Deaths From Diseases Due to Malnutrition High, Yet the
Soviet is Entrenched
LARGER CITIES HAVE FOOD
Ukraine, North Caucasus and Lower Volga Regions
Suffer From Shortages
KREMLIN'S 'DOOM' DENIED
Russian and Foreign Observers In Country See No Ground
for Predications of Disaster
By WALTER DURANTY
Special Cable to THE NEW YORK TIMES
MOSCOW, March 30---In the middle of the diplomatic duel
between Great Britain and the Soviet Union over the accused
British engineers there appears from a British source a big scare
story in the American press about famine in the Soviet Union, with
"thousands already dead and millions menaced by death and
Its author is Gareth Jones, who is a former secretary to David
Lloyd George and who recently spent three weeks in the Soviet
Union and reached the conclusion that the country was "on the verge
of a terrific smash," as he told the writer.
Mr. Jones is a man of a keen and active mind, and he has taken
the trouble to learn Russian, which he speaks with considerable
fluency, but the writer thought Mr. Jones's judgment was somewhat
hasty and asked him on what it was based. It appeared that he had
made a forty-mile walk through villages in the neighborhood of
Kharkov and had found conditions sad.
I suggested that that was a rather inadequate cross-section of a
big country but nothing could shake his conviction of impending
Predictions of Doom Frequent
The number of times foreigners, especially Britons, have shaken
rueful heads as they composed the Soviet Union's epitaph can
scarcely be computed, and in point of fact it has done incalculable
harm since the day when William C. Bullitt's able and honest account
of the situation was shelved and negatived during the Versailles
Peace Conference by reports that Admiral Kolchak, White Russian
leader, had taken Kazan---which he never did---and that the Soviet
power was "one the verge of an abyss."
Admiral Kolchak faded. Then General Denikin took Orel and
the Soviet Government was on the verge of an abyss again, and
General Yudenich "took" Petrograd. But where are Generals
Denikin and Yudenich now?
A couple of years ago another British "eyewitness" reported a
mutiny in the Moscow garrison and "rows of corpses neatly piled in
Theatre Square," and only this week a British news agency revealed
a revolt of the Soviet Fifty-fifth Regiment at Duria, on the Manchurian
border. All bunk, of course.
This is not to mention a more regrettable incident of three years
ago when an American correspondent discovered half of Ukraine
flaming with rebellion and "proved" it by authentic documents eagerly
proffered by Rumanians, which documents on examination appeared
to relate to events of eight or ten years earlier.
Saw No One Dying
But to return to Mr. Jones. He told me there was virtually no
bread in the villages he had visited and that the adults were haggard,
guant and discouraged, but that he had seen no dead or dying animals
or human beings.
I believed him because I knew it to be correct not only of some
parts of the Ukraine but of sections of the North Caucasus and lower
Volga regions and, for that matter, Kazakstan, where the attempt to
change the stock-raising nomads of the type and the period of
Abraham and Isaac into 1933 collective grain farmers has produced
the most deplorable results.
It is all too true that the novelty and mismanagement of collective
farming, plus the quite efficient conspiracy of Feodor M. Konar and
his associates in agricultural commissariats, have made a mess of
Soviet food production. (Konar was executed for sabotage.)
But---to put it brutally---you can't make an omelette without
breaking eggs, and the Bolshevist leaders are just as indifferent to the
casualties that may be involved in their drive toward socializaton
as any General during the World War who ordered a costly attack
in order to show his superiors that he and his division possessed the
proper soldierly spirit. In fact, the Bolsheviki are more indifferent
because they are animated by fanatical conviction.
Since I talked to Mr. Jones I have made exhaustive inquiries
about this alleged famine situation. I have inquired in Soviet
commissariats and in foreign embassies with their network of
consuls, and I have tabulated information from Britons working
as specialists and from my personal connections, Russian and
Disease Mortality Is High
All of this seems to me to be more trustworthy information
than I could get by a brief trip through any one area. The Soviet
Union is too big to permit a hasty study, and it is the foreign
correspondent's job to present a whole picture, not a part of it.
And here are the facts:
- There is a serious shortage food shortage throughout the
country, with occasional cases of well-managed State or
collective farms. The big cities and the army are adequately
supplied with food. There is no actual starvation or deaths
from starvation, but there is widespread mortality from
diseases due to malnutrition.
In short, conditions are definitely bad in certain sections---
the Ukraine, North Caucasus and Lower Volga. The rest of
the country is on short rations but nothing worse. These
conditions are bad, but there is no famine.
The critical months in this country are February and March,
after which a supply of eggs, milk and vegetables comes to
supplement the shortage of bread---if, as now, there is a
shortage of bread. In every Russian village food conditions
will improve henceforth, but that will not answer one really
vital question---What about the coming grain crop?
Upon that depends not the future of the Soviet power, which
cannot and will not be smashed, but the future policy of the
Kremlin. If through climatic conditions, as in 1921, the crop fails,
then, indeed, Russia will be menaced by famine. If not, the
present difficulties will be speedily forgotten.
RUSSIANS HUNGRY, BUT NOT STARVING
By Walter Duranty, The New York Times, March 31,
1933, Page 13