Из книги Р. Роббинса Famine in Russia. 1891-1892 (N. Y. – L.: Columbia University Press, 1975):
In the absence of general criteria for judging relief operations, the best index of effectiveness would seem to be the mortality figures for the crisis period. But the use of demographic information is difficult because it is usually impossible to determine which death were famine-related and which were the results of other causes. In addition, the statistics on the death rates themselves are often extremely suspect. Consequently, many experts feel that attempts to arrive at firm conclusions regarding the effects of famine on mortality are likely to be fruitless. Even when a particular famine has been the subject of extensive investigation, historians rarely attempt detailed analysis of its demographic impact.
Then we turn to the Russian famine of 1891-1892, the reasons for scholarly caution become obvious at once. We possess fairly good data on mortality during the crisis, but there is considerable dispute as to their meaning and use. The question of the death rate is further clouded by the fact that very few cases of actual starvation were documented, and none were entered into official records. The big killers in 1892 (the year which would show the immediate impact of the disaster), were, by all accounts cholera and typhus; yet the connection between these diseases and the famine is somewhat hazy. In Russia cholera and hunger were frequent traveling companions; but the disease had also appeared when there were no great agricultural difficulties. Typhus was endemic to the Russian countryside, and so its presence cannot be blamed to a lack of food.
There can be little doubt, however, that the number of those who died from both these diseases increased as a result of the famine. Malnutrition weakened many people, making them more susceptible to infection and less resistant to its ravages. More importantly, the movement of peasants in search of jobs and food helped spread sickness. Workers who crowded into provincial towns often contracted serious illness. Then they returned home they would infect their families and neighbors. Wandering beggars, who were extremely common during the famine year, carried the typhus-bearing louse to village to village; they might also bring cholera.
Because of the many factors which influenced the death rate in 1892, estimates mortality vary extensively. The highest figure (and one which has gained considerable acceptance) lists about 650,000 dead as a consequence of famine. Yet this calculation is open to question. The estimate is for the nation as a whole, and it is extremely uncertain how many death outside the famine region can properly be attributed to the disaster. This is especially true given the coincidence of the massive cholera epidemic which claimed up to 300,000 lives in 1892 alone. Thus for the purposes of accuracy and in order to assess better the value of relief operations, we should focus directly on the stricken provinces themselves. Even here the results are rough and tentative, but the margin for error is smaller.
According to information compiled by V. I. Pokrovskii, the average death rate in the sixteen provinces of European Russia most severely affected by the famine, rose from 3.76 percent (the norm for the period 1881-90) to 4.81 percent in 1892. In absolute figures, the number of deaths in the famine-stricken gubernii during 1892 was about 406,000 above normal. If the number of cholera deaths - 103,364 for the area in question – is subtracted from abnormal mortality, the estimate can be reduced to around 303,000 deaths. Since a sizable portion of cholera mortality was undoubtedly famine-linked, however, this lower figure should not be accepted. An estimate that between 375,000 and 400,000 deaths occurred as a direct consequence of the disaster seems more reasonable.
The loss of over a third of a million people is appalling, and clearly indicates that the government’s success in its battle with the famine was incomplete. Still, it is necessary to put these data on mortality in some kind of perspective. A decisive rise in the death rate is almost inevitable in any famine situation. Famine, as opposite crop failure, is produced by a complex of socioeconomic forces, and reflects general rural poverty. Well before the crisis stage is reached, the population is living on the edge of hunger. Once a bad harvest occurs, consumption, already seriously low, drops sharply. Soon after, disease, if not actual starvation, begins to take its toll. In such conditions, not even the most massive relief program is likely to prevent an upturn in mortality. Given the seriousness of the crop failure of 1891 and the huge size of the afflicted region, the Russian government’s ability to hold the overall rise in the death rate to between 25 and 30 percent suggest that its performance, while not optimal, was at least acceptable.
Our favorable assessment of the Russian food supply campaign of 1891-92 is straightened when we compare its results with whose attained by British relief during the same period. This comparison is especially useful because British relief programs were generally admired even by those who opposed the English Raj. Yet a cursory examination of the Indian Famine Commission reports for the 1890s presents a rather different picture. Even at their most successful, Indian officials could not prevent a rise of mortality of 20 percent in the affected regions, and much higher increases were often noted. During the famine of 1899-1900, which afflicted Central Provinces, Berar, Amjer, and parts of Bombay and Punjab, death rates rose by over 300 percent in some areas. Moreover, although the commissioners judged relief to have been “excessive” in 1899-1900, state aid in India touched a far smaller percentage of population of the famine tract then it did in Russia during 1891-92 (18 percent as opposed to about 30 percent).
Beyond this the experience of the two major famines which struck Russia in the twentieth century suggests that the potential for loss of life in 1891-92 was much greater than that which actually occurred. In 1921 a massive crop failure again blasted the Volga and black earth regions. The new Soviet government, just emerging from the trial of revolution, civil war and foreign intervention was unable to mount the full-scale relief operations. A major portion of the task of feeding the hungry was shouldered by the American Relief Administration led by Herbert Hoover. At the height of the crisis, the American agency was dispensing food to about 10 million persons, a figure just slightly lower than the number obtaining state aid in 1892. Despite this, the loss of life due to the famine was enormous. Reliable sources estimate that there were between 1 and 3 million victims of the disaster. During the year 1932-1933, another terrible famine ravaged the Ukraine, the region roughly comparable in size and population to the area stricken in 1891-92. No government aid was undertaken, and, as a consequence, 5 million died.
APPENDIX TABLE 3. Death Rates in the Sixteen Provinces of European Russia Most Seriously Affected by the Famine of 1891-92
Death per 100 population, 1892
Death per 100 population, 1881-1890
Percent of increase in death rate, 1892
APPENDIX TABLE 4. Mortality in the Sixteen Provinces of European Russia Most Seriously Affected by the Famine of 1891-92
Total mortality, 1892
Average mortality, 1888-90, 1893-94
Increased mortality, 1892
a – mortality figured on an average of four years, 1888-90 and 1894