Dekulakization and Collectivization under Stalin

by John  Heuss

One of Stalin’s contributions to the Soviet Union was the implementation of collectivization; the movement of the peasantry to Kolkhoz; collective farms. The theory behind collectivization is valid and would work in a utopian society, bring people together on farms, whose only purpose is to produce a certain crop yield.

 The practice in the Soviet Union succeeded and failed at the same time. Most of the failures were on the output yield of the farms and the people who worked on these farms. The methods used to motivate the selfless capitulation to work were instead replaced by threats from the OGPU (secret police) and the Gulag. The success was in the temporary increase in crop production. Collectivization had it’s good and it’s bad. The down sides to the Kolkhoz were the unpleasant conditions; being labeled a kulak, and working for  he unachievable quotas that were developed. 

Collectivization was started on a small scale in the 1920’s in some of the soviet states. The main push was begun in 1929 and was driven from there. In the 1930 article “Concerning the tempo of Collectivization and aid of the state in the Organization of Kolhozes” Stalin set forth the methods to de-kulak the collective farms in an effort to make them more efficient and weed out the undesirable elements that resisted his decrees. The article legalized the confiscation of the kulak’s land and livestock, those who resisted were to be deported, those who agreed to cooperate were allowed to stay, but with no vote in the region. Throughout the entire article, not once was the word “voluntary” used. 

After this article was implemented throughout the region, the OGPU and the regional directors began to categorize the kulak and make arrangements for farmland or deportation. During this period of decision many kulaks’s fled the regions, slaughtering their own livestock, burning their homes, and in some extreme cases taking their own lives. The deportees were sent to all ends of the Union to work in labor camps, where most of them perished. 

Most of the kulaks that escaped in the southern region of the Soviet Union fled the border to China. The Vice-Commissar of Agriculture, Gaister, estimated that between 1929 and 1931 the kulak population had dropped from 5.4 million to 1.6 million. The reason for this decline was attributed to their destruction either economically or physically. The estimates state that about fifteen percent of the kulaks were killed either from suicide, torture, or physical abuse in the Gulag. 

Finally, in 1933 Stalin signed the Stalin-Molotov decree, which stopped the pitiful arrests and put a quota on the number of deportees allowed in each reason. At this point of the process 240,757 families, approximately 1 million people had been deported in just two years. During the Collectivization process more than a million of the four million in the population perished either on the farms or at the hands of the Soviets. 

In Kazakhstan alone, the population had decreased by 900,000 to 6,0944,000 in 1939. Livestock dramatically decreased as a result of this population depression. In 1934 the number of sheep and goats had dwindled to approximately 2,260,000 from 27,200,000, and horses from 4,200,000 to only 221,000. When collectivization had finally reached it’s goal, there were 20 million people in Kolkhoz had been de-kulaked, approximately one-third had de-kulaked themselves. In the overall situation of the Soviet Union, Collectivization cost 26.6 million cattle, 63.4 million sheep, and had placed nearly 70 million people onto collective farms.


  • Britannica Online, “The party versus the peasants”  

  • Hubbard, Leonard E “Economies of the Soviet Agriculture”. Macmillan and Co. Ltd. London, England 1939 

  • Volin, Lazar “A Century of Russian Agriculture” Harvard University Press. Cambridge, Massachusetts 1970




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