When the Citizens of an entire region of Russia became Cannibals

Arturo Perozo
2 min readNov 4, 2021

For a year, a region of Russia had to resort to the sale of human flesh and cannibalism in order to survive.

Rest of human flesh on the ground. Pic Courtesy of: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Cannibalism_during_Russian_famine_1921.jpg

In early 1921, one of the most severe famines known in history began. In the Volga region of Russia. It is true that during that time, the entire Russian nation was going through a crisis, misery and hunger could be found in every corner of the nation. But, to understand how it is possible that an entire region had to resort to cannibalism to feed itself, we must first understand, how it was that they got to that point in the first place.

During the First World War, the country’s agricultural production suffered a halt. A break that worsened with the Russian Revolution of 1917 and then with the Russian Civil War. In addition, the country was suffering from intermittent droughts, droughts that worsened the situation, to the point, that in 1921, it became a national catastrophe. Local administrations knew of the problem, but when they tried to make an effort to remedy the crisis, it was too late.

Human parts for sale. Pic Courtesy of: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki

The situation escalated to such an extent that the peasants of the region attacked each other and killed each other. Some sold human flesh on the streets to survive. The situation was especially serious in Samara and Chelyabinsk and in the Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republics of Baskiria.

It should be noted that the American Relief Administration that Herbert Hoover had formed to fight the famine of World War I, offered help to Lenin in 1919, on the condition that they have control of the Russian railroad network and thus be able to distribute the food impartially to all; Lenin, of course, rejected this request, arguing that they were interfering in internal affairs.

Russian Family during the famine. Pic Courtesy of: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki

An official count was never made of the number of victims, but it is believed that there were 5.1 million people. In 1923, international relief agencies were allowed to distribute food. After 6 years, the end of the infamous famine came. A famine that went down in textbooks, as the worst in the history of not only Russia, but the world.

Arturo Perozo

Im a Chef, Krav Maga practitioner/enthusiast and a Writer. I know, weird combination. Not a native english speaker and writer, so feel free to correct me.