Russia after the War: Hopes, Illusions, and Disappointments, 1945-1957

By Elena Zubkova; Hugh Ragsdale | Go to book overview

Chapter 6
The State and the Peasant:
Village Antagonism to the
Collective Farm

Everybody expected changes after the war. These expectations suffused the whole society, enabling people to survive and to hope that a new and better life would soon begin. Not everyone could imagine this new life in detail, a life without war, and the general picture of hopes and only partially formulated wishes clearly distinguished the different expectations and pretensions of one social group from another. Among the peasantry, hopes for the future centered on a single great question: what would happen after the war to the collective farm?

Formally organized on the basis of voluntary principles, during the war the collective farm system was finally transformed into an institution of forced, heavy, and virtually unpaid labor. In 1942, the government issued a special order increasing the obligatory minimum of individual workdays. 1 Collective farmers who failed to fulfill the minimal norm without sufficient reason were subject to legal action and to punitive corrective-labor obligations in their own collective farm for a period of six months, while 25 percent of their usual earnings were diverted to the farm. First introduced during the war, these policies continued after the end of hostilities. In addition, by an order of 31 May 1947, the government prolonged the wartime practice of the increased minimum of workdays and the legal responsibility for fulfilling the obligation. 2 The most serious problem of collective farm labor, however, was not its intensiveness but the fact that it was progressively devalued such that the level of farmers' income fell to the

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