Between 1900 and 1990, there were several periods of grain and other food shortages in Russia and the former Soviet Union, some of which reached disaster proportions resulting in mass famine and death on an unprecedented scale. New stocks of information not previously accessible as well as traditional official and other sources have been used to explore the extent to which policy and vagaries in climate conspired to affect agricultural yields. Were the leaders' (Stalin, Krushchev, Brezhnev and Gorbachev) policies sound in theory but failed in practice because of unpredictable weather? How did the Soviet peasants react to these changes? What impact did Soviet agriculture have on the overall economy of the country? These are all questions that are taken into account.