In the Soviet Union a policy of gradual and voluntary collectivization of agriculture was adopted in 1927 to encourage food production while freeing labor and capital for industrial development. In 1929, with only 4% of farms in collectives, Stalin ordered the confiscation of peasants' land, tools, and animals; the kolkhoz [Rus., = collective farm] replaced the family farm. The state would decide how much of what crops were to be produced, how much would be paid to the peasants for their work, and how much would go to the state at what price. Farmers who resisted were persecuted, exiled, even killed.
By 1931, more than half of all farms had been collectivized. Low productivity and inordinate government diversion of farm production contributed to a devastating rural famine in 1932–33. Under the Collective Farm Charter (1935), individual farmers were permitted to keep small garden plots and a few animals for domestic use, and to sell surplus production in local free markets.
Collectivization in the Soviet Union was almost complete by 1938. Successive reforms reflected the persistence of problems associated with centrally planned economies. In 1950 the government began amalgamating collective farms. The number of kolkhozy, which had peaked at 254,000, was reduced to 32,300 by 1972, while the average size of collective farms roughly tripled to approximately 7,500 acres (3,000 hectares), and the average number of households per kolkhozy increased from 75 before World War II to 340 in 1960.
In 1958 new laws abolished the government's power to requisition farm products and substituted direct state purchases at higher prices. In 1969 the Collective Farmers' Congress increased the size of private plots and instituted income guarantees and social insurance. In the 1970s, as an incentive to increase production, collective farmers were assured profits on various commodities. By this time about half of the cultivated land in the Soviet Union was in collectives; most of the rest was in state farms. As the Soviet Union and its bloc of Eastern European satellites disintegrated in the early 1990s, the collective farm faced a difficult and uncertain transition to new forms of ownership and management. In 1992, 7,000 farms chose to remain state-owned, while 9,000 chose to privatize, registering themselves as companies. Through the 1990s, Russia was forced to increase state subsidies to its collective farms, due to high inflation and price increases in supplies and equipment. In 2003, with the passage of laws permitting the sale of farmland, the foundations were laid for further changes in Russian agriculture.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.