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The Daily Telegraph.  Monday 28 August 1933.


Soviet State Does Nothing Save Accuse Them of Hiding Grain 


[Dr. Otto Schiller] 

This striking revelation of the Famine in Russia is a report made after an independent survey carried out in May of the North Caucasus agricultural area, the present article forming second part. 

In the grain areas of the Northern Caucasus, bread as a rule has completely disappeared from the dietary of the individual peasant’ owner.  A few collectvist peasants have a small reserve of their share in the last crop. 

In a few collective farms some assistance in food is given.  A member of the collective who has done a certain amount of work may have small quantity of maize-flour - usually up to a little more than half a pound -advanced to him on account of his share in the new crop. 

Some little help is also given to collectivist peasants .by pub1ic soup-kitchens where only actually working members of the collective farm may be served. The soup given there is, however, of very little food value, being made with the minimum admixture of food-products. 


The bread which is distributed in the towns to the workmen and Government employees is also, as far as I could see, not made of pure flour, but contains a considerable amount of various mixtures such as maize, beans, &c.  People not used to this bread can eat it only with the greatest difficulty. 

It is possible to obtain some foodstuffs in the markets, but almost always of a very inferior quality and at a very high price.  These articles are mostly milk products, maize, bread, barley, &c.  The markets never provide pure bread or flour. 

Even in the Torgsin shops - where only foreign money or gold is accepted in payment - one rarely finds flour.  Yet for many people Torgsin is the only means of salvation. 

In Krasnodar there were cases of bandits attacking passers-by.  Teeth containing gold-fillings were broken out of the victim’s mouth. 

The fact that, even with the immense mortality from famine, no attack of any importance is made upon the State apparatus is a proof, on the one hand, of the strength of that apparatus, and, on the other, of the complete helplessness of the population.  

One can traverse the famine-stricken provinces almost without risk, in spite of the growth of banditry, and of numberless homeless tramps, adults and children, who wander far and wide.  Resigned despair and complete apathy characterize the people, rather, than wrath and bitterness. 


During last year’s famine in Siberia many sought salvation by moving into more favoured localities, or into the towns to seek work in the industries.  Now the situation is quite different. The engagement of new workmen for the industries and State farms is carried out by the collective farms and village councils, who make special contracts with members of the collectives seeking outside work.  The village council has the right to issue permits of leave for outside work only on the basis of these contracts. At the railway station tickets are issued only to people who can show the permit of the village. 

Under such conditions the starving peasant is practically a prisoner in his village as he has no horse to travel by, and is not strong enough to walk far.  He has no choice but to remain in his village and await the end. 

The present situation in the Northern Caucasus may be summed up as follows: 

In some villages the population is almost extinct;

In others about half the population have died out.

Finally, there are still villages in which death from famine is not so frequent.

But famine in some degree reigns everywhere in the regions which I have visited.


A distinctive feature of this famine is that the authorities have not acknowledged, and to not now acknowledge, that famine exists.  They even officially deny it.  Accordingly, no assistance, either from the State or from benevolent institutions, is afforded. 

Last spring the State sent seeds to the collectives, but the Administration kept strict observation that the seeds were used only for “State purposes.”  On Sept. 23, 1932, the Soviet Government by special decree forbade the rendering of any assistance by local authorities.  Therefore the assistance rendered by the Government itself by the distribution of seed in the following spring can only be regarded as a confession of the existence of unforseen, and extraordinary privation. 

This year’s famine is, without a doubt, more acute than that of 1921.  During the latter hundreds of thousands of  human beings were saved, thanks to the help of the American Relief Association, while now no foreign help is possible. 

The Soviet Government itself does no-thing.  I was told of many cases of sufferers, swollen from famine, who implored help from the village soviets.  They were told that they should eat the bread which they had go hidden away, and that no famine at all existed.  In fact, the authorities explain the present situation by insisting that there is no lack of grain, that the peasants hide it, and it is only a matter of finding it.  Various posters are exhibited in the villages bearing that explanation. 


There is n doubt that last spring grain was concealed in many cases.  The Government at that time formed special permanent committee of Young Communists, male and female, who, carrying iron rods went prodding the soil in the peasant courtyards, thus revealing large quantities of buried grain. 

These committees still continue to visit the villages in many places, seeking freshly dug spots which  might prove to be hiding places for grain  I was told of one case in which hidden grain was revealed in a courtyard whose owner had died of starvation, together with his entire family, so frightened had they apparently been of being detected in removing the grain from its place of concealment.  Semi-starvation and extreme privation have during the last few years reduced the demands of the population to an extremely low ebb.  So used have they become to scanty diet that lives might be saved at very small expense.  The distribution of one pound of bread per head daily would prevent death from starvation. 

Consequently a million people could be fed though poorly, upon 100,000 tons of grain from the beginning of the year until the end of July - a million saved from death by starvation. The Soviet Government exported 4,500,000 tons of grain from last year’s crop 


It is true that stocks of grain reserved by the Government for military purposes have lately been diminished, as the 6 ,000 tons of seed distributed last year in the Ukraine and the Northern Caucasus were taken from those. stocks.  One might legitimately suppose, however, that the State could still find it possible to provide the few hundred-thousand tons necessary to save the starving. 

But since the Government so resolutely refrains from saving the famished population from death we may assume, firstly, that the Government grossly miscalculates last year’s crop and the amount of gram left in the villages; and secondly, that it feels its position sufficiently strong to allow it to ignore the present calamitous condition of the country.  It may very well be that the extermination of the Cossack population was advantageous and desirable to the Soviet Government. 

Briefly, the edict of the. representatives of the Government to the ruling party is as follows: “The peasants who failed supply the Government with a sufficient quantity of grain must be considered enemies of the State.  There is no lack of grain. It is hidden.” 


As famine is officially denied by the authorities, it follows that there exists organization whatsoever, either for dealing with the bodies of those dead from famine or for succouring those who are awaiting death.  People have become callous and different to the fate of those near to them. 

One meets people with legs swollen from starvation who move with difficulty.  Others have already become-so weak that they lie about in the road waiting for death.  Several days usually lapse before a chance passer-by endeavours to assist them.  One sees bodies not only on the high-roads, but even in the streets of the towns. 

It is usually a long time before the bodies are carried away.  In Ekaterinadar I saw a corpse lying in the street which, according to my local guide, had been there for the last three days.  The truth of his statement was demonstrated by the condition of the corpse.  Grave dangers of epidemics are created m this manner. 

The third article, to be published on Wednesday, shows how famine, by the annihilation of population, may have restored Russia’s food balance if the harvest can be gathered in. THE DAILY TELEGRAPH published the first article on Aug. 25.


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