On December 27, 1929, Stalin, in a public announcement, called for "the liquidation of the kulaks as a class." This was the signal for the beginning of a reign of terror. Communist agitators, accompanied by police and Red army units, went from village to village to promote and to enforce government policy. They organized the class struggle, stirring up the poor against their better-off neighbors, and ruth- lessly arrested and deported all opponents and suspected opponents of collectivization, whether rich or poor, with their families. These people were called kulaks or kulak agents.
|In the course of two months, January and February 1930, more than a
million peasant families were uprooted from their native soil and deported
en masse to the mines and work camps of the north and east, where they
became a slave labor force for the building of an industrialized Russia.
Those remaining in the villages, too weak and too frightened to resist
any longer, now pooled their resources to form collectives.
The government had won, but by methods whose cruelty and inhumanity defy description. Even Stalin himself, utterly callous as he was, appears to have realized that this time he had gone too far.
No group in Russia suffered more during the collectivization period than the German colonists. As the term was then used by the regime, kulaks were especially numerous in the German villages. Not that there were really any wealthy farmers left among the colonists. The large landowners of the pre-revolutionary era had been dispossessed during the civil war period. The communal landholdings in the villages had been subdivided so that no farmer now had more than 16 dessiatines (43 acres), hardly a basis for the accumulation of wealth.
But the colonists had farmed their small holdings efficiently during the years of the New Economic Policy and many of them had attained a modest prosperity, sufficient to raise their economic status a notch above that of the average Russian peasant. A greater sin than this prosperity, however, was their determined opposition to the idea of collective farming. This in itself served to put them into the kulak class.
|The drive against the German kulaks started in the summer of 1928 with
the imposition of ruinous taxation on all except the volunteers for the
collectives. In the spring of 1929 the deportations began, the first victims
being former landowners and other leading citizens considered most hostile
to Communist plans.
In June came grain requisitioning on a scale so drastic as to threaten with starvation in the months ahead those who complied, while over those who failed to deliver, hung the equally ominous threat of deportation to slave labor in the north or east of USSR.
|Man Made Famine
The effect of these extreme measures was a drastic decline in agricutlurat production and eventually, in 1932-33, a man-made famine of devastating proportions. The best farmers, whose skills and knowledge were so badly needed to modernize Russia's backward agricultural industry, had been shipped off to slave labor camps.
Most of the remaining peasants, forced into collectives against their will, slaughtered their farm animals rather than donate them to the collectives, bringing about a disastrous decrease in the numbers of livestock. The resistance of the peasant workers and the ignorance and inefficiency of the party bureaucracy, the managers of the new collective farms, brought a decline in grain production.
Photos 1935 Olexa Woropay
Drought in 1931, and again in 1932, over wide areas of the grain-growing regions aggravated the problem. But the government, determined to maintain food supplies for its factory workers, and even more determined to whip the peasants into line, insisted on collecting its quota of grain, crop or no crop. Seed grain was removed and put in storage in cities --a move which shows authorities were concerned at protecting seed grain from hungry peasants who surely would have eaten it had they access to it. At the height of the famine, Troops were sent in to collect the grain.
By the late summer of 1932 there were no grain reserves left in many parts of the Volga region, the Ukraine, and the North Caucasus. Hunger stalked the land, killing peasants by the millions. No relief food was sent into the hunger areas, no foreign aid was requested or permitted. In fact the existence of a famine was denied by the regime even while it was happening mainly to signal the "triumphal" end of the first five-year plan. This man-made famine of 1933 was undoubtedly the most inhuman of Stalin's crimes. But it ended the collectivization debate. The peasants now admitted defeat.
The death toll was staggering. It's estimated 7 million people died from famine in 1932-33, and an additional 7.5 million died from de-kulakization and other state violence from 1930-37.