Food Supplies Under the Provisional Government

S. N. Prokopovich, Food Supplies of the Army and the Capital. October 29, 1917

 

Statement by the Minister of Supplies, Prokopovich, before the Pre-Parliament, October 29, 1917.

Original Source: Rech’, No. 244, 30 October 1917, p. 3.

I have the following telegram … from the Northern front: “The most terrific autocrat-hunger–is menacing the army. A number of bakeries have had to stop working and in two or three days the rest will close because of lack of flour. Not an hour must be lost … Passenger traffic must be cut in half at once and flour rushed on the trains.” And here is a telegram from General Cheremisov: “The food situation at the front is catastrophic. Horses are perishing for lack of forage. Bakeries stop working because there is no flour. The last reserves of hardtack are now being consumed. When these are finished an epidemic of starvation will break out with all its consequences. Every hour of delay … threatens to ruin the army.” Such is the situation in spite of the increased purchase of supplies. The reason for it is that between the base of supplies and the army there lies a vast area submerged by anarchy which defeats every regulated effort to supply the army and the population …

I come now to Petrograd. Bread supplies in the capital on October 27 consisted of 152 carloads, with an average daily arrival of twenty to twenty-two cars and a daily consumption of forty cars … We are thus provided for the next seven or eight days, and the rations will continue as before, three-fourths of a pound per day … In Petrograd we have to face the very disturbing fact that the bread already purchased is not being delivered. Out of the 400,000 poods shipped to Petrograd by way of the Mariinsky Canal … 200,000 poods were either detained or stolen on the way … Here is a telegram from Cherepovets: “Shipments of bread are being plundered by peasants of Novgorod and Olonetsk guberniias … Soldiers escorting the transports cannot stop the peasants. Please take immediate measures to save the bread.” Here is a telegram from Rybinsk: “This is the second time that our barge has been stopped … by armed peasants who plundered some 120,000 poods of flour. The soldiers who were sent after them refused to bring it back … ” A telegram from Petrozavodsk: “The soldiers refuse to escort the cargo. In Vytegorskii and Lodeinopolskii uyezds lawless seizures have begun. Similar disturbances are also occurring in other places … ” ‘Under such conditions there can be no certainty that we shall emerge successfully from the crisis in which we find ourselves …

Ordinarily the peasants are forced to sell their grain by economic needs. No such need exists at present, and special measures have to be taken to get the grain from the peasants … The peasants refuse to give bread not only for the cities but for the army as well … At times army delegates who were sent to the villages in the capacity of agitators to urge the peasants to sell bread would begin their speeches as follows: “Brother peasants. Stop giving food and the war will have to come to an end.” …

The minister then read telegrams from Saratov, Samara, and Voronezh. These telegrams state that plundering of food trains is very common … Railroad employees are being compelled, under threat of lynching, to give up freight cars. In Saratov … the number of starving people and of speculators is growing larger every day, becoming more and more menacing. The local committee and the Soviet of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies are helpless to cope with the situation … In this way, along with actual starvation we have a widely developing wave of speculation. It is known that in some places a pood of grain costs between 20 and 25 rubles. Local representatives of the supply committees and railroad employees are especially endangered. The violence of the mob is often directed against them, and they are wholly helpless to offer resistance …

Source: James Bunyan and H.H. Fisher, ed., Bolshevik Revolution, 1917-1918; Documents and Materials (Stanford: Stanford University Press; H. Milford, Oxford University Press, 1934), pp. 49-50.

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