Soviet famine of 1946–47

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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.[1] The situation spanned most of the grain-producing regions of the country: Ukraine, Moldavia and parts of central Russia. The conditions were caused by drought, the effects of which were exacerbated by the devastation caused by the war. The grain harvest in 1946 totaled 39.6 million tons - 2.4 times lower than in 1940. 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 diaspora in North America, which minimized mortality.[2][3]

Economist Michael Ellman claims that the hands of the state could have fed all those who died of starvation.[1] 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.[1][1] Ellman claims that the famine resulted in an estimated 1 to 1.5 million lives in addition to secondary population losses due to reduced fertility.[1] However, Russian historians reject such claims. Professor of History S. Kulchitsky asserts that the famine of 1946-1947 had a death toll in Ukraine that numbered in "the tens of thousands rather than hundreds of thousands, and certainly not in the millions".[3]

Economist Steven Rosefielde claims that the Soviet government bore responsibility for the conditions.[4]

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.[5] During the crisis, the USSR continued to export grain,[1] with the majority of it going to East Germany and Poland to consolidate the new Eastern Bloc.[6]

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.

In Moldova

Between 1946 and 1947, there were over 300,000 recorded deaths linked to starvation (source: Arhiva Națională a RM, Fond.3085, inv. 1, dosar 129). 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%). This and multiple accounts [clarification needed] of survivors[who?] of that period leads to conclusion that soviet policies (confiscation of reserves) were the main cause of the famine in MSSR.[citation needed][dubious ]

See also


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 Michael Ellman, The 1947 Soviet Famine and the Entitlement Approach to Famines Cambridge Journal of Economics 24 (2000): 603-630.
  3. 3.0 3.1
  4. Rosefielde, Steven (2009). Red Holocaust. Routledge. p. 46. ISBN 978-0-415-77757-5. 
  5. Stalin, a biography by Robert Service, page 498
  6. Hanson, P. 2003: The rise and fall of the Soviet economy: An economic history of the USSR from 1945. Pearson Education Limited: London.

General references

  • Zima, V. F. The Famine of 1946-1947 in the USSR: Its Origins and Consequences. Ceredigion, UK: Mellen Press, 1999. (ISBN 0-7734-3184-5)
  • Nicholas Ganson, The Soviet Famine of 1946-47 in Global and Historical Perspective [1]. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2009. (ISBN 0-230-61333-0)