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Collectivization and Propaganda in Stalin's Soviet Union
“SUCCESSES SPOKEN OF BY
PROPAGANDA IN STALIN’S
LESSON DESIGNED BY CLARICE TERRY
Ukrainian peasants of the Russian
Empire photographed in 1915, pre-
In 1929, farming in the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics
(USSR) changed forever. For centuries peasants had worked the
land in the mir, overseen by village councils and religious
authorities. Families would be assigned, by these authorities, to
work certain strips of land. Very rarely did this system of
agriculture produce more than the village needed, but each
family usually had enough to survive.
The Bolshevik takeover of the Soviet government, led by
Vladimir Lenin, after the 1917 October Revolution precipitated the
change away from the agricultural system of the mir. Long held
traditions in Russia and the surrounding nations, former imperial
possessions turned Soviet republics, began to fall away. The
royal family had been murdered, and a centuries long system of
monarchy abolished. The Bolsheviks attacked the Russian
Orthodox Church, the religious tradition shared by most in the
former Russian Empire, taking away its money, its buildings, its
church bells, and ridiculing its clergymen. The country that had
relied on its rural population to drive the economy began to focus
on urbanization, industry, and a new proletarian work force. As
urban industrial work became the priority for the new Soviet
government, rural agricultural work became a target for scrutiny
and reform. Rural agriculture was seen as a mere means to
provide resources to the new industries and urban workforce, not
This Soviet propaganda
poster reads “Above the
Banner of Marx, Engels,
Lenin and Stalin!” In
Soviet propaganda, the
people are often depicted
exalting the images of
these four men who were
credited as the architects
of the Soviet Socialist
as an equal part of the Communist project. Thus, the
Soviet collectivization policy was drafted and
implemented full scale in 1929.
There are two major perspectives on the success of
the policy and its implementation that must be
considered in any study of Soviet collectivization of
agriculture. The ﬁrst is that of the Soviet government,
led by Josef Stalin at the time of collectivization. In
fact, collectivization represented a major facet of his
First Five Year Plan, a plan that that laid out steps for
the USSR to achieve economic success. The Soviet
government saw collectivization as a way to tear
down class distinctions in the countryside, to impose
equality between wealthier and poorer peasants, and
as a way to educate the peasants in the Communist
system of production. The strips of land in the mir
were replaced with large kolkhozy, where farmers
shared their land, their livestock, their tools, and their
new government issue tractors.
A group of
animals at a
The second perspective is that of those who experienced
collectivization the most directly; the peasants of the
Soviet Union. The peasant reaction was mixed, with some
seeing collectivization as an opportunity to become more
educated and successful, and others seeing it as an
intrusion. They felt confused about why changes were
needed, why traditions needed to be forgotten and
replaced. Peasants engaged in protests, attacks on
government ofﬁcials, and outright sabotage against the
The following documents will inform both perspectives,
through government propaganda, statistics, and peasant
accounts. The task laid out for you is the task of any
historian presented with this knowledge and the following
documents: come to an evidence-based conclusion
about the success of collectivization. You will also speak
to the larger question of the relationship between power
and reality: Can power, in this case the Soviet
government, create reality for the population it
THE FIRST TRACTOR BY
1. What do you notice
about the image:
activities going on?
2. How are the
peasants reacting to
their new tractor?
3. From your previous
observations, what do
you think the painter,
Krikhatsky, was trying
to say about
In the Soviet Union, artists were hired by the government to create content that emphasized
communist principles. This genre came to be known as socialist realism. Krikhatsky was
an early social realist artist who painted before the genre became highly stylized.
Soviet propaganda posters were common sights for Soviet citizens. This is an
example of one from the Soviet Socialist Republic of Uzbekistan. It reads,
"Strengthen working discipline in the collective farms.”
Soviet Collectivization Poster:
1. What are the people in red
doing? How are they
2. What are the people in
black doing? How are they
working? Are they working
or are they doing
3. What is this image trying
This is an excerpt from the beginning of
an article by Josef Stalin, the leader of
the Soviet government. It was originally
published in the Soviet newspaper
Pravda in 1930.
The Soviet government's successes in the sphere of the
collective-farm movement are now being spoken of by everyone.
Even our enemies are forced to admit that the successes are
substantial. And they really are very great. It is a fact that
by February 20 of this year 50 per cent of the peasant farms
throughout the U.S.S.R. had been collectivised. That means
that by February 1930, we had over fulfilled the five-year
plan of collectivisation by more than 100 per cent. It is a
fact that on February 28 of this year the collective farms had
already succeeded in stocking upwards of 36,000,000 centers,
i.e., about 220,000,000 puds, seed for the spring sowing,
which is more than 90 per cent of the plan. It must be
admitted that the accumulation of 220,000,000 puds of seed by
the collective farms alone - after the successful fulfillment
of the grain-procurement plan - is a tremendous achievement.
What does all this show? That a radical turn of the
countryside towards socialism may be considered as already
1.What are Stalin’s claims
What is his evidence for
2. If you read this article as
Statistics from the Soviet government on the pace of collectivization in the Soviet
GALLERY 7.1 Pace of Collectivization in the Soviet Union
1.What can these statistics tell us
about the success of
collectivization in the USSR?
2. How do these statistics either
Markoff, a professor who wrote for a Paris-based
journal called "The Russian Economic Bulletin,"
created this map of the Soviet Union in 1933 as part
of an article revealing the effects of the famine that
occurred between 1932 and 1933. The darker the
shading, the worse the effects of the famine.
Collectivization is often blamed for the famine.
Famine in the Soviet Union,
Excerpts from article by A. Markoff, “Famine in the
The « Russian Economic Bulletin 7 » has collected much
information which shows indisputably that Soviet Russia is in
the grip of a severe famine. This information is drawn from
I. Numerous letters received from Russians in the U. R. S. S.
The « Bulletin » has many such, and their genuineness cannot be
disputed. They come from various regions, but they tell the
same story of the raging of an unprecedented famine. They
permit the fixation of the principal districts affected, and they
reveal the localities where cannibalism has been the horrible
A former commander of the Red Army wrote from the Northern
Caucasus to relatives in France, the letter being dated May 16,
1. What do these documents suggest about the success of collectivization?
2. Did all people experience the effects of collectivization the same way?
3. Why would the Soviet government omit discussion of this in their public
discussions about and representations of collectivization?
Account of Collective
Farms from Two Soviet
In the 1950s, Harvard University initiated a project
to interview Soviet refugees who came to the United
States after WWII. This is known as the Harvard
Project on the Soviet Social System. The following
pages present documents from this project,
speciﬁcally, two interviews with former Soviet
citizens. The ﬁrst document is the account of a
refugee who lived in Russia at the time of
collectivization. The second is an account from a
refugee who lived in Azerbaijan at the time of
1. How do these accounts of collectivization differ from each other? How are they similar?
2. How do these accounts differ from the propaganda published by the Soviet government?
3. According to these accounts, was collectivization a success for the people who lived it?
INTERACTIVE 7.1 Interview One: A Russian Soviet Refugee
INTERACTIVE 7.2 Interview: An Azeri Soviet Refugee
Using the documents available, it is time for you to tell the true story
of collectivization in the Soviet Union. Create a piece of “people’s
propaganda,” in the socialist realist style. This can be visual, written,
or in another format that best ﬁts your strengths and the story you
would like to tell about the realities of the kolkozy.
Where to find Clarice Terry
In doing this project I have be impacted as both an educator and a
As an educator, this project has helped me think about ways to better
engage students and make them the historians. By providing students
the tools, in this case the documents that inform a subject, and
scaffolded questions that encourage historical thinking behaviors,
students can take on that role of expert. I also began to think more about
the verbs of student learning, about what students would actually do
with the information they are gathering. Too often students are asked to
take on heaps of content knowledge without being provided a purpose
for it. This process, in the end, was a true testament to the power of
project based learning–there is so much value in providing students the
opportunity to create. In the process they build, as I myself did through
this eBook creation project, both deep content knowledge and skills.
As a content creator, I found the design process really enjoyable. From
the proposal in Google Slides, to a Google Site, to the ﬁnal format of the
eBook I really developed a lesson that was both educational and
interactive. I began to think about how things would look to the person,
the student, using them and how the format would either encourage or
discourage users. I see myself creating more educational content, in
eBooks, on Google Sites, or on other platforms that lend themselves to
high quality design and functionality.
Sources are placed in the order in which they
1. Alchevskaya with peasants of Alekseevka village.
Mikhaylovskaya volost. Slavyanoserbsk uyezd. Early 20th
2. Image from page 78 of “The Religion of Russia. A study of the
Orthodox Church in Russia from the point of view of the Church
in England” (1915).https://www.ﬂickr.com/photos/
3. Sowjetisches Propaganda-Poster 1933: Marx, Engels, Lenin
und Stalin (Halte den Banner von Marx, Engels, Lenin und
Stalin hoch!) |Source= [https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/
4. A group of peasants to the cows near the livestock pavilion
Mologa county agricultural and handicraft exhibitions in
5. The First Tractor by Vladimir Krikhatsky. https://
6. "Strengthen working discipline in collective farms" – Soviet
propaganda poster issued in Uzbekistan, 1933. https://
7. Joseph Stalin, Secretary-general of the Communist party of
8. A page of the Pravda Newspaper issued on 29 May, 1919.
9. “Dizzy with Success.” Josef Stalin.http://community.dur.ac.uk/
10. Children are digging up frozen potatoes in the ﬁeld of a
collective farm. Udachne village, Donec’k oblast. https://
11. Statistics on the Pace of Collectivization.http://
12. Stamp of USSR 1940.https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/
13.Soviet famine of 1932–33. A. Markoff. Areas of most disastrous
famine marked with black.https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/
Exploring History Vol IV
University of Portland Students
Peter Pappas, Editor
14. “Famine in USSR.” A.Markoff.https://archive.org/stream/
15. H. S. Bender Papers. Biography Project Photographs.
HM4-083. Box 2 Folder 1 Photo 32. Mennonite Church USA
Archives - Goshen. Goshen, Indiana.https://www.ﬂickr.com/
16. Harvard Project on the Soviet Social System. Schedule B, Vol.
24, Case 213 (interviewer K.G.). Widener Library, Harvard
University, page 29. https://iiif.lib.harvard.edu/manifests/view/
17. Harvard Project on the Soviet Social System. Schedule B, Vol.
7, Case 89 (interviewer M.L.). Widener Library, Harvard
University, page 5. https://iiif.lib.harvard.edu/manifests/view/
18. Forester Family. Ivan Kulikov.https://commons.wikimedia.org/
19. Image from page 386 of “Russia.” Dobson, George Grove,
Henry M Stewart, Hugh, 1884-1934Haenen, F.https://
20. Image from page 115 of "Russia then and now, 1892-1917;
my mission to Russia during the famine of 1891-1892, with
data bearing upon Russia of to-day" (1917).Reeves, Francis
B. (Francis Brewster).https://www.ﬂickr.com/photos/
21. Image from page 111 of "Russia then and now, 1892-1917;
my mission to Russia during the famine of 1891-1892, with
data bearing upon Russia of to-day" (1917). Reeves, Francis
B. (Francis Brewster).https://www.ﬂickr.com/photos/
This eBook is a collaborative project of Peter Pappas
and his Fall 2016 Social Studies Methods Class
School of Education ~ University of Portland, Portland Ore.
Graduate and undergraduate level pre-service teachers were assigned the
task of developing an engaging research question, researching supportive
documents and curating them into a DBQ suitable for middle or high
For more on this class, visit the course blog EdMethods
For more on this book project and work ﬂow tap here.
Chapters in chronological order
1. Mysterious Bronze Age Collapse by Sam Hicks
2. From Revolution to Government by Valerie Schiller
3. Imagination, Innovation & Space Exploration by Molly Pettit
4. The Real Romanovs by Kelly Marx
5. World War I: The Human Cost of Total War by Anna
6. Collectivization and Propaganda in Stalin’s Soviet Union by
7. Holy Propaganda Batman! by Karina Ramirez Velazquez
8. The Nicaraguan Literacy Crusade by Scott Hearron
EXPLORING HISTORY: VOL IV
Engaging questions and historic
documents empower students to be
the historian in the classroom.