Harrowing Pictures Show Starving Russians During The 1920s Famine

Standing solemnly in their thick winter coats behind a table laden with children’s body parts, this is the grave photo of a couple that shows how starving people turned to cannibalism to survive during a man-made famine in 1920s Russia. 

More than five million people died during the catastrophe, which began in 1921 and lasted through 1922.

This photo taken in October 1921 shows starving children at Samara Camp during the famine in Russia

Russian communist revolutionary Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov, better known as Lenin, had been in charge of the country since 1917. In a chilling disregard for the suffering of his fellow countrymen, he instructed food to be seized from the poor.

A couple with their starving children during a famine in the U.S.S.R., circa 1922

Lenin’s Bolsheviks party believed peasants were actively trying to undermine the war effort and taking their food away reduced their strength. 

The famine was able to take root with ease due to the economic problems caused by World War I, five years of civil war, and a drought in 1921 which led to 30 million Russians becoming malnourished.

As Lenin declared ‘let the peasants starve’, the result was to force them to resort to trading human flesh on the black market.

This photo taken in 1921 shows a family stricken by famine in the Volga region, Russia, during the Russian Civil War

Other disturbing images from the famine show children suffering from severe malnutrition, their stomachs bloated, and almost every bone in their body visible.

One of the worst-hit places was the city of Samara, situated in the southeastern part of European Russia at the confluence of the Volga and Samara Rivers.

Aid from outside Russia was initially rejected by Lenin because he saw it as other countries interfering. 

In this picture taken in October 1921, famine-stricken refugee children are seen in Russia during the Russian Civil War

Polar explorer Fridtjof Nansen came to the city in 1921 and was horrified by what he saw – almost the entire city was dying from hunger.

He raised 40 billion Swiss francs and established up to 900 places where people could get food.

Lenin was eventually convinced to let international aid agencies in and Nansen was awarded a Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts.

A canteen for starving people in the town of Pokrovsk, near Saratov, in the Soviet union, in 1923

The American American Relief Administration, who were told they could not help in 1919, was granted access to the sick and starving in 1921 and provided great relief along with European aid agencies such as Save The Children.

Lenin died shortly after the famine, in 1924, and was replaced by Joseph Stalin who became the leader of the Soviet Union.

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