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Stalin's Great Leap Forward
in Russia  in Ukraine

By Alexandra Baena

Stalin's Great Leap Forward in Russia

By Alexandra Baena


Stalin's big industrialization drive of 1929 had serious repercussions in the Soviet economy. When Stalin came into power, the Soviet economy depended heavily on agriculture. It was not yet industrialized and USSR was seen as a "backward" nation. Stalin believed he could change that image and bring the economy into tune with the ones of the Western world. He implemented a Five Year Plan, that to say the least, had very unrealistic expectations of the Soviet economy. Stalin's plan, by 1933, had helped to drive the economy into famine.

The Five Year Plan attempted to coordinate the Soviet economy through collectivization and massive industrialization in order to promote rapid economic growth. Between 1929-1932 peasants were pushed into collective farms, mostly through violent measures. Two types of socialized farms were established. The first, Collectives, were those in which the farmers pooled their land, livestock, and equipment. They shared in both the work and proceeds of the farm. The second, state owned farms, were owned and operated by the government and the farmers were "employees". The employees of the state farms had more job and income security, but were not allowed the small private plots for farming that the collective farmers obtained after Stalin conceded to letting them have it (Mason,17).

Although the plan called for the collectivization of only twenty percent of peasant households, by 1940, ninety seven percent had already been collectivized and private ownership almost eliminated. This however was not a peaceful process. Peasants resisted violently and sabotaged most of their crops and animals in protest. They refused to meet government quotas and had no incentives to work hard since they were paid ridiculously low prices for their production. The government would also take the majority of the harvest, leaving peasants little left to make do with. The elimination of the kulak classes reduced the efficiency and production of the peasants and they were ill prepared to work in an environment which they had no experience in. Resistance was met by arrests and deportations, sometimes even executions. The peasants would be punished severely for failing to meet their quotas.

The main aim of collectivization was to feed the growing industrial sector at the peasants' expense. Stalin believed that collectivization would improve agricultural productivity and produce enough grain to feed the growing urban force. The anticipated surplus was to pay for industrialization. He was dead wrong. The plan failed to produce any surplus and threw Russia into a famine which took years to recuperate from. Agriculture plummeted, leaving severe shortages of grain and vital industrial crops that he country depended on.

Collectivization helped Stalin to achieve rapid industrialization but at the cost of one of its most vital sectors, agriculture. Instead of appeasing the peasants and giving them reasonable incentives to produce, he angered and demoralized them terrorizing them into submission. He killed the most efficient and productive peasants through his elimination of the kulak class, aggravating any chance of efficient productivity. Agriculture should not have been used as a means to an end but as an end in itself. Although industrialization was important to the Soviet Union, it should not have been created at the expense of its major food base. So even though Stalin made a great leap forward in the industrial sector, he took a thousand step backwards in agriculture.

Information was taken from:

  • Mason, David. Revolution and Transition In East Central Europe and from class notes.



Stalin's Great Leap Forward in Ukraine

By Alexandra Baena



    Stalin's policy of forced collectivization resulted in a dreadful famine that engulfed Ukraine in 1932-33.  Agricultural productivity decreased sharply in 1932.  Stalin responded by raising Ukraine's grain quota by forty-four percent.  This quota rendered the peasants foodless, since Soviet law required that no grain from a collective farm could be given to the members of the farm until the quota was met.  Millions of peasants died of starvation in the country who was referred to as the "bread basket" of the Soviet Union.

   Like Russia, peasants in Ukraine violently protested against collectivization.  As a traveled tourist in Ukraine during the famine period, Frederick Shuman describes the situation in the following way: "Their peasant opposition took the initial form of slaughtering their cattle and horses in preference to having them collectivized. The result was a grievous blow to Soviet agriculture, for most of the cattle and horses were owned by these peasants. Between 1929-33 the number of horses in the USSR declined from almost 30,000,000 to less than 15,000,000; of horned cattle from 70,000,000 (including 20,000,000 of cows) to 38,000,000(20,000,000 of cows); of sheep and goats from 147,000,000 to 50,000,000; and of hogs from 20,000,000 to 12,000,000. Soviet rural economy had not recovered from this staggering loss by 1941," (PDT, 1995).

The peasants did not stop at only slaughtering their cattle, but also tried to set fire to their collectives, crops and seed grain.  Most refused to sow or reap the fields, and even if they did they would do it wrong to purposefully damage the crops.  The autumn and spring sowing campaigns failed an Ukraine entered a devastating famine.

The drought of 1932 together with the inefficient production of the collectives resulted in a famine in which millions of Ukranians died from.  Again, it was the bad implementation of policies and unrealistic expectations of Stalin which almost destroyed the agricultural sector of the once profitable region.  The decline in agriculture should have signaled to Stalin the error of his policies, but instead led him to further increase quotas that realistically could not be met.  The industrial sector did grow, however, and rapid industrialization was completed, but at the cost of a huge, almost unrecoverable blow to the agricultural sector, its main food supplier.

Information was taken from:
The Causes of Famine in the Ukraine. PDT 1995




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