Hangry Russians: The Importance of Food Instability

Effect of War

  • Limited military training = disorganized, undisciplined army
  • Mobilization of industry = hindrance on production
  • “inflation and food shortages = dissatisfaction” (Freeze, 273)
  • Unstable government = anxious lower/middle classes


“Increasingly, the state lost the capacity of requisition of food, fuel, and manpower, reflecting the decline in its moral authority” (Freeze, 272).

The cost of war quickly lessened Nicholas II’s grip on power. Lack of resources angered soldiers and peoples and led to protests in Petrograd (February Revolution). The demonstrators, who over powered the police, took over arsenals (274), and ignited fires in the city. The city’s government and police faded away, and Nicholas relinquished he and his son’s power. When his brother did not try to take control of the throne, there was an immediate grapple for power between the Duma and the Soviets.

Image result for february revolution russia

In March, instead of following its liberal promises, the new Provisional Government took a socialist approach to address food shortage issues. They monopolized grain prices which “effectively declared all grain to be property of the state” (Freeze, 279). Among other issues with the ‘Kornilov Affair’ (which Katelin talks about in her blog), the government failed to ameliorate agricultural dilemmas. By October the Bolsheviks used the governments weakness and insatiably to its advantage.

Food Supplies Under the Provisional Government draws a picture of how serious food shortages were

Here is a telegram from Cherepovets: “Shipments of bread are being plundered by peasants of Novgorod and Olonetsk guberniias … Soldiers escorting the transports cannot stop the peasants. Please take immediate measures to save the bread.” Here is a telegram from Rybinsk: “This is the second time that our barge has been stopped … by armed peasants who plundered some 120,000 poods of flour. The soldiers who were sent after them refused to bring it back … Under such conditions there can be no certainty that we shall emerge successfully from the crisis in which we find ourselves …

Overall, food shortages and agrarian issues were a major component and conflict among Russians which influenced their distrust of the government and its ability to look after the people. Social issues like this were especially persuasive forces behind protests and riots during 1917.



“Food Supplies Under the Provisional Government.” Seventeen Moments in Soviet History. Accessed February 5, 2017. http://soviethistory.msu.edu/1917-2/food-supply/food-supply-texts/food-supplies-of-the-army-and-the-capital/.


Freeze, Gregory L. Russia: A History. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1997.

15 thoughts on “Hangry Russians: The Importance of Food Instability

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  1. I think you did a great job of examining public unrest during the war but I think your post would benefit from examining how the Provisional Government came to be as a result of all of this instability and unrest instead of just jumping to it in a new paragraph. Other than that great job!


    1. I can’t figure out how to delete my first comment so just ignore it. I love the telegram source you found. It’s amazing that with a country of its size and all of its agricultural resources, Russia couldn’t provide for its people and they were forced to mob and attack grain shipments. These issues definitely contributed to 1917’s unrest and riots but they also wouldn’t be solved until much later..


  2. I really liked this post because I think usually the “big” reasons for revolution are focused on. Something as simple as food shortage, something that continues to be a problem in our modern world, had a large affect on revolutionary Russia. I also really liked the title!!


  3. It’s been super interesting learning and reading other classmates blogs on food rations and how the Bolsheviks used what power they had for their benefit. You mentioned the Kornilov Affairs and how “the government failed to ameliorate agricultural dilemmas.” How did the government fail to do so? I wish their was a little more information on this because the topic seems super interesting! I also like others who commented before me, found your title to be really cleaver!


  4. I like that your post is short and to the point. Despite not being a lengthy post, you still bring up one of the most important issues at the time. The food shortage was such a huge deal and caused great social strife. It was one of the main reasons the people lost so much faith and patience with the government. Good post.


  5. I also talked about this issue on my blog post. It is really interesting that the food shortage gets a small spot in the Freeze text, but it really has a large role in the revolutionary movement in Russia. Everyone was suffering from it, and it even sparked a rebellion in the soldiers. Like someone said on my blog, it’s funny that the government used the socialist method of dealing with the grain issue to gain power, but it resulted in them losing power after the revolution.


  6. I really like this topic of the food shortage because I think this was one of the most important things that happened during this time. Food is a necessity to survive, therefore, if you control this specific market, you control the people. Think about it, people will do anything it takes to survive, whether it’s killing someone else over their food or turning to other means in order to make it to another day. It is an unfortunate event that occurred and forced many people to unite together in order to regain their right of nutrition. This created such a loss of faith in the government and people became sick of what was happening, so it’s a no brainer why they turned to a revolution type movement to get back their means of survival! Good job with this post, it was interesting to read.


  7. It looks like several people brought up food shortages in their blogs which is extremely important. Food plays a major role in the health and stability of a society and having food shortages this severe seemed to cause an undercurrent of governmental hatred. I like the summary list at the top of the blog and the supplemental insert in the middle because they help to organize and support your post! Great job!


  8. I think that the bigger picture we see playing out here is that if the civilians are unhappy in wartime, then the war will not last long. The same thing happened in Vietnam for the United States. Civilians did not like the idea of Americans being sent to fight a political war, just as the civilians of Russia did not like the fact that their food was going to the soldiers instead of them.


  9. Nice post! This was very clear and concise. The telegram that you added was an interesting touch to your blog post. I always find revolutions to be particularly interesting because there is so much destruction. People start fires and break things to get the politicians attention. You mentioned that the people in that time did the same thing and people are still doing that now. I would love to think that some day there can be a way to go about radical change in a more peaceful yet still effective manner. Fingers crossed!


  10. I liked this post a lot! I read it because of the title seeming to relate to the topic I wrote about, which your post did. I found it interesting that we wrote about similar topics, but still had such different posts because there is so much information and analyzation that can happen with this topic. I think that is so cool and I loved seeing your prospective on it!


  11. I’m in a Human Security class and we’ve talked several times about how access to food and clean water are probably two of most important things a person must have. Without either, people can’t do much else. It seems pretty explanatory, but until you’ve actually faced the ordeal of not having enough food or water, you really don’t know what it entails. I found your post to be very succinct, and I think it captured the gravitas of the situation.


  12. You bring up a great point in your post. Food shortages have played large roles in shaping Russian politics, especially at the turn of the twentieth century. Good job on focusing on its effects on Russia’s military capacity.


  13. I really liked they way you organised this post, and it was especially cool that you included an actual telegram- very nice primary source. It really is shocking with this particular topic of food shortages, Russia has always struggled as opposed to some Western countries that were able to fine tune their mass food production enough to adequately feed most of their people. It makes sense that once the fundamental longstanding government of Russia starts to crumble, the food supply is one of the first things to go. Well done!


  14. I loved the four equations at the start, setting the scene for what is to come. Between the government and the military the instability and disorganization were stark flaws that shadowed the Russians. This example of food shortages greatly depicts this inability to provide for their people. Nice work.


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