Agriculture    

 

 

Armenia and Agriculture (1930 &1990s)

by Melissa Barcic, April 2001

Many economists theorize that the plummeting output of agriculture in Armenia in the first half of this century can be blamed on one man only. "For more than thirty years, from the late 1920s to the early 1950s, the government of the largest country in the world was dominated by a single man, Joseph Stalin" (Suny 53). These experts believe that the problem with the agricultural sector of the economy can be directly correlated with the fact that Stalin rapidly collectivized farms in this region. "The campaign for collectivization was the single-most important offensive launched against traditional Armenian society by the Soviet government. The Communists, primarily located in the cities, had been quite weak in the countryside, and until the early 1930s Armenia's villages had remained largely immune from Communist influence" (Suny 55).

However, in 1991, over fifty years after Stalin took over, Armenia finally attempted to privatize much of it's land once again, but this proved to be not as simple as planned. As Suny states, "The achievements of the 1920s impressive as they were, were almost totally eclipsed by the radical social and economic transformations of the country introduced at the end of the decade. The first and most intense phase of the so-called 'Stalin Revolution' occurred with the implementation of the first Five Year Plan" (1928-32) (Suny 55).

This plan used the government's power to its full extent to force the farmers to cooperate. "This plan had ambitious goals, most importantly, to collectivize independent peasant agriculture. Those Armenian peasants who resisted were deported from their homes (perhaps as many as 25,000 in 1929-30) or arrested" (Matossian 102-3). "Those peasants who had the largest farms or the greatest number of animals fell under suspicion as rural capitalists (Kulaks) and were expelled from the villages. Thus, the most productive producers were eliminated. By February 1930, the Party announced that 63% of all peasant households in Armenia had been collectivized" (Suny 55).

As Stalin continued with this plan, opposition grew. "Everywhere peasants slaughtered their own livestock rather than give it up to the collectives. The number of cattle in Armenia fell by nearly 300,000 head between 1928 and 1933" (Suny 56). Obviously, Stalin's plan greatly hurt the agriculture industry during this time. In fact, "Agricultural output fell as a result of collectivization and only surpassed the 1928 level at the end of the 1930s" (Suny 57).

Generations of farmers hoped for the reversal to land collectivization. Finally, "In 1990, Armenia became the first Soviet republic to pass a land privatization law, and from that time Armenian farmland shifted into the private sector at a faster rate than in any other republic. However, the rapidity and disorganization of land reallocation led to disputes and dissatisfaction among the peasants receiving land. Especially problematic were allocation of water rights and distribution of basic materials and equipment.

Related enterprises such as food processing and hothouse operations often remained in state hands, reducing the advantages of private landholding" (http://lcweb2.loc.gov/cgi-bin). However, the privatization led to increased efficiency during the next couple of years. For example, "By 1992, privatization of the state and collective farms, which had dominated Armenian agriculture in the Soviet period, had put 63% of cultivated fields, 80% of orchards, and 91% of vineyards in the hands of private farmers. The program yielded a 15% increase in agricultural output.

In 1993, the government ended restrictions on the transfer of private land, a step expected to increase substantially the average size (and hence, the efficiency) of private plots. At the end of 1993, an estimated 300,000 small farms (one to five hectares) were operating. In that year, harvests were bountiful despite the high costs of inputs" (http://lcweb2.loc.gov/cgi-bin). Although the both transfers of ownership of agricultural land had their kinks, it was much easier for Armenia to switch back to private farming. This is proved with the efficiency gains that occurred in a short amount of time during the latter part of last century.

References
http://lcweb2.loc.gov/cgi-bin/

Matossian, Mary Kilbourne. "The Impact of Soviet Policies in Armenia." Leiden, 1962.
Suny, R.G. "Armenia in the Twentieth Century." Scholars Press, 1983.

 

 

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