During the years of 1946-1957, the Soviet Union experienced one of it’s three largest famines, after several years of success and happiness seen during the industrial period in the 1930s. The famine happened for a few reasons, though out of the three famines in recent Russian history, this one is the least known about. One of those reasons being because of World War II and the lack of labor. Casualties and the lack of interest to return to the farm after fighting led to less area being cultivated and less man power–which ultimately led to less cultivation of agriculture. Another factor that lead to the famine of 1946-1947 was the drought that occurred in Ukraine which reduced the harvest from an already abysmal harvest as compared to pre-war harvests. Compared to 1940 before the war started, 55 million less tons of grain were harvested in 1946. One of the last large factors in the famine was the role that the state police played. The quotas for grain to the government were still very high–even after the war– making it difficult to have enough food for all.
Tough times like the famine of 1946-1947, led to nostalgia and thoughts of the success had in the 1930s during the industrial boom. This is seen in Sergei Mikhalkov’s “Children’s Verse” (1946), which captured the essence of the good times had in a seemingly joyful series of years in the 1930s. Through patriotism and nostalgia of the better economic times of the 1930s, Mikhalkov attempts to make a terrible time better. Much of this time period (the drought) was spent trying to make the Soviet Union look stable and ok, when in reality it was struggling and going through desperate times.
In the poem, Mikhalkov makes patriotic references to the natural beauty of the country to cover up the tough times. This can be seen in the second stanza of the poem where Mikhalkov writes,”Take a good look all around,/All this is ours, it’s all for us;/ All the mountains and the meadows…/” (Mass Culture in Soviet Russia, 421). This reference to the natural beauty of Russia is used to make the people of Russia appreciative of the little that they have and to make them happy to have something. Other means of patriotism are also used in the poem including in the section under “All This is Ours”, lines 10-14 say, “If in many other countries,/Under foreign governments,/Those who dictate all the laws/Do not plow or sow the fields,/But own the granaries and silos…” (Mass Culture in Soviet Russia, 422). This reference is made to make the Soviet people feel accomplished and proud of the hard work that they put in and that they have something intangible to be proud of. Mikhalkov also comments on the industrial success of the Soviet Union towards the end of the poem where he states, “Everything the factories make,/Everything the plants produce,/ That makes our Motherland so proud…” (Mass Culture in Soviet Russia, 422). This comment to the industrialization pulls on the strings of the success had during an age where industrialization was synonymous with success–in the 1930s. The success allows the reader to become nostalgic about the proud moments and achievements of the Soviet people, which ultimately is what Mikhalkov wants.
The famine of 1946-1947 was a tough time for the Soviet people, but through a number of different means, including poetry, the people of Russia were able to remind themselves of everything they had to be grateful for.