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100 Years ago....

Help us, pleads Lenin, as famine worsens

August 4, 1921

Russia is in the grip of a terrible famine and its Bolshevik leaders are appealing to the world community for help. Some 18 million are said to be starving, typhus and cholera are rampant, and cannibalism has been reported.

The worst-hit area is the huge Volga region to the east of Moscow. Reports say peasants are mixing clay with their grain and have been driven to eating twigs. They have slaughtered their starving cattle and are now fleeing the area in huge numbers, making for towns, to find food.

The immediate cause of the famine is a drought which wiped out the harvest, but the area, as well as the whole of Russia, is devastated by the effects of the revolution and the civil war.

Following the mutiny of Soviet sailors at the Kronstadt naval base, Vladimir I Lenin introduced the New Economic Policy, a strategic retreat from Marxism, in order to stay in power. But restoring private trade and ending the arbitrary seizure of food from the peasants has come too late to deal with the famine.

Lenin has now said Russia needs outside relief if it is to survive. Britain, America and other countries are responding.

Article from "Chronicle of the 20th Century" ISBN 1 872031 80 3

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