Stalin's desire to modernise agriculture led him to collectivise the farms, amalgamating them and putting them totally under state control.      

       In the end, this did lead to more efficient farming and increased production, but in the short term it involved him in a 'war' with the kulaks, and a disastrous fall in output, which led to famine.




Reed Brett on Collectivisation

Prof Rempel on Collectivisation

Why did Stalin do it?

(Six Factors Now To Collectivise Kolkhoz)

1.   Soviet agriculture was backward

Old-fashioned/ inefficient/ no machinery/ too small/ subsistence (only grew enough for themselves).


2.   Food was needed for workers in the towns

Essential if the Five-Year Plans were to succeed.


3.   NEP was not working

By 1928, the USSR was 20 million tons of grain short to feed the towns.


4.   Town-workers were needed

If the USSR was to become modern/ industrial, peasants needed to migrate to work in the towns.


5.   Cash Crops were needed

If the USSR was to industrialise, peasants needed to grow cash crops (eg grain) which could be exported to raise money to buy foreign machinery and expertise.


6.   Kulaks opposed Communism

The Kulaks opposed Communism – they liked their private wealth.  They hid food from the government collectors.  Also they were influential, and led peasant opinion.  Stalin wanted to destroy them.


Collectivisation Timeline 1927–1939


1927       Stalin announced collectivisation – peasants asked to take part voluntarily.   Ignored.

1928       Food shortages.    Police confiscated food and took it to the towns.

1929       Stalin announced compulsory collectivisation, enforced by the army.   The peasants burned their crops and barns, and killed their animals.

1930       Famine.   Stalin paused collectivisation.   Peasants were allowed to own a small plot of land.

1931       Collectivisation re-started.   By 1932 two-thirds of the villages had been collectivised.   More resistance, burning/ killing.   Meanwhile, the government took more food for the towns, so:

1932–3    Famine, esp. in Ukraine (where 5 million died).   Stalin blamed, and declared war on, the Kulaks – their land was taken and they were shot/ sent to labour camps in Siberia/ whole villages surrounded and killed.

1934       All 7 million kulaks ‘eliminated’.

1939       99% of land collectivised; 90% peasants live on one of ¼ million kolkhoz; 4,000 state farms.   Farming run by government officials.  

What was 'Collectivisation'?


Stalin's 1929 order simply required farmers to pool their land and their equipment, and to work in future under the orders of the collective farm committee (which was under the control of the Communist Party).   No other details - such as how the workers would be paid - were given, and in 1930 Stalin even sent a contradictory order that 'small vegetable gardens, dwelling houses, some dairy cattle, small livestock poultry etc. are not socialised' (at which point, many farmers withdrew from the collectives).


Later rules, however, enforced collectivisation, prescribed punishments for 'enemies of the collective farms' (such as the kulaks), stipulated that 90% of the produce had to go to the state (with 10% left to feed the collective), and set up Motor Tractor Stations to provide mechanisation.


Did You Know?

In the 1990s, when Communism collapsed, many collective farms were broken up and the land shared out between the members.   However, in many places, the people preferred to keep their collective farms voluntarily - they liked the security and shred responsibility they offered.



Source A

Bolshevik teachers instruct a less-than-enthusiastic group of peasants about the benefits of collectivisation.   

Source B

Peasants celebrating on a collectivised farm – a propaganda painting from 1937.   



(Quite Modern Government Tries Collectivisation)

1.   Quarter of a million kolkhoz

99% of Russia had been collectivized . . .

2.   More modern

New methods/ tractors/ fertilisers/ large-scale/ new attitudes (trying to produce as much as possible)

3.   Grain

By 1937, 97 million tonnes were produced PLUS cash crops for export.

4.   Town workers

17 million peasants left the countryside to work in the towns, 1928–37

5.   Communists control completely

Officials ran farming. Peasants obeyed the Party, through enthusiasm or fear.   Stalin had all power.



… and Failures

(Sad Foolish Kulaks)

1.   Stock

Fell see Source C!  


Source C






Tons of Grain




  (State Procurement, tons)




Head of cattle




Head of sheep & goats




2.   Famine

In 1932–33; millions died.

3.   Kulaks

Were eliminated.



Many historians believe that collectivisation was as much about establishing Stalin's power as it was about increasing production.   What do you think?