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  • THE SOVIET FAMINE 1932-33:



    OF 1932


    Edited by Tony Kuz

    Canadian Institute of Ukrainian Studies University of Alberta

    Edmonton 1989

  • Canadian Institute of Ukrainian Studies University of Alberta

    Occasional Research Reports

    The Institute publishes research reports periodically. Copies may be ordered from the Canadian Institute of Ukrainian Studies, 352 Athabasca Hall, University of Alberta.

    The name of the publication series and the substantive material in each issue (unless otherwise noted) are copyrighted by the Canadian Institute of Ukrainian Studies.


  • THE SOVIET FAMINE 1932-33:



    OF 1932

    BY ANDREW CAIRNS Edited by Tony Kuz

    Research Report No. 35 - 1989

    Canadian Institute of Ukrainian Studies University of Alberta

    Edmonton, Alberta


    Crown-copyright material in the Public Record Office (London, England) is reproduced by

    permission of the Controller of Her Majesty’s Stationery Office. The originals of the following titles

    are located in the Public Record Office, Kew, Richmond, Surrey, TW9 4DV.

    Description of a Tour in Western Siberia by Andrew Cairns, FO 371/16329, pp, 9-76;

    Description of a Tour in Ukraine, Crimea, and N. Caucasus by Andrew Cairns, FO 371/16329, pp,

    195-271; and

    Description of a Tour in The Volga Region by Andrew Cairns, FO 371/16329, pp, 169-193.


    The editor wishes to thank Andrew Cairns, nephew of Dr. Andrew Cairns for bringing to my

    attention the existence of the reports; the Research Committee, University of Winnipeg, for funding

    the research making possible the work at the PRO; and Mrs. Mandy Banton, Search Department,

    Public Record Office for establishing the existence of the reports and directing my research at the



    Dr. Tony J. Kuz is currently professor of geography at the University of Winnipeg, Manitoba,

    Canada. He has edited a book on Winnipeg, published numerous articles in international journals,

    and written many reports for private and government agencies.



    I Dr. Andrew Cairns v

    II Introduction vii

    III Description of a Tour in Western Siberia 1

    IV Description of a Tour in Ukraine, Crimea and N. Caucasus 47

    V Description of a Tour in the Volga Region 103

    VI Selected Bibliography 123



    Born in Scotland, Dr. Cairns was raised at Islay, Alberta, Canada and educated at the Vermilion

    School of Agriculture and the University of Alberta where he took a Bachelor of Science Degree and

    a gold medal in agriculture in 1923. He took his Master of Arts degree at the University of

    Minnesota and then joined the Alberta Wheat Pool.

    He went to Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada in 1927 as director of statistics and research for

    Canadian Wheat Pools and on October 1, 1931 became director of the grain department of the

    Empire Marketing Board in London, England.

    In 1934, he became permanent secretary of the World Wheat Advisory Commission in London

    and In 1941-42 was secretary of the Washington Wheat Conference. From 1942 to 1949 he served

    as secretary of the International Wheat Council.

    After World War II he became director of food for UNRRA, an official of the United Nations Food

    and Agriculture Organization, and secretary-general of the International Federation of Agricultural


    While touring India for the American Soy Beans Export Association to encourage soy bean oil

    sales. Dr. Cairns was killed in an airliner crash near India’s New Delhi airport on Thursday, May 15,


    Dr. Cairns’s primary responsibility to the Empire Marketing Board in 1931 was to set up a market

    intelligence bureau and develop an agricultural economic programme which involved the collection

    and distribution of statistical information concerning agriculture throughout the British Empire. The

    outstanding need at the time was fuller and more up-to-date information about the Soviet wheat

    situation. Cairns was ideally suited for the job because in 1930 he had made a five month study of

    agricultural conditions in Europe on behalf of the Canadian Wheat Pools visiting seventeen countries

    and spending considerable time in the Soviet Union.

    In 1932 Dr. Cairns spent over four months travelling and studying agriculture in the Soviet

    Union. From May 10 to June 5 he covered Western Siberia as far east as Novosibirsk, from June

    15 to July 30 he toured Ukraine, Crimea and Northern Caucasus, and from August 12 to August 22

    he sun/eyed the Volga region travelling to Moscow, Voronezh, Volgograd, Saratov, and then back to

    Moscow. Dr. Cairns’s reports focus on the social, economic and political situation in the Soviet

    Union in the spring and summer of 1932 and describe in detail the plight of the people caught In the

    middle of the emerging famine. The reports are eyewitness accounts of conditions that led to a

    famine described as one of the worst in recorded history.

  • VI

    Cairns’s work was highly thought of in official circles, and publication of the final report was

    supported. An official at the British Embassy in Moscow stated, "... it is probably the most

    accurate statistical survey of soviet agriculture in existence . . .” PRO (CO 758/95/1). Another official

    commented, "This report by Mr. Cairns is the most vivid picture of life in the country side of

    Kazakstan, the mid-Volga region, and Western Siberia that we haye yet seen." The reports were

    also given wide official circulation. The report on Western Siberia was circulated to the Ministry of

    Agriculture, the Board of Trade, the Department of Overseas Trade, Export Credits, the Dominions

    Office and the Treasury. It was also suggested that it should be made available at the Ottawa

    Economic Conference.

  • Introduction

    The Soviet famine of 1932-1933 is an event in human history which is still little understood. While

    there is a consensus among Western scholars that such an event took place, the causes,

    geographical extent, and severity in terms of excess mortality are today still being extensively

    debated. One reason for the debate stems from the lack of hard demographic and economic

    evidence that would conclusively define the event, particularly from the Soviet Union before 1987.

    Any information about the famine that brings us closer to the truth becomes an invaluable source.

    The Cairns’ reports on Soviet agriculture to the Empire Marketing Board in London, England in 1932

    constitutes such a source. The Cairns’ reports meticulously record information on conditions in

    Western Siberia, Ukraine, Northern Caucasus, Crimea and the Volga region In the spring and

    summer of 1932. While these reports are descriptions of the conditions in the pre-famine period,

    they describe explicitly the pathetic living conditions of the peasant and urban worker alike. During

    his travels, Cairns witnessed extensive dislocation of the population, many severe cases of

    malnutrition, peasant discontent with collectivization and living conditions and gross mismanagement

    of the rural economy.

    To fully appreciate the content and significance of the Cairns’ reports, they must be placed within

    an historical context. The task is to broadly outline what took place in the Soviet countryside over

    fifty years ago. To accomplish this, the following topics are addressed: collectivization of Soviet

    agriculture; Soviet agriculture during the First Five-Year Plan 1928-1932, and the famine of

    1932-1933. Corroborative evidence of famine conditions are then provided by the Cairns reports.

    Conditions ieading to Coliectivization

    The First Five-Year Plan (1928-32) had as its primary objective the rapid socialization of all economic

    enterprises. Industrialization between 1921 and 1927 proceeded at a very rapid pace and achieved

    pre-World War I levels as many plants that had been shut down during the war came back into

    production. However, there was concern that a marked slowdown in output would occur as old

    factories reached capacity and increased output would only be achieved by new plants. The Soviets

    coined the phrase "the extinguishing curve" to describe this condition, and they were determined that

  • viii Introduction

    this condition was not to become a reality.

    The Party found itself on the horns of a dilemma. Its power base was the urban proletariat, a

    small minority, surrounded by a sea of individual peasants all of whom were small producers largely

    of the self-sufficient type. The distrust of the peasant is clearly indicated by statements made by

    both Lenin and Stalin.

    The small enterprise creates capitalism and the bourgeoisie permanently, dally, hourly,

    unescapably, and on a mass scale. (Lenin)'

    The Soviet power cannot long be based on two contrasting foundations - on large-scale sociali

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