Obvious successes of Putin’s policy require a reassessment of the Soviet agrarian policy. The article addresses the question of whether the Bolsheviks’ approach was appropriate for the Russian peasantry and considers limitations of the concept “socialist industrialized agriculture’. To assess achievements of the Soviet agriculture the author uses qualitative instead of quantitative criteria: per hectare yields and milk per cow since 1913. They kept to be extremely low which is striking for the agriculture based on large-scale and partly mechanized production. The gap in yields as compared to the neighboring capitalist countries even widened from 1930 to 1991. The strong and steady growth in yields since 2000 does not allow to explain failures of the Soviet agriculture by bad soils, specific climate or natural limitations—the Soviet agrarian policy is to blame. Instead of “revolutionizing”, socialist agriculture did not take part in any significant productivity rise as elsewhere in the world during the “green revolution”. The author argues that the main reason for such a failure was “infantilization” of agricultural producers—peasants, heads of state and collective farms—by a combination of mistrust and scrupulous control. During the Soviet period agricultural producers never were the masters of their fields. The situation became even worse after the planned economy provided agriculture with insufficient and ineffective machinery below Western standards. Although necessary machinery and knowledge of organizing the production were available in the West, in the Soviet Union the mechanization of crop production and animal husbandry was not completed. The article starts with the description of peasants’ interests, behavior und expectations in the Revolutions of 1905 and 1917– 1918; then the author focuses on the foundations of the Soviet agrarian policy suggested by Lenin and Stalin, continues with a short review of different approaches to agriculture developed by Khrushchev, Brezhnev und Gorbachev, and finishes with a summary of the reasons for Putin’s successes paying special attention to the short periods of yields growth—1924–1930, 1953–1958, 1965–1970, and 1986–1991.
The article considers the possible further studies of the economic history of agriculture and the peasantry of the Russian regions in 1861–1914. The author analyzes the theory of Russian revolutions developed by Boris Mironov and identifies logical contradictions in his argumentation. This theory overvalues the significance of random and subjective factors and underestimates the agrarian overpopulation and economic contradictions determined by the agrarian development. The author’s criticism of the “optimistic” paradigm in the economic history of post-reform Russia outlines the objectives of the study of agricultural development and its social consequences for the peasantry. The article proposes to discuss the idea that economic progress and growth of agricultural production in the Black-Earth regions of the South and South-East with their low production costs were the key factors of the crisis due to the relative overproduction of grain in Russia. Many small peasant farms in the old agricultural center could not compete in the grain market and, thus, were pushed out of it and marginalized, reinforced the natural-consumer activities and lost incentives for intensification of production. Market restrictions determined by the overproduction of grain became an important factor of agrarian overpopulation in the central regions. Institutional constraints that existed long before the Stolypin reform were aggravated by agrarian overpopulation that also created the social base for revolution. The agrarian revolution of 1917 was to strengthen the position of the family-labor economy by eliminating payment for the access to land as the main factor of production.
The article considers evolution of the Bolsheviks’ policy starting from the introduction of communes in the village as a socialist way of rural life in the post-revolutionary period. The archival materials of the Central Black Earth Region prove the idea of the authorities to create collective farms of commune type, which was determined by the revolutionary euphoria, and show the results of implementing this project in the agricultural center of the country during the NEP. The village communes (collective peasant associations) of the Orel Region depended on the state subsidies and state land fund. The social portrait of these communes’ members and their estimates of the communes prove that some former noblemen tried to adapt to the new Soviet reality under the Charter of the commune to preserve their ‘gentry nests’ from land redistribution. The most important factor determining the life of village communes in the 1920s — early 1930s was their changing role in the state ideology and policy. During this period, the position of the Bolsheviks changed according to the strategic aims of the state agricultural policy. Under the NEP, when market relations and private initiative were allowed, the communes were considered exemplary farms of the future showing peasants a new way of everyday life and joint farming. Their economic unprofitability was ignored due to the task of cultural education of local peasants, which became an additional incentive for peasant entrepreneurs to enter communes and to use state subsidies to improve their financial situation. Communards’ children had a good chance for education which was an important social lift of that time. The state collectivization policy radically changed the official attitude to village communes — they were thoroughly checked and strongly criticized. Thus, the multi-form agricultural sector was destroyed and the agricultural artel was declared the dominant form of collective farming. The primary task of new collective farms was to leave peasants without means of production and investments. Moreover, under the socialist experiment peasants simply disappeared as its observers and turned into collective farmers, i.e. participants of the experiment.
The Russian pacifist movement originated at the turn of the 20th century mainly due to the Tolstoyans. To explain its social-political and ethical views the movement referred to the ideas of Leo Tolstoy, philosophy of non-violence and civil resistance, and Russian and foreign religious movements. The pacifist movement began with the attempts of the Tolstoyans to protect the like-minded people and other believers who refused to serve in the army on religious and ideological grounds. The leaders of the pacifist movement considered conscientious objection the most important religious and ethical protest of the Russian people. Despite the fact that many its leaders represented privileged social groups, the movement consisted of sectarian and peasant groups. They became a kind of peasant scholars and conducted a large-scale study of the people’s protest traditions to develop the mass social basis of the pacifist movement. The article also considers the Tolstoyans’ efforts to turn “weapons of the weak” — traditional methods of people’s protest (various forms of flight and refusals to cooperate with the state, autonomous communities, etc.) — into effective forms of civil disobedience.
The round table at the Center for Agrarian Studies of the Russian Presidential Academy of National Economy and Public Administration was dedicated to the 100th anniversary of the academician Alexander Alexandrovich Nikonov (1918–1995) and focused on the milestones of the biography of this prominent agrarian scientist, his intellectual and organizational contribution to the Russian agricultural science. A.A. Nikonov, a heroic participant of the Great Patriotic War, took part in the organization and development of agriculture in Latvia, the Stavropol Region and Moscow, held many senior positions from the Minister of Agriculture of Latvia to the President of the Lenin All-Union Academy of Agricultural Sciences, was known not only for outstanding organizational and intellectual but also personal qualities. The participants of the round table recognized the contribution of the academician Nikonov to the development of the agrarian reforms’ strategy in the USSR of the 1980s and to the creation in the years of perestroika of the Agrarian Institute — a scientific organization of a fundamentally new type, which is now named after the scientist — Nikonov VIAPI. The round-table discussions emphasized that A.A. Nikonov was not working in safe conditions, and scientific activities often demanded from him civil courage and political responsibility. It is to A.A. Nikonov that the Russian agrarian science should be grateful for the consistent desire to rehabilitate the names of A.V. Chayanov and his colleagues from the organization-production school and to re-introduce into scientific discourse the forbidden and forgotten heritage of these outstanding scientists. Finally, the discussions emphasized the importance of the last work of the scientist, his book The Spiral of the Century-Old Drama: Agrarian Science and Policy of Russia (18-20 centuries). The participants of the round table consider this book as a still unique and relevant guide for the scientific and moral search for the ways of decent rural development of Russia.
The article considers scientific works of the Russian historian I.S. Kuznetsov in the context of three historical approaches to assessing collectivization: 1) the Soviet official approach of the 1960-1980s; 2) the ideology of the so called “village writers”; 3) the post-Soviet interpretation of collectivization. Kuznetsov is rightly called a pioneer of the study of the Soviet peasantry’s social psychology. The author argues that Kuznetsov as a scientist was greatly influenced by the works of B.F. Porshnev, N.Ya. Guschin, V.P. Danilov. His PhD thesis basically corresponded to the official Soviet model of interpreting collectivization but later his views on it seriously changed. In the book Social Psychology of the Siberian Peasantry in the 1920s, he proposed his own theory of the prerequisites of the “great change”, in particular focusing on numerous economic, political, and social-cultural conflicts among the peasantry on the eve of collectivization. Such an approach was very different from the mainstream interpretations of collectivization in the post-Soviet science. Thus, when developing his ideas in the 1990s, Kuznetsov actually presented a set of counter-arguments to the dominant theory of collectivization. At that time his ideas were ignored by the scientific community but today they attract its attention.
The article is devoted to the history of the life, the creative heritage, and the contributions to agricultural economic science of the academician and last Chairman of the V I. Lenin All-Union Academy of Agricultural Sciences, A.A. Nikonov (1918-1995). The article gives a brief biography of the scientist who was born on the Russian border with Lithuania. The article describes the transformation of his views. His initial deep belief in the ideals of communism was replaced by an extremely critical attitude. His progressive ideas found a deep understanding from Mikhail Gorbachev, the first Secretary of the Stavropol Territory and the future author of “perestroika”. From 1984 to 1992, Nikonov was the President of the Agricultural Academy. Fate so ordered that he would be the last President as well. A.A. Nikonov left behind a powerful scientific heritage. He is the author of more than 300 scientific works, including 27 books and brochures and 146 journal articles. His main and last work was the monograph “The Spiral of Centuries—Old Drama: Agricultural Science and Politics in Russia of the 17-20 Centuries”. This book is the Russian encyclopedia of agricultural economics, and is a textbook of the history of agriculture in Russia. Nikonov’s works are still relevant today. His views on agrarian reform and his ideas on the organization of agricultural science are very important. It would be fair and useful for scientists and students in the field of agricultural science to make the book of Alexander Alexandrovich Nikonov a primary textbook in their studies.
The article analyzes the reasons why the Socialist Revolutionary Party (PSR), one of the most influential organizations that operated in Russia in 1917, failed to realize its democratic alternative despite its victory in the elections to the Constituent Assembly. In contrast to the still prevailing view that only a White or Red dictatorship could be established in Russia, the author believes that the necessary minimal and sufficient preconditions for the development along the path of democracy were ripe, and that the processes of the growth of the elements and the structures of civil society such as public organizations, parties, and trade unions began in Russia in 1917. However, the upward flow was opposed by the downward flow consisting of archaization, violent actions instead of peaceful ones, and the dispersion of modernity, all of which were especially evident during the Civil War. The reasons for the failure of the Socialist-Revolutionary alternative, on the one hand, lay in objective conditions, including the tense social and political contradictions caused by the too-long delay of the country’s modernization by the previous regime, the general bitterness and fatigue caused by the war, and in the psychological attractiveness of the populist Bolshevik slogans that promised «everything and immediately». This was in contrast to the Socialist-Revolutionaries who proposed to defend the country from the irresponsible actions of the Bolsheviks seeking power, and to postpone the implementation of socio-economic transformations before the convocation of the Constituent Assembly.
On the other hand, the reasons for the PSR failures in 1917 are also to be found in the party itself, as seen in its actions in the interweaving of undrawn illusions, ideological discrepancies, and the personal struggles for power in the Party. Among these reasons are the illusions about yesterday’s Bolshevik “friends-enemies”, in which many Socialist-Revolutionaries saw enemies like Kornilov or Denikin as not so terrible, the generosity of these people, and their incorrigible optimism. In addition, the desire to act by legal methods, without experimentation and adventures, also played a role.
It seems that the Socialist-Revolutionary democratic alternative was valuable not only for its traditional Narodnik (the love of people and democracy), or its attempts to take the path of decisive reforms to the social state and to modernization (taking into account the interest of the working classes of society), but equally for the existence of the socio-political conditions when the Socialist-Revolutionaries (the center and the right) would lose (according to the laws of the pendulum) the next elections in a few years to more right-wing forces. There would have been a working mechanism of parliamentarism, the changing of power in a democratic way, strong trade unions, and strengthened institutions of civil society in place, rather than the simulacra soon to be created by the Bolsheviks, and their reinforced undemocratic managerial traditions which were also unresolved in the post-Soviet period.
The round table “Organization-production school in the Russian agrarian-economic thought: History and the present state” at the Center for Agrarian Studies of the Russian Presidential Academy of National Economy and Public Administration gathered historians, sociologists, economists, and culturologists for an interdisciplinary discussion of the relevance of the scientific legacy of A.V. Chayanov and his colleagues not only for agrarian science, but also social sciences and humanities on the eve of the anniversaries of the organization-production school representatives. The participants of the round table focused on the genesis and historical prerequisites of the organization-production school, and on the ideas of the Chayanov’s school as influencing the rural development of Russia and the world in the past and present. The participants of the round table were particularly interested in the recently discovered unique archival papers, such as the responses of A.V. Chayanov and N.P. Makarov to criticism of L.N. Litoshenko and A.A. Manuylov considering the theoretical-methodological foundations of the organization-production school’s idea of peasant economy; and the Chayanov’s texts for the German, French and American journals comprehensively describing features of the Russian and Soviet agrarian-economic science development. The intellectual legacy of A.V. Chayanov and his colleagues A.A. Rybnikov, A.N. Chelintsev, B.D. Brutskus, N.P. Makarov, A.N. Minin, and G.A. Studentsky was considered from the perspective of populist, socialist and liberal traditions in the development of Russian and international peasant studies. The participants of the round table also mentioned theories of other remarkable agrarians that can be called predecessors and followers of the organization-production school.
This is the first publication in Russian of the article of the classic of the Russian agrarian-economic thought and the leader of the organization-production school Alexander Vasilievich Chayanov (1888–1937), which was written in 1929 and published in an abridged version in English in 1930 in the “American Journal of Agricultural Economics”. The full Russian version of the article is published according to the original kept in the archives of the Russian Academy of Sciences. The article considers the history of agrarian-economic science in Russia from the eighteenth century and the system of agrarian-economic education in the USSR in the late 1920s. The comments were prepared by I.А. Kuznetsov.