Rare And Sentimental Photographs Of Homeless Children In Soviet Union In The 1920s

By the early 1920s, millions of orphaned and abandoned children, collectively described in Russian as besprizornye, besprizorniki (literally “unattended”) crowded cities, towns, and villages across the new Soviet state. By 1922, World War I, Russian Revolution, and Civil War had resulted in the loss of at least 16 million lives within the Soviet Union’s borders, and severed contact between millions of children and their parents. At this time, Bolshevik authorities were faced with an estimated seven million homeless youths.

Odessa 1928

The great Volga famine of 1921–1922 accounted for some five million deaths and played a huge role in depriving children of their homes. Vast numbers of children were deserted, many abandoning their families themselves, and many parents actively abandoning their children.

By the spring of 1921, one-quarter of the peasantry in Soviet Russia was starving. The famine brought with it severe typhus and cholera epidemics which killed off those already weakened by hunger.

By the summer of 1921, starvation had become so extreme that official plans were begun for mass evacuations of juveniles from afflicted provinces. From June 1921 to September 1922 the state evacuated approximately 150,000 children and moved trainloads of youths across the country in order to lessen the burden placed on institutions and clinics in hungry regions. Foreign relief organizations fed nearly 4.2 million children. The American Relief Administration (ARA) took on 80% of this total. Altogether, including both the state’s and foreign organizations’ distribution of food, close to 5 million youths received occasional meals. However, millions more went unfed.

Homeless and starving children on the Nicholas Station. Moscow 1920

Homeless. Moscow 1922.

Homeless children playing cards 1925

A group of homeless children. Moscow 1922

Stray boy with a dog. Samara 1930

Register of homeless children in the duty-room school for street of the Moscow department of education. Moscow 1928

Homeless hostel in the receiver listening to the radio. Moscow 1925

Classes with former street children. Moscow 1925

Nochlezhka street on Smolensky Boulevard. Moscow 1926

Two homeless on the street near the furnace. Shabolovsky orphanage. Moscow 1925

Help the starving Volga. Orphans whose parents have died of starvation in an orphanage. Stavropol, 1921-1922

The fight against hunger and homelessness. Volga 1921

Bathing a homeless boy in Pokrovsky orphanage. Moscow 1925

Education of street children. Moscow 1926

Homeless at the parade. 1925

The fight against hunger and homelessness. Volga 1921

The fight against hunger and homelessness. Volga 1921

The fight against hunger and homelessness. In the infirmary. Volga 1921

The fight against hunger and homelessness. Volga 1921

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