Joseph Vissarionovich Stalin ruled the USSR1 from 1929 to his death on 5 March 1953 (history.com, 2018). When Joseph Stalin came into power during 1929, he believed that the USSR was under threat from the West and at this time, the Soviet Union was primarily a peasant society. These peasants used archaic farming tools and methods, which proved problematic for the Soviet Union (Tatjana Lorkovic, 2001). Stalin attempted to resolve said agricultural problems via his policy of Collectivisation. This policy stated that in each area of farmland, farmers would have to amalgamate their tools, livestock and land to work together on a collective farm4 (Editors of Encyclopaedia Brittannica, 2007). Stalin believed that Soviet industrialisation was the key to make the USSR wealthy and strong, a necessity to protect the USSR from the West. Stalin planned to grow Soviet industry by implementing three five-year industrial plans. These three five-year plans aimed to transform the Soviet Union from an agrarian state into a modern industrial powerhouse. Stalin’s purges drastically undermined the USSR’s military forces and agricultural sectors. The Soviet Union suffered heavy losses throughout WW2 because of Stalin’s incompetence. Stalin’s rule transformed Russia from a peasant civilization to a global superpower, however this came at great cost to the people of the USSR.
Joseph Stalin’s policy of Collectivisation stated that in each area of farmland, farmers would have to amalgamate their tools, livestock and land to work together on a collective farm and all cultivated grain was to be sold to and distributed by the government. This policy aimed to improve the efficiency of farming in the Soviet Union in order to generate monetary funds in order to finance Stalin’s industrial plans. After the government obtained said grain, it would be sold at four times the price it was bought for from the peasants. Before Collectivisation, farmers would use the timeworn three-field system of cultivation, one third of farmers ploughed their lands with wooden ploughs and half of the farmers reaped the harvest by hand, using sickles or scythes.
Kulaks6 opposed Collectivisation because their wealth was to be taken from them. The Kulaks protested against Collectivisation by burning their crops, destroying their tools and killing their livestock. The effect of these protests are seen by the 1.6 million tonne decrease in grain, the 3.4 million decrease cattle and 5.6 million decrease of pigs in the Soviet Union from 1928 to 1929 (britannica.com, 2014). The Kulaks protested this way because they believed that it was unfair that the government was going to take away all that they had worked so hard to achieve and felt that if they could not keep their grain and livestock the government could not have it. Stalin’s policy of Collectivisation was initially optional since it’s introduction but was so unpopular amongst the kulaks that it became forced during 1929 and grain was now requisitioned by the government (Darya Gorodnicha, 2008). The kulak protests against Collectivisation and Stalin’s decision to enforce Collectivisation indicate that Stalin’s agricultural legislation and therefore his rule was a social failure.
Stalin decided to respond to the kulak protests against forced Collectivisation by introducing a policy known as Dekulakisation(27 December 1929), which stated that the kulaks were to be liquidated as a social class, and so 1.5 million Kulaks were all deported to labour camps or killed. The kulaks were Stalin’s best and most effective farmers and their slaughter under Stalin negatively affected the Soviet agricultural output. The impact of Dekulakisation is seen in the decrease of Cattle (14.6 million), pigs (6.8 million) and sheep (38.2 million) in the Soviet Union from 1929 to 1930 (britannica.com, 2014). Stalin’s policy of Dekulanisation reduced agricultural output, which implies that Stalin’s rule was an agricultural failure. (Natalya Luck, 2014)
Much the requisitioned grain taken from the peasants was poorly distributed and therefore rotted due to poor planning. Those who withheld or stole grain from the violent requisitioning gangs were promptly shot. Collectivisation and Dekulakisation proved to be problematic for the Soviet Union as the grain production dropped from 73.3 million tons in 1928 to 67.6 in 1934. Stalin’s poor planning of agricultural legislature once again reinforces the notion that his rule was a failure from an agricultural perspective.
Due to the agricultural harm wrought by kulak protesting, Dekulanisation and Collectivisation the Soviet Union suffered the worst man made famine in history resulting in 5 to 6 million deaths (due to starvation) from 1930 (when over half the farms had been made into kolkhozes) to 1933 (Darya Gorodnicha, 2008). This famine and resulting loss of Soviet life confirms that while Stalin’s rule was a complete agricultural disaster he succeeded in driving peasants into the cities to join the industrial effort.