2018. Issue 3 (42)

Mikhalev N. A., Surzhikova N. V. Energy Fraction, “Moral Dystrophy” and Lend-Lease: a New Perspective on the Food Situation in the USSR of 1941–1945 (.pdf)


The article is devoted to new trends in researching food provisioning in the USSR in 1941–1945, reflected in the study «Hunger and war: Food provisioning in the Soviet Union during World War II» written by famous sovietologists Goldman, Filtzer, Schechter, Peri, and Manley. Identifying the situation with the population nutrition during the war as a famine, they rely on such an indicator as the energy fraction, i.e. the ratio between the number of calories consumed and expended by different categories of the Soviet people. Claiming that this fraction was negative for almost all of them, the authors of the book are not at all inclined to blame the state for this. In their opinion, it could not provide everyone due to the scarcity of resources and did everything to distribute rationally available food stocks both in the rear and at the front. The situation of hunger and hunger death of people had not only statistical and demographic, but also socio-cultural significance. Firstly, famine changed the status of such public spaces as queues and canteens, turning them into places of the formation of new social hierarchies and survival strategies. Secondly, for the first time, famine received a generally accepted medical definition as «nutritional dystrophy», which in turn generated the term «moral dystrophy». Thirdly, famine proved the importance of Lend-Lease as an important source of the Soviet people’s victory in the war. All those novations in the study of a rather special subject enable researchers to reflect on the problems of the categorization of certain phenomena and of the euphemization of certain concepts, the cognitive potential and the possibilities of reading various source materials, nature, logic and dynamics of sociocultural changes during extraordinary periods of social development.


Key words: World War II, the USSR, food supply, rations, energy fraction, famine, blockade diaries, dystrophy, Lend-Lease.


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