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Famine in Russia, 1921-1922

"The Russian Famine of 1921-1922 is the worst, both as regards the numbers affected and as regards mortality from starvation and disease, which has occurred in Europe in modern times" - League of Nations report on economic conditions in RussiaLink opens in a new window.

The famine of 1921-1922 was a controversial and politicised subject, and both the numbers of dead and causes of the famine were disputed. The estimated number of famine victims, either through starvation or associated diseases, varies from 1 million to 10 million people, though 5 million dead is the figure most frequently quoted. Severe drought and failed harvests, continuous war since 1914 (and the resulting damage to property, displacement of population, destruction of the transport system and killing of animals), forced collectivisation of farms and requisition of grain and seed from peasants (preventing the sowing of crops) by the Soviet authorities, and an economic blockade of the Soviet Union by the Allies were all contributing factors to the severity of the famine.

The famine led directly to Lenin's introduction of the New Economic Policy (NEP), which re-introduced elements of capitalism and free trade into the Soviet economy - allowing farmers to sell some of their produce privately, rather than solely to the state.