Early estimates of the death toll by scholars and government officials varied greatly; anywhere from 1.8 to 5 million ethnic Ukrainians were said to have perished as a result of the famine. Recent research has since narrowed the estimates to between 2.4 and 4 million. The exact number of deaths is hard to determine, due to a lack of records, but the number increases significantly when the deaths in heavily Ukrainian-populated Kuban are included. Older estimates are still often cited in political commentary. According to the findings of the Court of Appeal of Kiev in 2010, the demographic losses due to the famine amounted to 10 million, with 3.9 million direct famine deaths, and a further 6.1 million birth deficit.
Stalin and other party members had ordered that kulaks were "to be liquidated as a class" and so became a target of the state. The richer, land-owning peasants were labeled 'kulaks" and were portrayed by the Bolsheviks as class enemies, which culminated Soviet campaign of political repressions, including arrests, deportations, and executions of large numbers of the better-off peasants and their families in 1929–1932.
The forced collectivization of agriculture as a part of the Soviet first five-year plan, forced grain procurement, combined with rapid industrialisation, a decreasing agricultural workforce, and several bad droughts, were the main reasons for the famine; the famine is sometimes seen by historians as a deliberate act of genocide against ethnic Ukrainians and Kazakhs, though some disagree, citing the focus on the fact that land-owning peasants (Kulaks) were for private property, which goes against the Communist Party's bottom line.:507 Gareth Jones was the first Western journalist to report the devastation. In addition to the Kazakh famine of 1919–1922, in 10–15 years Kazakhstan lost more than half of its population due to the actions of the Soviet power. The famine made Kazakhs a minority in their own republic, and not until the 1990s did Kazakhs become the largest group in Kazakhstan again. Before the famine, around 60% of the republic's population were Kazakhs, but after the famine, only around 38% of the population were Kazakhs.
Historian Mark B. Tauger of West Virginia University suggests that the famine was caused by a combination of factors, specifically low harvest due to natural disasters combined with increased demand for food caused by the collectivization, industrialization and urbanization, and grain exports by the Soviet Union at the same time.