STALIN'S PEASANTS by Sheila Fitzpatrick


Resistance and Survival in the Russian Village After Collectivization
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 Scholarly and poignant account of conditions in Russia's collective farms in the 30's. In an attempt to obtain ever higher grain quotas and stamp out private enterprise, Stalin forced millions of peasants into the collective farm (kolkhoz) system--with catastrophic effects in both human and economic terms. Drawing on recently opened Soviet archives, including reports of the secret police, and her own vast reading of the newspapers of rural Russia, Fitzpatrick pieces together the picture of how collectivization worked in the lives of local communities and individuals. We learn the various ways in which people reacted to the closing of the churches and the liquidation of the more prosperous peasant class (the kulaks), how peasants were cajoled into the kolkhoz and the effects of expulsion from it, how the officials behaved, how the roles of women varied, how local handicrafts came to be replaced by factory products, and much more. We meet heroes of Soviet labor (udarniks and stakhaovites) like Sasha Angelina, who promised Stalin she would plough 1,200 hectares with her tractor, and combine operator Maria Demchenko, whose photograph with Stalin in 1936 entitled ``The Flowering Soviet Ukraine'' became one of the notable icons of the period. The author describes the almost religious cult of Stalin and the idealized ``Potemkin Village,'' but she shows that in reality the peasants hated Stalin and considered collectivization a second serfdom: those who could not depart for the cities hoped for deliverance by a counter-revolution or even foreign invasion. Fitzpatrick makes her account vivid with quotations of first-person experiences, but she resists the temptation to oversimplify the issues. A glossary explains Soviet terms and acronyms. Highly detailed--a must for students of Soviet, or social, history.

Pub Date: Feb. 1st, 1994
ISBN: 0-19-506982-X
Page count: 375pp
Publisher: Oxford Univ.
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15th, 1993


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