[bas relief by Oleh Lesiuk]
The Daily Telegraph. Monday 28 August 1933.
RUSSIA’S STARVING PEASANTS
State Does Nothing Save Accuse Them of Hiding Grain
By AN EXPERT OBSERVER
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
Krasnodar there were cases of bandits attacking passers-by. Teeth
containing gold-fillings were broken out of the victim’s mouth.
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
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.
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.
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.
present situation in the Northern Caucasus may be summed up as follows:
some villages the population is almost extinct;
others about half the population have died out.
there are still villages in which death from famine is not so frequent.
famine in some degree reigns everywhere in the regions which I have visited.
DENIALS OF FAMINE
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.
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
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.
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.
EXPORT OF GRAIN
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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.”
CARELESS FOR THE
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.
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.
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
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
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