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Stalin’s Crushing of Peasants Told to Soviets

From Reuters

More than 10 million Soviet peasants were persecuted under Josef Stalin’s farm collectivization drive in the early 1930s, according to a member of the Soviet Academy of Agricultural Sciences.

The figure, cited by academician Vladimir A. Tikhonov in the weekly Argumenty Fakty, was believed to be the highest published estimate in the Soviet Union of the toll of Stalin’s forced collectivization of farmers. The collectivization period has come under new public scrutiny since last November, when Kremlin leader Mikhail S. Gorbachev said Stalin’s farm policy had brought distortions and “crimes” but had been necessary.

Although Tikhonov did not say 10 million peasants had died, he maintained that “de-kulakization,” or the expropriation and exile of kulaks--well-to-do farmers--had liquidated the Soviet peasantry as a class and turned farmers into workers deprived of rights.

He said that research showed that “significantly more than 10 million rural inhabitants” were persecuted, Tikhonov said.

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The formerly well-to-do farmers were shot, jailed or sent to camps where most of them died of starvation, according to Western and reformist Soviet historians.

Tikhonov made it clear that those persecuted during the intensive collectivization period of 1929-33 included many more farmers than the supposedly wealthy kulaks targeted for annihilation.

Stalin had justified forced grain procurements under collectivization as necessary to finance industrialization, he said. To this end, Stalin “decided on the liquidation of the peasantry, on . . . their transformation into workers without rights (without realizing this would turn them into people incapable of thinking)--into executors of orders.”

Tikhonov said Stalin had needed to create “an atmosphere of terror” in order to break the peasantry’s opposition.

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