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Modern History (Year 12) - Russia Transforms

Ben Whitten

What is collectivisation?

Collectivisation was the policy adopted by the Soviet government, and was pursued predominantly between 1929 and 1933, to try and transform traditional agriculture in the Soviet Union and to reduce the economic power of the Kulaks, who were the wealthy peasants. Under collectivisation, the Kulaks were forced to give up their individual farms and join large collective farms. Collectivisation was a key method used in his regime, and with it came dekulakisation.

Dekulakisation was the term used to describe the liquidation of the Kulaks as a class. Stalin stated, “In order to eliminate the kulaks as a class, it is necessary to openly break their spirit and resistance and deprive them of the sources for further existence and development. The party’s current policy in the towns and village marks a new procedure for eliminating the kulaks as a class.” Stalin utilised class hatred to stir up mass hysteria. The definition of a kulak was loose and open for much interpretation. Any peasant who refused to join the collective farm was labelled a Kulak and shot.

Stalin presented the Kulaks as an enemy as it was important to have a class enemy – a group to blame for everything that went wrong. By having a clear group of people to blame for all wrongdoings occurring in Russia, Stalin made it easy on himself to establish the social climate under the Soviet Union, creating ease in controlling the public, assisting in developing his cult of personality as well as being a terror tactic.

Stalin needed to:

  • Raise revenue to fund industrial revolution by exporting grain abroad

  • Feed workers in the towns

To do this, Stalin needed to:

  • Maximise the production of grain by revolutionising the methods of agriculture

  • Traditional Russian farming techniques were poor – small plots of land meant that innovations such as fertiliser and tractors could not be used – many peasants were still using horse-drawn ploughs

  • Control the production – since the NEP, the Kulaks had controlled prices of grain and hoarded their surplus to ensure prices stay high (high demand and low supply means high prices)

  • Stalin needed to ensure the grain price was low, so workers in town could afford to buy grain without Stalin having to increase wages

  • Stalin needed to destroy the power of the Kulaks to control grain prices as well for ideological reasons – he needed to create class hatred and having a class of agricultural capitalists did not work with Communist ideologies

Stalin created Kolkhoz, huge collective farms which had these features:

  • Peasants would farm the land, using machinery from the state (tractors loaned from Motor Tractor Stations)

  • Animals and tools were to be pooled together

  • They would receive a wage for doing this

  • 90% of the produce would be sold to the state cheaply

  • The 10% surplus was to feed the Kolkhoz – it could not be sold privately for profit

  • Peasants could keep a small plot of land around their house for their own use

At first, collectivisation was not enforced but promoted through propaganda:

  • However, many peasants resisted – they disliked the ideas that farms were under control of the local Communist leader

  • Kulaks resisted the policy – when the Red guards came to seize their grains and sent them to labour camps: many burned their crops and killed their animals

The impact of collectivisation:

  • Countryside was in chaos

  • Anyone who objected was exiled and sent to labour camps in Siberia

  • Millions of peasants were forced off the land into industry in the cities

  • It is predicted that 10 million died of starvation

  • Food production fell massively and caused the Great Famine (1932-33)

  • Many died in Kazakhstan and Ukraine, Russia’s richest agricultural region

Despite these profound shortages, Stalin continues to enforce his policy of collectivisation. He also continued to seize grain, resulting in a rise in grain collection 10.8 million tons in 1928-29 to 22.8 million tons in 1931-32. Living standards were improved in the towns. Stalin also continued to sell grain abroad. Even in the worst years of the famine such as 1932, the country exported up to 1.75 million tons of grain, and only slightly less in the following year.

  • By 1934, there were no Kulaks left

  • By 1937, most peasants were using tractors provided by Machine Tractor Stations (supplied by the state)

  • By 1941 almost all agricultural land was organised into collectives – the system of differentiation was introduced whereby people with special skills were given rewards and benefits in the form of housing

  • Stalin also encouraged education for peasants on the Kolkhoz

  • Literacy schemes were introduced and publicised through propaganda

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