Consequences of Colectivisation

In this extended essay I chose to research about the effects that Stalin’s policy of collectivisation had on the USSR, both short-term and long-term - Consequences of Colectivisation introduction. I chose the topic of collectivisation because it is a very interesting subject, as it had major impacts on the USSR, both short-term like a dramatic famine which is said to have ended the lives of over 6 million Soviet farmers or long-term, like the modernisation of Russia’s industry which resulted, mainly, in it being properly prepared to resist the German invasion in 1941 I researched wether it had a positive or a negative impact on the country at a social and economic level.

I took into consideration several facts, like the elimination of entire peasant villages during the transfer of peasants to the collective farms, the famine that was caused by the lack of food in the countryside and the slaughter of cattle, sabotages of crops and burning down of houses, ranches and other property, carried out by the very owners of these.

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I got to the conclusion that although at first agricultural production seemed to improve as a cause of collectivisation, its negative effects soon became clear when the peasant population became affected by the strong famine in rural areas. I encountered several problems while writting this extended essay, as it was very hard to get a reasonable amount of bibliography, I began my research with Hosking’s The First Socialist Society: A History of the Soviet Union From Within (see bibliography) and Ben Walsh, G. C. S. E. Modern World History (UK, Hodder Education, 2009), which I found at the school but was unable to find any more books which dealt with this subject at the school’s library, however, I found over the internet about other books which I could buy I went to local libraries to look for other books like John Traynor’s Europe 1890-1990 (UK, Thomas Nelson and Sons Ltd, 1992) and Alan Bullock’s, Hitler and Stalin: Parallel Lives (UK, Fontana Press, 1998) but I learnt that these were not sold in Argentina, so I solved this problem by buying them online (amazon) and having them mailed to my house.

Introduction An analysis of the effects of collectivisation on the USSR I chose the topic of collectivisation in the Soviet Union because I believe it is a very interesting subject, as it had major impacts on the USSR in economic, social and political aspects, both short-term, like a dramatic famine which is said to have ended the lives of over 6 million Soviet farmers or more longer term, like the fact that the execution of this policy gave way to the modernisation of Russia’s industry which resulted, mainly, in it being properly prepared to resist the German invasion in 1941.

This extended essay will analyse these effects, in addition to many others, such as collectivisation’s direct impact on food, grain and livestock production the modernisation of the USSR’s agriculture, the change in the rural population, the direct control which the communist party gained over the rural population, and the damages to the governments support from this agricultural society..

Collectivisation was the politburo of the Communist Party’s massive operation to modernise the agricultural production in the USSR, an idea which Stalin put forth in 1928. It helped reunite the Communist party. A party which, after Lenin’s new economic policy (NEP), (which sought to improve the country’s economy -which had been devastated by the First World War and the Civil War- with the implementetion of conservative economic measures, which allowed the peasants to work for their own profit), had plit and many party members resented the “uncertainties and compromises of NEP” Now, party members saw collectivisation as a “decisive stage in the building of socialism, a return to the early, visionary days of the revolution”, a campaign which proposed an agricultural society where one worked according to their abilities and got paid according to their needs, virtually eliminating the need of money, an ideal which was much more in line with Marxist thinking than NEP was.

In addition, when the five-year plans were put into effect as a measure to mordernise the USSR’s industry, they were accompanied by a massive migration of peasants from the countryside to the cities. The government, at first, thought optimistically that food production would rise automatically to meet the demand in the cities. However, a decrease in food production, (in 1928, grain requisitions which the government bought directly from the peasants to supply to the cities was less than 75% of what was procured the previous year) occurred as this decrease of population in the countryside (between 1929 and 1935, a total of 17. million peasants “fled to the towns looking for work in the new construction and industrial projects of the five-year plan”) was exacerbated by the consequent increase in demand of food in the cities created by the increase of population which came from the countryside and Stalin “realised that his industrialisation initiative would be jeopardised by the inadequacy of grain supplies needed to feed the urban workforce”, so he began a radical modernisation of Russia’s agriculture, which for several centuries had been organised in a feudal-like system, where each individual worked his own land, and paid a portion of their production to the head of the village, or Mir.

At first, the government, instead of offering to increase the prices of the grain they bought, resorted to simply stealing the grain from the peasants by force and taking it to the cities. Later the government soon began to take more radical measures, and eventually ended up with dekulakisation, which meant “liquidating the Kulaks as a class” (although the term kulak was originally meant for the richer peasants, it was quickly “applied to anyone suspected of resisting the grain deliveries or of being unwilling to join the collectives”). These kulaks “were to be evicted and deprived from all their possessions, and together with their families deported as outlaws”.

The main aim of dekulakisation was to obtain the crucial lands, livestock and tools from the kulaks, followed by the ultimate “transformation of the small scattered peasants plots into large consolidated farms based on the joint cultivation of land using superior techniques” . Previously this was impossible as farms were split into fractions too small to allow the use of modern production techniques, like heavy machinery such as tractors. In January, 1930, Stalin called for “total collectivisation” and sent “25. 000 party activists from the cities, ussually entirely ignorant of rural life” to “drag the peasants out of their backward condition and force them into the enlightened world of socialism”.

Although these communists were initially called the twenty-five-thousanders, by the spring, 72. 000 more workers had been sent, along with 50. 000 troops. They were the once in charge, of convincing (and if that failed, forcing) the peasant population into joining their local Kolkhoz. This campaign had a high extent of success in collectivising the countryside, as by March of the same year, about 80% of the land was constituted of collective farms. There was a strong resistance to this campaign from peasants who did not want to give up their land and belongings to the collective farms, their main outlet was to slaughter and kill their livestock and burn their homes.

In total, estimates show that the number of “cattle fell from 70. 5 million head in 1928 to 38. 4 in 1933; pigs from 26 million to 12 million; sheep and goats from 146. 7 million to 50. 2 million”. Investigation Collectivisation brought numerous consequences in the USSR such as the increase in food supply to the cities which the government obtained from the first step of collectivisation, that is, by grain requisitioning from the country’s own agriculture, which meant that the government procured the grain directly from the peasants and introduced it into the cities to be able to meet the increased demand which followed the enlargement of the population at the cities.

It is clear that the government was very successful in feeding the urban population, as state procurements – which consisted of grain being taken from areas of agricultural production to urban zones, which were quickly expanding as a result of industrialisation, creating a much higher demand of food in the cities – increased almost 50% from 1928 to the next year, and by 1935, there was an increase of 175% in grain to the cities compared, again, with the start of collectivisation. Since most of these people were working at the newly-built factories, a result of industrialisation, it could be said that collectivisation had a very positive effect in feeding the workforce of the USSR’s industry and thus, that the campaign was a crucial factor for industrialisation to be successfull.

In addition, the collective farms were much more efficient, since they constituted of much larger divisions of land which allowed “substantial use of tractors, mechanised equipment and modern fertilizers” Eventually, after most of the land had been collectivised, modernised farming practices could be introduced, and efficiency of the production in the collectives, -or kolkhoz-, was substantially higher than that of the small plots of land that each individual worked in the Mirs.. Therefore it can be seen that collectivisation had a positive effect on the farming techniques that were used in the USSR at the time, given that it [collectivisation] allowed for the use of modern machinery and fertilizers, accompanied by an improvement in farming techniques, adding up to a very high overall increase in efficiency of agricultural production. It can thus be seen that collectivisation had a positive effect on the food supply that got to the cities.

This was crucial, mainly because the increase in food supply was a key factor to allow the country’s industry to progress, which was the aim of Stalin’s policy of industrialisation. Therefore, it can be said that one of the effects of collectivisation was that it helped Stalin’s programme of industrialisation succeed as, with grain requisitioning, which was potentiated by the mordernising of practices and techniques in agricultural production, the workforce of the industries in towns and cities could be appropriately fed. In addition, the success in feeding the cities made the urban population there look more positively towards the government.

The increase in food supply to the cities had a direct impact on the support the state received from the people in towns or cities, as there was no longer a threat of starvation in the working class and thus, there was no danger that the workers would go on strike, or revolt and try to overthrow the current government, like had happened in the bolshevik revolutions of 1905 and 1917, or in the Kronstadt rebellion of 1921 when Lenin was in power. This helped create a better sense of general security in the cities, and, without the threat of strikes, factories could be run smooth and safely, thus paving the way and facilitating the modernisation of the Soviet Union’s industry.

Therefore, collectivisation, by successfully feeding the workforce in the cities, eliminated almost completely the chance of famine in cities, which consequently gave the government an increased amount of support from the population, and ultimately, indirectly helped industrialisation succeed as factories were now reliable to continue production regularly as the chance of workers to go on strike and stop or sabbotage production was now almost minimal.. Another effect of collectivisation was the great control that the communist party now had over the population in rural areas. The newly-created collectives were managed by delegations sent directly from the party.

These delegations, in most cases were constituted by the twenty-five-thousanders, who held strict records of the peasants’ important information, like his wage or technical ability. In addition, the state denied the peasants the right to have passports, which gave the party the control to prive the peasants many rights they previously had, like moving elsewhere, which was now forbidden. This shows an almost antagonisitic image of the rural society before collectivisation started, where each peasant worked his own strip of land and made his own profit, and where the state held an almost negligible control of the rural population’s activities and information.

The state’s prescence in the countryside was almost practically nul. In addition, there was little or non communist doctrine at the villages, the population at the countryside, unlike that of the cities, had been almost unaffected by the new commuinst government and had little or none instruction about communist ideals and theory. Perhaps the best example that shows this distance from the government is the strong Christian faith the villages maintained . In an attempt to bring the rural population under stricter government control “collectivisation was often accompanied by the arrest of the village priest and the closure and even destruction of the church”.

The church was replaced by a much stronger prescence of the party, as each collective farm was under control of a party’s delegate, who made sure that there was no religious worshipping among the inhabitants of the kolkhoz. This ended the religious doctrine of the rural population, replacing it with the party’s communist doctrine. In addition, the party strongly disliked the feudal-like system by which the peasant villages held the distribution of their land, where each family got a different portion of the totality of the land available according to the needs of each individual of the family. Clearly, collectivisation solved this problem for the state, as now, everyone worked the same amount of land and received the same wage.

Therefore, collectivisation clearly aided the state in keeping the agricultural population in a much stricter control, as it eliminated the control that the church had over the soviet rural population, which was now tightly controlled by the communist party delegates’ at the collective farms, and facilitated the spread of communist ideals among the rural population. Also, initially, collectivisation helped improve the party’s inner atmosphere. It was clear that many party officials disliked Lenin’s NEP, because they felt it was “a step backwards towards the old capitalist system”, because it reintroduced the general use of currency in the country, and allowed the peasants sell their surplus food for profit. By collectivising the land, Stalin was clearly putting an end to Lenin’s conservative policies and implementing a more left-wing policy.

This helped end with the long-lasting unrest that existed among party members, which had caused the politburo to decree the Resolution on Factionalism in 1921, which prevented any Party member from deviating from the official Party line. Since most of the deviations were towards the left-wing, the campaign of collectivisation ended with the insecurity that the party would split, even “Yuri Pyatakov, a former member of the Opposition, proclaimed [The heroic period of our socialist construction has arrived]”. It can be seen how the campaign of collectivisation helped the Party’s security so that it would remain united since most of the Party members had been wanting to implement left-wing policies, more according with Marxist theory, which they claimed to be representing, as opposed to Lenin’s NEP.

However, collectivisation did not unite the Party at all levels, the ampaign brought a great deal of criticism, its most important representative was perhaps Martemyan Ryutin, who, worried about the violent and cohercive methods used in collectivisation, in 1932 began questioning Stalin’s policies and along with a small group of Party officials who supported him, made several demands. These included the disbanding of collective farms. Stalin, who took this as a personal attack, insisted that the politburo apply the death penalty for this criticism, but the rest of his colleagues refused to execute Ryutin. Although Ryutin was only exiled, this case served to show Stalin that he was facing some opposition from within the Party, an opposition which he later completely eradicated during purges and show trials which took place in the 1930s. So it could be said that in a way, the methods used during the campaign of collectivisation brought up criticism of Stalin, which showed him that he faced opposition.

This criticism, which arose from the questionable methods to collectivise the USSR’s countryside were the first direct causes of Stalin purging anyone who -was believed to- oppose him and resulted in the slaughter of, among others, Trotsky, Zinoviev, Kamenev, in addition to 60% of political commisars and more than 70 % of army commanders. It is clear how collectivisation had its negative effect on the Party’s unity, as its questionable methods were not approved by many members of the party, who began to question Stalin personally. This could be seen as a cause of the purges, as Stalin saw the need to completely eliminate his opponents. The harsh criticism that Stalin received did not only originate from within the party. As said before, the campaign of collectivisation brought on a massive resistance from the peasants, especially “in the Ukraine, the Caucasus, the Don region and Siberia…

These were areas were both grain requisitioning and dekulakisation were at their most ruthless”. What hurt the government the most must probably have been the deliberate slaughter of cattle to prevent the state from taking it to the kolkhoz; “in two months at the beginning of 1930 alone they killed 14 million out of the country’s 1928 total of 70. 5 million as well as a third of all pigs, a quarter of all sheep and goats. ”. This slaughter brought such horrendous consequences on the production of the rural sector, so that up until the decade of the 1950’s, the shortages caused by these events could still be seen and felt, specially in supplies of milk and meat.

At the same time, as said before, the state had been procuring increasingly more grain from the countryside to the cities, however, this was contrary to the actual progress of grain harvests, which were actually decreasing, from 73. 3 million tonnes in 1928, to 71. 7 in 1929 and reaching 67. 6 million tonnes in 1934. The shortage of livestock, along with the increasing grain procurements of decreasing agricultural production, created a terrible famine which “probably cost six million lives in the Ukraine, Kazakhstan, the North Caucasus and the Volga region. ”. An inhabitant of a village in Dnepropetrovsk describes to Kravchenko the sight during this time, “all the dogs have been eaten…

We’ve eaten everything we could lay our hands on – cats, dogs, field mice, birds. When it’s light tomorrow, you will see that the trees have been stripped of their bark, for that too has been eaten”. This was not the case of one village alone, everyone who refused to join the kolkhoz was labeled a “kulak” and either followed the fate of 10 million people who were deported to labour camps or the entire village was forced into the collectives. Therefore it can be clearly observed how, even though the collectivisation helped feed the workforce in industrial areas, it did so at the expense of having to starve the rural population, thus causing 6 million deaths.

Even those who survived the famine were also certainly affected, about 97% of 25 million peasant holdings distributed into 600. 000 villages had been amalgamated into collective farms by the summer of 1940. It can be seen how, though not everyone actually died during the famine, the entire rural population was, in one way or another, affected by the collectivisation, as every single villager in the country was either forced to join the local kolkhoz, or, also in many cases was deported to labour camps in Siberia, by 1940, over 120 million people had gone one way or the other. Conclusion As we have seen, Stalin’s policy of collectivisation brought numerous consequences to the USSR.

At first, it helped the party -which after Lenin’s NEP had splitted into two factions- reunite, as virtually all members of the party agreed that it was much better for the country to have a rural population which responded to the communist ideals of the revolution, instead of distributing the farmland into different strips of land which were worked each by a different family. They felt it much better that a sense of equality had been achieved since everyone worked the same land and got paid the same amounts. On the counterpart, collectivisation also brought negative consequences on the party’s unity, since the party was later divided into those who wanted to carry on forward with collectivisation, and those who wanted to stop the violent and coercive methods used to accomplish this.

During collectivisation, farming practices and tecniques were greatly improved, as larger strips of land allowed the use of modern machinery and fertilizers, which greatly increased efficiency and farmers were well trained to handle this new machinery and learnt about different methods to help increase production efficiency. Since there had been a great decrease in agricultural population which moved to urban areas, which was now expecting to be fed by the remaining farmers, it was crucial for these to increase efficiency, otherwise, it would have been impossible to increase production to feed the ever-increasing amount of workers at the cities.

In addition, the success in feeding the workforce made the urban population look more positively towards the government, so there was a much smaller chance that this properly-fed workers would go on strike, thus creating a more stable political situation and providing factory managers a greater confidence that the factories would not suddenly stop producing due to strikes or revolts. So the proper supply of the workforce in the cities meant a much better sense of security and stability for industry, which was not present when there was an uncertain supply of food and there was a constant threat that the workers would go on strike and stop production. It must also be noted the amount of control that the State gained over the rural population, by joining together the totality of the peasant population in lands under strict State-control, managed by delegation directly sent from the Party.

This control was also facilitated by the introduction of internal passports, which prevented free movement of peasants from one territory to the other, together with the elimination of the religious belief, replacing the worship to god with the worship to the State and Stalin. Though collectivisation was very successful in the matter of feeding the urban population, it certainly had a much stronger, negative effect on the rural population, which suffered a famine and long-lasting food shortages. In addition, the whole rural way of life changed, since before collectivisation the soviet farmers were living independently from the state and working their individual, separate and small strips of land, and they were then forced to join the collectives, where they were strictly controlled by the Party’s delegation and worked the same large sectors of land as the other farmers and got paid the same.

In addition, collectivisation meant the complete evacuation of entire villages to collective farms or labour camps, along with the elimination of religious worshipping, which was replaced by a strong communist doctrine enforced by the party’s delegates at the collectives. Personally, I believe that it is the famine the most important factor, as it ended with the lives of 6 million people and certainly brought great suffering to everyone in the countryside in one way or another.


– Alan Bullock, Hitler and Stalin: Parallel Lives (UK, Fontana Press, 1998) -Ben Walsh, G. C. S. E. Modern World History (UK, Hodder Education, 2009) -Geoffrey Hosking, The First Socialist Society: A History of the Soviet Union From Within (USA, Harvard University Press, 1996) -John Traynor, Europe 1890-1990 (UK, Thomas Nelson and Sons Ltd, 1992) -Josh Brooman, Russia in War and Revolution (USA, Longman Inc. 1989)

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