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  • The Years of Hunger: Soviet Agriculture, 1931-1933.
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Co-auteur: Stephen G. Wheatcroft R. Davies R. Samenvatting An examination of the Soviet agricultural crisis of which culminated in the major famine of Making extensive use of Russian and Ukrainian central and local archives, the book reaches new conclusions on how far this famine was 'organized' or 'artificial', and compares it with other famines in Russia and elsewhere.

Recensie s 'A truly remarkable contribution to research into this important field. Davies' research is impeccable, and simply unsurpassed in Western Sovietology. The writing is clear and often gripping. This book is a worthy fourth volume to the Industrialisation of Soviet Russia series. It is surely destined to become the standard work on its subject.

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Stuart, American Historical Review 'This volume enormously enhances our understanding of Stalin's great breakthrough. Surely this is required reading for all concerned with the Stalin years. The complimentary volume on agriculture is eagerly awaited. His multi-volume history of the Soviet economy during the s is not only a mammoth undertaking, but one of great importance to our understanding of Stalinism and Soviet history more generally.

Hoffmann ' Agricultural planning and work in took place under much worse conditions than in , with significant shortages and starvation in many regions. The authors narrate the high-level disputes and decision-making that led to emergency distributions of seed and food to shortage areas, the May laws of that legalized private trade after three years of uncertain status , and in general a relaxation of policies. Farmers did not fulfill the sowing plans, however, and the harvest decreased even relative to that of by a complex mix of natural disasters and mismanagement. While official projections of the harvest dropped substantially, however, Soviet leaders refused to believe that another catastrophe like had occurred, and pressed forward with only a moderately reduced procurement plan.

Implementing this plan, however, brought a tremendous struggle between regime and peasants, simultaneous with a disastrous decline in food supplies for the towns, and widespread theft and attempted theft at all stages of distribution. By the beginning of , the procurement plan had not been fulfilled, and authorities at all levels received continuous reports documenting a massive famine, widespread deaths from starvation, and desperate demands from officials at all levels for food allotments from diminishing reserves.

Peasants and workers around the country fled their homes seeking food and survival, and the authorities issued several additional laws attempting to prevent this movement, including the reestablishment of an internal passport system, harsh penalties for workers who left their jobs without authorization, and apprehension and return to their homes of peasants from the southern grain regions, most severely struck by famine. It was in this context of great economic crisis that the regime again undertook to plan and guide farm work.

The result, however, despite the horrible conditions, was a very successful harvest in that ended the famine in most regions.

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The book then goes on to present capsule narratives of specific aspects of agricultural production and particular sectors. So production of crops besides grain, including potatoes, sugar beets, and fiber crops generally followed the same pattern as grain, and thus were directly or indirectly affected by the famine.

The worst region of the livestock crisis was Kazakhstan, where Soviet collectivization policies aimed initially to settle in villages the majority nomadic population a policy similar to that employed in some colonial countries and in some developing countries since independence. In the face of a searing famine in the region and the flight to China or death of more than one-third of the population, the regime in relaxed its policies, but the effects of the famine were not overcome for years.

What resulted in the 1932-1933 Soviet famine

The authors also examine the two main socialist sectors. The state farms sovkhozy , which were large, ideally mechanized specialized farms that held more than 10 percent of the sown area, had tremendous difficulties in these years after limited success in In these farms suffered catastrophic declines in production, from causes that included natural disaster, mismanagement, and shortages of equipment and supplies because of the overall Soviet economic crisis of the time.

On the collective farms kolkhozy the authors examine in some detail labor organization and remuneration, which were difficult managerial problems to solve in these almost unprecedented institutions. The regime in these years moved from a network of varied farms following diverse policies to a system in which the main organizational structures and remuneration procedures were prescribed from central government agencies with the intent of insuring the proper mix of incentives and obligations.


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The final chapter examines the famine in comparison to the two most noted recent famines in Russian history, those of and The authors describe how these earlier famines resulted from natural disaster and in the difficulties the Bolshevik government had in moving food from villages to towns through requisitions. They then analyze the crisis in three categories: the urban food crisis of ; the famine in Kazakhstan; and the rural famine of They discuss different estimates of mortality, questioning the highest estimates but acknowledging the uncertainties in the population data.

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They estimate that mortality from the famine was in the range of four to six million deaths. This chapter concludes with their explanation of the causes of the famine. The authors attribute the small harvests in the crisis years to four factors. The intense sowing plans that demanded increased areas under crops disrupted the crop rotations left from the s and thereby brought soil exhaustion. Draft forces declined, despite the import, production, and provision to agriculture of increasing numbers of tractors, because lack of forage from both procurements and crop failures and collectivization which facilitated the spread of epizootics brought massive deaths of horses.

This draft situation in turn, combined with disaffection of the peasants, brought a decline in cultivation quality. Finally, exceptionally bad weather caused serious declines in output independently of all the other factors. The authorities overestimated harvests and tried to impose high procurement quotas, but they also reduced those quotas when difficulties developed, and returned procured grain to villages for food and seed; they decided in the face of crisis to feed the cities as well as possible, but they also made significant efforts to support agricultural recovery, though this failed for millions of people.

In response to intentionalist arguments citing Conquest , they conclude that Soviet leaders, even if their actions contributed to the famine crisis, found it unexpected and extremely undesirable. The book concludes with an appendix on grain harvest data, and 49 tables on farm production, food distribution, population, and certain other topics. With its extensive use and intensive examination of archival and published sources on high-level policy discussion and decisions in this crisis, including the formerly secret records of the Politburo the special files or osobie papki and the now published correspondence of Stalin with some of his top lieutenants like Kaganovich and Molotov, this study decisively refutes intentionalist explanations of the famine.

None of these sources contain any evidence indicating that Stalin or his officials intended or wanted to create a genocidal famine to suppress Ukrainian nationalism or any other such objective. The decisions that these officials made, such as the impositions and then reductions of procurement quotas, or the lowering of rations for certain sectors of the population, represented short term, desperate, and often mistaken responses to the developing emergencies of these years, and not components of an overarching destructive intent.

The Great Ukrainian Famine of 1932-33

Even the underlying fact of the overly rapid industrialization program and the disruptions it caused reflected not destructive but constructive aims, even if the implementation of these plans by ill-educated fanatics in various state agencies had disastrous consequences. This study, therefore, documents that great Soviet famine of was a complex economic event first of all, rooted in environmental conditions as well as in Soviet policies. I will focus on two of these. First, the authors assert at the end of their chapter on the collective farms p.

The Industrialisation of Soviet Russia, Volume 5: The Years of Hunger: Soviet Agriculture 1931-1933

One of the main points of this book and of previous studies is that the procurements took most or all of kolkhoz grain reserves in and because of the crop failures of those years, and did not represent the usual pattern: in all other years farms had substantial portions of their crops left over after procurements for their own use, as in It makes more sense economically and institutionally to interpret the high procurement quotas as combining elements of taxation and rent rather than exclusively as atavisms. Furthermore, in the same section the authors show that the farms had significant incomes from their sales of crops and other products, even at the low state purchase prices as well as on the free market legalized in , which they used to pay the peasant-members for their work, and to purchase new equipment and supplies, albeit in very limited amounts in Under serfdom, peasants were not paid for their produce on demesne.

Even given the situation in these crisis years, the kolkhozy were not recreated serf villages, but can be better understood as semi-autonomous production units highly subsidized by the government. The government did attempt to control this movement by means of the internal passport system, but that system was not imposed until , in response to the famine crisis, and as earlier research has shown, the passport system restrained peasant movement, both temporary and permanent, from villages to towns very little.

Further, serfdom in early modern Russia was part of a whole complex of controls over the population that had the goal of limiting not only the geographical but also the economic and social mobility of almost the entire population, rural and urban, as for example in the elaborate regulations of the law code. The Soviet system of the s, by contrast, was oriented toward social mobility, promoting and educating workers and peasants to responsible posts. For example, no Russian peasant ever came close to becoming a Russian emperor before , but under the Soviet regime four men of peasant origin came to rule that country: Stalin, Khrushchev, Brezhnev, and Gorbachev.

Many other former peasants and workers moved up to high positions; while some tragically ended up victims of the great Communist witch hunts of the s to the s, most did not, and held positions that they would never have attained under the servile system. Even those who stayed in the farms in many cases attained technical knowledge and skills despite the influence of Lysenko and used it to bring about a significant increase in farm production in the s to s. To describe the kolkhoz as a revival of serfdom as Davies and Wheatcroft do here is a substantial distortion of historical fact.