Publication Date: June 1, 2023
A century ago, the Soviet Union faced a catastrophic famine, brought on by the disruptions of World War I, the Russian Revolution, and the Russian Civil War; draconian Soviet economic policies; and a severe drought. As millions of people faced starvation and hunger-related disease, the Russian writer Maxim Gorky issued an appeal for help, asking “all honest European and American people for prompt aid to the Russian people. Give bread and medicine.” One person was uniquely situated to answer the call: Herbert Hoover, chair of the American Relief Administration (ARA), who had achieved worldwide fame as the organizer and administrator of large-scale humanitarian relief operations during and following World War I.
American relief helped millions survive the famine of 1921–23. While the role of food aid has been well documented, Bread + Medicine focuses on the lesser-known story of America’s medical intervention, including a large-scale vaccination drive, and treatment of famine-related diseases such as cholera, typhoid, and typhus and hunger-related deficiency diseases, especially among children. The ARA’s medical relief program proved essential to the overall success of its mission. Bread + Medicine, richly illustrated with photographs, posters, and documents from the Hoover Library & Archives, tells that story in vivid detail.