Table 63 Estimates of the grain balance millions of tons in the postwar decade in the Russian Federation

Parameter_Pre-war 1945 1946 1947 1948 1949 1950 1951 1952 1953 1954

Crop area 70.14 50.9 53.7 56.5 59.3 62.1 64.9 65.9 66.5 67.4 68.9 (million ha)

Population 1 1 1 - - - - - 101.4 102.9 104.6 106.7 108.4 (millions)

Livestock 36 29 28 30 34 38 37 39 38 38 39 (million standard units)

Seed 10.5 7.6 8.1 8.5 8.9 9.3 9.7 9.9 10 10.1 10.3 (million tons)

Food 22.2 19.5 19.7 19.9 20.1 20.3 20.3 20.6 20.9 21.3 21.7 (million tons)

Feed 1 1.5 9.3 8.9 9.6 10.9 12.1 1 1.8 12.5 12.1 12.1 12.5 (million tons)

Total 44.3 36.4 36.7 38.0 39.9 41.8 41.8 43.0 43.0 43.5 44.5 (million tons)

Grain production 51.9 25.4 21.2 35.7 34.2 38.9 46.8 47.5 51.9 48.2 56.3 (million tons)

Source: grain production (dry weight) and livestock inventory Sel'skoe khozyastvo v Rossii, 2000; crop areas for 1945 and 1950 are available in Soviet statistical reports, for the other years the data are extrapolated.

a chronic grain deficit threatened not only the livestock sector but also food supplies for the Soviet people. From 1949, the grain balance became positive, but only slightly. If livestock production had grown as planned (a 1.5-fold increase in three years), the country would have faced a grain shortage by 1951. The Soviet authorities had to make a choice between bread and meat. The Soviet authorities needed a large surplus of grain in order to support its new allies in Eastern Europe and to fill the state grain reserves (up to 10 million tons). The threat of grain shortages because of livestock growth was always there. Indeed, immediately after Stalin's death in 1953 there was a rapid and quite dramatic switch to livestock farming, causing a grain crisis within six months.

The overall reason for the poor performance of Soviet farming was that no radical change took place in the management system of agriculture. State expenditure on agriculture was negligible while kolkhozes and sovkhozes suffered from permanent administrative pressure. The

Figure 6.1. Grain production and estimated basic grain requirements in the RSFSR, 1945-1954

Figure 6.1. Grain production and estimated basic grain requirements in the RSFSR, 1945-1954

influence of the state and party was still exerted through the MTSs. The MTSs carried out contract work for supervisory agencies on behalf of the state. Each MTS had a political deputy-director (until 1953) or a party secretary (until 1957) based in it, for the carrying out of political control functions. Unlike the kolkhoz, the MTS was wholly budget financed and was not an "economic accounting" organization (Nove, 1969). The collective farms paid for MTS work almost wholly by deliveries in kind, based on a valuation of various operations, in terms either of a given quantity of produce or a stated share in the harvest. As in the 1930s, very little was left for the kolkhozes' own consumption in postwar times.

The real income of Soviet consumers was still below that of 1928, the year of collectivization, but the peasants were in a considerably poorer condition and the living standards of the rural population did not reach pre-collectivization levels until several years after Stalin's death (Goldman, 1968). This caused the mass migration of peasants into urban areas despite all attempts by the Soviet authorities to control the process. Between 1946 and 1953, about 8 million peasants left their villages for industrial centers, and many kolkhozes already faced labor shortages. In 1950, Nikita Khrushchev, then head of the Ministry of Agriculture, carried through an amalgamation of collective farms resulting in the 250,000 collective farms being reduced to 123,000. He also sponsored proposals for the removal of collective farmers to new town centers, so-called agrogoroda (agricultural cities), which would have led to the urbanization of the peasants, putting them under total party control, and the eventual elimination of their private holdings. Fortunately, this proposal was rejected by the leadership at the XlXth Party Congress (1952).

One more specific factor should be mentioned to illustrate this period. The first post-war years were marked by a new wave of ideological fighting in Soviet science. In 1948, for example, genetic and other important developments were officially condemned as "bourgeois" theories. Instead, often strange and fantastic concepts appeared and were successfully backed by Marxist philosophers. Some of the concepts were applied to Soviet agriculture as they promised to resolve problems once and for all. One project, which was named "The Great Stalin Plan for the Transformation of Nature', was adopted in the autumn of 1948. The main target of this plan was to combat droughts in the steppe and wooded steppe zones of European Russia by planting several giant shelter belts and constructing large irrigation channels and water reservoirs. The Great Stalin Plan was to be implemented over three to four years, and more than 5,000 kilometers of shelter belt were to be planted in the southern part of the country. From 1948 to 1953, the number of trees planted in the country exceeded the number planted during the previous 250 years of Russia's forestry history. However, by the autumn of 1956, the proportion of healthy trees in these belts reached only 4.3 percent. The main reason was the adoption of an erroneous technique by academician T. D. Lysenko. He proposed that trees (oaks, for example) should be planted in very compact groups, which he called the "nest" method of planting. According to his concept, plants belonging to one species did not compete with one another but even collaborated (against weeds and other common enemies). The failure of the plan cost an enormous amount of money, and after 1953 no mention of the plan was found in the Soviet media (Golubovsky, 1991).

Many hopes were placed on Williams's grass rotation system to solve the problems of the livestock sector. This was another speculative biological concept officially adopted in the USSR. From the 1930s, academician V. R. Williams was the leading supporter of a grass rotation system in Soviet agriculture. The system was based on the idea that the permanent rotation of crops on a given plot would restore soil quality. The main emphasis in the system was the sowing of perennial grass. A

special network of MTSs was established to implement the grass rotation system throughout the USSR. This concept of grass rotation was not new, as most Western countries had already used a similar practice in the nineteenth century. However, Williams's concept was dogmatic and placed too much hope for improvements in the soil structure in grass rotation. For example, Williams announced that the climatic conditions in Russia did not rule out grain yields of as much as 100 centners per hectare if the soil structure could be radically improved by his grass rotation system. He also gave theoretical reasons opposing the planting of winter wheat (Alexandrov, 1982).

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