The Russian Job: The Forgotten Story of How America Saved the Soviet Union from Ruin

Douglas Smith. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $28 (320p) ISBN 978-0-374-25296-0
Smith (Rasputin) delivers a narrowly focused history of one program of the American Relief Administration, a “quasi-intelligence and diplomatic organization” that, during the 1921–1923 famine in the Soviet Union, operated soup kitchens and fed over 10 million people. As starvation, sickness, and political terror gripped the fledgling Soviet Union and prompted the writer Maxim Gorky to appeal to “all honest European and American people” to send food and medicine, workers’ strikes and anarchists’ bombs in the United States had the American government believing Bolshevism was invading the West. Some in Congress believed a relief effort would weaken the Bolshevik government, while others were motivated by humanitarian concerns; ultimately, the program was mobilized. Nearly 400 Americans worked in Russia during the two years, and Smith tells the story from their point of view, drawing on their diaries, letters, reports, and photographs. (Numerous gruesome stories and photos of cannibalism and starvation are included.) His prose moves at a fast clip and takes a matter-of-fact tone about the horrors of the famine. Not all readers may buy the claim that the Soviet Union would have collapsed without this intervention, but this is an intriguing window onto the humanitarian work of the past. Photos. (Nov.)
Reviewed on : 07/16/2019
Release date: 11/05/2019
Genre: Nonfiction
Compact Disc - 978-1-250-24183-2
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