Academic journal article Journal of Social History

A Peasant Rebellion in Stalin's Russia: The Pitelinskii Uprising, Riazan 1930

Academic journal article Journal of Social History

A Peasant Rebellion in Stalin's Russia: The Pitelinskii Uprising, Riazan 1930

Article excerpt

Let's go home. It smells like murder here. (Poidem domoi, zdes' pakhnet ubiistvom.)-- wife of the sel'sovet chairman in Zabelino, 16 March 1930

On the night of 27 January 1930, Avanesov, a member of a collectivization brigade, raped a peasant woman in the village of Malye Mochily in Pitelinskii district, Riazan county. Her husband returned home to find Avanesov hiding in their cellar. According to the OGPU (Ob" edinennoe gosudarstvennoe politicheskoe upravlenie, the security police) report on the incident a "massive scandal resulted which compromised the whole brigade." [1] The brigade, however, was in fact already compromised by its tendency to indulge in "tactless activites". Brigade members, for example, demonstrated a penchant for firing off their guns in the middle of the night. And the local peasants had used these nocturnal gunshots as an excuse to stop attending meetings on collectivization. The incident in Malye Mochily set the scene for a rebellion against collectivization that would encompass more than twenty of the villages of the Pitelinskii district. The revolt raged openly for six days, and simmered for months, involving thousands of p easants.

The Communist Party launched a massive campaign to collectivize the peasantry in the winter of 1929-1930. Industrial workers and urban activists were sent en masse to the countryside to aid local parry and soviet officials in the business of collectivization. [2] In Moscow region, the zealous regional party first secretary, K.Ia. Bauman, directed collectivization, pushing Riazan especially hard to be a model and challenge to other districts in the race for the rapid collectivization of his region. [3] Perhaps even more than elsewhere in the Russian Republic, the implementation of wholesale collectivization in the Moscow region led to massive "excesses" (or peregiby, to use a Soviet euphemism). It also led to a peasant rebellion of major significance in Riazan's Pitelinskii district. [4]

The Pitelinskii Uprising

Pitelinskii district is located about one hundred miles due east of the city of Riazan, which in turn is located 125 miles southeast of Moscow. In 1929, Riazan province (guberniia) had a population of almost two million people. In 1930, the province became a county (okrug) within the newly formed Moscow region (oblast'). Riazan county was subdivided into smaller administrative units or districts (raions). Pitelinskii district was one of the smaller of Riazan's twentyseven districts. It was about 934 square kilometers in size, with one village or rural soviet (sel'sovet) located every thirty-two square kilometers on average. [5] The district was characterized by a fairly high population density: 22,976 men and 26,593 women lived in Pitelinskii district, virtually all classified as rural inhabitants, rather than migrant workers or town dwellers. [6]

From January, the relationship between collectivizers and the local peasantry in Pitelinskii district was tense as events moved relentlessly toward a violent confrontation. On 22 February, peasants from across the Pitelinskii district began to gather on the few narrow streets of the village of Veriaevo, Early in the day, rumors circulated to the effect that the collectivization brigade and the sel'sovet were "gathering cattle to slaughter and ship to Moscow." [7] Over the course of the day, more and more peasants filled the village streets. One version of events later claimed that brigade members had seized cattle to be redistributed to poor peasants. The gathered cattle escaped, and when the brigade members went chasing after the beasts a crowd gathered to watch the spectacle. [8] A second version of events claimed that the problems in Veriaevo occurred due to the "tactless conduct" of the plenipotentiaries involved in collectivization work. Furthermore, the unrest did not involve cattle, but rather the coll ection of seed grain. Whatever the case may be, there is no doubt that the brigade and sel'sovet members were indeed "tactless. …

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