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.