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Khruschev Remebers Collectivization

 

Excerpts from a chapter in the book
"Khruschev Remembers",
Little, Brown and Company, Boston, 1970,
pages 71 - 75.

Khruschev and
Stalin in 1932

 

 


 

COLLECTIVIZATION was begun the year before I was transferred from the Ukraine, but it wasn’t until after I started work in Moscow that I began to suspect its real effects on the rural population and it wasn’t until many years later that I realized the scale of the starvation and repression which accompanied collectivization as it was carried out under Stalin.

 

My first glimpse of the truth was in 1930, when the bureau of the Party cell at the Industrial Academy tried to get rid of me by sending me out into the country on a business trip. The academy sponsored the Stalin Collective Farm in the Samara  Region, to which I was supposed to deliver money we had collected for the purchase of agricultural implements. Sasha [Aleksandr] Sdobnov, another student at the academy, accompanied me on that trip. He was a good comrade from the Urals. Later he got caught in the meat-mincer of 1937.

 

We spent only a few days at the collective farm and were appalled at the conditions we found there. The farmers were starving to death. We called a meeting to present the money we’d brought them. Most of the workers on this collective farm were drawn from the Chuvash pop­ulation, so we had to speak to them through an interpreter. When we told them that the money was allocated for farm equipment, they told us they weren’t interested in equipment what they wanted was bread. They literally begged us to give them food. Sdobnov and I were put up in the hut of an old widow who was so poor that she had noth­ing to give us; we shared with her the food we’d brought along for the trip.

I’d had no idea that things were this bad. At the Industrial Academy we’d been living under the illusion promoted by Pravda that collectivi­zation was proceeding smoothly and everything was fine in the coun­tryside.

 

Then, without warning, Stalin delivered his famous “Dizzy with Suc­cess” speech, laying the blame for the excesses of the collectivization on active local Party members. The same people who had been con­ducting the collectivization with such reckless, bestial fervor, suddenly found themselves under Pravda’s lash. At the time we considered Sta­lin’s speech a masterpiece, a bold blow struck by the Party leadership against the men responsible for the excesses.2 But I remember being bothered by the thought, if everything has been going as well on the collective farms as Stalin has been telling us up until now, then what's the reason for the "Dizzy with Success" speech all of a sudden?

Subsequently, the word got around that famine had broken out in the Ukraine. I couldn't believe it.I'd left the Ukraine in 1929, only three years before, when the Ukraine had pulled itself up to prewar living standards. Food had been plentiful and cheap. Yet now, we were told, people were starving. It was incredible.

 

It wasn't until many years later, whe Anastaz Ivanovich Mikoyan told me the following story, that I found out how bad things had really been in the Ukraine in the early thirties. Mikoyan told me that Comrade Demchenko, who was then First Secretary of the Kiev Regional Committee, once came to see him in Moscow. Here’s what Demchenko said: “Anastas Ivanovich, does Comrade Stalin for that matter, does anyone in the Politbureau know what’s happening in the Ukraine? Well., if not, I’ll give you some idea. A train recently pulled into Kiev loaded with corpses of people who had starved to death. It had picked up corpses all the way from Poltava to Kiev. I think somebody had better inform Stalin about this situation.”

 

You can see from this story that an abnormal state of affairs had al­ready developed in the Party when someone like Demchenko, a member of the Ukrainian Politbureau, was afraid to go see Stalin himself. We had already moved into the period when one man had the collec­tive leadership under his thumb and everyone else trembled before him. Demchenko decided to tell Mikoyan about what was happening in the Ukraine because he knew Mikoyan was close to Stalin and might be able to get something done. Active Party members in those days often referred to Stalin, Ordzhonikidze, and Mikoyan as the Cau­casian clique………..

 

But now that Stalin’s abuses of power have been exposed, a more searching, objective analysis of collectivization is in order if we’re ever going to understand what really happened. Perhaps we’ll never know how many people perished directly as a result of collectivization, or in­directly as a result of Stalin’s eagerness to blame its failure on others. But two things are certain: first, the Stalin brand of collectivization brought us nothing but misery and brutality; and second, Stalin played the decisive role in the leadership of our country at the time. ……..

 

But all this is hindsight. At the time, we didn't know the truth. We still believed in Stalin and trusted him.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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