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The Peasants got Hangry

 

Line at a Tobacco Store (1918). Corner of Prospect and Caravan Street, Petrograd, 1918. Source: Russian State Film & Photo Archive at Krasnogorks, 2000.

This week I decided to focus on the food provisions that arose in Russia during World War 1 and the beginnings of the revolution. I first was drawn to this topic because I found the contrast between it and the current events in Venezuela so similar and interesting. There was a connection there which inherently makes the topic more interesting.

Freeze brings up the food rationing issue briefly on pages 272-273 when he discusses the blurring of lines between public and private industry, and the growing unrest among soldiers and the people. On the Soviet history website, one of the primary sources discussed food riots and various instances of breaking into storage houses and stealing food. One that really stuck out to me was a story about the people marching to city hall, breaking into the food department and assaulting the government employees there.

Another primary source on the food supplies discussed how the food supplies would be shipped to Petrograd by train, but half of the bread or whatever else being rationed would not make it because the peasants would attack the trains and steal the food. The soldiers were running out of rations, and those who ordered bread were not receiving them because they were stolen.

The primary source goes on to talk about how the peasants would not eat this food, but sell the grain out of economic necessity. The peasants grew increasingly more displeased with the government, especially with its monopoly on grain, and began to handle the situation on their own.

The people were more becoming restless as their food prices soared and they had less food to choose from. This eventually led to the February Revolution, which began with food supply riots in Petrograd (Freeze 273).

As I continued learning about the food supply issue, I stumbled upon the Freeze passage on the February revolution talking about the women taking to the street and marching over the rising price of bread (Freeze 273). It was interesting he chose to include this in the text because men are typically seen as the family providers, but in this context, it seems as though the women were the one’s who were providing.

These women protestors were the catalyst for the larger groups to take to the street the next day (Freeze 274). After calls from the Bolsheviks to revive the December and January protests, the strikers emerged in Petrograd, and the police could not disperse them.

The control of the food supply was truly a catalyst for great disorder in Russia. The people were displeased with the government’s handling of the grain monopoly and supplies. This distaste only fueled the fire for the people’s revolution and had lasting impacts on post World War 1 Russia. The starting of the riots with the women’s march over the rising cost of bread was also a significant social factor that showed women were just as much a part of the revolution as men.

15 Comments

  1. Ben

    Your choice to analyze food scarcity is very interesting. It seems as the food scarcity is somewhat overlooked when examining the contributing factors to the revolution. I also really like your title!

  2. Drew Snell

    Your comparison to the ongoing Venezuelan food crisis is definitely important, and I think we can see an historical trend of authoritarian regimes using basic necessities like grain to control the masses. Additionally, the Seventeen Moments timeline of food riots and your observation of women’s impact on the protests really showed the scope of the unrest. Nice work!

  3. You really leveraged the primary sources to support your analysis here — nicely done! And focusing on food shortages as a catalyst for revolution makes so much sense. I also love your title – although the photograph and the uprising your describe here reference city dwellers — mostly women!

  4. Kevin Herrity

    Excellent primary sources, I really enjoyed the “Seventeen Moments in Soviet History” archive as well. Something I find interesting is how the government in a desire to control the grain supply as a means of power, unwittingly contributed to one of the major causes of revolution and their loss of power.

  5. Casey Foley

    I like how you made the modern day connection to the current events in Venezuela. Not only does it resemble the food provisions that occurred in Russia during the war, but also shows just how bad things are in Venezuela when we consider the fact that Russians primarily faced grain shortages while Venezuelans are facing shortages on anything from fish to fruits. Also, I like how you found that women also took part in the protests over the price of bread. As you stated, it’s interesting to see because during this time period men were always looked at as providers, but when it comes to things like finding the food needed to feed your children, women will not idly sit by!

  6. Kathryn Walters

    Like the title, and also that you related your topic to more current evensts! I think you’re right about food rations (and lack thereof) being more crucial then we realize when looking at revolutions. I like that you included how peasants reacted to food shortages by over taking trains. That really shows how much need the people were in and how little the government could provide for them. People rebelled and rioted this conflict, showing that food was no small consideration during 1917.

  7. Spencer Maclay

    This post drew me in with the headline. I found the issue of food scarcity very interesting and very modern, as you showed with the tie in to Venezuela today. I think it is fascinating food scarcity was the spark that ignited the revolution.

  8. Sam cochran

    First, I love that title! I thought it was cool how you started off by talking about why you chose the topic instead of just jumping right in! I like how you focused on the tactics the peasants used to get food and the violence surrounding the shortages. It seems like you used several great sources and did a good job summarizing and including them in your blog. Awesome job!

  9. Leighann

    This post was really interesting. I had not thought to really look into food rationing as a catalyst for the revolution but it definitely is a big factor. The people were a lot more miserable than I had thought that they were. You did a great job explaining the post and connecting a real story into your post. Nice job!

  10. Brian Nolte

    Great detail about something that is sometimes overlooked, but was crucial to the Russian Revolution, food. Its interesting how something so basic as food which we don’t worry about today was really important to the starving peasants and which drove them to do anything and to give power to people who would under normal circumstances never attain power.

  11. Johanna

    Great post about the food shortage topic which seemed to be popular this time around! I really liked how you brought up women being the ones to protest and riot because I thought that was really interesting too. I think it was mainly because of their husbands being off at the war, but the war effort is what was causing the shortages so it is an interesting paradox.

  12. Evan Plivelich

    Very interesting post. I can see how regimes such as this and in Venezuela can use food sources to control the masses. This is a great example of how fine the line is between control and starvation, which like you mentioned is the perfect catalyst for revolution

  13. I really found your topic interesting and I liked your usage of primary sources! It is amazing to think about the fact that many Western countries were beginning to master mass food production in order to satisfy their citizens, however, it is painfully apparent that the Russians were struggling to provide the basic mass agriculture to feed their enormous population. Good read, well done!

  14. Sophia Cooper

    I like the comparison to Venezuela- it shows some problems are universal, no matter the time and place. I also like how you focused on women. People tend to overlook the role women have in history. Lastly, nice title!

  15. Anna Dean

    I think the part about the women being primarily involved in this is interesting. As you pointed out, men were usually seen as the “bread providers” of the family. I think men at this time were more concerned with politics at this time so it was the women who dealt with the “home” issues such as getting bread for their children. I also like how you mentioned the similarity between an ongoing issue and one of the past. It’s interesting to see the parallels there.

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