MOSCOW (AP) _ As the United States continued a much-publicized airlift to aid the former Soviet Union, Russia's top magazine this week reminded readers of a similar crisis in Russia a century ago.

''People abroad responded to Russia's pain and sent shiploads of wheat to our shores,'' the weekly Ogonyok said in an article on the severe Russian famine of 1891-92. American ships carrying flour and oatmeal were among those bringing aid, the magazine noted.

The article was written by American scholar Tatyana Whittaker, a Russian emigre who heads the Russian language department of Manhattanville College in New York.

Whittaker's description of efforts by private U.S. citizens to aid starving 19th century Russians is strikingly similar to now, right down to fears that Russian authorities were not distributing aid to the neediest.

''High-ranking bureaucrats of that time were just like ours,'' the magazine said. ''American gifts were stolen in the same way and vanished without a trace - so this article is not only about the past.''

American teams are in place to ensure that the shipments reach their intended destinations.

Western historians estimate that 400,000 people died in the 1891-92 famine, but Ogonyok placed the toll at about 600,000.

Whittaker's article concluded that Americans sent large amounts of aid in return for Russia's support during the American Revolutionary and Civil War. Working-class Americans gave the most, donating money to a famine relief fund named for Russian writer Leo Tolstoy. Tolstoy, a rich Russian count, used his wealth to open hundreds of soup kitchens to feed peasants and children.

Ogonyok's editors said the experience of 1891-92 contradicts critics who accuse Russian President Boris Yeltsin of leading Russia to its lowest point in history.

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