Ukrainian-Canadians spent Saturday marking the 75th anniversary of the Holodomor, the nightmarish famine that killed millions in the Ukraine in the early 1930s.

The famine is largely blamed on Soviet leader Joseph Stalin's forced collectivization of grain and other foodstuffs that left millions of people without adequate food supplies. Estimates put the number of dead anywhere between two and 10 million.

Earlier this year, Prime Minister Stephen Harper supported a private member's bill that acknowledged the famine as a genocide, following the lead of a dozen or so other countries.

National Holodomor Awareness Week in Canada begins this weekend with candlelight vigils and other events Saturday, and memorial services at Ukrainian churches across the country on Sunday.

"This is the bare minimum which we, as Ukrainians, should do not only for the millions of victims, but more importantly, for our descendants who must always remember the Holodomor and heighten the international community's sensitivity to the re-occurrence of similar tragedies," the Ukrainian Canadian Congress said in a statement on its website.

Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism Minister Jason Kenney marked the anniversary of the famine in Kyiv alongside leaders from the Ukrainian-Canadian community.

The Canadian delegation is expected to participate in a forum on the famine.

"Our government is committed to remembering the victims of communism and heightening international awareness of genocide, and we are proud that our Conservative government recognized the Holodomor as a genocide, " Kenney said in a statement issued by the UCC. "We take such actions to help ensure that similar atrocities never happen again."

Ceremonies across Ukraine Saturday were marred by opposition from Russia, which objects to Ukraine's campaign to have the famine recognized worldwide as a genocide.

Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko said Saturday that many of his countrymen believe the famine was designed to attack Ukrainian nationalism itself.

"This was not death through hunger -- this was murder of people through hunger," Yushchenko said in a speech. "Hunger was selected as a tool to subdue the Ukrainian people."

Historians have long debated whether Stalin's program was indeed a deliberate attempt to destroy a racial or ethnic group, which is how genocide is defined in international law.