Collectivization: Understanding its Impact on Art and Agriculture

By: Chloe Pitkoff, Wilbert García, Jeffrey Peng, and María Leonor Rodríguez


Introduction Agriculture (Wilbert)

Tag: agriculture

Year: 1917

After the revolution, the agricultural sector saw many changes. Agriculture between 1918-1933 served as a strong pillar for the economy, first during the NEP, then during the first five-year plan. There were changes in the political nature of agriculture during this period. It went from small capitalist farming where peasants could dictate their own wealth, then it shifted to collective farming for the sake of the government. Fitzpatrick describes kulaks as, “peasants who became more prosperous than their neighbors.” (Fitzpatrick). The means by which these peasants acquired more wealth was through efficient private farming. This advantageous use of capitalism scared the Bolsheviks as Fitzpatrick says they also regarded the kulaks as, “potential exploiters and rural capitalists” (Fitzpatrick). These changes in agriculture give an indication of how the Bolsheviks were reacting to the condition of the people and the changes in the agricultural sector. This analysis of the changes in agriculture allows us to see changes in the comfort of the peasants as resources such as income, food change along with the treatment from the regime.


Introduction Russian Avant-Garde (Maria)

Tag: Art

Year: 1896-1934


Text: In order to obtain more insight on collectivization, it is important to explore its presence in the artwork of the Russian Avant-Garde. When the Russian Revolution came to be in 1917, Russian Avant-Garde was turning twenty-one years old. Originating in 1896 –to create Russian art– the pre-revolution Avant-Garde Movement attempted to mirror French and German artists. The movement, a combination between Cubism and Futurism, struggled to follow the trends of the western world; however, after 1917, artists reconsidered it to service the revolution. Radical utopians rose and divided into two trends: Constructivism and Suprematism. Constructivists rejected paintings to represent the bourgeoisie and used utilitarian products to promote the rising communist trends. On the other hand, suprematists focused on geometrical abstractions to imagine a higher reality that alleviated earthly suffering. Both groups were unsupported by the bourgeoisie and attempted to incorporate art with society through political and intellectual innovation. The premise was to experiment with art that reflected concerns for socio-political issues and generated a utopian ideal.


Persecution of Kulaks (Jeffrey)

Tag: Agriculture

Year: 1918


Text: While many people blame Stalin for the murder of thousands of Kulaks, it was actually Lenin who initiated the persecution of Kulaks. During the civil war, major cities’ food supply was cut off. The government used forceful requisition to collect food, which ignited a kulak resistance in Penza. The rebellion was crushed on August 8th. Lenin sent a telegram on August 11th to Penza. This became known as the execution order. It asks for the public shaming and hanging of at least 100 kulaks. He also gave the local government the right to seize all their grains and land. He wanted the execution to be done “in such a fashion that for hundreds of kilometers around the people might see, tremble, know, shout: “they are strangling, and will strangle to death, the bloodsucking kulaks” (Library of Congress).


Kulak Propaganda (Maria)

Tag: Art

Year: 1930


Text: We Will Annihilate Kulaks as a Class by Kukryniksy reflects how important the prosecution of Kulaks was to Russian history and how strong the feelings surrounding the issue were. Although Lenin began the persecution of Kulaks in 1918, its appearance in 1930s propaganda posters validated its relevance. This propaganda poster reads “we will annihilate Kulaks as a class” over a detailed illustration of collective farming. The artist drew organized farms on a red background, restating his support for the socialist movement. On the lower left corner of the poster, a man on a tractor runs over Kulaks. The artist attempts to make these individuals look as antagonistic and greedy as he possibly can in order to entice hatred from his audience. The men, being trampled, appear to be wearing clothes way too small for their very large bodies, some are pictured protecting their riches and one is even taking a bite out of a cow. The artist portrays the Kulaks as greedy individuals, attempting to strip them from any possible humanity. He makes it easier for the audience to feel hatred against the Kulaks because they no longer regard them as human enough to deserve their respect.


Lenin with a Manifesto (Chloe)

Tag: Art



Text: Isaak Brodsky, the artist who created this painting, known as “Lenin with a Manifesto,” was an artist of the Socialist Realism movement. His main subjects included the Russian Civil War and the Bolskeviks. This painting incorporates both. Lenin is the main figure in this portrait, and he sits on a chair draped in red, representing Bolshevik power. While he looks to be living a happy upper-class life, the people below look less content. They stand huddled in a crowd, hungry and looking for someone to lead who will represent them. After the civil war, many people were unemployed and could not afford food. It is clear from this painting that the focus of the time was on those in power, not the people. The style is traditional, focusing on the strength and importance of the individual rather than the masses.


New Economic Policy (Wilbert)

Tag: Agriculture



Text: The NEP is a period of growth which the Soviet Union embarked on under the guidance of Lenin beginning March of 1921 and lasting until Stalin began to make changes in 1928. The NEP was characterized by capitalism used to promote growth as the Soviet Union escaped from a struggling revolutionary economy. The economy struggled due to famine, drought, and illness. In contrast, it flourished under the growth of the private farms of the peasants, spending and free trade that followed the surplus of wealth from private farming. Lenin describes the NEP and its social changes as, “a new offensive against capitalism” (Lenin).The state needed to maintain control of the peasants and capitalism. This was implemented through taxes giving the state authority. Taxation was overshadowed by the murder of the Mensheviks and the kulaks striking fear in the peasants. The wealth that arose from the NEP promoted low economic and civil volatility as the people enjoyed the spoils of this prosperity that contrasted their suffering during the revolution. The NEP gave way to economic recovery and prosperity. This was beneficial to the Soviet Union but represented the people and the government straying from their ways for the sake of the economy.

The Forceful Five-Year Plan (Wilbert)

Tag: Agriculture

Year: 1928


Text: 1928 ushered in the implementation of forced collectivization which was not taken well by the peasants of Russia. Their anger was rising due to economic losses suffered for the sake of the commune. They had to leave their small private farms behind and lose all that income to farm for the state. They were rightfully irascible as Stalin overstepped his position as General Secretary, and forcefully addressed the problem of peasants privately farming. Sheila Fitzpatrick describes that Stalin favors, “confrontation rather than conciliation”, he implemented, “prosecutions, barn searches, roadblocks to prevent peasants taking their grain to traders offering a higher price than the state’s- was put into effect in the spring of 1928, and produced a temporary improvement in the level of grain procurements, together with a sharp increase in tension in the countryside” (Fitzpatrick). The Soviet Regime felt threatened by the influence of capitalism amongst the peasant as they were allowed to tend to private plots for their own profits during the NEP. These private plots gave the peasants autonomy that Stalin feared. Stalin felt it necessary to impose an iron fist against the peasants. He wanted to flatten this notion of private farming by any means necessary as tensions continued to rise in the countryside.


Stalin’s Speech: Dizzy with Success Concerning Questions of the Collective-Farm Movement (Jeffrey)

Tag: Agriculture

Year: 1930


Text: With more than 50% of peasants farmer collectivized and a dramatic increase in grain stock, a radical turn of the countryside towards socialism, according to Stalin, may be considered as already achieved. Stalin announces that the party’s next task is to consolidate the successes achieved and to utilize them systematically for their further advancement. He moves on by stating that the Soviet Union is a huge country with many rural regions where people have different cultures and opinions on collectivization. He emphasizes that the voluntary nature of collectivization is always the party’s top priority. He raised one key question: “Can it be said that this line of the Party is being carried out without violation or distortion? No, it cannot, unfortunately” (Library of Congress). Forceful actions must be taken in those cases both for the good of the party and for the people because western powers might take advantage of this situation. He acknowledges once again the success of the collectivization. But later, he reminded both the high rank and low-rank officials that they can not be dizzied by success. They must keep a clear vision so that they are intact with the people. Stalin concludes, “Our Party is strong and invincible because, when leading a movement, it is able to preserve and multiply its contacts with the vast masses of the workers and peasants” (Library of Congress).


Report on the Abuse of Power (Jeffrey)

Tag: Agriculture

Year: 1931


Text: This is a report from a commune leader in the countryside. It includes details of forced collectivization and protests that such actions are a violation of the party’s principle of voluntary action. The author writes, “The goal of the party is that every

member of the kolkhoz has a cow, some smaller livestock, and poultry.” He also suggests the party to cease all acts of forced collectivization and give animals to farmers to raise for their private need.

This report foreshadows the devastating consequence of livestock collectivization: it makes them vulnerable to diseases and poor breeding and care-taking techniques. Even though allowing the farmers to have private livestocks might lead to private markets, but separating the livestocks makes the chance of survival higher during times of epidemics.


Faceless Peasants (Chloe)

Tag: Art

Year: 1931


Text: In contrast to this first painting is Kazimir Malevich’s “Peasants” from 1930. This painting is much more abstract. The two peasant figures are emotionless and faceless. They have no voice and no face. These figures are not representations of specific people, but instead representations of an entire class of people. They could be any peasant or farmer. They have not been given a voice or say in what happens to them in society. Their portrait is a view into their world. All they do is work, probably for little pay.


The Starvation Began (Jeffrey)




Natural disasters affected all agricultural regions in the Soviet Regions. The diminished food production, combined with the increasing demand for food ignited a crisis. The continued persecution of Kulaks made it worse: as many as 6 million Kulaks were executed or deported. In order to alleviate the pressure on major cities, food supply to Ukraine was cut off, which caused the death of millions.


Noon (Chloe)

Tag: Art

Year: 1932

Text: The trains in the background represent a world and a country that is modernizing. Industrialization is occurring constantly, and trains, the modern form of transportation, became the norm. Not only were trains a fast and luxurious way to travel, they were useful in carrying large amounts of products to far away places. Just in front of the train, we see a factory that the train may be coming to or from. The women in this painting may be workers in this factory: the ideal Soviet woman was able to do housework, but also do factory work and even be prepared to fight in a war. Deyneka’s painting also incorporates movement, a detail that has been interpreted as moving towards the dream of a Utopia. It is a communist view to have an ideal existence and a radiant future. The title of the painting, “Noon,” informs us that this scene could have taken place on any day in the time period. Each day at noon, a train may pass by, these women are probably enjoying a break from work.



Works Cited (Maria)

Tag: Works Cited

Year: 1933



1 Comments on “Collectivization”

  1. The greatest strength of this timeline is the surprising, fascinating focus on how collectivization influenced and/or found expression in art during this period. This topic not only gives a fresh, original angle on the RR, but also provides stunning visual imagery, which you exploit beautifully. (From an accessibility standpoint, the only place where images don’t work is when you use them as background with white text: this design choice makes the text very difficult to read, especially for anyone with visual impairments.)

    The most important thing to work on is streamlining your prose to make it more clear, concise, and consistent across the slides. Don’t try to write a paper on a timeline because when you do, you’re prone to paper-ease. Instead, tell a story with the same clear, direct prose you use in your reflection essays.

    One thing to think about is the tension between the artist’s individual expression and the communist program of collectivization. How can artists expression their individual visions and styles while still serving the collectivist program? Do any of the artworks manifest this tension? How do they resolve it?

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