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The consequences of the destruction of the old economic structure in the countryside were severe. The productive forces of agriculture were undermined for many years to come: in 1929–32 the total number of cattle and horses fell by one-third and of sheep and pigs, more than twofold. The collectivization resulted in mass famine, caused not so much by a poor harvest as by the government’s drive to appropriate all grain output of collective farms, including seed stocks, to feed the cities and sell for export. Starving peasants were reduced to pilfering grain from collective-farm fields and granaries. To combat this, a law was enacted in 1932 that imposed harsh penalties for stealing collective-farm property. Any theft, however small—be it merely a handful of seeds—was punished by a prison sentence of ten years minimum or a death sentence. Tens of thousands of people fell victim to this draconian law.  

The human costs of the collectivization were catastrophic: the Ukraine, Kazakhstan, North Caucasus, the Volga regions and the South Urals region—in other words, some of the key grain-producing areas—were consumed by a devastating famine. The tragedy of the situation was that the authorities refused to acknowledge officially the existence of the famine. Troops were sent in to cordon off the affected areas to prevent the famished peasants from escaping to the cities, because their begging and appearance would immediately dispel the official tales about the happy life in collectivized villages. As a result, millions were condemned to starvation: three to four million people died of hunger in 1932–33.

However, to the Communists the end justified the means,” as they celebrated a big victory on the road to socialism. Despite the fact that the peasant population fell by a third and grain output was down by 10 percent, the state procurement of grain in 1934 was double the level of 1928. The agrarian sector was now transformed into an integral arm of the command-bureaucratic economy.

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"Great Leap" to Socialism


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