Soviet Union Information Bureau
THE position and prospects of the farming population were completely
transformed as a result of the Revolution. In pre-war days in European Russia
and the Ukraine the peasant was virtually land-starved. He worked the land under
a threefield system, each field a separate small strip usually miles away from
the other strips. His methods were most primitive and agricultural education was
virtually unknown. Usually he was without any general education whatever. The
country school was a rarity.
The peasants paid to absentee landlords upwards of $200,000,000 in rentals
The Revolution increased the arable land available for the peasant in
European Russia by 30 per cent, and in the Ukraine by over 70 per cent. To-day
96 per cent of the arable land in the Ukraine and from 97 to 99 per cent in
Europeai Russia is in the hands of the peasants for use. The cold figures,
however, give but an inadequate picture of the change. Under the old regime the
favored wealthy peasants, relatively small in number, waxed fat at the expense
of the mass of their less fortunate brethren. Like the feudal landlords, they
owned the fields of others and controlled marketing resources, and squeezed
their poor neighbors at every opportunity. They had become speculators, mortgage
holders and middlemen as well as producers. The redistribution of land has
deprived them of their privileged position and reduced their holdings to
one-tenth of the land formerly in their control. The middle and poorer farmers
have been the main beneficiaries of the change and have at last been placed in a
position where they can enjoy the fruits of their toil. Moreover the new
economic scheme of things favors the poorer farmer. To-day 35 per cent of the
farmers are exempt from taxes.
Under the new order the conditions of land tenure have completely changed.
There are no private titles in land. The land is held in trust by the State for
all the people and is worked by individuals or groups under a system of
perpetual leasehold. No land may be held out of use, or sold. A restricted
system of private leaseholds has been devised to prevent the loss of land by
families temporarily incapacitated. A single agricultural tax-which may be
reduced or eliminated for sections suffering from impairment or loss of crops-is
the sole charge for the land by the Government. The total agricultural tax in
1927-28 amounted to $170,000,000.
The redistribution of the land has brought new agricultural problems which
are still in process of solution. Though the grain crops of the past four years
were close to the pre-war average, less than half the pre-war tonnage of grain
was available for the market and the greatly increased consumption both on the
farms and in the cities left only a fraction of the pre-war tonnage available
for export. The increasing consumption is due not only to the fact that the
people have reached a markedly higher level of per capita food consumption than
before the war, but also to the fact that the greatly decreased death rate has
raised the annual increase of population to 3,000,000 persons.
The grain export situation became particularly acute during the past year.
The explanation of the situation is simple. Before the war half of the annual
grain production and practically all the surplus for export came from the large
estates and the rich peasants. The rest of the peasants, working on their little
strip farms, consumed seven-eighths of their product, and in the bad years
starved. Since the redistribution of land, the large private estates are no more
and the acreage of the wealthy peasants has been greatly reduced. Some of the
former estates are operated by the State as Soviet farms. There were 5,706
Soviet farms in 1927 with an aggregate area of 9,218,000 acres. A total of
375,377 persons cooperated in 1928 in 32,000 collective farms with an aggregate
area of approximately 3,200,000 acres. Though the production per acre of the
Soviet and co-operative farms was materially greater than that of the peasant
farms, they furnished only 1.7 per cent of the total grain crop of the country.
These enterprises, plus the product of the wealthy farmers, furnish only
oneseventh of the total grain crop. The mass of the middle and poor peasants
produce six-sevenths of the crop, but they live better than before the war and
consume nearly 90 per cent of their product.
To meet the situation the Soviet Government has instituted a threefold
campaign: i. To increase the number of collective farms. 2. To expand greatly
the system of Soviet farms. 3. To increase the productivity of peasant farms by
improved farm machinery, by better seeds and by the extension of the contract
system, whereby groups of farmers or entire villages are supplied with seeds,
etc., on condition that they deliver a corresponding amount of grain products.
The plans for the collective farms include increasing their aggregate area to
18,300,000 acres occupied by 4,900,000 persons, during the next five years.
The plans for opening new State farms are elaborate and involve the
development of some 15,000,000 acres of unused land during the next five years,
to yield an annual crop predicated at 1,800,000 tons of grain. The farms will be
operated in large units of from 75,000 to 100,000 acres. Tractors and the latest
farm mechanism generally will be utilized. The sum of 1,000,000 rubles was spent
on the new farms in 1928.
In addition to the plans for increasing the yield of grain the system of
purchasing and distributing has been unified and coordinated by the creation of
a Grain Center (Khlebocentr) which operates as a single state organ in the
marketing field. The Grain Center replaces a number of State and cooperative
organizations that hitherto operated in competition, with more or less
duplication and waste. The system of a single Center in the marketing field has
been worked out successfully for several years for other farm products such as
flax, butter, eggs, etc. Hitherto the State and co-operative organizations
operating under a federal plan purchased about 75 per cent of the marketable
grain. The remainder has been handled by local co-operatives and by private
traders. The role of the private trader has been steadily decreasing.
The tremendous advance of the co-operative movement during the past five
years (statistics of which are given elsewhere) has re-enforced the changed
position of the farmer resulting from the redistribution of the land. The
co-operatives, heavily backed by Government credits, have fostered a system of
cooperative credit societies which operate throughout the country and are
adapted to the peculiar needs of the local rural economy. With the aid of the
co-operatives the middleman and his fat percentage have largely vanished from
the rural scene. The co-operatives enable the farmer to market many of his
products through his own mediums and to purchase his necessary machinery and
implements and stock on liberal credit terms. In this respect the co-operatives
bring to the farmer somewhat similar advantages in collective bargaining that
the trade unions provide for the urban worker. They also assist him to make a
more scientific, as well as a more economic use of his time and labor. They are
constantly creating better quality standards for his products, with excellent
In the production of certain types of technical crops and agricultural or
dairy products which require a form of manufacture for the market, the
co-operatives have come to hold a dominating position. These organizations are
responsible for 92 per cent of the butter placed on the market, 76.5 per cent of
the cotton, 76.8 per cent of the tobacco, 6.8 per cent of the peasant tobacco
(makhorka), 44.6 per cent of the sugar 31.2 per cent of fodder, 48.8 per cent of
starch products, 24.9 per cent of flax. These figures are for 1926.
Though agricultural production is still predominantly individualistic, it is
becoming more and more socialized, and in the marketing field collectivist forms
Along with the development of co-operative marketing has come a development
of the contract system, whereby industrial enterprises provide farmers with
seeds, implements and fertilizer and contract for the crop on a given acreage.
This system has reached considerable proportions in such crops as sugar beets,
cotton, tobacco and flax, which move direct from the field to the factory.
The period of war and civil strife, followed by the famine of 1921-22, cut
the volume of agricultural production by about one-half. Naturally this was less
than the drop in industry, which in 1921-22 fell to i per cent of the pre-war
output. In 1922 the cultivated area in the Soviet State was 63 per cent of that
of 1913, the gross agricultural production 51.9 per cent. The number of horses
had fallen to 65.5 per cent of 1913, cattle to 72 per cent, sheep and goats to
64 per cent, hogs to 45 per cent. The farmers' basic capital in machinery and
implements had declined by 40 per cent by 1920 and the available man-power on
farms by 30 per cent. Since 1922 there has been a steady recovery. For the past
four years the agricultural output has been close to the pre-war average.
Livestock, with the exception of horses, had increased above the pre-war figure
by 1927. Horses were 83 per cent of the pre-war figure. On the other hand, the
number of tractors in use in the fall of 1928 was 33,000, as compared with less
than 500 before the war.
In other respects the system of agriculture is showing improvement. The
uneconomic threefield system is being done away with. Rotation of crops is being
introduced. Before the war crop rotation was practiced on only 1,000,000 to
2,200,000 acres, to-day it obtains on 31,500,000 acres-one-fifth of the whole
cultivated area in the R.S.F.S.R. and is gaining rapidly. Early plowing, deep
plowing, the development of fodder sowing, the development of technical seeds
and deep-root crops-these things have all come during the past decade. The radio
is being utilized to disseminate agricultural education.
The decline of the irrigation system, which set in before the revolution,
became acute during the period of civil strife. The irrigated area in
Transcaucasia and Turkestan decreased from 4,400,000 hectares to I,500,000
hectares, and the cotton area in particular was reduced to 8 per cent of
pre-war. During the past five years a complete recovery has been effected. The
area under irrigation in 1927 was greater than before the war and new
constructions such as the Dnieper river project will bring water to millions of
hectares of arid lands during the next few years.
The farmer lives better than he did before the war. He consumes more of his
own products, including meat, eggs and dairy products, and especially wheat. He
has far better opportunities for the education of his children. He is a citizen
instead of a subject and runs his own show. On the other hand he still has to
pay more for clothing and implements than he did before the war.
During a good part of the past ten years he has suffered from the prevalent
shortage in manufactured goods. During the past year this shortage has been
materially reduced and the price of manufactured goods has moved steadily
downward. Production of agricultural machinery and implements during 1927-28 was
materially greater than in 1913.
The Commissariats for Agriculture in the six Constituent Republics and their
local organizations have general supervision Dyer agriculture, including
forests. The activities of the Cornnissariats include work for improvement of
cultures, cattle reeding, methods and soils, financial assistance when needed,
veterinary assistance, organizations of irrigation projects and vater supply,
combating cattle and plant diseases and parasites, administration of State
agricultural enterprises, administration of forest funds and management of
forest economy, elaboration and execution of general economic measures in the
interest of agriculture and forestry.
The immense area of the Soviet Union includes great diversities of climate
and soil. The temperature ranges from the subarctic cold of northern Siberia to
the sub-tropical heat of Central Asia. Almost every variety of commercial plant
can be grown within the Soviet territory.
About 85 per cent of the population lives by agriculture.
GRAIN CROPs.- The last three years
witnessed a continuous increase of the area under grain crops, the figure for
1928 having reached practically the pre-war standard.
Figures for the total sown area, including peasant farms as well as Soviet
and collective farms:
As regards the various grain crops, the sown area of the peasant farms was
distributed as follows (in thousands of acres):
|Other grain crops
|Total grain crops
Gross grain crops, in thousands of metric tons:
|Other grain crops
|Total grain crops
The gross grain crop of 1928 was 74,292,103 metric tons. Production of grain
in the present territory of the Soviet Union before the war was about 75,000,000
TECHNICAL CROPS.- Planted area under
the various technical crops, as expressed in thousands of acres (for peasant
farms only, except in the case of sugar beets):
|All sorts of flax (2)
|Long-fiber flax region only
|Sugar beets (3)
The area under potatoes was 12,404,900 acres in 1925, 12,849,900 acres in
1926, and 13,615,000 acres in 1927.
In 1927 the gross production of technical crops, both as regards oil seeds
and fiber, exceeded that of 1926. Sunflower seeds showed an increase of 59 per
cent, while the production of sugar beets was 60.6 per cent above that of the
Production of oil seeds, in thousands of metric tons:
For 1928 the corresponding figures were: flax 578, hemp 568, sunflower 2,080.
Production of fiber in thousands of metric tons:
|Long-fiber region only
For 1928 the corresponding figures were: flax 346, hemp 496, cotton 860.
Sugar beets in thousands of metric tons:
Production of sugar beets in 1928 was 10,621,200 metric tons.
Production of potatoes was 41,712,000 metric tons in 1925 and 44,812,000
metric tons in 1926.
LIVE STOCK AND DAIRY PRODUCTS.- The
increase of the numbers of live stock is shown by the following figures,
covering peasant, Soviet and collective farms (in thousands of head) :
The progress of milk production is shown by the following figures:
Production of butter for market, in metric tons:
Exports of butter, in metric tons:
Production of eggs for market (carloads):
Exports of eggs:
In 1927 there were 17,850 collective farms representing some 140,000 peasant
families. In 1928 the number had increased to 32,506 farms representing 375,377
families, working a total acreage of 3,247,000 acres. The crop returns per acre
worked by the agricultural collectives average 20 to 25 per cent higher than
those for land worked by individual peasants.
Soviet State farms in 1927 comprised 5,706 enterprises with an aggregate of
9,218,000 acres of land.
Grain procurements, in metric tons, for agricultural years ending June 30:
Grain exports were resumed in the fall of 1922. In 1923 for purposes of
coordination, they were placed in the hands of the Exportkhleb, a stock company
composed of representatives of the principal grain procuring organizations
interested in export trade. This organization has a monopoly of grain export.
The amount of grain exports for the argicultural years ending June 30 is shown
in thousands of metric tons in the following table:
Sixty per cent of the grain export goes to Germany, England and Holland.
Excluding some 15,000,000 acres of sowings ruined by early inclement weather in
Ukraine, North Caucasus and Central Black Soil region.
Fiber producing flax area: 1925-3,974,500 acres; 1926-3,889,500 acres; and
Sugar-beet area and production on both peasant farms and State enterprises.