Maxim Gorky to Jane Addams, August 1922


I am informed that in America people are of the opinion that the famine in Russia has lost its dreadful aspects and that the work of the Hoover organization is sufficient to save the millions of Russian peasants doomed to die from starvation.

Allow me to address to you a few words on the subject.

I think that the work of the Hoover organization is, by its scope, an unprecedented phenomenon in history. Never before has a country come to the relief of another with such generosity and such munificence of supplies and means. Hoover's agents are real men of courage. I will not exaggerate if I call them heroes. America can be proud of her children who are so beautifully and fearlessly toiling on the vast field of death, in an environment of epidemics, barbarism and cannibalism.

This work, in addition to its immediate purpose, that of saving millions of people from starvation, has another, and in my opinion a far greater purpose. It resurrects in the Russian people the sense of humanity destroyed by the war, it revives the shattered dream of the possibility of the brotherhood of nations, it fulfils the idea of the cooperative, friendly collaboration of nations.

The European war, and then intervention and civil war with all its horrors, hardened the heart of the Russian people. Especially deep was the harmful influence of intervention. In spite of his mental density, the Russian peasant understood that foreigners do not want him to be free, that they want to restore in Russia the old regime. Facts, speeches, the destruction of his homestead and rivers of blood convinced the moujik of it. It is fully comprehensible that he developed a negative attitude towards the foreigner. The foreigner sought to make the Russian people beasts of burden of the landlords, bureaucrats, and merchants.

And then, in the terrible days of the famine, amidst utter helplessness, these enemies, the foreigners, appear as the [saviors] of the lives of millions of children, unselfishly and dauntlessly destroying by their [endeavors] the feelings of hatred and [rancor] embittering the heart of the Russian people.

You will agree of course that the achievements of the work of the Hoover organization are important and magnificent. Some days we will after all be living and working like friends and brothers, and glory to those who hasten the arrival of that time so necessary to our happiness.

But, to return to the main purpose of this letter. The famine is not decreasing. Hoover's organization, working self-sacrificingly on the Volga, cannot of course embrace all the stricken territories of enormous Russia. On the shores of the Black Sea, in Odessa and Crimea, millions of people are also perishing without relief. The German colonists in the South, a cultured race and excellent workers, are dying out. The hardworking honest Tartars are perishing, and most of all the native Russians, especially children.

The famine is bigger and more ominous than all that is said and written about it. Hundreds and thousands of acres of the cultivated area are laid waste by locust. People are eating the locust and consequently fall ill. They eat roots, grass, leaves, and this causes epidemics: cholera is threatening. I cannot quote the figures of mortality because I doubt the accuracy of the statistics. The letters which I receive from [page 2] all sides paint the situation as horrible. Everywhere, people, exhausted by the famine in the winter, have thrown themselves greedily on the vegetation of the spring, and the consequences are obvious.

Permit me also to call your attention to the condition of the Russian intellectuals, mainly the Russian scientists. All of these are men of ripe age or old men emaciated by years of under-nourishment and heroic labor in the midst of cold and hunger. They are the best brains of the country, the creators of Russian science and civilization, who are necessary to Russia more than to any other country. Without them life is impossible just as it is impossible without a soul. These people belong to humanity.

There are only nine thousand of them in all Russia, an insignificant number for such a vast country and for the civilizing work which the Russians require. These most invaluable nine thousand people are gradually dying out without having time to produce successors.

I think the preceding is sufficient to arouse the energies of the friends of the Russian people to help Russia live through this accursed year.