American Famine Relief to Soviet Russia

Given the state of US-Russia relations over the last decade, it’s hard to recall, even imagine, a time when the two countries actually cooperated.

One of those moments was in 1921. The new Soviet government faced one of the worst famines in history. And aid came from an unlikely place headed by an even more unlikely figure: the American Relief Administration, headed by Herbert Hoover. For two years, the ARA fed more than ten million men, women, and children across Soviet Russia. It was the largest humanitarian operation in history. And it prevented the loss of countless lives, mass social unrest, and, arguably, the collapse of the young communist state.

So what is the story of this mostly forgotten moment in US-Russia relations? Here’s Douglas Smith to talk about the Russian job.


Douglas Smith is an award-winning historian and translator and the author of numerous books, including Rasputin: Faith, Power, and the Twilight of the Romanovs and Former People: The Final Days of the Russian Aristocracy. His most recent book is The Russian Job: The Forgotten Story of How America Saved the Soviet Union from Ruin published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux.


Dead Kennedys, “Kill the Poor,” Fresh Fruit for Rotting Vegetables, 1980.