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Fridtjof Nansen's mission for rescue starving the Volga region


2011 & 03



In article F. Nansen's role in assistance to the starving population of the Volga region at the beginning of the 20th of HHv is analyzed. On the basis of archival sources the authors disclose scales of this help and also show personal efforts of Nansen on rescue of starving.

The article examines the role of F. Nansen in the help to the starving population of the Volga region at the beginning of 1920s. On the basis of archival sources the authors reveal the extent of this assistance, as well as the personal effort of Nansen in rescuing the starving people.

F. Nansen, hunger, humanitarian aid, charity, agriculture; F. Nansen, hunger, humanitarian aid, philanthropy, agriculture.

This year 90 years to one of the most terrible events of national history — to hunger of the beginning of the twentieth years are executed. Lately we became better to represent scales of this tragedy, at the same time for the present is not done justice to many people selflessly fighting against Famine-Genocide consequences. Among them there is an outstanding son of the Norwegian people, the scientist, the traveler, the researcher of the Arctic, the public figure and the person Mira — Fridtjof Nansen. In 1921 — 1922 F. Nansen took active part in rescue of the starving citizens of Russia.

Those years the hunger covered the huge territory with the population more than 40 million people, including. Central and Lower Volga area, South Ural, Crimea, Zaporozhye region, etc. At first the Soviet government did not advertize this fact, but by 1921 it became clear that it is impossible to cope by own efforts. However even then to the international community not the top officials of the state, but the writer Maxim Gorky asked for the help. In July, 1921 it distributed telegrams to a number of public figures of Europe then on August 2 already V.I. Lenin addressed the international proletariat with a call for help, and on August 6 the Soviet government officially informed the world on the crop failure which comprehended the country.

Several charity organizations responded to an appeal. Among them played the leading role American the MACAW (The American administration of the help — American Relief Administration) which was headed by the minister of trade and future U.S. President Herbert Hoover.

In comparison with figures of MACAW Fridtjof Nansen was an absolute beginner in humanitarian assistance. In August, 1921 in Geneva the conference of world public organizations on which representatives of 13 states and 48 offices of the Red Cross gathered took place. She approved Nansen as the High Commissioner of the organization for assistance starving. As the soviet leadership did not recognize the League of Nations, Nansen represented the European governments within the newly established structure which received the name of the International committee of the help to starving. The main office of this organization was in Geneva, branches — in Berlin and Moscow, the additional branch in Kharkiv opened a bit later.

On August 27 in Moscow the people's commissar on foreign affairs G.V. Chicherin on behalf of the Soviet government signed the contract under which powers were conferred to F. Nansen with the Norwegian to petition before the European governments for granting

Tatyana Yurevna BONDARENKO is the leading expert of State Archive of the Saratov Region гопеу§кшу @

NIKOLAEVA Natalia Ilyinichna — to. and. N, associate professor; associate professor of hotel travel business and service of the Saratov state social and economic university tyayeua_2004 @

Soviet republic of the credit of 10 million pounds sterling: 5 million for rendering the immediate help, and 5 more — for restoration of affected areas. However upon return to Geneva the scientist was waited by unpleasant news: delegates of the European governments expressed opinion that the soviet leadership can abuse the received help and is not present a guarantee that it will be directed starving. Therefore was decided to refuse the credit.

On September 30, 1921 from a tribune of the League of Nations F. Nansen addressed the European powers again, urging them to respond to the Russian tragedy. In the performance he noted that to help the Russian people — does not mean to help communists and it is impossible to doom to death millions of people because of hostility to the Soviet power. "I think that we will not strengthen the Soviet government if we show to the Russian people that there are still human hearts in Europe. But, we will assume even that it we will strengthen the Soviet government. Whether there will be among our meeting here at least one person who will dare to tell that he is rather ready to allow death of 20 million people from starvation, than to help the Soviet government?" 1 Following the results of the Bruxelles conference the help was provided, but on working conditions in the Soviet republic of the special commission and recognition by Bolsheviks of debts of tsarist Russia.

Fall of 1921 F. Nansen arrived to Russia on purpose personally again to make sure, horrors of hunger are how big. During the trip around the Areas of Volga region covered by disaster he visited on November 28 the Saratov province. From Russia Nansen brought photos in which the live skeletons fitted by skin and mountains of corpses were imprinted. At the beginning of 1922 with this "evident propaganda" and calls for help of Russia he made a lecture trip around the countries of Europe and the USA, trying to win round not only heads of various countries, but also ordinary citizens.

The Nansenovsky mission organized by it included about 32 charity organizations ready to help. From individuals and the organizations

1 L. Nansen-Heyer. The book about the father. — L., 1973, page 353.

parcels with gifts and large sums of money were flown down. Among the most active participants there were the English International Union of the Help to Children (IUHC), Society of friends (Quakers), the International Red Cross and its national offices, the organization of the Pope, the Baptist and Mennonite religious organizations, the European Union of students, etc. To summer of 1922 the Nansenovsky organization fed 1.5 million children and vzroslykh2.

In the Saratov province of MACAW worked at the territory of Zavolzhye — in Dergachevsky, Novouzensky, Pokrovsk Counties, and Nansen's organization — in the Volsk, Kamyshin Counties and Nemkommuna. Other territories were served in common. In each county there was a warehouse distributing products on volosts where then they were distributed already local volispolkoma. Work with the foreign organizations of the help starving in the Saratov province was headed by S.A. Birman.

MSPD was the main organization working with Nansen. Work of MSPD in the province was headed by L. Webster, G. Cook was his first deputy. Since March, 1922 the British began to serve adult population. At the end of October the products began to go to counties of the province. From MSPD 210 English mobile cuisines, on 100 — 200 people everyone, and several cars arrived. Stationary dining rooms were organized at the plants, orphanages, schools, hospitals — in any rooms, suitable for that. In two months 106 dining rooms in Saratov and 20 in the Saratov County, the feeding 40 thousand children were open. In Volsk, Kamyshin, Khvalynsk counties, 256 dining rooms fed Nemkommune in total about 57 thousand persons. The ration of such dining room made half of liter of soup and % of pound (113 grams) of white loaf a day and as much washed in mesyats3. Work was conducted by the principle: 20 people of personnel on 1,000 children.

The main base of distribution of cargoes of MSPD was in Rtishchevo, the help and from other organizations arrived there

2 E.M. Henkin. Essays of history of fight of the Soviet state against hunger. — Krasnoyarsk, 1988, page 138.
3 State Archive of the Saratov Region (SASR), t. R-790, op. 1, 40, l. 48-48 (about).
2011 & 03

Nansen's missions. The amount of deliveries constantly increased. So, if for March, 1922 from Nansen's mission Saratov received 275,600 poods of food, then in May the figure grew to 651,809 poods. By August

at the expense of Nansen's organization only in the Saratov district 8,000 children and 20,000 adults ate
1922. For October, 1921 — April, 1922 on warehouses only from Nansen's mission, apart from other organizations cooperating with it about 860,000 poods prodovolstviya1 arrived. To starving it was helped by means of distribution among the population of address parcels with food. Nansenovsky parcels were slightly less American, but the structure of products resembled: flour, conserved meat, raisin, rice, sardines, beans, sugar, lemon juice, cocoa, salt, cod-liver oil.

Though the majority of the help starving Russia fell to the share of MACAW (the contribution of the Nansenovsky mission made 5 — 7% of American), very few people from foreigners managed to win such love of the Soviet government as to F. Nansen. In the Soviet periodicals of those years it appears as the noble fighter against the European capitalism, his appeals are published in the main newspapers of the country — Izvestia and the Pravda.

In 1922 the government of RSFSR hasty announced a victory over hunger. Though even official reports of the Saratov provincial commission of the help to starving say that by January, 1923 in the province 30% of country people starved on average. Still the whole year, till June 20

1923 when the contracts with the foreign organizations of the help starving were finally terminated, Nansen continued "to feed up" the population of the most affected areas. Till summer of 1923 its mission distributed 105.6 million single rations.

F. Nansen understood that single deliveries of food will not save the destroyed economy of Russia. The Soviet agricultural-production cannot support the country therefore the probability of repetition of hunger is high. It set a goal: to help the Russian peasant to restore economy and along with it to acquaint him with novelties of agrarian production. So there was Nansen's project on

to creation in Russia several indicative agricultural stations.

The new economic policy gave to foreigners the chance to rent the earth or the enterprises in the territory of the Soviet state. In January, 1923 in Moscow Nansen's negotiations with the Soviet government on further forms of assistance to the starving areas and economic recovery of Russia took place. Its project of recovery of agriculture presented to Narkomat of agriculture provided crediting of peasants delivery of seeds, the cattle, agricultural tools, import in Russia of farm vehicles. The scientist allocated for it from the Nobel Prize of 2 million rubles got by him Nansen suggested to open several indicative farms based on rational conducting production and application of foreign methods in Russia. The local community had to work in them, to a position of managing directors it was planned to invite foreign agronomists, and in the help to involve the Russian experts to them.

The five-year contract between the National commissariat of agriculture and Nansen's mission was approved on June 5, 1923. The government of RSFSR gratuitously provided to the foreigner grounds in the Kryvyi Rih district of Ukraine both in the Saratov province and in the form of a loan — quantity of seeds, necessary for the first year. Besides it provided a 50 percent discount for transportation across the territory of Russia of foreign agricultural machinery and stock. Other sum was paid by the government by crediting of a mission for a period of up to the first harvest from which the loan has to be repaid. In turn, Nansen undertook to invest not less than 10 thousand pounds sterling in each economy.

Under Nansen's concession in the Saratov province state farm No. 33 — a part of the former manor of M.N. Rayevsky in the village of Rostashi of the Balashov County, in 10 versts from the railway station Arkadak was taken away. G.K. Sedergren became the chief of the first indicative station of Nansen, and his assistants — the agronomist P.S. Stepanov and the cattle breeder with the Swedish education A.V. of Yutterberg2.

1 GASO, t. R-790, op. 1, 40, 42.
2 GASO, t. R-313, op. 8, 52, l. 47.

Summer of 1924 concession received 983 tithes of the earth. At the end of June, 1924 the station was allocated from stocks of State fund 1,196 more desyatin1. From abroad 47 tractors of different systems were brought, 22 of which 4 cars for each station came to Rostashi, and. And this despite the fact that for March, 1924 in the Saratov province there were only 24 tractors, from them on the run — only two. It was supposed to organize sale of tractors on credit and also to import the English breed of pigs which part to distribute among local community. On the means obtained from sale of agricultural machinery it was planned to buy the missing breeding cattle, various agricultural tools, to carry out electrification of the station and the closest population. Nansen's concession was guided by "the principle of the maximum application of the Russian state".

The economic plan of the station had to be formed strictly according to the instruction of People's Commissariat for Agriculture, and control of its work was exercised by constant inspections. Such special attention to foreign enterprise from local authorities slowed down its development. Work of the station returned to normal extremely slowly. The managing director Sedergren considered the reasons of it the bad climatic conditions complicated by disorganization of agrarian workers who "try to organize in any cases meetings", high cost of forages, low labor productivity the country horses and also fixed prices of bread starved by "communistic experiments". He noted that the envy of local community to technology of Nansenovsky concession was used by communists to incite peasants against foreigners.

In the center and in the provinces often acted in breach of contract. The preliminary draft agreement of Nansen with the Soviet government was changed that led to increase in expenses of the concessionaire. Contrary to point on gratuitous granting land grounds, the Saratov authorities tried to raise the rent from concession. The railroad refused the promised 50 percent discount, blocking transportation of the equipment to the destination. The station sustained losses, money was not enough even for salary.

1 GASO, t. R-521, op. 4, 146, l. 5.

In August, 1925 Rostasha one more commission visited. It revealed unsatisfactory norms of food, labor protection. Results of inspection of the 1st indicative station the inspector reported "the special report" in Narkomat of work. Gubispolk once again suggested the center "to transfer control of state farm in more skilled hands, with introduction to management of the representative of local government". But if to remove Sedergren without F. Nansen's approval was not in their competence, then the agronomist Stepanov was discharged of a position as "conducting suspicious line of conduct" 2.

By 1927 the means were completely exhausted for the maintenance of Rosta-shevsky economy, the country was on the threshold of collectivization. On May 14, 1927 a gubispolok liquidates the station with an explanation that funds deposited by Nansen thanks to irrational housekeeping everything are lived, and the station of the appointment as indicative agricultural enterprise not vypolnila3. The economy of the station together with a debt almost in 48.5 thousand rubles was taken by the Saratov provincial agricultural trust.

Despite a bad experience on creation of the model agricultural station, Nansen's program demonstrated that he was disturbed by not only a problem of rescue of people from starvation, but also their future. In 2001 in Moscow in Bolshoy Levshinsky Lane, at the building of the Russian Red Cross, the monument to the great Norwegian polar explorer and public figure Fridtjof Nansen was established. The monument was donated to the capital by public organizations "Society of Friends of Norway" and "Union of Armenians of Russia".

On the Saratov earth of a monument to F. Nansen is not present though this idea was discussed not so long ago by city officials, but and it was lost in the long corridors of power. And maybe, our conscience has to wake our souls and remind of the person who saved from starvation strangers from the far Volga region, without demanding anything in exchange? The monument is not necessary to Nansen, it is necessary to us if we are still capable to estimate mercy, self-sacrifice and unselfishness.

2 GASO, t. R-313 op. 8, 44, l. 23.
3 GASO, t. R-521, op. 3, 114, l. 30.
Van Den Pol
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