THE PARTICIPATION OF THE APOSTOLIC SEE IN INTERNATIONAL CHARITY RELIEF FOR THE VICTIMS OF FAMINE IN SOVIET RUSSIA (1921-1924)
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The 1921-1924 papal mission intent on helping the victims of famine in the Soviet Union was one of numerous endeavours pursued at the time by the international community and assorted specialised charity organisations involved in rendering assistance. In the summer 1921 the Vatican joined the international assistance campaign. A convention signed in Rome by the Vatican and the Soviet Union on 12 March 1922 enumerated in detail the tasks of the papal envoys in the USSR. The Vatican negotiator failed in his attempt at granting the charity campaign in Russia a religious character. Originally, the Vatican planned to base its anti-famine work upon the Catholic clergy in Russia, but due to assorted political complications, i. a. a refusal of the Soviet side to accept the participation of Polish clergymen, it was decided to rely primarily on West European monks, who were to embark upon close co-operation with the ARA and the International Russian Relief Committee agencies. In August 1922, a papal humanitarian mission, which arrived in the USSR in accordance with the conditions negotiated by Cardinal Pietro Gasparri and the Soviet representative, Vatslav Vorovski, was headed, upon the basis of agreements made with the ARA, by an American citizen, the Jesuit Edmund Walsh, who in the autumn of 1923 was replaced by a German Verbist, Edward Gehrmann. The Moscow-based main seat of the mission supervised a network of agencies in, i. a. Crimea, Rostov, Novorossiysk, Bakhmat and Krasnodar. At the peak of its activity, the papal mission employed 1 700 workers and ran about 300 kitchens and dining facilities, which provided sustenance for almost 100 000 people, predominantly children. It also dispensed medicine, clothes and shoes in a total of 25 Soviet cities. Co-operation with the papal mission encountered numerous organisational-logistic and financial obstacles, and particularly political hindrances in contacts with the Soviet authorities. A gradual liquidation of the outposts began in the autumn of 1923, and the activity of the mission became conspicuously limited. This trend coincided with a general tendency for withdrawing international charity relief from the Soviet Union as a result of a gradual improvement of the food supplies and the pressure of the authorities in Moscow.
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