March 8, 2021

of the fall of Rome to the Russian revolution

Its nutritional properties include high amounts of carbohydrates, fiber, vitamins and minerals: an ideal energy contribution for the toughest jobs. And it is satiating, suitable in times of famine to keep the stomach cheated. In addition, making bread is not complicated and its production costs are cheap. Considering these factors, it is not surprising that it has been considered a basic product, and sometimes the only sustenance available to the lower classes. The end of the glaciations caused the desertification of large regions, whose inhabitants migrated in search of fertile places. The land of the Fertile Crescent was ideal for cultivation, especially cereals, the only food solution for the large population densities that are beginning to concentrate in this place. The phenomenon of agriculture also favors the development of sedentary societies that are increasingly complex and hierarchical. The Mesopotamian ziggurat was probably nothing more than a raised granary that protected the harvest from the floods. In time it would become a temple. The protection of the grain was entrusted to a concrete god, and the barn becomes the house of God. Eventually she would end up losing her function as a granary but keeps the nun and, in this way, the administrators of the granary accounts become influential castes of priests. Along with wine and oil, wheat was one of the three basic pillars in the Roman diet of both the civilian population and the legions. The State had to watch, from old, for the maintenance of the prices – the grain could not surpass a concrete one (annona vetus) – and the supply of the population. Roman politicians knew that keeping the people satisfied with their stomachs was fundamental, otherwise citizens would violently agitate against the authorities. In fact, in 75 a. C. the Roman consuls had to take refuge in their homes before the tumults caused by the shortage of bread, and in 67 a. C. Senators were threatened with death if they did not grant Pompey full powers to ensure the supply of wheat to the city. During the civil war between Octavio and Sixth Pompeyo, the latter left Rome without wheat trying to attract the favor of the population with its promises of supply against the inability of his rival to feed it. The Emperor Tiberius himself was booed in the forum in Rome and the people threw breadcrumbs in protest at the high prices of food. The Empire had two great "granaries": the provinces of Africa and Egypt. The first supplied Rome and the western part of it, and the second to Constantinople and the eastern part of the Empire. Different usurpers or contenders tried to dominate both provinces, real weaknesses of Rome to take over the imperial throne. During the Year of the Four Emperors, Vespasian came to power in Egypt, blocking the output of wheat to Rome. It generated a great food crisis that the population paid with Vitelo, the emperor of the moment. His next step was to arrive in Rome with ships full of wheat, which earned him to be crowned emperor by the will of the people. Four centuries later, one of the main causes of the fall of the Roman Empire was the conquest of the province of Africa in the year 429 by Genseric, king of the Vandals. In doing so, he signed the death penalty of the Roman Empire, depriving them of the long-awaited and necessary African grain. In 461, the Mayorian emperor tried to reconquer the province, but failed and 17 years later the empire fell.

Ravages of the reapers' war

The Middle Ages and the Modern Age also witnessed frequent revolts for lack of bread. In the Barcelona of 1643, the grain reserves were exhausted. This shortage was due to the fact that the Catalan regions that produced wheat had been reduced to a minimum due to the ravages of the Reapers' War. The authorities had a reserve that supplied the bakers for a few months but did not reach more. It was necessary to send transport ships to buy wheat in the port of Livorno, which was sold at astronomical prices due to transport costs. In addition, the quantity was insufficient to supply Barcelona and the surrounding towns, whose population suffered from famine. Paradoxically, one of the reasons for the popular discontent that had led to the uprising of Catalonia in 1640 was precisely the shortage of bread, but then it was not due to any shortage, but to its export to Italy by speculators, while the population went hungry . A century later, in Madrid, the Mutiny of Esquilache was preceded by a rise in the prices of wheat because of the bad harvests that paved the way for the violence of the town against the minister of Carlos III. However, it was in the French Revolution that the real consequences that the lack of bread could cause were seen. The French State regulated the quantity of wheat that entered Paris in order to avoid a general famine that would disturb the people. However, meteorological phenomena escaped their control. The months before the revolutionary events were marked by an excessive increase in taxes added to a bad wheat harvest at a time when bread had a weight in the diet of the most disadvantaged classes ten times higher than the current one.

Famine in Czarist Russia

Thus, the French bakers modified the recipe using the available ingredients, resulting in a bread of black crumb that began to be identified as the bread of the poor. It is not surprising that one of the first objectives of the revolutionaries was the looting of the bakeries and the burning of the customs posts, which were engaged in requisitioning, in the name of the king, much of the precious and scarce wheat. In addition, the revolutionary government forced the bakers to make a type of bread that was similar for all social classes, baptized as "bread of equality." In the early twentieth century, the shortage of product also made a dent in Tsarist Russia. The events that unleash the Russian Revolution of 1917 are generated in the days of February in Petrograd, in a context of scarcity and harsh working conditions caused by the Great War. Since January 9, there have been several strikes, which paralyzed 40% of the local industry and led to the closure of the Putilov factory, the main one in the capital. 30,000 workers were left in the street. After a month of conflict, the women decided to take the initiative and concentrated before the food stores, shouting "pan!", Protesting the shortage and the need to make long lines to get the little available after long days of work. The channeling by the political parties of the protests, to which the garrison of the city was added, granted a deep revolutionary dimension to a movement that, however, had spontaneously begun due to the harsh conditions of life. Later, the slogan of "bread, peace and earth" would raise the condition of bread from mere detonating to authentic symbol of the revolution.

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