World War I was a watershed moment in the rise of a new network of international humanitarian organizations that sought to develop systematic responses to the unprecedented social and economic crises caused by the war. Many organizational questions about types of relief, distribution networks, and roles of relief workers, among others, became points of discussion and an open confrontation ensued among different organizations. This article analyzes competing visions of US famine relief to Soviet Russia during the devastating Volga famine of 1921–23. Unofficially presided over by Herbert Hoover, the American Relief Administration sent food, clothing, and medicine to the Soviets, while the so-called radical relief groups demanded a more “permanent rehabilitation” of Soviet agriculture and sought to ship technologies and agricultural specialists. These visions were guided by more than humanitarian ideals. Economic rivalry, class solidarity, anti-communism, and a belief in the power of technology shaped the US famine relief to Soviet Russia.

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