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The Daily Telegraph.  25 August 1933.


Death and Depopulation in Wide Areas of the Grain Country 


[Dr. Otto Schiller] 

Foreign newspaper representatives in Moscow have recently been forbidden to go outside the city without special permission from the Soviet Government.  A permit has just been refused to a correspondent who wished to visit country places in the North Caucasus and Ukraine. 

THE DAILY TELEGRAPH is nevertheless able to present a vivid account of conditions in the agricultural North Caucasus are.  This is done in a brief series articles of which the first appears below. 

These articles consist of detailed report by an expert agricultural observer who has been in the habit of visiting these regions from time to time.  

The report was written not for publication, but for the information of the writer’s principals, and has been put into our hand because it reveals, with detail which could only be gathered on the spot, conditions which may hitherto only been hinted at. 

The report was written in May.  The harvest is now in progress but the distress prevalent in May must have grown worse in the meantime, and cannot yet have been relieved. 

In the Spring of this year I visited the following districts in the Northern Caucasus; the Kuban Province, from Kropotkino to Krasnodar; the districts of Stavropol and Armavir; and the Povolye territories up to Salska Bieloglina – a stretch altogether, of 750 miles, by car. 

The chief problem of North Caucasus agriculture is the famine which since the late autumn of 1932 has reached appalling dimensions.  This time, in contrast with the preceding year, it is not only a matter starvation, which then cause a fall in the productivity of labour and a lowering of morale. 

It has reached the point of actual death from starvation.  In whole district the population is rapidly disappearing, and agricultural activity is at an almost complete standstill. 


There are two factors which are simultaneously causing the diminution in the population of the Northern Caucasus now so clearly apparent.  Firstly, the measures for the deportation and transplanting of masses of the population, carried out an [sic] a large scale since last autumn iii connection with the State grain collection, and the fight against “sabotage” by the kulaks, or “rich” peasants.  Secondly, there is the extinction of the population through famine, now in full swing. 

The policy of expulsion and deportation was put into force principally against the Cosseaks of the Kuban territory.  The Kuban Cossacks, by tradition and mentality, were the most resolute antagonists of agricultural collectivisation. 

During last autumn they exercised passive and also in some areas  active, resistance to the-measure. d the Government.  So effective was their opposition that the Government recognised in it serious danger, and suppressed it by the most rigorous measures,

The greater part of that particular Cossack population were forcibly uprooted from their villages and deported to the Uarl territories. They were thus practically annihilated. 

The Cossack population remaining in their native districts were considerably thinned through famine. Large Cossack settlements in the Kuban Province are at present almost uninhabited. The last living remnants will be finally demolished before the end of the year through famine. Thus, from a political point of view the Cossack danger may already be considered to have been eradicated. 


Populations have diminished, not only in those villages against which measures of expulsion and other punitive measures have been applied, but in almost all the villages I visited during my journey.  In the Stavropol Province, for instance, from which no considerable deportation has taken place, the decrease in the population ha. reached the greatest proportions. 

There were rumours that in the town of Stavropol and its surrounding districts cases of plague have occurred, but I was not able to obtain reliable confirmation of this from the local inhabitants.  But to the widely read stories of cannibalism, I received complete confirmation of these, with names and details, in the towns of Krasnodar and Stavropol. 

The famine is not so much the result of last year’s failure of crops as of the brutal campaign of State grain collection.  For that reason, even such localities as the northern districts of North Caucasia in which the crops were quite satisfactory, did not escape.  The Situation varies very much according to locality. 


The territory along the Northern Caucasian Railway, for instance, produces a more favourable Impression, thanks to the existence of the German concession, Drusak,[sic] in that neighbourhood. This agricultural concession affords the people of the surrounding villages some possibilities of occasional small earnings. 

Apart from localities in the Kuban districts and to the west of Stavropol, the diminution of the population is especially noticeable in the Eastern district, to the east of Stavropol as far as Vinodyelnaya. 

Famine also is especially acute in the Southern Steppe districts. But the mountain tribes of the Caucasian autonomous republics have, so far, escaped the scourge. 

One can judge of the extent of mortality from famine by approximate figures given by the local people.  For instance, in Timishbek the population since the beginning of last winter has declined from 15,000 to 1,000.  In the Ust-Labinskaya Stanitza it has dropped from 24,000 to 10,000; in Dimitrievka from 6,000 to 2,000; in Tlinskaia from 3,000 to 1,500. 

The two first named were peopled by Cossacks, many of whom were forcibly deported. The two last, however, consist of Russian villages where the fall in population can be explained only by famine. 

Isobilnaya, Kaminogradskaya, Lazovskaya, Srednayegorlitska, and others produce the impression of deserted villages.  So far there have not been infectious illnesses or dangerous epidemics on a large scale in those particular villages. 

In larger towns also a considerable reduction has taken place in the numbers of the population. This is in spite of more favourable conditions, in that a considerable part of the town populations have the right to food tickets. I was told that in Krasnodar about 40,000 out of the total population of 230,000 have died off.  In Stavropol 50,000 out of the population of 140,000 have succumbed, and the town produces a lifeless impression. 

The rate of increase in population given in official statistics no longer holds good. Even, last year there is little doubt that the increase of 3,500,00 shown in the Soviet returns was erroneous.  This year the population of the Soviet Republics is diminishing instead of increasing. 

In the villages I visited the number of deaths varied between twenty and thirty a day.  The people still alive are in the last stages of enfeeblement through semi-starvation, and also through eating such unnatural food as grass, roots, charred bones, dead horses. &c. 


The majority will doubtless die from malaria with the oncoming of the warm weather, this disorder having prevailed to an unprecedented extent since last autumn.  Typhus ,which on now appears sporadically, will probably become epidemic.  It is feared that with the new crop a fresh wave of mortality will devastate the country, when the famished people will, for the first time, eat their full of the new bread and fresh vegetables. 

The villages stricken by famine give an impression of utter hopelessness.  The abandoned homes are falling to ruin.  

When I visited Siberia last year I saw deserted dwellings most carefully boarded up, their abandonment being evidently only temporary.  But here, in the North Caucasus, evidently the houses are abandoned forever, and no steps are being taken for their preservation.  It is noticeable that even in those dwellings which are not yet abandoned the kitchen garden is are for the most part unworked.  In some villages it is difficult to find a single person from whom to ask direction on the road. Other villages are only partially deserted, and still show some signs of life. 


That is evidently explained by the fact that peasants attached to the collective farms are in better condition, because they receive me help from the State.  It is they who survive in the half-emptied villages, which the helpless individual peasant-owner a are left to their own fate. 

A dog or cat is rarely met with, for most of them have been eaten.  One may occasionally see a pig, sheep or fowl.  The only cattle still surviving are cows belonging to the collective farms. Thanks to the healthy growth of grass this year, most of them are in good condition.


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