“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.