Collective Farm

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The collective farm (kolkhoz) was introduced in the Soviet Union in the late 1920s by Josef Stalin, who was implementing the controversial process

of collectivization. The collective farm, along with the state farm (sovkhoz) and the private subsidiary sector, were the basic organizational arrangements for Soviet agricultural production, and survived, albeit with changes, through the end of the Soviet era.

The concept of a collective or cooperative model for the organization of production did not originate in the Soviet Union. However, during the 1920s there was discussion of and experimentation with varying approaches to cooperative farming differing largely in the nature of membership, the form of organization, and the internal rules governing production and distribution.

In theory, the collective farm was a cooperative (the kolkhoz charter was introduced in 1935) based upon what was termed "kolkhozcooperative" property, ideologically inferior to state property used in the sovkhoz. Entry into and exit from a kolkhoz was theoretically voluntary, though in fact the process of collectivization was forcible, and departure all but impossible. Decision making (notably election of the chair) was to be conducted through participation of the collective farm members. Participants (peasants) were to be rewarded with a residual share of net income rather than a contractual wage. In practice, the collective farm differed significantly from these principles. The dominant framework for decision making was a party-approved chair, and discussion in collective farm meetings was perfunctory. Party control was sustained by the local party organization through the nomenklatura (appointment) system and also through the discipline of the Machine Tractors Stations (MTS). Payment to peasants on the collective farm was made according to the labor day unit (trudoden ), which was divided into the residual after the state extracted compulsory deliveries of product at low fixed prices. As collective farm members were not entitled to internal passports, their geographical mobility was limited. Unlike the sovkhoz, the kolkhoz was not a budget-financed organization. Accordingly, the state exercised significant power over living levels in the countryside by requiring compulsory deliveries of product. Peasants on collective farms were entitled to hold a limited number of animals and cultivate a small plot of land.

By the early 1940s there were roughly 235,000 collective farms in existence averaging 3,500 acres per farm, accounting for some 80 percent of total sown area in agriculture. After World War II a program of amalgamation and also of conversion to state farms was implemented along with a continuing program of agroindustrial integration. As a result, the number of collective farms declined to approximately 27,000 by 1988, with an average size of 22,000 acres, together accounting for 44 percent of sown area. By the end of the 1980s, the differences between kolkhozes and sovkhozes were minimal.

During the transition era of the 1990s, change in Russian agriculture has been very slow. Collective farms have for the most part been converted to a corporate structure, but operational changes have been few, and a significant land market remains to be achieved.

See also: agriculture; collectivization of agriculture; peasant economy; sovkhoz


Davies, R. W. (1980). The Soviet Collective Farm, 1929-1930. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Stuart, R. C. (1972). The Collective Farm in Soviet Agriculture. Lexington, MA: D.C. Heath.

Robert C. Stuart

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