Throughout the time of the Russian Revolution, we have seen many different instances of food shortages; in some form or another. With the famine of 1921-22, the food shortages started to become, in nature, very political. During this time, the government would take food from the peasants and give it to those in the Red Army. While this ultimately caused unrest amongst the general population, the situation was made worse when the peasants suffered a crop failure in the Volga basin during the spring of 1921, which resulted in the famine that killed about five million people. In the picture above, which says, “remember the starving,” you are able to see an example of one of the many pleas that came from the peasants, desperate for help from the government.
As a result, the Bolsheviks were forced to “run back” to the Western states in order to prevail during this time of need. In Maksim Gorky’s appeal on behalf of the All-Russian Committee to Aid the Hungry, Gorky attempted to use famous Russian’s in order to gain sympathy for their country; referencing people such as Pavlov and Tolstoy. Additionally, Gorky also attempted to appeal to the “do good” side of the West, stating that “Russia’s misfortune offers humanitarians a splendid opportunity to demonstrate the vitality of humanitarianism” (Gorky, Appeal for Relief).
In a report from November of 1921, an American man wrote about the haunting sights he saw upon his visit to the area in famine. During this he describes the dead bodies that he saw and the people eating everything they could. At one point he even described how he found it odd that there were no dogs wandering about, only to then find that the dogs had all been killed and eaten. According to the man, he believed the area to truly be in suffering. At the end of his terrifying descriptions, the man came to the conclusion that the US should continue to support Russia in their time of need and aid them in the planting of wheat, which would ultimately allow the Russian’s to better support themselves, without the US having to give continuous aid for too long. However, while this aid continued until 1923 and helped to end the famine, the Russian government was exporting a certain amount of the grain given to the relief effort, in order to make more money for themselves; thus the reason behind the aid having to be given for so long. This is something which I believe shows how the government viewed politics as being vastly more important than the wellbeing of their people.
Freeze Book: Freeze, Gregory L. Russia: a history. Oxford: Oxford U Press, 1997. Print