American Food Aid May Have Prevented “the Collapse of the Soviet State”

(p. A15) Between 1921 and 1923, the United States, acting through Herbert Hoover’s American Relief Administration, supplied food and other aid to more than 10 million people caught up in the famine—created by war, revolution and the Bolshevik assault on the peasantry—then raging in the former Russian empire. The ARA operated, Mr. Smith tells us, “across a million square miles of territory in what was the largest humanitarian operation in history.”

Suspicious of, and embarrassed by, assistance from such a politically inconvenient source, the Kremlin accepted the ARA’s help only grudgingly and, once the crisis was over, “began to erase the memory of American charity,” Mr. Smith writes.

. . .

Mr. Smith argues that the ARA may “quite possibly” have prevented “the collapse of the Soviet state.” Did the decades of communist atrocity that followed cast a shadow over what was a very grand American gesture?

. . .

The ARA departed after the worst was past, but famine returned to the U.S.S.R. less than a decade later, a consequence of collectivization transformed, in Ukraine, to genocide. Millions died, but there were no calls for assistance from the Kremlin—only denials.

For the full story, see:

Andrew Stuttaford. “Feeding The Enemy.” The Wall Street Journal (Tuesday, December 17, 2019): A15.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date Dec. 16, 2019, and has the title “BOOKSHELF; ‘The Russian Job’ Review: Feeding the Enemy.”)

The book under review, is:

Smith, Douglas. The Russian Job: The Forgotten Story of How America Saved the Soviet Union from Ruin. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2019.

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