The latest exhibition from the Hoover Institution Library & Archives, Bread + Medicine: Saving Lives in a Time of Famine, brings to light an American rescue operation during the catastrophic famine in Soviet Russia and Ukraine a century ago. The American Relief Administration, led by humanitarian Herbert Hoover, distributed food to millions of people. Yet, while food saved many lives, the ARA’s medical relief campaign proved to be equally critical to the mission’s success. 

Through photographs and archival material, visitors will discover the medical plight of those suffering from starvation and meet the American doctors and local medical teams who worked together to prevent a potentially devastating spread of disease. The ARA’s medical campaign included supplying drugs and medical equipment on a massive scale, launching a sanitary offensive to curb contagion, and vaccinating millions. America’s intervention saved countless lives and revitalized medical care for tens of millions in a time of desperate need.

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Photograph circa 1922 of a young boy getting vaccinated in Soviet Russia by a doctor
Children receiving the tetra vaccine at an ARA kitchen, Petrograd, 1922
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collage of three photographs of ARA leaders: Herbert Hoover, William Haskell, and Henry Beeuwkes
From left: Herbert Hoover, Chairman of the ARA; William Haskell, Director of ARA Russian Unit; and Dr. Henry Beeuwkes, Chief of the Medical Division
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Collage of three Russian posters circa 1922 about fighting diseases
Three Soviet Russian posters warning of the dangers of disease. From left: A poster warning about lice transmitting Typhus; center and right are posters about Cholera.

From Hoover Press


Bread + Medicine: American Famine Relief in Soviet Russia, 1921-1923

Arriving in June 2023 is a remarkable new book from the Hoover Press authored by Hoover research fellow Bertrand M. Patenaude and scholar Joan Nabseth Stevenson. Telling the story of America's 1921–23 medical relief campaign in Soviet Russia, it is a companion publication to the Hoover Institution Library & Archives' exhibition and delves deeper into the history and science of a cardinal chapter in twentieth century humanitarian aid.

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