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Peter Carl Faberge

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A reproduction of the poster "Hired hand, join the collective farm" issued during the collectivization period (RIA Novosti) A reproduction of the poster "Hired hand, join the collective farm" issued during the collectivization period (RIA Novosti)

5 January

On January 5, 1930, the Soviet Government enacted “The regulation on the boost of collectivization and relief measures for collective farm formation”. This law forcefully eliminated private farm households and for decades crippled the Soviet agriculture.

In the course of the collectivization – the forced creation of collective farms, undertaken in the late 1920s – early 1930s – all agricultural equipment, all cattle and all of the land were expropriated from the private owners and made communal property. All the agricultural produce was partially returned to the state and partially divided equally between the members of the collective farm, regardless of the amount of effort different peasants put into the production.

The Soviet agriculture was seriously damaged by the Civil war in the World War I and was unable to supply the fast-developing Soviet industry with food and feedstock. By early 1920s, the majority of the Soviet peasants still used hand-held tools, only about 5% of the richest ones could afford the latest technology, while these 5%, the so-called kulaks, were responsible for the bulk of the total crops.

Though originally planned to be a step-by-step process, the agricultural crisis of 1927-1928 significantly speeded it up. Trying to solve the bread shortage problem, the state lowered the bread prices, which lead to the peasants refusing to sell the grain. Added up to it, in 1928 Ukraine, the so-called Soviet barn saw a huge crop failure. Joseph Stalin ordered to search the households all over the Soviet Union for “surpluses” of bread. The country was on the verge of a major famine, so in 1929 the Soviet government decided to force collectivization and to drive peasants into collective farms.

Most of first collective farms were very poorly organized. Frequently, people, who had very little knowledge of agriculture, were made leaders fro purely political reasons. There were, however, people willing to join collective farms. They comprised the poorest layer of peasantry and the system of the equal produce distribution played right in their hands, giving them a chance to stay well-fed without putting much effort into it. The hard-working and clever peasants, who had farming machinery and used the wage labor, the kulaks, were very reluctant to join collective farms. The government confiscated their property and divided it between poor peasants.

In 1928, the Soviet government announced a campaign on “kulak extermination”. Some of kulaks were exiled to the northern areas of the country, and some killed. In 1929 – 1932 thousands of successful and experienced farmers were executed, while hundreds of thousands were forcefully moved far away from their native villages. The selection criteria were quite fuzzy, so almost every peasant could be reckoned in kulaks. Therefore, peasants stood against collectivization as long as they could. In 1929 there were 1300 uprisings, the number growing up to 2000 by 1930.

Some peasants fought with collective farms as they killed their own cattle before joining a collective farm – they did not want to give anything to the state. Some peasants just abandoned their households and left for the cities. Some peasants wrote letters to Stalin, as they believed he had no idea about this outrage and would take all measures to stop it the moment he learnt all the details. In the autumn of 1929 over 90 000 letters came to Moscow, but none of them had any effect. On the January 5, 1930, the Soviet government enacted a regulation, according to which the collectivization was to be complete in two years.

The collectivization brought more devastation than recovery to the agriculture, throwing it back even more. The peasants lost the motivation to work, because in collective farms they were neither interested in the results of their labor, nor in the wages. At the same time, they were severely punished for every minor mistake – one could go to jail for ten years just for occasional breaking of a tractor. Also members of collective farms did not have passports and could not leave their villages without permission.