Black Lebeda: The Russian Famine Diary of Ara Kazan District Supervisor J. Rives Childs, 1921-1923
ISBN 088146015X (0-88146-015-X)
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Hardcover, Mercer Univ Pr, 2006
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Book summary: The diary which begins in the days before Childs enters Soviet Russia in 1921 and ends rather abruptly in August 1923, about six months before he left, is a detailed in depth view of Childs's Russian experience. There is first an account of the inner working of the American Relief Administration (ARA) at all levels from Moscow to the workers in the kitchens that fed the starving children and later adults. It also gives a vivid picture of the grisly famine conditions, not only in Kazan, but in the countryside as well, since Childs was early involved in field work establishing orphanages, and kitchens to feed the starving. In this capacity, he had to deal with local governments, now in the control of the Communist Party, and his narration of his experiences gives probably one of the first insights into the workings of the Party, in local governments. Yet the journal also gives an account of the lives of those enemies of the Soviets that did not get out, the bourgeois and aristocratic elements, who were hostile to the new system. Frequently these citizens, who were educated and had often learned English, came to work for the ARA, and Childs witnessed their sad lives and the suspicion they experienced from the Soviet government. The diary also gives a firsthand view of the early days of Lenin's famous New Economic Policy (NEP), which was really partial return to old capitalism. This move on the part of the Soviet government was designed to jump-start the prostrate economy, and Childs a self-proclaimed socialist, curiously found this turnabout fascinating and became an ardent proponent of it.
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