Peasant Rebels under Stalin: Collectivization and the Culture of Peasant Resistance

Peasant Rebels under Stalin: Collectivization and the Culture of Peasant Resistance

Peasant Rebels under Stalin: Collectivization and the Culture of Peasant Resistance

Peasant Rebels under Stalin: Collectivization and the Culture of Peasant Resistance

Synopsis

Based on newly declassified Soviet archives, including secret police reports, Peasant Rebels Under Stalin documents the active history of the vast peasant rebellion against collectivization between 1928-1932. Lynn Viola reveals the manifestation in Stalin's Russia of universal strategies of peasant resistance in what amounted to virtual civil war between state and peasantry.

Excerpt

The collectivization of agriculture was a watershed event in the history of the Soviet Union. It was the Communist party's premier effort at social engineering on a mass scale and marked the first of a series of bloody landmarks that would come to characterize and define Stalinism. Collectivization destroyed the peasant commune and left in its place a coercive enterprise, socialist in name only, that the Communist party would use to try to transform the peasantry into a cultural and economic colony. The collective farm was to be an instrument of control: it would enable the state to exact a tribute from the peasantry in the form of grain and other produce and extend political and administrative domination to the countryside. To accomplish its goal of colonization, the party aimed at nothing less than the eradication of peasant culture and independence. It launched a wholesale campaign against such peasant institutions as the dvor (household), skhod (peasant council), land society, mill (a gathering place for informal politics), market, and even church and traditional holidays in an effort to destroy sources of peasant cultural strength and autonomy. It ordered the closing of village churches and a campaign against religion. Village elites were silenced, priests were arrested, and members of the village intelligentsia who chose not to serve as agents of the state were hounded and harassed. And, under the label of "kulak," prosperous, outspoken, or simply able peasant farmers were subject to arrest and deportation in one of the twentieth century's most horrific episodes of mass repression. Peasants lost control of their means of production and economic destiny. Collectivization was an all-out attack against the peasantry, its culture, and way of life.

This book is, in many ways, a continuation of my earlier work on the mobilization and use of Soviet factory workers—the "25,000ers"—in collectivization (The Best Sons of the Fatherland: Workers in the Vanguard of Soviet Collectivization, New York, 1987). That book was a study in the urban social base of Stalinism, a case study, as it were, in Stalinist populism and working-class support for the regime. It was also a study in collectivization and the revolution, broadly defined. The 25,000ers left for the countryside confident in the viability of socialism transplanted to the village. Their confidence quickly evaporated as they became immersed in . . .

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