, p.471

[5] i7;i7;i7;i6; k4; m4;l0;m2;l8;k2;m3; j2;i9;i3;j1;i9; h3;l6;l9;l7;l3;k2;l5;k2; i7;i7;i7;i6;. i2;l6;l9;l2;k4;k2; 1935, page 574, 575



Firstly, I would like to apologise to any readers for not correctly editing part of the first witness testimony...I was very tired when I edited that and forgot to use the quotation marks and writing style.


Con states that he has no problem with the definition (of responsible) and the inclusion of the fact that Stalin nationalised the farming sector, which to me presents an issue.

Taking into account the definition, and this nationalism that was created by does not really take a great stretch of the imagination to at least consider the idea that Stalin was responsible for this great famine, if not to conclude exactly that. Con can simply not just accept this definition and the nationalisation of Ukrainian farmland; and yet deny any correlation between the famine that was yet to follow.

When one governing body decides to implement a policy--the repercussions and results of that policy (good or bad) are what follow after. In the case of Stalin nationalising farms, it was starvation that followed. I would not necessarily get into the motivations or ulterior reasoning on Stalin's behalf in this debate, but, the point is that as the one who introduced this policy--he was the one to bare the responsibility of what occurred after it.

Before proceeding to his own argument, Con then gives his analysis of each of my sources. He claims the third one does not have enough additional evidence, but to my knowledge, a source does not necessarily have to be backed up with yet another source. One source for one assertion should be sufficient--and this is reputable historical website. Many of the Kulaks were indeed sent to Siberia, and parts of the Ural's/Kazakhstan.

What happened to the Kulaks is in fact no historical secret, and what Stalin did is widely referred to as the 'dekulakization'.

In 1930, Stalin actually made this quote about his elimination of the Kulaks:

'In order to oust the 'kulaks' as a class, the resistance of this class must be smashed in open battle and it must be deprived of the productive sources of its existence and development. ... That is a turn towards the policy of eliminating the kulaks as a class.'

The reason I'm using this is to also illuminate his plans for diminishing the basic needs of farmers, note that he uses terms such as 'productive sources', 'existence' and 'development'...and how he wishes to to 'deprive' them of these three crucial things. (7.) Stalin, Joseph: Concerning the Policy of Eliminating the Kulaks as a Class, Krasnaya Zvezda, January 21, 1930, Collected Works, Vol. 12, p. 189

On the fourth source, Con agrees that this is a quote directly from Stalin--but argues that it doesn't prove a mass genocide. However, it does very much show that Stalin wanted to remove the Kulaks...which, ultimately led to a mass genocide of people. It began with their deportation and diminishing of rights, then the mass starvation of the lesser wealthy peasant farmers occurred.

Using the example of 'gleaning' (using crops that are left over and redistributing them), this was basically criminalized by Stalin. Any farmers who gleaned faced a penalty of death, or at the very least--a harsh prison sentence. This is relevant because it shows there was an agenda, for whatever reason, to minimise and limit the rights of Ukrainian farmers and their ability to operate their farms as they wished; also pointing to one of the ways they were deprived of food.

Another law was enacted in 1932, while the famine was taking place, which was to prevent any theft of 'socialist property'; which essentially meant that starving Ukrainians could not steal or use state-owned produce. (8.) Andrew Gregorovich, Genocide in Ukraine 1933, part 4: How Did Stalin Organize the Genocide?, Ukrainian Canadian Research & Documentation Centre, Toronto 1998.

In fact, 54,645 people were imprisoned under this law. And 2,110 received death sentences. (9.)

Con then addresses the fifth source used, but again--a source is a source and his rebuttals should really have been left for round three anyway. For some reason, Con thinks it's a problem that source five also uses a source from TheHistoryPlace, but this is really irrelevant. They are both valid sources and both highlight deportation numbers.

Regarding survivor testimony, Mykhaylo Naumenko does in fact come up on a Google search, with his testimony. As for the woman, Con has spelled it incorrectly. Olena Mukniak is in fact referenced elsewhere (10.)

Additional testimony from others can be found here (11.)

And another one...

One of the survivors in this testimony, Maria Kachmar, states how her father was taken to Siberia.

Another survivor, Maria Firman, tells how her mother just died in bed...likely from starvation.

These witness accounts fully go into how the Russians were purposely depriving Ukrainian farmers of food--with one the last survivors in the testimony, Natalia Demyanenko, staing how anyone crossing the border to seek food, was shot. Her own sister was shot and injured.


Now regarding the NKVD, Con claims there is yet again no evidence of responsibility on their behalf. However, crimes committed by the NKVD went on for years within the Soviet Union--once again, there is really no secret.

The book 'Silent Memories, Traumatic Lives' references how the NKVD also had a hold over schools in the Ukraine at that time and how both spiritually and physically, children were crushed. (13.) Silent Memories, Traumatic Lives, the Holodomor Years, p.84


Con then proceeds to his own opening argument, and asserts that it was the Kulaks who caused the Holodomor and not Stalin. With his reasoning being that the Kulaks slaughtered livestock, but, while some of this did occurred before the great famine of 1932-1933 and can be no means account for such an enormous number of people starving.

And one must consider who most of the Kulaks were deported, or relocated (some of these actually included German Kulaks) and that while people are dying of hunger en masse, Stalin was still exporting Ukraine's crops.

Although, the quotas that he set the Ukraine were impossible to reach. This is provoked Stalin so much that any remaining produce that was left, he ordered to be taken away.

One Soviet author wrote this:

'All the grain without exception was requisitioned for the fulfillment of the Plan, including that set aside for sowing, fodder, and even that previously issued to the kolkhozniki as payment for their work.' (14.) Execution by Hunger: the Hidden Holocaust, by Miron Dolot, p.xi

Con also argues that if Stalin had caused the famine, other areas in the Soviet Union would've somehow been exempt. But this logic surely fails as other places did indeed suffer famine, but also as a result of Stalin's new collectivization policy. If anything it proves that the Ukrainians, wealthy farmers and non-wealthy farmers alike, did not choose to inflict such damage on themselves.

The book Democratic Changes and Authoritarian Reactions in Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, and Moldova states the occurrence of this in later years:

'Moldova's peasantry was subjected to forced collectivization, which saw some 10,000 or more deported as Kulaks. The suppression of class enemies, mass famine and starvation, and then the collectivization campaign, appear to be no greater in scope or more brutal than anywhere else in the Soviet Union.' (this was referencing 1940's collectivization only.)

Earlier, it does indeed state how people died of 'hunger and malnutrition related diseases' due to the 'failure of Party leaders to reduce compulsory grain collections.' (P.258, of that book)

Cons Sources:

1. This source is a Stalin archive, with 805 pages to read in total. I have looked at the titles of each chapter to see exactly what Con is referring to but given the high number of isn't easy. I will nevertheless read it over later. What does concern me is that each source doesn't seem to numerically correspond with the other.

2. This is the source that I used.

3.) This particular source presents a problem to readers as it is entirely in the vast majority of people reading this debate will not what it's saying; as Con hasn't even translated the contents. Also, I have acknowledged in this debate that some of the Kulaks killed livestock in rebellion, so that the source mentions this (in Russian) doesn't really mean anything. I am contending that this did NOT cause a minimum of 7 million to light of everything else I've written in my arguments.

And anyway, the source also verifies what I said about grain being exported, the strict implementations in place, and the *fact* that Ukrainian farmers were punished for wanting to keep their grain. It in fact gives much away.

For example, one part of the source says:

'In addition to these measures, the following were also applied: confiscation of all or part of surplus grain products, confiscation of a part of the property in the amount of 2 to 1000 rubles. And so on.'

There are indeed strong elements of Soviet propaganda the entirety of this source, primarily against the Kulaks, but it fully validates what I have said on as to the harshness of collectivization and the fact that farmers did indeed have their produce taken away, without any say on their behalf...and that many were fined. Towards the end of the source, there are actually witness testimonies of that.

During a 1929 excerpt, one farmer says:

'I am currently with my family, which consists of me, (a) disabled wife, and six children aged between one and 14 years, we are left homeless, without equipment and without land, why are we doomed to be hungry and poor?'

I have now ran out of the character limit, so some more of this source, and Cons following sources I will address in the next round.
Debate Round No. 2
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Debate Round No. 3
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Debate Round No. 4
11 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Posted by Emilrose 8 months ago
I can't believe you forfeited...
Posted by Emilrose 1 year ago
It happened not that long after, and it does show that he silenced any opposition/problem.
Posted by Capitalistslave 1 year ago
FanboyMctroll: Why are we talking about the Great Purge anyways? I should have caught on that that was what you were talking about. I'm not denying the Great Purge in this debate. I'm denying that Stalin was responsible for the holodomor.
Posted by Emilrose 1 year ago
Yes...though this was after the 32-33 famine
Posted by FanboyMctroll 1 year ago
Stalin wrote orders for the Great Purge, here is the signed orders
Posted by Emilrose 1 year ago
I only had 1 character left :/
Posted by Emilrose 1 year ago
It would support transliterated Russian...
Posted by Capitalistslave 1 year ago
Also, apparently doesn't support Russian, but my fifth source was in Russian, and that's why it is jibberish now. The Russian that was supposed to be there roughly translates to "USSR in figures TSUNHU Gosplan of the USSR. Moscow page 574, 575"

So my source should read that,.
Posted by Capitalistslave 1 year ago
There is evidence for a famine that took place, but not that it was intended by the Soviet government to take place, and as I pointed out in my round, the Kulaks could be the ones to blame for the Holodomor.
Posted by Capitalistslave 1 year ago
FanboyMctroll: The holocaust has actual evidence for it. For example, Rudolf Hess, the second in command of the third reich, admitted that 1.5 million Jews were gassed at a specific concentration Camp in an affidavit. Additionally, there are quite a few orders and documents pointing to the intent to kill Jews.

There is no such equivalent evidence that I'm aware of for the Holdomor. There is no order by Stalin, no confessions, no primary sources that suggest it took place.
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