Herbert Hoover and the Politics of Food Relief to the Baltic States in 1919

Olavi Arens (Armstrong State University)

Central to the food relief provided by the American Relief Administration (ARA) in 1919 to the Baltic states were the decisions of Herbert Hoover, ARA director.  This paper discusses Hoover’s motives in bringing the Baltic states into the food relief program of the ARA in 1919.  I argue that U.S. economic policy toward the Baltic states became, in effect, part of U.S. economic policy toward Europe.  As a result, some U.S. officials essentially separated the Baltic states, conceptually and economically, from Russia.  In November 1918, the fledgling Estonian government created a Food Procurement Ministry to establish a food distribution policy for the urban populations and to organize a food requisition system for the military.  The policy of the ministry provided for a free market for most food commodities with the major exception being grains (rye, barley, and oats) that were in short supply. The ARA, British Relief, and outside trade provided the necessary supplement for Estonia to avoid a serious crisis and possible famine.  I will also analyze how ARA food shipments were integrated into the food distribution system of the Food Procurement ministry.

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