Last modified on October 4, 2021, at 01:15

Walter Duranty

Walter Duranty

Born May 25, 1884
Liverpool, Lancashire, England
Died October 3, 1957
Orlando, Florida

Walter Duranty (1884-1957) was a correspondent for the New York Times who violated the public trust by sending pro-Soviet stories home, pretending that all was well even as Russia starved 6 million Ukrainians to death. Bewilderingly, he was awarded a Pulitzer Prize for telling these lies.[1] In the 1990s, The New York Times admitted that Duranty's work amounted to "some of the worst reporting to appear in this newspaper."[2]


Duranty is known for being a Stalinist sympathizer, Soviet propagandist, and blatant liar. Duranty's reports stated that the Soviets were ruling in the best interest of the people. He referred to Stalin as "the greatest living statesman." He claimed that his time spent in the USSR represented "a heroic chapter in the life of humanity."[3] Stalin himself told Duranty "You have done a good job in your reporting of the USSR."[4]

Even though Duranty was criticized initially, it was not until 1980 that the Times publicly acknowledged his failure.[5] Many other Ukrainian and human rights organizations have protested his obvious bias. The American ex-Communist Jay Lovestone has suggested that Duranty worked for the OGPU. Journalist Joseph Alsop claimed that "Duranty was a great KGB agent and lying like a trooper." Lev Navrozov, a Russian emigre who wrote a book titled "What The New York Times Knows About the World" said that Duranty's articles and books should be retitled as "A Drunken Sailor's Yarns About a Foreign Country" or "A Crazy Housewife's Chatter About Something She Knows Nothing About."[6]


For a more detailed treatment, see Holodomor.

Duranty is best known for his stringent denial of the genocide of the Ukrainian people, known as the Holodomor. Duranty refused to report on the man-made famine that killed up to twelve million people.[7] Duranty also engaged in projection of his own actions by claiming that other journalists who reported the truth about the USSR, such as Malcolm Muggeridge and Gareth Jones, were "liars", even though he provided no proof or evidence to back up his false claims.[8] Muggeridge went on to call Duranty "the greatest liar I have met in journalism." Some of Duranty's most well known lies and falsehoods about Holodomor are:

  • "There is no famine or actual starvation nor is there likely to be."
    • --New York Times, Nov. 15, 1931, page 1
  • "Any report of a famine in Russia is today an exaggeration or malignant propaganda."
    • --New York Times, August 23, 1933
  • "Enemies and foreign critics can say what they please. Weaklings and despondents at home may groan under the burden, but the youth and strength of the Russian people is essentially at one with the Kremlin's program, believes it worthwhile and supports it, however hard be the sledding."
    • --New York Times, December 9, 1932, page 6
  • "You can't make an omelet without breaking eggs."
    • --New York Times, May 14, 1933, page 18
  • "There is no actual starvation or deaths from starvation but there is widespread mortality from diseases due to malnutrition."
    • --New York Times, March 31, 1933, page 13[9]

Duranty also admitted privately that he knew that the genocide was happening. He acknowledged that the Ukraine "had been bled white."[10][11]

Bruce S. Thornton wrote:

  • Walter Duranty stands as perhaps the quintessential fellow-traveler, killing news reports of famine and writing that Ukrainians were "healthier and more cheerful" than he had expected, and that markets were overflowing with food—this at the height of Stalin's slaughter of the kulaks.[12]

Pulitzer Prize

There is currently an ongoing debate over whether or not the Pulitzer Prize which Duranty won in 1931 should be taken away. Most people believe that journalism's highest prize should not go to someone who knowingly lied about genocide.[8] After the The New York Times was rocked by scandal after the revelations surrounding Jayson Blair,[2] The New York Times hired a Columbia University professor of Russian history to review Duranty's work. Professor Mark von Hagen concluded that Duranty:

"frequently writes in the enthusiastically propagandistic language of his sources," and that "there is a serious lack of balance in his writing." He recommended that "For the sake of The New York Times' honor, they should take the prize away".[13]
His review was given to the Pulitzer board which, despite this, allowed Duranty to keep his prize. The struggle is currently still ongoing.

See also


Further reading

  • Crowl, James W. Angels in Stalin's Paradise: Western Reporters in Soviet Russia, 1917-1937; A Case Study of Louis Fischer and Walter Duranty. Washington, D.C.: The University of America Press (1981)
  • Duranty, Walter, I write as I Please. Simon and Schuster 1935
  • Muggeridge, Malcolm Winter in Moscow (1934)
  • Taylor, Sally J. Stalin's Apologist: Walter Duranty : The New York Times Man in Moscow. Oxford University Press (1990)