The Black Earth and Ukraine Areas Are in Better
Shape Than Reported
BUT CONDITIONS ARE HARD
Present Effort to Get Land Sown Will be Paralleled
by Greater Harvest Drive
By WALTER DURANTY
Wireless to The New York Times
ODESSA, Russia, April 26 (By Mail to Paris)---Autumn-sown
grain in the Central Black Earth region and the Ukraine wintered
better and is in better shape than is generally realized in Moscow.
This the writer can confirm, not only from visual evidence from a
train, but from conversations with all sorts of persons, from officials
to peasants traveling in "hard" coaches.
Spring work has been temporarily delayed by heavy rains, but
the food situation is undoubtedly better than has been reported.
In Moscow the writer was told on seemingly good authority that
a bucket of potato peelings brought 15 rubles in and around Kiev.
This Kiev officials indignantly denied.
Peasants Offer Chickens
At any rate, at the station of Konotop, only a few hours from
Kiev, peasant women offered roast chicken at 20 rubles each and
did not find buyers, because the travelers, mostly local persons,
said the price was too high.
It is an old story, which the writer first heard on the Volga
during the famine in the Summer of 1921. Everywhere they said,
"Things here are desperate, and unless we get relief we will die
before Christmas"--which was true enough.
Then we asked them, "But are people dying here now?" And
they replied, "No, not here yet, but if you go to the village of
So-and-So you will find hardly any one alive." We went to
said village and heard exactly the same story, "Here we are
desperate, thought not yet dying, but at So-and-So conditions
In Odessa the bread ration has actually been increased in
recent weeks from 400 to 500 grams (500 grams equals 1.1
pounds), and though conditions are terribly hard there is no
sign of real famine conditions or that people are dying in the
streets, as is reported in Moscow. The mortality figures jumped
during the Winter, and there is a good deal of typhus, always
a concomitant of undernourishment in Russia, but it is not
epidemic, a fact that is confirmed by resident foreigners.
The writer talked to peasants at the covered city market
who had taken advantage of the lull in the sowing campaign
to sell eggs and a few early vegetables, and he got the same
impression of a change in attitude as was asserted by a
Communist leader at Kiev. The peasant, whether collectivized
or individualists, seem to feel an end has been made of the
muddle and mismanagement of the past two years, and that
Moscow is taking an interest in them.
Peasants Regain Hope
In short, the peasants believe the centre of gravity, as far
as the Kremlin is concerned, has shifted back from industry to
agriculture. This belief, which is entirely true, is one of the most
important features of the present situation in the Soviet Union.
It is significant that local newspapers of Odessa, Kiev and
other Ukrainian towns along the railroad all report a large new
influx of individual peasants into the collectives, which is confirmed
here not only by a member of the Presiding Council of the Odessa
Provincial Government, but by peasants with whom the writer has
On the other hand, it must be remembered that these peasants
are so to speak, "in good standing." and there is no doubt that
thousands of competent farmers---tens and hundreds of thousands
if this whole Soviet Union is taken into consideration---have been
dispossessed as kulaks and sent into exile or left to gain a living
in construction camps as best they can.
In all too many cases their land and cattle fell into incompetent
or deliberately dishonest hands and were shamefully mismanaged.
Even such a fleeting glimpse of the country as one gets from a train
revealed all too many animals in shockingly poor condition and all
too few calves in such meager herds as are now grazing on what
used to be the richest section of Russian soil.
The shortage of animal traction and meat will be felt for the
next five years at least, and the present tremendous effort to get
the land plowed and sown must be paralleled by a yet greater
effort later to get the crop harvested.
The New York Times, Sunday, May 14, 1933