861.24/1354: Telegram

The Ambassador in the Soviet Union (Standley) to the Secretary of State

192. My 139, March 9, 7 p.m. On January 21 in conversation with Khavinson Director of Tass I referred to the large contributions made by the American people to Russian relief and Bed Cross as distinct from Lend-Lease aid and expressed my concern lest the Russian people were not cognizant of this expression of American friendship and sympathy. I have also spoken to Lozovski informally on the same theme.

So far as I am aware there has been no reference whatsoever in the Soviet press either before or after my press conference under reference to American-Russian relief or Red Cross supplies coming to this country and I can find no real evidence that the Soviet public in general has any knowledge that such relief exists. The Consul General [Page 640] in Vladivostok12 informs me that he has no knowledge that relief supplies medicinal or otherwise are being distributed to the civilian population of his area, that he was unaware that relief supplies from abroad were being sent to the Soviet Union and that although American food products and small quantities of American shoes and clothing appear in local shops from time to time such goods are not referred to or identified as relief supplies and are sold at prices approximately the same as the state shop prices for like Soviet goods. He also states that no American medicines or hospital supplies have been made available for the needs of the civilian population of his area.

The American representative in Murmansk reports that insofar as he is aware the population of that area does not know that relief supplies are arriving from America; in any case such supplies are not being distributed free of charge. From Archangel I am informed that the population of that area believes that everything arriving from abroad is being paid for by the Soviet Union and that Britain and the United States are growing rich at Russia’s expense. The few Soviet contacts accessible to the Embassy in Moscow and Kuibyshev are not aware of American civilian relief supplies and in general the impression seems to prevail in these circles that all supplies sent to Russia from abroad are being paid for.

The only real evidence I have obtained of American relief actually in Russian hands was furnished me by a Czech liaison officer who informed me that American cigarettes are occasionally distributed among Soviet troops. He gave me a sample package of these cigarettes, “Wings” by brand, which had enclosed under its cellophane cover a card depicting American workers shoving forward a tank and containing the words “Solidarity Greetings from American Workers from the Front Line Fighters’ Fund of the International Workers Order”.

I am informed, however, by Scovell13 that it is his understanding that American relief supplies are handled through the Russian Red Cross and that they are probably distributed only in those areas where they are most needed. It is therefore likely that I would have no information as to the actual distribution.

The fact remains, however, that the Soviet public at large is not aware of the relief.

I have been advised that on several occasions recently Soviet censors have not permitted American correspondents to state in their despatches that there has been no reference in the Soviet press to American [Page 641] relief or Red Cross supplies coming to this country. For example, the following sentence was stricken out of a broadcast to the United States recent[ly] made by an American radio commentator in Moscow: “The Russian people also have no idea of the scope of such American and British organizations such as the aid to Russia and the Red Cross. They know virtually nothing of the tremendous personal interest the people of the United States and other Allied nations are taking in their problems.”

It is not unlikely that the Soviet Government is guided in its internal policy relative to the recognition of relief from abroad by an inordinate pride which makes it insufferable to admit especially to the Russian people that it is unable adequately to provide for them with the enormous resources at its disposal and that it is accepting charity from abroad and from “capitalist countries” which according to the Kremlin have never been friendly disposed to the Russian people.

It seems to me that the Russian-American relief organization is only working at 50% in efficiency since, while it is undoubtedly popularizing the Soviet Union in the United States, it is failing by reason of internal policy here to develop reciprocal friendly feeling among the Russian people toward America. Such organizations can greatly contribute to better understanding between two nations and if properly guided can be of real value in obtaining those postwar objectives which we are endeavoring to realize.

In view of the basic sensitiveness of the Soviet Government in respect to the question of relief, I fear that it might be inadvisable to attempt to do anything to correct this unfortunate situation at this time. However, I feel that the Department should be fully advised of it.

  1. Angus I. Ward.
  2. Robert J. Scovell, Assistant Director of the American Red Cross in the Soviet Union.