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Summary Article: collectivization
from The Hutchinson Unabridged Encyclopedia with Atlas and Weather Guide

Policy pursued by the Soviet leader Josef Stalin in the USSR after 1929 to reorganize agriculture by taking land into state ownership or creating collective farms. Much of this was achieved during the first two five-year plans but only by forcible means and with much loss of life among the peasantry. Stalin's ruthless pursuit of collectivization in Ukraine created a totally artificial famine that led to the deaths of several million peasants. Stalin denied that the famine was occurring, and continued to present the collectivization policy as necessary and popular.

Resistance to collectivization was so strong, especially among the prosperous peasants or kulaks, that productivity remained low on the new farms. Much as he would later with the purges of the 1930s, Stalin used the kulaks as the scapegoats for the initial failure of the collective farms to produce expected gains in production. Many peasants killed their livestock and destroyed their farm equipment before joining the collectives, while the mass deportations of those who refused to give up their private land deprived the country of experienced farmers.

The actions of the peasants during the Russian civil war (1918–21), in either supporting the Tsarist Whites or refusing to cooperate when the Bolsheviks seized their grain supplies, had marked them as potential enemies of the Soviet state, so Stalin was unsympathetic to any objections. Stalin was absolutely determined to carry through the collectivization policy, as it represented both an article of political faith as well as a necessary tool in his plan to dominate all the USSR. Once the peasants were on collective farms they could be more easily dominated and controlled by the state.

In the long term the collective farms did produce increased production as new technology and new methods were used on the farms. However, the USSR was never able to feed itself adequately, despite possessing some of the most fertile farmland in the world. By the 1970s the USSR was forced to buy grain from the USA to avoid food shortages.

essays

Stalin's Russia, 1928–41

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