The article considers the novel “Last Greetings” by V.P. Astafiev as a historical source of descriptions of the peasant world. The author emphasizes such basic categories of the peasant life as traditional family, kinship ties, working, parenting, attitudes to nature, concepts of shame, conscience, and duty. Based on this literary material, the author concludes that the peasant worldview is a result of close interaction with nature, which determined both respect for the environment—forest, field, river, animals—and such qualities as moderate consumption of natural resources, diligence, foresight, concern for the future. Knowledge and understanding of nature also affected labor that did not pursue enrichment but aimed at ensuring the family’s prosperity. The villager in Russia, as everywhere in the world, was not a money-grubber, and his social ideal was a hardworking and sober middle peasant. The system of upbringing and the social structure of the village (community) aimed at developing and preserving these qualities. The community structure was primarily to prevent such disasters as crop failure, famine, flood, fire, and their catastrophic consequences. The centuries-old history of life in nature and with nature has cultivated mutual assistance, mutual support, and the charity of the sick, poor, and injured. The author concludes that such a social order was the foundation of the social unity in the past, which in turn influenced the strength and power of the Russian state.
The article considers the impact of Khrushchev’s reforms on the dynamics of the number of the able-bodied population in rural areas of the Krasnoyarsk Region. During the period under consideration, there were two contradictory trends in the Krasnoyarsk Region. On the one hand, under the virgin-land campaign, there was an inflow of immigrants from other regions of the Soviet Union. According to some researchers, this planned wave of immigrants significantly improved the situation in the Krasnoyarsk Region agriculture and partially solved the problem of shortage of workers, which was determined by the campaign for the introduction of virgin and fallow lands into agricultural circulation. On the other hand, urbanization continued, including the large-scale industrial development of the region, which needed an inflow of the able-bodied population to its cities. As in other regions of the country, the main donor of the able-bodied population for the industry was the village. Thus, Khrushchev’s transformations determined a paradoxical situation: the village was receiving new labor resources and at the same time was losing population that moved to the cities with the industrial facilities. The inflow of new population into the village could not compensate for the loss of labor resources in agriculture.
The article considers features of the Vyatka Province development and management, activities of the provincial statistical committee, and the role of political exiles and N.A. Spassky in its work. The author emphasizes that zemstvo in the Vyatka Province was of the ‘peasant’ type and conducted studies of the economic situation of solvent peasants. The author presents the results of the study of the Northern uyezds of the province by V.Y. Zavolzhsky, and of the further research of the peasant economy by the first ‘head of zemstvo statistics’ N.N. Romanov, and the role of two scholars in assessing the economic situation of the Vyatka Province population. The article introduces unpublished archival sources on the biography of N.N. Romanov into scientific circulation.
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.
The article describes the position of the Orthodox Church in Soviet Russia on the eve of the mass collectivization and dekulakization in 1930. Based on the church documents and decrees of the Soviet government, the author identifies serious changes in the church life of different dioceses of the Moscow Patriarchate. Church schisms, mass repressions, quantitative and qualitative changes in the composition of the clergy —all these factors in some ways prepared Soviet citizens, primarily the peasantry, for serious changes in the agrarian policy of the Bolsheviks. Despite the tough internal policy of the Communist Party, which aimed at eliminating all opposition (political, economic and religious), including among the rural population, the resistance to the collective-farm system was primarily spiritual. Thus, the weakening church and its destruction in the late 1920s—early 1930s became a part of the Soviet government plan that aimed at suppressing and enslaving the peasantry.
The article presents the results of the comprehensive analysis of the negative consequences of socialist transformations in the Soviet village for both society and national economy. The article is based on a wide range of sources and works on the reasons for collectivization in the USSR. The historiographic findings provide grounds for broad discussions that take into account different aspects, approaches and concepts—depending on the assessments of the priorities of I.V. Stalin and other leaders of the CPSU (b) at the turn of the 1920s—1930s: from the necessary and forced development of the industry at the expense of the rural population exploitation to the establishment of the personal dictatorship of the General Secretary of the Central Committee of the CPSU (b) and eradication of the peasant economic independence. The author suggests to search for an answer to the conceptual question about the meaning and reasonability of collectivization not so much in the economic conditions as in the social realities of the late 1920s as related to the peculiarities of the one-party state and to the sharp deterioration in the political situation under the grain-procurement crises determined by the artificial restrictions on the private initiative in the previous period. The main beneficiaries of the collective-farm system, which was imposed on the village by the unprecedented violence, were thousands of appointees of the CPSU (b), who sought to preserve their power, privileges and state property in their possession by introducing the ‘second serfdom’ and the all-Union system of forced labor, which put an end to the Russian Revolution of 1917.
The article considers historiographic issues in the study of reasons and factors that determined the agricultural collectivization in the USSR in the 1930s. The article is a kind of a review which aims at systematizing the data accumulated in the Russian scientific historical literature and the author’s studies of historical sources. The author identifies a number of prerequisites for collectivization: the ones external to the peasantry (village, agriculture) explain motives of the political choice made by the Soviet government at the turn of the 1920s—1930s in favor of collectivization. These external prerequisites are divided into doctrinal and pragmatic. The doctrine that determined collectivization was socialism, and the author identifies the place of the radical communist idea of the Bolsheviks among other Russian socialist projects for uniting peasants into production collectives since the last quarter of the 19th century. Pragmatic prerequisites for collectivization were determined by the government’s goal to obtain agricultural resources for industrialization and militarization of the national economy in the quantities that would exceed possibilities of the equivalent market exchange. Collectivization did have prerequisites within the village community, which allow to understand why this political course was implemented—the author focuses on the peculiarities of the mentality and political culture of the Russian peasantry.
The article considers the ideas and work of Alexander Engelgardt (1832-1893) and Nikolai Nepluev (1851-1908) as the first stage of the communitarian version of the “small deeds” branch in the Russian populist movement of the 1870-1890s. The common features of Engelgardt and Nepluev projects were their communitarian spirit and practical orientation. Moreover, they were landowners who questioned the role of their estates in Russia after the Great Reforms. The social ideals of Engelgardt and Nepluev opposed both the concept of violent revolution and the idea of liberal reforms. They insisted that the methods of social development had to be (1) peaceful and based on the everyday local transformations in the spirit of “small deeds”, thus, following the communal traditions of the Russian peasantry; (2) radical enough to ensure both deep transformations of the Russian society and the very type of its social relations. Engelgardt aimed at making the Russian village cultural by turning educated people into “intelligent peasants”. In the late 1870s—early 1880s, in his estate Batischevo in the Smolensk Province, he tried to “produce” intelligent peasants. On the contrary, Nepluev tried to “produce” intelligent peasants from peasant children by agricultural education and Christian upbringing. He succeeded in establishing the Orthodox Exaltation-of-the-Holy-Cross Labor Brotherhood that combined the ideas of Christian community and labor artel (1890s—late 1920s).
Despite its initial backwardness, the agricultural sector played a decisive role in the Russian/Soviet history. Until the 1950s, it was the main sector of occupation; it had contributed greatly to the gross domestic product and gross value added until forced collectivization destroyed huge agricultural resources. The article argues that emancipation paved the way for agricultural modernization by promoting a new agricultural structure based on the market and the skills of the heads of large-scale and family farms. The author identifies three Russian/Soviet approaches to the agrarian reform (1856–1928, 1929–1987, from 1987) in terms of contribution to the modernization of agriculture and of catching up with the developed countries. The article argues that until 1928 and (after the agricultural depression of the 1990s) from 2000, Russia was successful in both modernization and catching up, while Stalin’s forced collectivization at first led to stagnation. After the World War II, forced collectivization prevented any “green revolution” (i.e. application of the agricultural scientific research findings). Under the state command system in agriculture, poor mechanization did not increase the labor productivity. Although Russia was known for agricultural surpluses before collectivization, the late Soviet Union became a major grain importer. Only the reform that started in 1987 removed the state command system to make the agricultural producers masters of their fields again, which led to a considerable increase in agricultural productivity since 2005. Basing the reappraisal of the agrarian reforms on the recent successes, the article likes to encourage further discussion. It proposes to regard the use of the available rural labor force, the quality of the industrial inputs in agriculture and the extent to which the producers were allowed to be masters of their agricultural production as the most appropriate criteria for assessing the agrarian reforms’ results.
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.