On November 7, 2020, Sergei Nikitin, a former board member of Friends House Moscow, gave a presentation by Zoom on the history of more than 300 years of Quaker work in Russia. Over 40 people attended the presentation, which was recorded and is available on YouTube (search for “Friends and Comrades, by Sergei Nikitin”).
Much of the presentation was devoted to a fascinating (and little-known) episode covered in Nikitin’s recently published book, Как квакеры спасали Россию / When Quakers Were Saving Russia (working English title is Friends and Comrades). This tells the story of how Quakers, mostly from Britain and the United States, came to the Soviet Union in 1920–21 to distribute humanitarian aid, which was badly needed as the country was suffering a terrible famine in the wake of revolution, civil war, and unusually harsh weather conditions. These Quakers ended up in Buzuluk, a town in south-eastern Russia and one of the most badly affected areas. Here, they organized food distribution—at one point feeding over 80 percent of those in need—and also set up an orphanage and a hospital staffed by foreign doctors. There was a permanent Quaker presence in the Soviet Union until 1931, and they made such an impact that, to this day, there are still people alive who remember them.
Learn more: Friends House Moscow