Machine Tractor Stations

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The Machine Tractor Stations (MTS) were budget-financed state organizations established in rural areas of the Soviet Union beginning in 1930. Intended mainly as a mechanism to provide machinery and equipment (including repairs and maintenance) to the kolkhozes (collective farms), they also exerted state control over agriculture. Payment for the services of the Machine Tractor Stations was made in kind (product) by the farms. The emergence of the MTS was closely tied to the introduction of the collective farms and especially the continuing debate over organizational arrangements in the countryside, notably the appropriate scale or size of the collective farms. The original model of the Machine Tractor Stations was based upon experimental arrangements of the Shevchenko sovkhoz (state farm) in Ukraine. The Machine Tractor Stations were introduced rapidly. By the end of 1930 there were approximately 150 Machine Tractor Stations controlling approximately 7,000 tractors. By 1933 there were 2,900 stations controlling approximately 123,000 tractors, roughly 50 percent of all tractors in agriculture, the remaining tractors belonging to state farms. Overall, the growth of the tractor park was rapid, from some 27,000 units in 1928 to 531,000 units in 1940.

The Machine Tractor Stations became the dominant mechanism for providing equipment to the kolkhozes. While the stations themselves provided state support to kolkhozes, especially to those producing grain, the political departments of the MTS (the politotdely ), established in 1933, became an important means for exercising political control over the collective farms. This control extended well beyond the allocation and use of machinery and equipment, and specifically involved the development of production plans after the introduction of compulsory deliveries in 1933. The MTS was, therefore, an integral part of kolkhoz operations, and conflict often arose between the two organizations.

The Machine Tractor Stations were abolished in 1958 during the Khrushchev era. However, their abolition and short-term replacement with the Repair Tractor Stations (RTS) was in fact a part of a much more significant process of continuing agricultural reorganization in the 1950s and thereafter.

In addition to changes within farms during the 1950s, there was continuing emphasis on consolidating farms, converting kolkhozes to sovkhozes, and changing the organizational arrangements above the level of the individual farms. In effect, state control came to be exercised through different organizations, for example, the Territorial Production Associations (TPAs). While the machinery and equipment were dispersed to individual farms, in effect the organizational changes in the agricultural sector during the post-Stalin era consisted largely of agro-industrial integration. The changes introduced during the 1950s were mainly reforms of Nikita Khrushchev, and they became a major factor in Khrushchev's downfall in 1964.

See also: collective farm; collectivization of agriculture


Miller, Robert F. (1970). One Hundred Thousand Tractors: The MTS and the Development of Controls in Soviet Agriculture. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Robert C. Stuart