Soviet famine of 1946–47

The last major famine to hit the USSR began in July 1946, reached its peak in February–August 1947 and then quickly diminished in intensity, although there were still some famine deaths in 1948. The situation spanned most of the grain-producing regions of the country: Ukraine, Moldova and parts of central Russia. The conditions were caused by drought, the effects of which were exacerbated by the devastation caused by World War II. The grain harvest in 1946 totaled 39.6 million tons - barely 40% of 1940's yield. With the war, there was a significant decrease in the number of able-bodied men in the rural population, retreating to 1931 levels. There was a shortage of agricultural machinery and horses. The Soviet government with its grain reserves provided relief to rural areas and appealed to the United Nations for relief. Assistance also came from the Ukrainian (mainly Ruthenian diaspora) and Russians from east Ukraine in North America, which minimized mortality.

Economist Michael Ellman claims that the hands of the state could have fed all those who died of starvation. He argues that had the policies of the Soviet regime been different, there might have been no famine at all or a much smaller one. Ellman claims that the famine resulted in an estimated 1 to 1.5 million lives lost in addition to secondary population losses due to reduced fertility.

Economist Steven Rosefielde claims that the Soviet government bore responsibility for the conditions.

Robert Service argues that Stalin thought in the first instance that any reports of rural hardship were the result of peasants tricking urban authorities into indulging them. During the crisis, the USSR continued to export grain, with the majority of it going to the Soviet zone of occupied Germany, Poland, Hungary, and Czechoslovakia to consolidate the new Eastern Bloc.

Partly as a result of this famine, unlike many countries in Europe and North America, the Soviet Union did not experience a post-war baby boom. Prompted by the drought and famine of 1946-47, the so-called "Great Plan for the Transformation of Nature" was put forth which consisted in a number of ambitious projects in land improvement.

Between 1946 and 1947, there were a minimum of 115,000 to over 300,000 recorded deaths linked to starvation, especially in Transnistria. At the same time according to "Moldova Socialistă" newsletter from 28 January 1947, the Moldavian SSR surpassed planned productions of butter (by 33.2%), sunflower oil (by 39.5%), meat products (by 32.5%), canned food (by 101.9%). 34 cases of cannibalism where discovered by authorities during the 1946-1947, but many of them remained undiscovered. Even Khrushchev, in his 1970 memoir "Khrushchev Remembers," gives first and second-hand accounts of cannibalism among starving Ruthenians/Ukrainians.

This page was last edited on 26 May 2018, at 10:21 (UTC).
Reference: under CC BY-SA license.

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