Collectivization

Russian collectivization encompassed the solidification, indeed ratification, of the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution. Arguing that the New Economic Policy (NEP), adopted in 1921 to improve the economy and gain the trust of the peasantry, was a betrayal of the Revolution, Josef Stalin, with the support of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, turned a different course by 1927, putting a halt to the NEP (Marples, 2002). In 1928, the Party adopted Stalin's First Five-Year Plan in order to implement a highly centralized, planned economy based on collectivization of agriculture and intensive industrialization. The central concern was to make sure that the Party had control of the countryside and to create a proletarian class.

The First Five-Year Plan aimed to transform Soviet agriculture from individual farms to a complex of large state collective farms. The Soviet government postulated that collectivization would improve agricultural production enough to be able to supply the growing demand for food by urban workers, as well as produce a surplus. Collectivization began in the Urals and West Siberia as early as 1928, with the forceful requisitioning of grain from peasants who were arrested and censured as "kulaks" (exploiters) if they withheld grain. In 1929, throughout the Soviet Union, peasant farmers destroyed their stores of grain and slaughtered their livestock rather than turn them over to the collective farms (Forsyth, 1992).

The vastness of Soviet territory and the multiplicity of ethnic groups and nationalities made for difficult and intricate economic policy-making processes because the central government was obligated to structure economic policies that accounted for the uneven development from one part of the Soviet Union to another. The Stalin government also took into account the differences in political outlook while at the same time putting the centrally planned economic policies into place. Adhering to these considerations proved difficult for the administration as it attempted to introduce and establish an ideal socialist economy and society that, although highly industrialized, existed within an environment based on a rural economy. The primary aim was to take control of the rural regions and to make proletarians out of the masses, but in order to appease the minority ethnic voices, collectivization and industrialization were permitted to take on traditional ethnic characteristics. Thus, in the Far North and Siberia, fishing, hunting, and reindeer herding were modernized and remodeled within the framework of collectivization. Collectivization in the North and Siberia meant the procurement of reindeer, fish, and furs to be done by establishing brigades that would operate under quotas to produce goods for the state. It was to be spontaneously seized by the masses, but confusion and disorder ensued especially in the major agricultural regions of the Soviet Union, and also in the North and Siberia, compounded by cross-cultural misunderstandings and major language barriers. The most striking form of protest came from the nomadic reindeer herders in the mid-1930s when all throughout the Russian North they chose to slaughter or disperse their herds rather than turn them over to collective farms (Forsyth, 1992).

Having learned from the violent reaction of peasants in European Russia, and on the advice of the Committee of the North, collectivization was to be accomplished more slowly in the North and Siberia, yet Soviet officials were ruthless in its implementation, often resorting to force and violence. So, massive collectivization was highly contentious when it began in the fall of 1930, particularly in territories that were near or overlapped Russian settlements. Collectives were usually not appropriately situated for the economies that Natives had practiced traditionally, and tended to be organized around one center. The Soviets hoped that most of the outlying villages would become depopulated, with Native youth attracted to the Russian luxuries of money and vodka. This was also a convenient way for the government to settle Northern indigenous peoples more centrally, supposedly making it less cumbersome to deliver services such as medical care, education, cultural socialization, and to engage in politicization, agitation, and policy implementation in very remote regions of the North and Siberia.

As with other parts of the Soviet Union, a process of "dekulakzsation" accompanied collectivization. Native elites, shamans, and leaders were labeled "kulaks" and were liquidated, and so with the many contentious members gone by 1931, the great transformation proceeded rapidly with 42% Yakuts, 50% Altaiains, 61% Buryats, and 72% Khakas reportedly collectivized. In 1937, the rates were higher still with the Khakas 93.3% and the Yakut 71% collectivized (Forsyth, 1992). Moreover, many Natives already believed in the promises of the Soviet state and the benefits they would accrue as dutiful members. Hence, when Stalin decided to undertake collectivization in the vastness of Siberia, he found willing servitors of the state among the indigenous populations. Some Natives would eventually gain status among the Russians who outnumbered them in the large urban centers, and, gradually, the villages. More and more would be educated and be faithful members of the Communist Party. By 1937, the end of the Second Five-Year Plan, 93% of peasant households had been collectivized and a quarter of a million collective farms were in operation (Marples, 2002). However, in some remote regions of Siberia, especially among nomadic reindeer herders, the collectivization process continued until well into the 1950s (Golovnev and Osherenko, 1999).

With economic transformation came social and cultural transformation. Natives were eventually collectivized, working in brigades of fishers, hunters, and reindeer herders throughout the North, and attempting to fulfill quotas that often went against the seasonal and traditional patterns of their economies. The most striking effects of these policies, seen today, in many Native communities are the loss of the Native languages, the modernization of traditional economies to satisfy commercial interests, the disappearance of reindeer herding in some areas, the settlement of once nomadic peoples, and the forgetting of myths, oral histories, and songs.

Aileen A. Espiritu

See also Relocation

Further Reading

Forsyth, James, A History of the Peoples of Siberia: Russia's North Asian Colony 1581-1990, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1992 Golovnev, Andrei V. & Gail Osherenko, Siberian Survival: The Nenets and Their Story, Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1999 "Kolkhoz 'Krasnaia zvezda'.'," Sovetskii Sever, No. 1 (1933): 105-108.

Marples, David R., Motherland: Russia in the 20th Century,

London: Longman, 2002 Schroeder, Gertrude E., "Nationalities and the Soviet Economy." In The Soviet Nationality Reader, edited byRachel Denber, Boulder: Westview Press, 1992, p. 261

Slezkine, Yuri, Arctic Mirrors: Russia and the Small Peoples of the North, Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1994 Suny, Ronald. G, Revenge of the Past, Stanford: Stanford

University Press, 1993 Tabelev, V.F, "Na Iamalskom Severe.," Sovetskaia Arktika, No.

7 (1936): 11-23 Viola, Lynne, Peasant Rebels Under Stalin: Collectivization and the Culture of Peasant Resistance, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1997

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