What did Stalin use in order to bring agriculture under his control?

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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In the 1920's Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin launched a series of five-year plans in order to transform Russia from a peasant society into an industrial superpower. These plans had as their basis government control; therefore, regarding agriculture in Russian, what had been individual farms now became collective farms. In 1928, Stalin told the Russian people:

"Agriculture is developing slowly, comrades. This is because we have about 25 million individually owned farms. They are the most primitive and undeveloped form of economy We must do our utmost to develop large farms and to convert them into grain factories for the country organised on a modem scientific basis."

Millions of peasant farmers, whose families had worked these farms for generations and now owned them because Lenin had given them the land, refused to relinquish their land.  Then, they were either exiled or shot and their land seized. Moreover, this forced collectivization of farms, small farms gathered together into a large farm, was a total failure because many of the government "farmers"--despite their "modern scientific basis"--knew nothing about growing crops and harvesting them. In fact, the small percentage of remaining peasant farmers had to try to feed the nation, but, unfortunately, their harvests were not adequate. Consequently, widespread famine took the lives of millions more, partly because of inadequate farming and partly because those farmers who refused to turn over their farms killed their livestock and destroyed their grain rather than let the secret police confiscate these properties.

Nevertheless, Stalin's reign of terror continued as long as he was in power as he crushed any dissent or any burgeoning influences of Western culture. He is credited by some estimates as responsible for the deaths of 20 million Russians.

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moustacio | Student, Undergraduate | (Level 1) Valedictorian

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Stalin sought to bring the area of agriculture under his control through the policy of collectivisation. Under such a policy, small private plots of land owned by individual peasants were to be merged to form larger collective farms, which in turn became state property. Crops harvested from these farmland were to be sold to the state at a low price, while the excess supply was to be distributed equally to the workers living in the collective as rations. The use of machinery, such as tractors, were also to be introduced to the peasantry so as to allow farmland to be farmed more efficiently. The Soviet government not only believed that collectivisation would produce a greater output (which would ensure a steady supply of food for industrial workers in urban cities), it would also free up much needed resources, especially in terms of manpower, for the country to achieve Stalin’s aim of rapid industrialisation, as reflected in his Five-Year Plan.

The policy was, however, met with much resistance on the ground, especially from the kulaks, who were relatively affluent land-owning peasants in Soviet Russia. Rather than give their land to the state, these kulaks chose instead to destroy whatever they had - they not only killed off their own livestock, they also burned their crops and produce, and buried their grains in the ground to prevent them from being taken away by state officials. Many of such kulaks were eventually rounded up and systematically murdered or deported to gulags, where they were worked to death. In doing so, the Soviet authorities were actively seeking to curb any forms of resistance from the peasantry that could impede the progress of collectivisation. Similarly, farmers, who did not meet the targets set by the state or were often absent from work, were punished and denied rations by the authorities. Propaganda was also heavily utilised to push the workers to produce ever greater outputs so as to meet the demands set by the party officials. Such actions allowed Stalin to bring the field of agriculture under his purview.

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