Yet Another Famine in Россия… 6



“HELP” Is written below the picture of the starving peasant. His face is withered, his feet are exposed, and his bones in general look fragile. He is peasant in Russia suffering dearly from the poor economic and agricultural effects of the new Bolshevik government. Behind him, pieces of useless wheat tumble through the air, as the peasants arms remain sprung in the air hoping for maybe just some bread or soup. In 1921, this man resembled the majority of Russia. People were continuously dying from malnutrition or starvation in general. As Freeze so elegantly put it, Russia was on the brink of “total economic collapse”, which ran in direct correlation with  putting food on the table. Hyper inflation was destroying any hope for setting up industry and a firm economy.

Lenin, knowing that what he had worked for so long to achieve was about to crumble and fall, knew that he had to reevaluate how things in his government were working. If he continued to take what little food there was from the peasants in the Volga region, there would be another massive uprising. Peasants were already starting to resist, but not on a completely unified effort. The solution was the New Economic Policy, which enabled peasants to grow their food, but then sell it. This was not the communist way, but rather was something out of the Capitalist textbook. For Western nations, this was a huge deal. It meant that maybe the Bolsheviks were not as hard core communist as once thought. This really opened the way for some capitalist nations to open the door  to this new nation.


America was one of the nations to help the some 20 million Soviet peasants by sending millions of dollars in aid, food, and medical supplies. Herbert Hoover established the American Relief Administration (ADA), which lead the many of the relief efforts. “Corn grits, cocoa, condensed milk, white bread and sugar” were the main foods sent over, but were just among some of the many. Without the support of Hoover and other world leaders, it is strong possibility that the Bolsheviks would have ben toppled long before 1991. The real question is at what price? Five million Soviet citizens died with the aid, millions more would have likely perished without it. Although the aid was enormous, the Soviet government denied this help to the people later, claiming simply that it never happened. This picture above shows the people of Russia, on their knees, begging for the supplies coming from America. All history can be distorted with time, especially when the Soviet Government controls what is being written down.

Although the Bolsheviks eventually bounced back from this catastrophe, it still remains one of the lowest points in all of Soviet history. It is hard to really imagine what would have happened without this aid, or better yet, where Russia would be today if this famine never existed. For all we know, it could still be the USSR.


A Russian History, Gregory L. Freeze.

6 thoughts on “Yet Another Famine in Россия…

  1. Ben Midas Sep 23,2013 7:41 pm

    Food production is a very important part of Soviet history. Its something that should be kept in mind as we go forward and learn more about the 1920s and 1930s. As you said, NEP had a lot to do with the peasantry and food production. In the coming weeks, try to think about how food production influenced other Soviet policies.

  2. Schnaitman Sep 24,2013 12:03 am

    I enjoyed that your post highlights the almost forgotten complexity of the agricultural production and economic situation in Russia on the international scale. Is there any different intervention approach that should have taken place by the world leaders at this time?

  3. A. Nelson Sep 24,2013 1:12 am

    This is an important topic that often gets overlooked in favor of more “famous” famines (1891-2 and the artificially engineered “harvest of sorrow” during collectivization at the end of the twenties. The issue of American aid is complicated. We sent interventionist troops in during the Civil War in an effort to topple the Bolsheviks, so it may not be that surprising that the Soviet attitude toward humanitarian relief was a bit contradictory. The Dmitri Moor poster is one of my favorites.

  4. Austin Wood Sep 24,2013 1:13 am

    You asked a very important question at the end, and I think that if there wasn’t international support the Soviet Union situation would definitely be different. I also really liked how you started off your post with the image and description. I think it was a great way to start it off and really opened my eyes to how bad the food situation really was for not only a few, but almost all of the Soviet Union citizens.

  5. Annemarie Lucernoni Sep 24,2013 7:00 am

    I liked this post a lot, both for the pictures you chose, which not only helped to illustrate the point you were making about the famine and U.S. aid but were also visually appealing, and for the topic itself. It is very interesting that the Soviet administration/ Lenin accepted capitalist aid and took a page out of the capitalist book by allowing a market for food between peasants, but then refused to acknowledge this. It is a sure sign of the instability of power the regime was feeling that they were unable to admit accepting help from the “enemy” for fear of showing weakness (and not without cause; if the people became any more disenchanted with the Bolsheviks’ translucent promises than they already were there could easily have been an uprising based on past course of events).

  6. baxmason Sep 24,2013 7:50 am

    I really liked the image chosen and agree that it clearly defines one of the great struggles of communism. China had to do much of the same thing during their economic reforms in an attempt to stave off the starvation of millions. It’s crazy to think that while the aid was needed and even welcomed, it was never formally recognized

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