Death Rate During Last Year has Trebled
- Food Supply Now Held Assured
BREAD PRICE EXPLAINED
Increase in Moscow Reported as Part of
Move to End the Ration System There
By Walter Duranty
Wireless to The New York Times
[The New Yrok Times, Thursday, August 24, 1933 Front Page]
MOSCOW, Aug. 23. - The excellent harvest about to be gathered
shows that any report of a famine in Russia is today an exaggeration
or malignant propaganda. The food shortage which has affected almost
the whole population in the last year, and particularly the grain-producing
provinces - that is, the Ukraine, North Caucasus, the Lower Volga
region - has however, caused heavy loss of life.
To reap this harvest, aid is being given by the Red Army and
voluntary workers. But even if the new crop is not fully reaped there will
be more than sufficient to cover the nation's food supply for the coming
year and to justify the Kremlin's policy of collectivization.
Although it is pure guesswork to attempt any estimate of the
loss of life so far, not so much from manifold diseases due to lowered
resistance and to general disease in the last year, certain approximation
are now possible.
Death Rate Rose Sharply
For instance, the writer knows an industrial plant in the North
Caucasus where the workers and their families number about 12,000.
These workers receive daily bread rations of 800 grams (1.76 pounds).
Yet the dearth rate rose during the Winter and early Spring to nearly four
times the normal rate, which runs about 20 to 25 per 1,000 annually for
the Soviet Union.
Among peasants and others not receiving bread rations conditions were
certainly not better. So with a total population in the Ukraine, North
Caucasus and Lower Volga of upward of 40,000,000 the normal death
rate would have been about 1,000,000.
Lacking official figures, it is conservative to suppose that this was at
least trebled last year in those provinces and considerably increased for
the Soviet Union as a whole.
Bread prices on the "card ration" system In the Soviet capital have been suddenly doubled. Why? The first and obvious reason to foreigners might be that the reports about a good crop are not true.
A second view - which is more reasonable - might be that although the crop is good, fresh grain supplies have not yet reached Moscow, which, therefore, has been compelled to make a temporary restriction. Both of these views are In-correct The truth la that the Mos-cow authorities have doubled the price on the ration cards - from 14 kopeks per kilogram 12.20 pounds] to 28 kopeks - as a first step toward equalizing ration prices with the free market prices, which at present are 3 rubles per kilogram.
In any other country this explanation would sound fantastic, but the Soviet Union is not any other country, and in making this explanation the writer is not a "Soviet apologist" but is stating plain facts. What matters to the Moscow public is not the price of bread on the I ration cards but the quantity and the quality of the bread. If the amount available on the ration cards-now a kilogram daily for manual workers and halt a kilogram for others - were doubled no one would care if the price were 5O kopeks instead of 28.
The authorities know this and what they are now trying to do is to raise ration card prices to the point where they will meet the free market rates when - as is bound to happen shortly with the influx of the new harvest grain - the free market rates descend.
If the authorities can do this successfully - that is, if the disparity between ration card prices and free market prices becomes no more than half a ruble, which is quite probable-it might be comparatively easy to abolish the bread ration system altogether, and nothing would be more positive proof to the Moscow populace of the success of the Kremlin's agrarian policy than that.
Toward that aim this price-raising is directed. This may sound extraordinary to American readers but it happen to be true.
The New York Times, Thursday, August 24, 1933, Front Page
Researched and transcribed from The New York Times on microfilm
by the www.ArtUkraine.com Information Service (ARTUIS)
FOR PERSONAL AND ACADEMIC USE ONLY