“Now, the expropriation of the kulaks in the regions of solid collectivization is no longer just an administrative measure. Now, the expropriation of the kulaks is an integral part of the formation and development of the collective farms. Consequently now it is ridiculous and foolish to discourse on the expropriation of the kulaks. You do not lament the loss of the hair of one who has been beheaded. – Stalin, December 27, 1929.
Welcome to my newest blogpost! This time, I will be discussing the objectives and consequences of mass collectivization among the Russian peasants during the “Great Turn” and the “Five Year Plan,” and in particular “Dekulakization.” This indeed was a heartbreaking time for most peasants.
Now, what exactly is a Kulak? And why did Stalin so desperately want to get rid of them? A Kulak was a wealthier or prosperous peasant that was capable of owning a large farm. However, because Stalin was against any kind of form of capitalism, he naturally wanted to eliminate any peasant who was a little wealthier that his fellow comrades.
During the “Five Year Plan,” Stalin’s objective was to effectively extract grain, and build sufficient food stocks for the red army. To achieve this goal, Stalin organized a mass collectivization of peasant farms against their will. As already mentioned, though, the Kulaks were in the way. They had to be eliminated since they threatened Soviet power within peasant villages, and in addition to that, their strict plan of collectivization. Some peasants protested and rioted, while others sold their property to avoid the consequences of being a Kulak. Peasants that spoke against collectivization were driven away, and harassed. And so, the Soviets eliminated all kind of opposition against collectivization, serving as an example to all other peasants.
On January 5th, 1930, the Central Committee called to collectivize 20 percent of land that they saw fit for the “5 Year Plan.” Kulaks were either deported to labor camps, resettled, or even executed. Those that did not belong to collectivization were simply expropriated. Although I am specifically talking about peasants during this time, I also want to mention that this type of “social cleansing” was not just happening on farms. At the same time, authorities, clergy, and nobility in Leningrad were deported as “parasites.” Families started living in communal apartments and shared a kitchen, bathroom, and toilet. To be honest, only those people and peasants who did not own anything of their own actually benefitted from the new system.
So, what were the consequences of this entire collectivization? Basically, the requisition of grain and other resources stirred quite some violence between Soviets and peasants. Collectivization had negative effects on peasants, their crops, and livestock. Starvation was a major issue because of crop failure, shortages of grain, and the slaughter of livestock. On top of that, a big famine broke out. Around 5 million lives were lost during this time. Many peasants actually gave up their farms and went to cities to avoid starvation.
All in all, the collectivization period during the “5 Year Plan” was brutal. It’s hard to picture something like this going on in our Western society today. I think that today, too many Americans and Europeans look back at the 20th century and label the Soviet Union as this enormous, communist entity that almost started a nuclear war. However, we often fail to look behind the scenes and actually observe what happened to civilians, peasants, and ordinary people in the Soviet Union. It turns out, most people actually did not have the right to form an opinion, neither did they play a role in the decision making of their own lives, yet alone in the political decisions of their country.
Here are the sources I used for my blogpost:
“Collectivization.” Seventeen Moments in Soviet History, http://soviethistory.msu.edu/1929-2/collectivization/. Accessed 21 Mar 2019.
“Famine.” Seventeen Moments in Soviet History, http://soviethistory.msu.edu/1921-2/famine-of-1921-22/. Accessed 21 Mar 2019.
“Kulak.” Enclopaedia Britannica, https://www.britannica.com/topic/kulak. Accessed 21 Mar 2019.
Figes, Orlando. “The War Against Kulaks.” Section 10:Revolution From Above, http://www.orlandofiges.info/section10_RevolutionfromAbove/TheWaragainsttheKulaks.php. Accessed 21 Mar 2019.
“Stalin of the Liquidation of the Kulak.” Seventeen Moments in Soviet History,http://soviethistory.msu.edu/1929-2/collectivization/collectivization-texts/stalin-on-the-liquidation-of-the-kulak/. Accessed 21 Mar 2019.
Freeze, Gregory L. Russia: A History. Oxford University Press, 3rd Edition. Chapter 11.