[bas relief by Oleh Lesiuk]
The Daily Telegraph. 25 August 1933.
FAMINE’S RETURN TO
and Depopulation in Wide Areas of the Grain Country
By AN EXPERT OBSERVER
representatives in Moscow have recently been forbidden to go outside the city
without special permission from the Soviet Government. A permit has just
been refused to a correspondent who wished to visit country places in the North
Caucasus and Ukraine.
THE DAILY TELEGRAPH is nevertheless able
to present a vivid account of conditions in the agricultural North Caucasus are.
This is done in a brief series articles of which the first appears below.
These articles consist of detailed
report by an expert agricultural observer who has been in the habit of visiting
these regions from time to time.
The report was written not for
publication, but for the information of the writer’s principals, and has been
put into our hand because it reveals, with detail which could only be gathered
on the spot, conditions which may hitherto only been hinted at.
The report was written in May. The
harvest is now in progress but the distress prevalent in May must have grown
worse in the meantime, and cannot yet have been relieved.
In the Spring of this year I visited the
following districts in the Northern Caucasus; the Kuban Province, from
Kropotkino to Krasnodar; the districts of Stavropol and Armavir; and the Povolye
territories up to Salska Bieloglina – a stretch altogether, of 750 miles, by
The chief problem of North Caucasus
agriculture is the famine which since the late autumn of 1932 has reached
appalling dimensions. This time, in contrast with the preceding year, it
is not only a matter starvation, which then cause a fall in the productivity of
labour and a lowering of morale.
It has reached the point of actual death
from starvation. In whole district the population is rapidly disappearing,
and agricultural activity is at an almost complete standstill.
MASS DEPORTATIONS OF PEOPLE
There are two factors which are
simultaneously causing the diminution in the population of the Northern Caucasus
now so clearly apparent. Firstly, the measures for the deportation and
transplanting of masses of the population, carried out an [sic] a large scale
since last autumn iii connection with the State grain collection, and the fight
against “sabotage” by the kulaks, or “rich” peasants. Secondly,
there is the extinction of the population through famine, now in full swing.
The policy of expulsion and deportation was
put into force principally against the Cosseaks of the Kuban territory.
The Kuban Cossacks, by tradition and mentality, were the most resolute
antagonists of agricultural collectivisation.
During last autumn they exercised passive and also in some areas active, resistance to the-measure. d the Government. So effective was their opposition that the Government recognised in it serious danger, and suppressed it by the most rigorous measures,
The greater part of that particular Cossack
population were forcibly uprooted from their villages and deported to the Uarl
territories. They were thus practically annihilated.
The Cossack population remaining in their
native districts were considerably thinned through famine. Large Cossack
settlements in the Kuban Province are at present almost uninhabited. The last
living remnants will be finally demolished before the end of the year through
famine. Thus, from a political point of view the Cossack danger may already be
considered to have been eradicated.
BRUTAL CAMPAIGN OF GRAIN COLLECTION
have diminished, not only in those villages against which measures of expulsion
and other punitive measures have been applied, but in almost all the villages I
visited during my journey. In the Stavropol Province, for instance, from
which no considerable deportation has taken place, the decrease in the
population ha. reached the greatest proportions.
were rumours that in the town of Stavropol and its surrounding districts cases
of plague have occurred, but I was not able to obtain reliable confirmation of
this from the local inhabitants. But to the widely read stories of
cannibalism, I received complete confirmation of these, with names and details,
in the towns of Krasnodar and Stavropol.
The famine is not so
much the result of last year’s failure of crops as of the brutal campaign of
State grain collection. For that reason, even such localities as the
northern districts of North Caucasia in which the crops were quite satisfactory,
did not escape. The Situation varies very much according to locality.
FAST DWINDLING POPULATIONS
The territory along
the Northern Caucasian Railway, for instance, produces a more favourable
Impression, thanks to the existence of the German concession, Drusak,[sic] in
that neighbourhood. This agricultural concession affords the people of the
surrounding villages some possibilities of occasional small earnings.
localities in the Kuban districts and to the west of Stavropol, the diminution
of the population is especially noticeable in the Eastern district, to the east
of Stavropol as far as Vinodyelnaya.
Famine also is
especially acute in the Southern Steppe districts. But the mountain tribes of
the Caucasian autonomous republics have, so far, escaped the scourge.
One can judge of the
extent of mortality from famine by approximate figures given by the local
people. For instance, in Timishbek the population since the beginning of
last winter has declined from 15,000 to 1,000. In the Ust-Labinskaya
Stanitza it has dropped from 24,000 to 10,000; in Dimitrievka from 6,000 to
2,000; in Tlinskaia from 3,000 to 1,500.
The two first named
were peopled by Cossacks, many of whom were forcibly deported. The two last,
however, consist of Russian villages where the fall in population can be
explained only by famine.
Kaminogradskaya, Lazovskaya, Srednayegorlitska, and others produce the
impression of deserted villages. So far there have not been infectious
illnesses or dangerous epidemics on a large scale in those particular villages.
In larger towns also
a considerable reduction has taken place in the numbers of the population. This
is in spite of more favourable conditions, in that a considerable part of the
town populations have the right to food tickets. I was told that in Krasnodar
about 40,000 out of the total population of 230,000 have died off. In
Stavropol 50,000 out of the population of 140,000 have succumbed, and the town
produces a lifeless impression.
The rate of increase
in population given in official statistics no longer holds good. Even, last year
there is little doubt that the increase of 3,500,00 shown in the Soviet returns
was erroneous. This year the population of the Soviet Republics is
diminishing instead of increasing.
In the villages I
visited the number of deaths varied between twenty and thirty a day. The
people still alive are in the last stages of enfeeblement through
semi-starvation, and also through eating such unnatural food as grass, roots,
charred bones, dead horses. &c.
HOUSES ABANDONED FOR EVER
The majority will
doubtless die from malaria with the oncoming of the warm weather, this disorder
having prevailed to an unprecedented extent since last autumn. Typhus
,which on now appears sporadically, will probably become epidemic. It is
feared that with the new crop a fresh wave of mortality will devastate the
country, when the famished people will, for the first time, eat their full of
the new bread and fresh vegetables.
stricken by famine give an impression of utter hopelessness. The abandoned
homes are falling to ruin.
When I visited
Siberia last year I saw deserted dwellings most carefully boarded up, their
abandonment being evidently only temporary. But here, in the North
Caucasus, evidently the houses are abandoned forever, and no steps are being
taken for their preservation. It is noticeable that even in those
dwellings which are not yet abandoned the kitchen garden is are for the most
part unworked. In some villages it is difficult to find a single person
from whom to ask direction on the road. Other villages are only partially
deserted, and still show some signs of life.
PEASANT OWNER. LEFT TO THEIR FATE
That is evidently
explained by the fact that peasants attached to the collective farms are in
better condition, because they receive me help from the State. It is they
who survive in the half-emptied villages, which the helpless individual
peasant-owner a are left to their own fate.
A dog or cat is rarely met with, for most of them have been eaten. One may occasionally see a pig, sheep or fowl. The only cattle still surviving are cows belonging to the collective farms. Thanks to the healthy growth of grass this year, most of them are in good condition.
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