Are we Heading to This Again? Starvation and Cannibalism During Man-Made Famine in 1920s Russia

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.

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Russian communist revolutionary Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov, better known as Lenin, had been in charge of the country since 1917.

Women walk past people dying of starvation during Holodomor, a man-made famine in Soviet Ukraine in 1932 and 1933.

In a chilling disregard for the suffering of his fellow countrymen he instructed food to be seized from the poor.

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

Dead bodies are carried by cart in Samara in this photo by Henri de Weindel in 1922-23

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.

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

Russian academics have previously researched and catalogued examples of cannibalism and corpse eating and in one account described how a woman refused to give over her husband’s dead body because she was using it for meat.

The starving peasants were even seen digging up recently buried corpses to retrieve their flesh, as well as eating grass and animals that were previously considered pets.

This photo from 1921 shows funerals being held for starved children in the streets of Samara

The police took no action as cannabalism was considered a legitimate method of survival.

Eventually aid workers from America and Europe arrived and in 1921 one wrote a stomach churning account of what they’d seen.

Families were killing and devouring fathers, grandfathers and children.

Ghastly rumours about sausages prepared with human corpses though officially contradicted, were common.

In the market, among rough huckstresses swearing at each other, one heard threats to make sausages of a person.

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

Other disturbing images from the famine show children suffering with 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.

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A starving child is pictured by a door frame

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

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.

Children are seen starving and wrapped in blankets in the Hospital of Samara in 1921

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.

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An armed man guards the storage of crop and emergency supply grain for the year 1934 during the great Ukrainian famine.

The American American Relief Administration, who were told they could not help in 1919, were 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.

Will a famine follow the man-made pandemic? Meat, egg, milk and vegetable prices are soaring. 

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