July 01, 2021

Famine and Relief

Famine and Relief
Doctors in an American Hospital Train examine emaciated children.

In 1921, Russia was in a catastrophic state. After being ravaged by the First World War, two revolutions, the Civil War, a typhus epidemic, and the Bolsheviks’ insane economic policies, the country was in the grip of famine. Victims numbered in the millions and people were growing more desperate by the day.

As early as 1919, the American Relief Administration, or ARA, had offered the Soviet government aid for famine victims. There was just one condition: the humanitarian organization itself would decide where, to whom, and in what quantities aid would be distributed, and the political predilections of the recipients would be left out of the equation. The Bolsheviks refused.

It should be mentioned that, around the same time, one of the leaders of the White movement, General Denikin, expressed indignation at the idea that the Americans would help famine victims in Red-held territory. This is astounding – Denikin was a decent man, not cruel by temperament. Among the Bolshevik leadership as well, far from everyone was heartless. Didn’t they realize what would happen to people if food aid was rejected at a time when thousands upon thousands of people were being turned into walking skeletons, plagued by lice, hunger, turmoil, and fear?

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