Front Page Titles (by Subject) Chapter 12: The Great Russian Famine, 1921–1923 - The Goodriches: An American Family
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Chapter 12: The Great Russian Famine, 1921–1923 - Dane Starbuck, The Goodriches: An American Family 
The Goodriches: An American Family (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 2001).
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The Great Russian Famine, 1921–1923
In 1921, one of the worst famines in history threatened the lives of millions of Russians as well as the continuance of Soviet rule. On 13 July of that year, the [Russian] writer Maxim Gorky appealed to the world for help. On 20 August the American Relief Administration (ARA), a private organization directed by Herbert Hoover, then secretary of commerce, concluded an agreement with the Soviet government to provide famine relief in the stricken area. For the next twenty-two months, a small group of Americans representing the ARA fed the starving throughout most of Russia. . . . the mission was in many ways the most intimate engagement between the two countries to date.
benjamin m. weissman, Herbert Hoover and Famine Relief to Soviet Russia: 1921–1923
In the midst of returning to his many business interests after serving as governor, James Goodrich experienced an interesting diversion. In mid August 1921, James and Cora were on vacation in New York State. They were staying at the upscale Hotel McAlpin in New York City when Goodrich received a letter from Will Hays. Hays was now United States postmaster general in President Warren G. Harding’s administration. Hays asked whether Goodrich would be interested in undertaking a special assignment to the Soviet Union. The purpose would be to investigate the terrible famine that plagued Russia’s central region.1 Goodrich was immediately excited about the prospect, especially since the invitation originated from Herbert Hoover, then secretary of the United States Department of Commerce and chairman of the American Relief Administration (ARA).
While awaiting further word about the possible mission, the Goodriches continued their vacation, arriving in Albany, New York, on August 24. There, Goodrich found waiting for him a telegram from Hoover that read simply: “Would be glad if you could conveniently come to Washington to discuss Russian situation.”2 Goodrich immediately abandoned his vacation and left for Washington, D.C. It would be the start of what the former governor later recalled as the most remarkable adventure of his life.3 As Goodrich records in his manuscript about his various trips to the Soviet Union:
I had never been in Russia and I knew nothing about the country of the Great Bear excepting what I had learned at school and what I had read since in the American newspapers and magazines.
But as a boy like most American youth the romantic literature about Russia with its Czars, its terrible Cossacks and its more terrible Nihilists had made a strong appeal to me, and I had long since resolved to visit the wonderland of Eastern Europe and learn for myself what was really there.4
Arriving in Washington, D.C., on August 25, Goodrich met with Hoover and army colonel William N. Haskell. Haskell, a native of New Jersey, served as director of the Russian unit of the ARA. He had previously acted as a technical adviser to the Polish government in Warsaw and had supervised ARA operations in Romania and Armenia. He was considered an expert in food relief. Before the meeting, Goodrich knew little about the famine except that millions of Russians were near death from starvation. By the end of his meeting with Hoover and Haskell, however, it was decided that the former governor would leave as soon as possible “with an open mind to investigate the entire famine situation, learn the truth about Russia and return as soon as the preliminary investigation was completed.”5
Goodrich knew of Hoover by reputation, but he had never met the commerce secretary before the meeting of August 25. Goodrich’s name had been brought to the future president’s attention by Hays during a cabinet meeting. Hoover’s written response to Hays’s recommendation was positive: “I believe it would be of substantial benefit for this country to have a man of such experience as Governor Goodrich to obtain a real knowledge of what the real difficulties of this foolish economic system are.”6 From the tenor of the letter, it is obvious that Hoover was not familiar with Goodrich at the time Hays made the suggestion. This might seem odd, given Goodrich’s long-term national Republican Party ties. Considering Hoover’s background, however, it is understandable. Hoover was a political party neophyte. He had not even announced himself as a Republican until February 1920.7 Therefore, Goodrich’s upcoming trips to the Soviet Union not only gave the former governor an opportunity to participate in an extraordinary undertaking, but also resulted in the establishment of a close friendship between Hoover and Goodrich.
The facts confronting Hoover, Goodrich, Haskell, and the ARA relief effort were as follows: In the summer of 1921, millions of peasants in central Russia were suffering from what would become the worst famine in modern Russian history. Immediate foreign relief was critical if the famine situation was to be stemmed before the country entered into the long winter of 1921–22. An internal Soviet evaluation team estimated that the Russian government would be able to provide no more than 20 percent of the food that would be needed in the worst-off provinces—Samara and Saratov—in central Russia.8 Goodrich’s mission was to examine the accuracy of the internal Soviet evaluation team. He was then to report back to Hoover, Congress, and, ultimately, the American people in hopes of obtaining relief.
To some degree, Hoover was a self-appointed overseer of the project, but he clearly had the qualifications for the momentous task. He had headed the ARA, a private relief agency based in New York City, since 1918. Hoover had previously directed food-relief efforts for victims of the Boxer Rebellion in China in 1900 and for victims in Belgium (1915–19) through the United States Committee for Relief in Belgium. From 1917 to 1919, Hoover had served as the United States food administrator. In 1921, Hoover held the position of United States secretary of commerce.9
In retrospect, Hoover’s selection of James Goodrich to lead the ARA fact-finding mission was unorthodox but excellent. Although Goodrich had very little foreign policy knowledge and no firsthand experience of the Soviet Union, he did have a working understanding of some of the causes of the economic and political upheavals going on in the country: the roles of banking, railroads, commodities, infrastructure, utilities, and government, generally. It was, however, perhaps Goodrich’s earliest experiences as a farmer and his knowledge of human nature that were most useful to him in analyzing the immediate crisis. As Benjamin Rhodes observes in his book on Goodrich’s ARA trips: “At the age of fifty-seven, having achieved financial security and having attained all he desired in politics, Goodrich was at peace with himself and politically obligated to no one, Hoover included. He took literally Hoover’s request that he approach the subject with an open mind. And as a result of his observations he was soon to begin a campaign to enlighten the American mind, but not quite in the direction anticipated by Hoover.”10
After his meeting in Washington, D.C., with Hoover and Haskell, Goodrich returned to Winchester and got his affairs in order as quickly as possible so that he could begin his arduous journey. On September 15, 1921, Goodrich left New York City on the ship Kroonland to make the first of four trips to the Soviet Union. The transatlantic crossing took two weeks, and Goodrich made valuable use of his time. Armed with voluminous records from the British Parliamentary Commission, which had monitored the famine for several months, Goodrich studied about Russia as much as he could: its government, the revolution of 1917, the counterrevolution, and the causes of the famine.11 Goodrich well understood ahead of time, however, that his mission was to be strictly humanitarian in nature. When Hoover had negotiated with the Russian authorities to allow the ARA to enter the Soviet Union, Bolshevik leaders demanded that no ARA officials could become involved in political matters. The Bolsheviks feared that anticommunist propaganda, which was known to be widespread in the United States, would be attempted in Russia itself.
Goodrich arrived in England on September 30. He first visited Plymouth and then traveled to London to meet with ARA officials and to tour the British capital’s historic buildings, including Westminster Abbey. Cora remained with her husband until she left for Paris to allow James to begin his work. On October 3, he left for Moscow, traveling across the English Channel and then by train through France, Germany, and Lithuania to the Russian frontier. Along the way, Goodrich read that one British source estimated that as many as thirty-five million Russians were starving.12 He believed that to be an exaggerated figure, yet conditions in the Volga region, three hundred miles southwest of Moscow, were even worse than the reports he had received had indicated. In the heart of the Volga region, where drought had destroyed the crops, Goodrich observed that no dogs could be found. He was told on the train to Moscow that in the village of Saratov all the dogs had been butchered for sausage. When colts were foaled, the peasants killed and ate them immediately; the same was true of newborn calves and piglets.13 Peasants in the Samara region were eating grass, leaves, bark, and clay in an attempt to stave off starvation.14
On the way to Moscow, Goodrich and his small party, which included an interpreter and a courier, came across a small group of émigrés who described some of the horrific scenes Goodrich was yet to encounter. Because the Bolshevik government was reluctant to admit how bad things really were, physicians had been forced to certify peasant deaths as caused not by starvation, but by an epidemic of typhus and cholera. One of the refugee women told Goodrich how desperate the times had become: “Last year and the year before they [government workers] took our grain. They did not even leave our men enough to sow. If we tried to keep what we needed for our children or our next crop they threatened to kill our men if we did not give up all. So our people were discouraged and each year they planted less. This year when the sun burnt up everything, starvation and death came and we had to leave or die.”15
Goodrich was so moved by the refugees’ story that he gave them five American dollars and some chocolate bars for the children. The mother of the children said that the youngest two had never tasted candy. When Goodrich finally arrived in Moscow on the evening of October 5, no one was there to greet him at the train station, because the telegram announcing his arrival had never been received.16 When he finally arrived at the ARA headquarters on his own, he found a palace, “a veritable museum of art,” that was one of only three buildings in the entire city that were heated by steam. The room he was assigned had paintings that he estimated were worth no less than half a million dollars, including portraits and landscapes from some of the great masters: Rubens, Van Dyke, Raphael, Mignard, Bonheur, and other notables. Leon Trotsky’s wife had intervened to see that the palace was not destroyed during the Revolution, although the government had taken it from the original owner. The former owner was allowed to remain as the caretaker of the art collection.17
Goodrich spent two days in Moscow preparing for the demanding trip to the Volga region. During this time, he received a cholera vaccination, attended an opera, and visited an unofficial market. The sale of furs was not permitted, yet both men and women who had obviously seen better times paraded in the makeshift market area with their expensive fur coats, waiting to be propositioned for a quick sale. Measured in American money, Goodrich recalled that the items seemed ridiculously cheap.18 As he wrote in his diary, on that day he also exchanged “90 good American Dollars for 8,920,000 worthless Russian Rubles.”19 He also paid a taxi driver 5,000 rubles to give him a tour of Moscow. “To me it was only six cents but to him it seemed to mean almost a fortune,” he recorded.20
On Saturday, October 8, Goodrich was packing in anticipation of the train’s leaving at 6:00 p.m. At noon, however, he was advised that the government had decided that the train should leave at 1:30 p.m. Racing to the station, he boarded the train along with his traveling companion, Dr. Frank Golder, chairman of the history department of Stanford University. Golder proved to be an invaluable resource and friend to Goodrich. He was a native of Odessa, Russia, who held a Ph.D. from Harvard University. Golder’s fluency in Russian and practical traveling skills were put to good use by Goodrich. The Stanford professor was on leave from the university, serving as a special investigator for the ARA. Goodrich’s own title was lead special investigator.
The train’s early departure caused Goodrich’s interpreter, his courier, and all his belongings to be left behind. “As the train pulled out of Moscow I did not find the prospect a pleasing one,” Goodrich recalled. “Here I was going into a famine and disease stricken country, without an interpreter, dependent on what food I could forage along the way.”21
Goodrich and Golder managed to fend for themselves. They bought food and supplies from peasants at the various train stops. Even though it was only early October, the weather was already like that in December in the northern United States: Snow covered the ground, and the ditches were filled with ice.
Goodrich had managed to take along a sleeping bag and two army blankets. Both he and Golder did not rise from sleep until late on Sunday, October 9. On the trip, Goodrich was able to make several observations about the lifestyle of the peasants: The cattle and land were held by the villagers communally, and schools were considered taboo, except for private institutions where the rich, under the old regime, provided their children with an education. Moreover, Goodrich was intrigued at the physical prominence of Greek Orthodox churches. Their golden domes and steeples appeared everywhere, it seemed.
He and Golder struck up a conversation with some young Communist sympathizers who criticized capitalism and the church. Goodrich countered that the Soviet government had itself adopted some capitalistic practices, such as authorizing rents and wages and allowing the opening of retail stores for profit. The “Reds,” as Goodrich called them, admitted that certain capitalistic concessions had been made. But capitalistic governments themselves, they declared, often made concessions to socialism, too.
This argument set me [Goodrich] to reflecting on the slow processes of human evolution in government and it occurred to me that it would be indeed strange if this experiment in Russia, starting as it did with pure Marxian government with its rule of the workers through a dictatorship should evolve into the capitalistic form, as was the experience of our ancestors in progressing from barbarism to civilization, while our capitalistic form should after long ages slowly disintegrate into socialism as it now shows evidences of doing in America and in England.22
After the heated discussion, Goodrich and Golder bundled up in their blankets and sang all the patriotic songs they could recall: “America,” “The Star-Spangled Banner,” and “Glory, Glory, Hallelujah.” Goodrich wrote in his diary how he thought of the notable contrast between “our blessed country” and the Russia of Lenin. Before going to sleep, Goodrich “prayed God to give us men and women with a vision big enough to measure up to the task of saving our country from the awful blight that has fallen on Russia.”23
Eyewitness to Suffering
The following day, October 10, Goodrich and Golder woke to find that they had entered a “land of snow.” They had also arrived in the famine district. Goodrich wrote, “the squalor and the suffering are indescribable.”24 It was important for him and Golder to keep away from the throngs of refugees who crowded the platforms of the train stations, for they “would have given the sufferers all our rubles and [we would have had] nothing left to continue our way.”25
Goodrich and Golder arrived at Samara on the evening of October 10. They saw on the outskirts of the city thousands of new graves of refugees who had died on their way out of the region and been buried along the dirt road in improvised potters’ fields. Samara was a city of about 175,000 inhabitants and the grain capital of the Volga region. The flourishing grain business had been ruined, however, by the government’s confiscation of the grain mills. One such grain mill in Samara had produced fifteen thousand pounds of grain per day under private ownership; whereas under government control the same mill produced only two thousand pounds a day.26
Wages for common laborers and railroad workers alike were shockingly low, being only between three thousand and five thousand rubles (approximately three to five cents in American money) a month. As Goodrich noted, because no one could live on so small a wage, workers were engaged on the side in the black market.27 Goodrich found traveling conditions primitive. Before the Revolution of 1917, Russia had thirty-nine thousand railroad engines. In 1921, there were only nine thousand engines; the rest had been stripped for parts and stood rusting and idle in the repair shops. The locomotives burned wood. Second- and third-class coaches were simply boxcars without heat. They had holes cut out of their sides to allow in light. Second-class coaches were equipped with a few crude wooden benches; passengers in third-class cars had to stand.
In 1921 and 1922, the drought-afflicted areas included all of the Volga region and much of the Ukraine, an area of more than a thousand miles across the eastern and central parts of the Soviet Union and more than three hundred miles north and south. The average peasant of that time, during the best of conditions, was barely able to scratch out a living for himself and his family. For instance, in Samara Gubenia, one of the most fertile of the Russian provinces where Goodrich traveled, more than 60 percent of the population did not produce enough to support themselves even during years of average rainfall.
Drought, however, was not the only cause of the famine. Political, social, and economic upheavals in the aftermath of the revolution laid the foundation for the terrible human suffering. Both Communists and those seeking an overturn of the Communist regime, mainly foreign sympathizers from Britain and France, engaged in acts of terrorism.
Approximately one hundred thousand on both sides were executed or killed in battle. As many as two million Russians, mainly of the middle and upper educated classes, emigrated to escape communistic rule. The civil strife took place on some of the most productive land in the Volga and Ukraine regions, not only destroying crops but also preventing the planting of new ones. The Russian peasants were accustomed to droughts and had traditionally stored excess grain from productive years in anticipation of lean ones. The government, however, had established “grain patrols” to scour the countryside and confiscate any grain surpluses for distribution among the starving city workers.
These grain patrols acted in the belief that the peasants were hoarding grain to undermine the collective farm policies of the Communist government. The search-and-seizure methods were so thorough that even much of the seed grain was taken, thus depriving the peasants of the ability to plant new crops. As Goodrich wrote in summarizing what he had learned: “The civil war of 1919 swept the Volga valley clean of its surplus grain supply. To quote a Volga peasant, ‘The Reds took all they could get and then the Whites [soldiers supporting the former Czarist regime] came along and took what was left.’”28
When Goodrich and Golder arrived in Samara, the cold weather had killed off the cholera bacteria. Typhus raged, however, and no vaccine had yet been discovered. The plague is transmitted from person to person by body lice, which seemed common to everyone in Russia according to Goodrich. The thousands of new graves in Samara were separated into two groups: those who had died from starvation, and those who had died from cholera and typhus. When the deaths came too quickly and individual graves could not be dug, Goodrich noted that as many as a half-dozen bodies were placed in a single grave or bodies were simply put in piles and burned.29
Not surprisingly, Goodrich observed that despair and a strong sense of fatalism were the predominant attitudes of the people. This was true even among the Soviet officials. One official reiterated to Goodrich the brutality that he had personally experienced. His father had tried to conceal from the government some food for his starving family, and the soldiers had bludgeoned him to death for the “crime.”30
Goodrich found that a small relief effort was already under way. Approximately seventy-five ARA workers were in the Volga region, along with a handful of members from the Society of Friends. Malnourished children were given food tickets that entitled them to two ounces of bread each day, nine ounces of milk each week, five ounces of beans on one day per week, and two ounces of rice four times a week. At one railroad station, Goodrich poked a bundle of rags with his cane, only to find that the rags moved. Three children were underneath, using the rags as protection from the cold while their parents searched for food.31 Abandoned children were everywhere on the streets and in lots where refugees were huddled together. Goodrich counted seventy-six abandoned children in one relief kitchen. In most instances, their parents had died; in other instances, the parents had decided that
they could not go on with the children and had left the youngsters in the hope that somebody would pick them up and care for them. They were the most pitiable objects I have ever seen—dirty, ragged, almost naked, lousy, emaciated little souls left to live or die according to whatever fate chance might bring to them.
But raggedness and nakedness were not confined to the children, and the vermin was everywhere. It was no uncommon thing to see one refugee engaged monkey like, in searching the head of a fellow traveler for lice, and the search was rarely in vain.32
On Thursday, October 13, Goodrich left Samara with Professor Golder and Professor Lincoln Hutchinson, the latter the head of the economics department at the University of California at Berkeley. The three men traveled next to the province of Penza, where Golder and Hutchinson were to make a complete statistical survey of the whole of eastern and southwestern Russia. There was a need for a survey, according to Goodrich, because the “Russians are proverbially careless in everything, and this includes gathering facts,” and the Russian peasant, “with true oriental cunning,” had concealed significant reserves from governmental confiscation.33
At Penza, the capital of the province, Goodrich found another desperate situation. Medical supplies were essentially nonexistent. The administrator of an eight-hundred-bed hospital confided to Goodrich that because he had no drugs available to treat cholera and typhus, the mortality rate from the two diseases was twice as great as it should have been. The hospital had only two thermometers, and many doctors had succumbed to the hardships. The administrator’s best assistant, thoroughly discouraged by the situation, had committed suicide just the day before.34
On Friday, October 14, Goodrich’s team traveled to Rtischtschere, “the city with the unpronounceable name.” The conditions there, if anything, were even worse than at Penza. The local peasants were barefooted or had made sandals out of birch bark. Their clothing was a patchwork of materials or simply grain sacks.
From Rtischtschere, Goodrich, Golder, and Hutchinson traveled to Saratov on Saturday, October 15, in the heart of the Volga region. Conditions there were much better than they had been in the Russian cities they had visited previously. Goodrich attributed this change in appearance to the fact that Saratov had a university of approximately five thousand students. Also, “its business life is dominated largely by the Volga Germans and their descendants, who seem to have retained some of that efficiency and desire for orderliness for which the Germans are noted.”35 Still, food was difficult to come by because of expense: A month’s supply of staple items such as bread, meat, cheese, potatoes, eggs, and beans was selling for less than one American dollar, but few peasants had that much money. As mentioned, common laborers were paid but pennies a month. A highly distinguished professor who met briefly with Goodrich reported that his salary was one hundred thousand rubles a month (about one American dollar) and that he had not been paid in more than four months.36
At Saratov, Goodrich witnessed Bolshevik justice firsthand. When Russian workers refused to unload cargo from an ARA ship without receiving some of the food, the local Cheka officer gave the workers a simple ultimatum: Be back to work in thirty minutes or face summary execution. Just days before, a band of robbers had been caught, and all nine were shot and buried along a roadside. Goodrich recounted: “Everybody that I talked to seemed to approve of this summary justice, even the peasants. The Central Government, I was told, justified the arbitrary power conferred on the Cheka on the theory that in no other way could countless counter-revolutions and raids have been prevented during the early days of the Soviet regime. They held that it was a case of ‘the end justified the means.’”37
Goodrich experienced another element unique to Russian society: the peasant communal system. Goodrich stayed in many peasants’ homes and became familiar with their customs. In his diary, he recounts much of what he learned about the communal way of living and describes how antithetical it was to Bolshevik Communism itself. The communal peasant, a staunch individualist, derived his political existence not from the central government, but from the Mir, the local governing body. Under that system, the commune owned the land. Yet the peasant could market and thereby benefit from his surplus crops beyond what was due the central government and commune. Each commune was a unit composed of a few hundred to a few thousand peasants. At the time Goodrich first toured the Soviet Union in 1921, some eighty million peasants belonged to communes of various sizes and complexities. Goodrich noted that the intellectuals could predict all that they wanted to about how the old form of the commune and the family were passing away, “but the Russian Peasant will go his way marrying and giving in marriage and rearing his family pretty much as the American farmer rears his family.”38
On October 20, Goodrich and his small entourage traveled to Markstadt, a small town of approximately four thousand northwest of Saratov. As Goodrich relates, death had been busy there. More than five thousand people in the immediate region had died since the first of the year, and the death toll continued each day: thirty-five on Monday, October 17; twenty on Tuesday; twenty-two on Wednesday. The story of abandoned children was much the same as it had been in the other towns and villages he had visited:
There were abandoned homes in the communes by the score, the roofs and wooden parts taken off for fuel, and the walls of mud and straw falling into decay. Everywhere we found emaciated starving children, with stomachs distended from eating melon rinds, cabbage leaves and anything that could be found, things which filled the stomach but did not nourish. . . .
In one shack we found two little orphan girls. Their parents had been taken from them three days before by the dreaded typhus. Barefoot, half-naked, destitute, with that same helpless haunted look, sobbing as they spoke, they told us they had had nothing but a few cabbage and carrot leaves to eat for three days and they were hungry, oh, so hungry! These two poor youngsters we took to the soup kitchen, gave them what there was to eat and left 500,000 rubles to get them to Markstadt.39
The Volga region, which was the heart of the famine and of Goodrich’s travels, had a population of approximately eighteen million. The average family had nine children. Put in comparable terms, about 15,000 to 20,000 persons lived in an area that was the size of a large Indiana township. In Saratov, there were 105 persons per square mile; in Kazan, 118; in Simbursk, 111; and in Samara, 69. Because the densely populated area was totally dependent upon agriculture, there being virtually no industry, it is easy to understand why a crop failure of two years’ duration would bring about such devastation.
Goodrich, Golder, and Hutchinson continued to travel from commune to commune with much the same findings. At Kutter-Russian, a commune of slightly more than 3,000 “souls” (Goodrich noted that the local authorities always referred to the inhabitants as “souls”), there were 622 children under the age of fifteen as of January 1921. By October, 400 of the children had died of cholera, typhus, or starvation.40 At Dehaus, the commune had only a thousand bushels of grain to feed the more than 6,000 peasants through the winter. This, of course, was impossible to do, and the commune leaders knew that death was a certainty for many.41
In Norga, a commune of 8,561, Goodrich found the majority of peasants to be satisfactorily nourished. It puzzled him, then, when the local officials predicted that half of the population would be wiped out by the end of the winter if foreign relief was not forthcoming. “Why is it,” Goodrich asked the farmers at Norga, “that when so many of you have plenty of bread and meat for the present you permit others at your doors to starve to death?”42
They were silent for quite a bit and then one strong faced man said slowly and gravely: “You Americans do not understand. It cannot be helped. It is necessary that some must die in order that others may live, otherwise, if help did not come we would all die. It was so in the great drought of 1891. America helped us then. We hope that she will be able to save many of us again.”
And I concluded that I indeed did not understand. For it seemed to me that I would share my last crust of bread with another who was hungry and both of us live or die together. But that Volga peasant had expressed the sentiment that I heard everywhere. It is not easy for us who have not been imbued with that something we call oriental fatalism, and which I found expressed in every phase of life in Russia, to understand that indifference with which they look upon death from cholera, typhus or starvation, or at the hands of the government. They seemed to place little value on human life. To them it was the case of “Kismet, it is fate.”43
Goodrich subsequently visited several other communes before returning to Moscow by train on Monday, October 24. On the return trip to Russia’s capital city, his assigned interpreter again missed the train, which says much about Soviet promptness. The following night, Goodrich left for Kazan, the capital of the Tatar Republic. For the first time since he arrived in the Soviet Union, he dared to sleep in pajamas. He had been assured by the train authorities that his compartment had been properly deloused; therefore, he deemed that it was worth taking a chance to slip out of his clothes for the night.44
The following day, Goodrich rode the train westward, seeing the same dreary, monotonous landscape for hours. To pass the time, he talked with Sir Phillip Gibbs, a well-known British newspaper reporter, and typed about ten thousand words of his diary on his portable typewriter. That evening, Goodrich and Gibbs were dragged into a session of the great American indoor sport—poker. Goodrich won 180,000 rubles from his more experienced card-playing colleagues before retiring to the luxury of sleeping in his pajamas.
On his way to Kazan, Goodrich noted the tremendous natural resources that the new Soviet Union was blessed with. “Unless I am much mistaken,” Goodrich wrote, “there will develop in this Russian timberland within the next fifty years a great people and a great country.”45
The various religions practiced by the Tatars impressed Goodrich. Although more than 60 percent of the people in Kazan were Muslim, intermixed with the mosques were synagogues and Orthodox Greek, Roman Catholic, and Lutheran churches. At the time Goodrich visited Kazan, it served as the capital city for the newly formed Tatar Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic. By October 1921, more than three hundred thousand Tatars had emigrated to other parts of the Soviet Union or abroad in an attempt to escape the famine.46
The desperation of the times is illustrated by an incident that occurred just a week before Goodrich arrived in Kazan. A peasant man with three small children tried to board the last boat bound for the Caspian Sea, where there was a chance for survival. He was denied admission to the boat, however, because a rule existed that an adult could go with only two children. Without hesitation, the man threw the youngest child into the Volga River and got on the boat with the other two children. When briefly stopped by the Cheka officer, the man exclaimed: “They would not permit all of us to go. If I remained here with them we would all die. Is it not better that one should die in order that three may live?” After hearing that explanation, the Cheka officer permitted the man to leave.47
As Goodrich noted, there were five hundred thousand Tatar children between the ages of five and fifteen and another four hundred thousand under the age of four who were receiving no help whatsoever. This knowledge brought Goodrich much sadness:
It would be impossible, I found, with the limited means of the American Relief Administration to give anything like adequate relief to all of the children of this Tatar republic in the Volga valley. The only thing to be done was to select the worst districts and do the best that could be done with the relatively small amount of food stuffs at the disposal of the administration.
Unless Uncle Sam himself came to the relief of these distressed people I felt that hundreds of thousands of them, many helpless children, were doomed.48
On November 1, Goodrich wrote a fourteen-page typewritten report to Hoover detailing the seriousness of the famine. The following day, he wrote a similarly lengthy report to Charles Hughes.49
To Hughes, whom Goodrich classified as a doctrinaire opponent of everything Red, the governor stressed themes of Soviet moderation and pragmatism. “On every hand,” he stated, “I see the most conclusive evidence of the return of the Government to a capitalistic basis . . . and there is a feeling everywhere I have gone that the Government has turned the corner and that every step from this time on will be a return to the capitalistic . . . form of government.”50
That same day, Goodrich met with the president and the prime minister of the Tatar Republic before returning to Moscow on Sunday, November 3. The following night, he watched a performance of The Doll Maker at the famous Bolshoi Ballet. The following day, he traveled to Petrograd (now St. Petersburg), four hundred miles northwest of Moscow, to visit homes where abandoned children were being taken care of. He happened to be there on Monday, November 7, the fourth anniversary of the Russian Revolution, which had started in St. Petersburg. The population of the city had dwindled from 2,400,000 to only 600,000 since the revolution. Conditions were only slightly better than what he had found in the Volga communes.51
On November 10, Goodrich returned to Moscow in a snowstorm; the temperature was fifteen degrees below zero. He again visited the orphanages where the ARA had already established assistance programs and met with several top banking officials and the secretary of agriculture. Goodrich expressed concern that Soviet authorities could easily confiscate wealth, just as they had done before. In response, the Russian officials all tried to convince the former governor that the Soviet Union was deserving of foreign capital. “‘The changes now going on in our government are fundamental. Mr. Lenin has had a real change of heart,’ they [Soviet banking officials] answered. ‘It is not a mere strategic move on the part of the communists. It is not temporary. The retreat toward capitalism has actually set in. It will continue until capitalism is established and full assurance given to everyone that the right of contract and private property in Russia will be respected.’”52
Goodrich himself had seen measures taken by the Bolsheviks that lent some credibility to these opinions. Yet he was far from convinced that the Soviet Union was worth investing in at that point.
After his meetings, Goodrich returned to the ARA headquarters in Moscow and summarized these conversations and his famine investigations in a report to Hoover.
His four weeks in Russia left Goodrich with two dominant impressions: that Communism had failed miserably, and that the people of Russia were coping courageously with the catastrophe. . . . [Thus, while at] the same time that he held Communism in utter disdain, he had nothing but admiration for the good-natured, industrious Russian population. As he wrote Hoover, “I am very impressed by the ability of the people to adapt themselves to the very trying situation that confronts them.”53
On receiving Goodrich’s account, Hoover cabled Goodrich, requesting him to return to the United States to report personally on his investigations. On his return, Goodrich retraced his steps from Moscow, passing through Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Germany, Belgium, and finally England. He boarded the steamship George Washington on November 20 to return to the United States. Goodrich arrived in New York City on December 3 and went immediately to Washington, D.C., to meet with Hoover.54
The initial groundwork of the investigation was now completed, but what lay ahead was an even more daunting task for Hoover and Goodrich: to convince a skeptical, Red-fearing United States Congress that the starving Russian peasants were deserving of immediate American aid.
[1. ]For information on Goodrich’s role in the relief efforts during the Russian famine, see Benjamin D. Rhodes, “Governor James P. Goodrich of Indiana and the ‘Plain Facts’ About Russia, 1921–1933,” Indiana Magazine of History 85 (March 1989): 1–30; Rhodes, James P. Goodrich, Indiana’s “Governor Strangelove”; Harold H. Fisher, The Famine in Soviet Russia, 1919–1923: The Operations of the American Relief Administration (New York: Macmillan, 1927), pp. 143–50; Frank Alfred Golder and Lincoln Hutchinson, On the Trail of the Russian Famine (Stanford, Calif.: Stanford University Press, 1927), pp. 75–89; and James K. Libbey, Alexander Gumberg and Soviet-American Relations, 1917–1933 (Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 1977), pp. 79–84.
[2. ]Letter from Herbert Hoover to Goodrich, August 23, 1921, ARA Personnel Records, box 276, Hoover Institution.
[3. ]James P. Goodrich, “Manuscript on Various Trips to Russia, 1921–1922” (referred to hereafter as “Russia Manuscript”), James P. Goodrich Papers, box 16, chap. A, pp. 6–7, Herbert Hoover Presidential Library, West Branch, Iowa. James Goodrich’s personal papers (filling twenty-eight boxes) are kept at the Herbert Hoover Presidential Library. They were sent there in 1982 from the estate of Pierre F. Goodrich. Apparently, James Goodrich’s papers were placed at the Hoover Presidential Library because of the close association between Goodrich and Hoover, especially in the ARA’s Russian famine-relief effort of 1921 and 1922. Almost all of James Goodrich’s accounts of his trips to the Soviet Union are recorded in his diaries and in a three-hundred-page manuscript that he wrote later. Goodrich apparently intended to publish the manuscript but never put it into final form. Also contained in Goodrich’s materials are more than one hundred articles about his four trips to the Soviet Union from various national and international newspapers. Most of them are undated. There are several other primary source materials that are related to the ARA relief efforts. The most extensive is contained in the ARA’s records at the Hoover Institution. For a much more thorough discussion of the resource materials related to Goodrich’s various trips to the Soviet Union, see Rhodes, preface to James P. Goodrich, Indiana’s “Governor Strangelove,” pp. 7–10.
[4. ]Goodrich, “Russia Manuscript,” chap. A, p. 6.
[5. ]Ibid., p. 7.
[6. ]Letter from Herbert Hoover to Will Hays, August 22, 1921, ARA Personnel Records, box 276, Hoover Institution.
[7. ]Williams, Current, and Freidel, A History of the United States: Since 1865, p. 420.
[8. ]A. Morozanov, “Famine in the Volga Region,” Ekonomicheskaya Zhizn, June 30, 1921, from a translation in ARA Personnel Records, box 5, folder 2, Hoover Institution.
[9. ]See “Hoover, Herbert Clark,” World Book Encyclopedia, vol. 9 (Chicago: World Book, 1989), pp. 312–15.
[10. ]Rhodes, James P. Goodrich, Indiana’s “Governor Strangelove,” p. 49.
[11. ]Goodrich mentions how he spent his time on the trip from New York to England in his letter to Secretary of State Charles E. Hughes, November 2, 1921, James P. Goodrich Papers, box 24; see also “Former Governor Leaves for Russia as Member of Hoover Commission,” Indianapolis News, September 13, 1921, p. 5, col. 2.
[12. ]Letter from Wheeler to Charles Hughes, August 14, 1921, U.S. National Archives, file 861.48/1529.
[13. ]Goodrich, “Russia Manuscript,” chap. A, p. 3.
[14. ]This news was contained in a report from Admiral Mark Bristol to Secretary of State Hughes, dated July 21, 1921, which is contained in Records of the Department of State Relating to the Internal Affairs of Russia and the Soviet Union: 1910–1929, U.S. National Archives, file 861.48/1562.
[15. ]Goodrich, “Russia Manuscript,” chap. B, p. 3.
[16. ]Goodrich, “Russia Diary,” September 30 to October 5, 1921, James P. Goodrich Papers, box 17.
[17. ]Ibid., chap. B, pp. 9–10.
[19. ]Goodrich, “Russia Diary,” October 6, 1921. See also Rhodes, James P. Goodrich, Indiana’s “Governor Strangelove,” p. 57.
[20. ]Goodrich, “Russia Manuscript,” chap. A, pp. 9–10. See also Rhodes, James P. Goodrich, Indiana’s “Governor Strangelove,” p. 57.
[21. ]Goodrich, “Russia Manuscript,” chap. B, p. 2.
[22. ]Ibid., p. 6.
[23. ]Goodrich, “Russia Diary,” October 9, 1921; Rhodes, James P. Goodrich, Indiana’s “Governor Strangelove,” pp. 59–60.
[24. ]Goodrich, “Russia Manuscript,” chap. B, p. 7.
[25. ]Ibid., pp. 7–8.
[26. ]Ibid., chap. C, p. 2.
[28. ]Ibid., chap. J, p. 11.
[29. ]Ibid., chap. C, p. 3.
[30. ]Ibid., chap. C, p. 5.
[31. ]Goodrich, “Russia Diary,” October 9, 1921; Goodrich, “Russia Manuscript,” chap. B, p. 8; Rhodes, James P. Goodrich, Indiana’s “Governor Strangelove,” p. 60.
[32. ]Goodrich, “Russia Manuscript,” chap. C, p. 7.
[33. ]Ibid., chap. D, pp. 8–9.
[34. ]Ibid., chap. C, pp. 9–10.
[35. ]Ibid., chap. E, p. 3.
[36. ]Ibid., chap. E, p. 5.
[37. ]Ibid., chap. E, p. 5B.
[38. ]Ibid., chap. E, p. 8.
[39. ]Ibid., chap. F, p. 7.
[40. ]Ibid., chap. G, p. 3.
[41. ]Ibid., p. 4.
[42. ]Ibid., p. 5.
[43. ]Ibid., p. 5 1/2.
[44. ]Ibid., pp. 5–10.
[45. ]Ibid., chap. H, p. 3.
[46. ]Ibid., pp. 3–4.
[47. ]Ibid., p. 10.
[48. ]Ibid., p. 6.
[49. ]Letter from James Goodrich to Herbert Hoover, November 1, 1921; letter from James Goodrich to Charles Hughes, November 2, 1921. James P. Goodrich Papers, box 24.
[50. ]Rhodes, James P. Goodrich, Indiana’s “Governor Strangelove,” p. 74, quoting in part from Goodrich’s letter to Hughes, November 2, 1921, James P. Goodrich Papers, box 24.
[51. ]Goodrich, “Russia Manuscript,” chap. J, p. 3.
[52. ]Ibid., chap. J, p. 8.
[53. ]Rhodes, James P. Goodrich, Indiana’s “Governor Strangelove,” pp. 75–76, quoting in part from “Governor Goodrich’s Preliminary Report on Russia,” November 1, 1921, in Documents of the ARA, vol. 3, pp. 398–410, Hoover Institution.
[54. ]A brief account of Goodrich’s return is contained in an Associated Press article dated November 16, 1921, “Hoover Recalls Gov. Goodrich to Report on Russian Famine” (with no newspaper reference), James P. Goodrich Papers, box 15.