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Part I
Chapter 1

This webpage reproduces a chapter of

Stalinist Rule in the Ukraine
by Hryhory Kostiuk

published in the U. S. A. by
Frederick A. Praeger, Inc.
New York

The text is in the public domain.

This page has been carefully proofread
and I believe it to be free of errors.
If you find a mistake though,
please let me know!


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Part I
Chapter 3

Part One
Stalinist Centralism and the Ukraine

 p5  Chapter II

The Plans in Action

One of the most important resolutions adopted by the Sixteenth Party Conference which met in April 1929 paved the way for the initiation of the First Five-Year Plan, according to the so‑called "optimum variant."1 It committed the entire Soviet Union to the utmost exertion and sacrifice in order to meet the demands of the required industrial construction. Agriculture came to play a crucial part in this plan. Thirdly, oppositionist tendencies in the Party were eliminated and the so‑called "Right" (Bukharin) deviation was crushed.2

The issue of collectivization of agriculture soon appeared on the Party agenda. In order to obtain complete control of agricultural production and marketing, the Party began to introduce collectivization on a mass scale and at a rapid pace. In practise this meant that the peasants were denied all those property rights which had been guaranteed them by the decree on land, issued on November 8, 1917.3 A prerogative, which they had regarded as the great reward of the Revolution, was swept away. It was obvious that such a measure would increase the hostility of the peasantry towards the regime, yet without it the full control which the Party sought over the peasants, would be impossible.

In declaring war on the peasants, Stalin simultaneously initiated his first major move against the Ukraine, where the tradition of individual farming was especially strong. That country, the second largest in the Soviet Union, and famous for its agricultural and mineral resources, was destined to play a leading role in the conflict which was obviously impending. The plans worked out in the Kremlin for the "grain-collection campaign" and for the "collectivization of agriculture" were aimed against the basic economic and social order of the Ukrainian peasantry. The peasants soon understood their meaning and reacted against them with the force and determination of a people fighting for life itself. The resistance of the Ukrainian peasantry to collectivization, glibly described by Soviet historians as the  p6 "recalcitrance of the kulaks," spread to such an extent that, at the end of 1930, it became a serious threat to the regime. Stalin and his lieutenants realized that if they were to overcome this resistance they must use stark terror and brute force. To justify these Stalin issued the battle‑cry "For the Liquidation of the Kulaks as a Class," which initiated one of the bloodiest eras of his reign.

This campaign received the following interpretation in the Short History of the CPSU:

During 1930‑34 the Bolshevik Party accomplished a historic task, the most difficult (after the establishment of the Soviet government) of the whole proletariat Revolution — the transference of millions of small-propertied peasants' farms to the collective farms and onto the path of socialism.4

How was this difficult task success­fully completed? The official version reads as follows:

The transition to total collectivization did not take place with a peaceful and orderly entry of the large masses of the peasants into the kolkhozes, but with a mass struggle of the peasants against the kulaks. Total collectivization meant the transfer of all land in the villages to the kolkhozes. However, since a sizeable part of the land was in the hands of the kulaks, the peasants drove the kulaks away, "dekulakized" them, took away their cattle, and demanded that Soviet authorities arrest and evict the kulaks.5

The impression created by this quotation suggests that the Soviet authorities were performing a service to the peasants, that they confined themselves to aiding the peasants who rose against the kulaks, and that the "liquidation of the kulaks as a class" was ordered only after "persistent demands" for such action on the part of the peasants.6 Do the facts recorded in the Soviet press and literature of the period support this contention?

A leading article, "Against Opportunism in the Work of the Soviet Apparatus," in the organ of the All‑Ukrainian Central Executive Committee, Radyanska Ukraina (The Soviet Ukraine),7 presents a survey of the situation in agriculture which offers a different picture from that presented in the Short History. The article confesses that the campaign for collectivization was far from satisfactory. It charges that the Party leaders in many areas were highly opportunistic and were sabotaging the effort. Frequently, the mainstay of the Party in the villages — the Komnezamy (Committees of Poor Peasants) — were directing the sabotage, having turned themselves into organizations hostile to the Soviet government. According to this article, the chairman of the Petrovsky village soviet, Shevchenko,  p7 had declared that there were no kulaks in his village and that he did not know, therefore, how he should conduct the class struggle. The village soviet, he complained, had received no "firm assignments."8

The chairman of the Oleksandrivsk village soviet also declared that there were no kulaks in his village, and that therefore collectivization was proceeding there without "firm assignments," that is, without terror and extortion. The chairman of the Novo-Petrovsk village soviet in Bilopolsky district advised the peasants who had been threatened with "firm assignments" to deliver 50 poods of grain to appease the authorities. Similarly, the chairman of the Bolshe-Fontansky village soviet confessed that since there were no kulaks in his village, he saw no reason why any stern measures should be used in collectivization. Moreover, he refused the aid of the government in the form of a "towing brigade,"9 protesting that it was "a children's game, unnecessary to anyone." Nor could the chairman of the Sofievsky village soviet of the Andree-Ivanovsky district find any kulaks in his village, and he thought, therefore, that "firm assignments" were unnecessary. In the village of Stepok, in the district of Andrushkovo, the entire village soviet, the presidium of the Komnezam, the executive committee of the village kolkhoz and of the co‑operative were disbanded for sabotaging the collection of grain.

The article in Radyanska Ukraina ends with the following conclusion: "One could cite scores and hundreds of other examples of 'Right' opportunism in the practical work of the soviets. Those cited above are, however, sufficient." In our opinion, they serve to expose the Soviet perversion of the history of collectivization. They clearly show how wide and spontaneous was the resistance to forced collectivization among the peasants not excluding chairmen of the soviets and other officials.

Another aspect of life during collectivization, amplifying this picture, is revealed in an article by M. Marchenko, also published in Radyanska Ukraina.10 The author gives a grim account of the economic decay in the Khorol district, of  p8 the flight of the peasants, and the protests of the small Party officials against the inhuman methods of collectivization. "Khorol district, in the province of Poltava," he writes, "fulfilled the plan of grain collection only as far as 40 to 41 per cent of the total target. The kulaks are fleeing to the Donbas and other places, leaving behind bare walls in their houses . . . In the village of Melyushky two members of the village soviet have refused to participate in grain collection . . . The District Executive Committee has ordered all the village soviets to organize the work in the village 'by sections.' "11

Similar accounts of peasant resistance to collectivization can be gleaned from the pages of another organ of the CP(b)U, the daily Komunist. Thus, in the issue of November 24, 1932, we read that in the village of Katerynovtsi (the paper was published in Kharkov), the secretary of the local Party cell, "after receiving the plan for grain collection, refused to fulfill it and asked to be relieved of his duties." The secretary of the Party cell in the village of Ushakivtsi refused to accept the written order of his superiors, specifying the tasks of the forthcoming drive for grain deliveries. The chairman of the Lenin kolkhoz in the Slavyansk district of Donets province, Zagorelsky, declared that first of all the peasants themselves must be given bread, and only then could they be asked to fulfill the grain deliveries. Many similar reports from Komunist could be cited.12

On the basis of material contained in the Soviet press as well as in accounts by escapees from the Soviet Union13 it is possible to conclude that it was not the peasants who, with the aid of the government, drove out the kulaks, as the Short History contends, but that the government, with the armed forces and police, was responsible for the mass destruction of all peasants, both poor and rich, during collectivization. It is even possible to conjecture that the well-to‑do peasants, who were also the most enlightened and educated, suffered less than the middle and poor peasants. Most of them, having realized that the Party was determined to uproot them, left their farms at the very beginning of collectivization (1929) and moved to industrial cities. The full brunt of the terror, which started in 1930 and culminated in the famine of 1932‑33, was borne by those peasants who stayed  p9 behind on their farms. Hundreds of thousands of them who lost their lives at that time were probably not kulaks but poor peasants who, in 1917, were active partisans in the Civil War.14

A partial admission of the truth of this statement is made by the anonymous author of the Short History who concedes that this "revolution" was "carried out from above."15 The responsibility for the outrages of collectivization rests entirely with Stalin and the Communist Party.

The Author's Notes:

1 According to the Short History, the conference rejected the so‑called "minimum variant" proposed by the "Rightists" and accepted the "optimum variant" of the Five-Year Plan proposed by Stalin (p283).

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2 For details see: VKP(b) v rezolyutsiyakh i resheniyakh sezdov, konferentsii i plenumov (The CPSU in Resolutions and Decisions of Congresses, Conferences and Plenums), Part II, 1925‑35. 5th ed., Moscow, Partizdat TsK VKP(b), 1936, pp318‑330 (United Plenum of the CC and CCC CPSU, Apr. 15‑23, 1929), pp331‑32, 340‑42 (the Sixteenth Conference).

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3 "Deklaratsiya prav trudyashchegosya i ekspluatiruemogo naroda" (The Declaration of the Rights of the Working and Exploited People), Sistematicheskoe sobranie zakonov RSFSR (Systematic Collection of the Laws of the RSFSR), Moscow, 1929, I, pp3‑4.

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4 Short History of the CPSU, p314.

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5 Ibid., p290.

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6 Ibid., p291.

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7 "Proty oportunizmu v roboti radyanskoho aparatu" (Against Opportunism in the Work of the Soviet Apparatus), Radyanska Ukraina, No. 10, November 1930.

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8 The "firm assignments" (tvyordye zadaniya) were, like the terms "grain delivery" (khlebozagotovka) and "collectivization," Communist euphemisms disguising the policy of lawless terror against the peasantry. For a peasant to receive a "firm assignment" meant that he was declared a kulak and therefore had to be destroyed together with his family. Before his liquidation, however, he was given a special "grain delivery quota," which was made extremely difficult to fulfill. If a peasant was able to fulfill it, he was usually given another, even more difficult. Failure to fulfill an assignment was a criminal offense, for which he was then liquidated. This could mean death before a firing squad, or deportation to a concentration camp, from which he rarely returned. His family was also deported, and his home and farm became the property of the kolkhoz.

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9 The so‑called "sowing brigade" (buksirnye brigady) were yet another aid to collectivization. They were chiefly formed in towns, and consisted of Communist enthusiasts and Komsomol members. They were sent to the villages to help with the "grain delivery." These brigades of youths, armed, well‑fed, and using all the methods of punitive police detachments, were hated by the peasants as much as the police. In 1930‑33, during several peasant uprisings, some members of these brigades were the victims of peasant retribution.

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10 M. Marchenko, "Khorolsky rayon, ohlyad" (The Khorol Raion: A Survey), Radyanska Ukraina, No. 11, December 1930, pp75‑76.

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11 This characteristic Ukrainian expression (po kutkakh) refers to another practice common during collectivization. Often unable to crush the opposition of the villagers, the authorities conducted grain collections in several sections of the village, which was split up for that purpose. Each section comprised from 100 to 150 peasants whose work was supervised by a brigade. The peasants of each section were exposed to constant abuse, threats and beatings. They were often arrested, or expelled from the village.

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12 The source for the material contained in Komunist, which is unobtainable in the United States or Canada, is M. Kovalevsky, Polityka narodowościowa na Ukrainie (Nationality Policy in the Ukraine), Instytut Badań Spraw Narodowościowych (Institute for the Study of Nationality Problems), Warsaw, 1938.

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13 D. Solovey, Stezhkamy na Holhotu (Along the Paths to Calvary), New York, Detroit, Scranton, 1952; also Holhota Ukrainy (The Calvary of the Ukraine), Winnipeg, 1952. A. Vysochenko, SSSR bez masky (The USSR Without a Mask), Buenos Aires, 1951. L. Drazhevska, "Ukrainska selyanka v Paryzhi. Vystup Olhy Marchenko na protsesi V. Kravchenka" (A Ukrainian Peasant Woman in Paris; the Appearance of Olha Marchenko at the Trial of V. Kravchenko), Hromadyanka, Munich, No. 1‑2, 1949.

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14 This view is supported by many accounts of victims of the Soviet terror. Cf. Solovey, op. cit.; Vysochenko, op. cit.; V. Skuybida, "Pamyati nevidomykh; Ryabchenko i bunt 21 polku" (To the Memory of the Unknown; Ryabchenko and the Mutiny of the 21 Regiment), Nedilya, No. 13, 1951. Also: "O tempe kollektivizatsii i merakh pomoshchi gosudarstva kolkhoznomu stroitelstvu, postanovleniye TsK VKP(b)" (Concerning the Rate of Collectivization and Government Measures to Aid the Establishment of the Kolkhozes, Resolution of the CC of the CPSU), Pravda, January 6, 1930.

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15 Short History of the CPSU, p291.

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Page updated: 27 Jan 23