Merl S. Why the Soviet Union under Khrushchev and Brezhnev failed with the complex mechanization of agriculture: International aspects (1953–1986) // The Russian Peasant Studies. 2020. V.5. №4. P. 78-117.

DOI: 10.22394/2500-1809-2020-5-4-78-117


The article provides archival evidence to the argument that complex mechanization after 1953 was a failure (Merl, 2020). International contacts were quickly restored after Stalin’s death. They made evident to what extent the Soviet Union had fallen behind the West in agricultural technology and reliability of machinery. The article describes how successfully the Ministry of Agriculture collected information on Western technology. Already in 1955, models of the Western agricultural machinery, seeds, highly productive breeds, chemicals, and feed were imported to be tested in the Soviet conditions. The expectation was that the Soviet industry would use this knowledge to improve the quality of its agricultural machinery, which would determine a significant decrease of labor input and costs, and an increase in productivity. However, only few advanced machines were delivered—with long delays—to the state and collective farms. There was no ‘green revolution’ that increased yields and agricultural productivity with scientific data. No bottle necks in provision of feed and transport, and in reduction of harvest losses were overcome between 1955 and the founding of Gosagroprom. The Gosplan and the State Committee of Science and Technology systematically ignored the decrees of the Central Committee and the Council of Ministers, following the Ministry of Agriculture’s recommendations to produce improved technology. They refused to give priority to the agricultural development for modernization of the outdated Soviet agricultural machinery industry would have required huge investment. Since the mid-1960s, the Ministry of Agriculture tried to make the block partners produce at least part of the machinery needed by the Soviet agriculture. These efforts also included the exchange of delegations with Western countries, the USSR’s participation in international agricultural organizations, the ordered by Khrushchev cooperation with ‘less developed’ countries and within the Comecon.


agricultural modernization, complex mechanization, Western technology, socialist industrialized agriculture, agricultural labor productivity, agricultural machinery, research cooperation, international agricultural associations, Khrushchev, Brezhnev

About the author

Merl Stephan, Dsc (History), Professor, Bielefeld University. 25 Universitätsstr., 33615, Bielefeld, Germany.
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Savinova T.A. “...The mind involuntarily seeks a way out of the situation and tries to fill the absolute scarcity of agricultural machinery with the increasing utilization rate” (A note by A.V.Chayanov) // The Russian Peasant Studies. 2020. V.5. №1. P. 84-92.

DOI: 10.22394/2500-1809-2020-5-1-84-92


The publication introduces into the scientific discourse the note of A.V. Chayanov written by him as a member of the scientific-technical team of the All-Union Association of Workers of Science and Technology to promote the socialist development in the USSR. This note presents Chayanov’s proposals for solving the specific tasks of the spring agricultural campaign in 1930 and for intensifying the use of agricultural machinery in areas of all-round collectivization by introducing machine-tractor trains running from south to north and back. In this note, Chayanov predicted many pressure points and challenges in organizing the Soviet mobile highly-mechanized agriculture. Much later, after the first five-year period and his death, under the development of virgin lands and Brezhnev’s agricultural industry, when tractor and combine columns ran between regions of the Soviet Union, those natural and social risks that Chayanov identified and described so accurately and responsibly became evident. The foreword presents a brief history of the All-Union Association of Workers of Science and Technology and its role in the differentiation and extermination of dissenting intelligentsia in the 1929-1930.


organization-production school, A.V. Chayanov, All-Union Association of Workers of Science and Technology, intelligentsia, scientific-technical team, agricultural machinery, sowing campaign, machine-tractor trains

About the author

Savinova Tatyana A., PhD (Economics), Head of the Department of OrganizationalMethodological and Personnel Work, Russian State Archive of Economics; Researcher, Chayanov Research Center, Moscow School of Social and Economic Sciences. 119435 Moscow, Bolshaya Pirogovskaya, 17.
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Center for Agrarian studies of the Russian Presidental Academy of National Economy and Public Administration (RANEPA)

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