Russia after the War: Hopes, Illusions, and Disappointments, 1945-1957

By Elena Zubkova; Hugh Ragsdale | Go to book overview
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Chapter 4
The Hungry Years: The Famine
of 1946-1947

The food supply crisis reflected a problem that to one degree or another confronted nearly all the combatant countries. In the Soviet Union--in Russia, Moldavia, and Ukraine--people experienced not merely food shortages but genuine disaster, famine. The first signs of the problem appeared in summer 1946. Drought afflicted a number of regions of central Russia, the middle and lower Volga, Ukraine, and Moldavia and threatened to ruin the harvest in those areas. In Siberia, on the other hand, a good harvest of the grain crop was expected, which might have compensated to a certain extent for the losses to drought in European Russia. As the harvest in Siberia and Kazakhstan began, however, drenching rains occurred in the central and northern regions. Climatic conditions and the general wear and tear on the aging farm machinery forced the harvesting of the crop in many of these regions by hand. As a result, the 1946 grain crop of 39.6 million tons was 7.7 million tons smaller than that of 1945 and 2.4 times smaller than that of 1940. 1 The harvest losses, however, were not the principal cause of the problem. "Relatively speaking, the 1945 shortfall," according to V.F. Zima, "fell within acceptable bounds and gave no grounds for extreme measures in the conduct of the government's grain procurement campaign." 2 The authorities themselves contributed to the crisis. They strove to avoid any reduction in the state grain reserve and thus proceeded by traditional methods of the late 1920s; that is, they required supplementary procurements. They assigned surcharges to collective and state farms over and above the conventional grain taxes in kind. The majority of

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