AMERICAN EXPERIENCE: The Great Famine
Airs Monday, April 11, 2011 at 10 p.m. on KPBS TV
Wednesday, April 6, 2011
Credit: Courtesy of ©Herbert Hoover Presidential Library
When a devastating famine descended on Soviet Russia in 1921, it was the worst natural disaster in Europe since the Black Plague in the Middle Ages. Half a world away, Americans responded with a massive two-year relief campaign, championed by a new secretary of commerce, “the Great Humanitarian” Herbert Hoover.
The nearly 300 American relief workers, “Hoover’s boys,” would be tested by a railroad system in disarray, a forbidding climate and — being among the first group of outsiders to break through Russia’s isolation following the Bolshevik Revolution — a ruthless government suspicious of their motives. By the summer of 1922, Americans were feeding nearly 11 million Soviet citizens a day in 19,000 kitchens.
"The Great Famine" from producer Austin Hoyt ("American Experience: George H. W. Bush") tells this riveting story of America’s engagement with a distant and desperate people — an operation hailed for its efficiency, grit and generosity — within the larger story of the Russian Revolution and the roots of the U.S.-Soviet rivalry that would dominate the second half of the 20th century.
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