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Successes and Failures of Collectivisation

Modern History (Year 12) - Russia Transforms

Ben Whitten

Short-Term Impacts (Failures)

  • Agricultural production: In protest of collectivisation and angered by the brutality of the state, many peasants destroyed their grain and livestock; grain production reduced drastically every year between 1930 and 1934, with livestock populations dropping by more than 50%.

  • Peasant discontent: Peasants despised collectivisation, with a large proportion of the population refusing to work on state-run farms. Consequently, these peasants were branded as kulaks (wealthy peasants) and were either exiled or killed.

  • Human cost: Historians estimate that as many as 10 million peasants died as a result of mass deportation, mass execution and famine/malnutrition between the late 1920s and early 1940s. For example, the 1932-33 Great Famine saw Ukraine take a serious hit, agriculture being almost entirely crippled in the region. 5 million peasants died, either from the famine or from malnutrition-related birth defects.

Long-Term Impacts (Successes)

  • Consolidating control of the countryside: Stalin’s horrific methods were good for one thing; enforcing total adherence to his regime. From an ethical point of view, this was terrifying, however it was great for Stalin who sought to control every part of the USSR.

  • Building up capital for modernisation: Collectivisation actually increased grain exports in the long-term despite the short-term drop in agricultural production; Stalin was allowed to feed both the cities but also export grain overseas to build the capital necessary for industrialisation. Grain exports in 1929 totalled only 0.029 million tonnes, whereas in 1931, grain exports soared to 5.05 million tonnes. Collectivisation also freed peasants to work in the cities, supplying factories with the labour necessary for rapid industrialisation, crucial for the modernisation of the USSR.

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