Monday, December 05, 2005

American relief efforts in the early Soviet Union

Yes, I've started a new, rather thick book entitled The Big Show in Bololand: The American Relief Expedition to Soviet Russia in the Famine of 1921 As you might surmise, the book has many interesting anecdotes about how (roughly 200) Americans viewed Soviet authorities and the local peasants.

The book was a co-winner of the 2003 Marshall Shulman Book Prize, awarded by the American Association for the Advancement of Slavic Studies. Their take..

...a compelling analysis of American efforts to mitigate the impact of the
devastating famine that killed millions of Soviet citizens in the early 1920s.
Along with vivid portraits of many of the relief workers and graphic descriptions of their activities to combat famine, Patenaude also explores the encounter between rescue workers and communist officials intent on exercising control over the Americans' operations. Yet The Big Show in Bololand is more than a detailed narrative of the famine relief effort. It offers invaluable insights into the first sustained cultural and political encounter between the United States and the fledgling Soviet Union and explores the underpinnings of the rivalry between the capitalist and communist systems. The book is an outstanding example of lively and engaging prose, impressive historical research, and persuasive analysis of the diplomatic underpinnings and consequences of the rescue mission.
(from Amazon reviewer).

One interesting snippet just read is how the Americans were highly impressed with the (highly educated) Tatars rather than the Russians. Apparently, the Tatars have long struggled to keep their cultural focus alive amidst the Russians- an attitude that served them well during early Soviet era.


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