‘The Making of Modern Russia’, 1856-1964

a) To what extent do these sources agree that Russian government policy on agriculture consistently failed and that peasants resisted it under both Tsarist and Communist rule?
Source1 concerns the emancipation statute of 1861. Western historian Ronald Hingley cites the introduction of redemption payments “serfs resented receiving too little land for their needs” this undermines the fundamental aims of the policy. Source 1 makes reference to how the Mir was in charge of paying the redemption payments for the whole village. Hingley points out that “individual peasants were bound in various ways to their village communes”; peasants were detained in their villages until the payments were received.
Hingley notes the creation of Special Courts delegated to discipline unruly peasants “the flogging of recalcitrant peasants” this is evidence of peasant rebellion, mainly due to the fact they were in a poorer position after emancipation than they were before the policy was introduced. Source 1 suggests agricultural policies were a failure, and provoked peasant uprising, due to the hope the emancipation edict gave peasants of being free.

Source 2, meanwhile, presents a mixed view on Stolypin’s agricultural reforms. Unlike Source 1 from 1992, this piece of evidence was documented circa 1906. It is therefore unaffected by later analysis or post-Communist interpretation.
The first quote is from Stolypin himself, stating that the government has placed “its wager” on the “sturdy and the strong”, this indicates that past agricultural reform, such as emancipation have failed, as further “wagers” or reforms were needed. The other two quotes deal with Stolypin’s reforms more directly. The second quote is from a Tsarist Official. It provides direct evidence of rebellion by peasants towards Stolypin’s reforms “The peasants were very hostile to the Law of 9 November” rebellions were commonplace, peasants feared that if land belonged to an individual as opposed to the commune, a consequence would be some would be left with nothing.
The third quote is from a peasant, it is important to not that 10% of the peasants in Russia did take up Stolypin’s proposals. Segei Semenov endorses Stolypin’s reforms anticipating a “bright new future” this challenges the notion that all agricultural policies consistently failed. Stolypin’s reforms were based on good principles that could have revitalized agriculture in Russia. This does suggest that this reform did bring some success, but the general consensus confirms that many peasants preferred social security resulting in the failure of the policy.
Source 3 is an excerpt from a meeting between Churchill and Stalin during the Second World War. We se Stalin’s personal view regarding the collective farm policy, it is thus a subjective piece of evidence. Stalin implies suggests that the collective farm policy was a failure; he refers to the policy as “a terrible struggle”. Stalin insinuates peasant resistance against the policy, stating some kulaks were “wiped out by their labourers” the resistance was a product of peasant reluctance to work on collectivised farms. The farms provided little reward or incentive to the actual peasants growing the grain resulting in the dramatic deterioration of the quality and quantity of the grain.
Source 3 ends with an important comment that food supply had been “vastly increased” this indicates policy victory. However modern evidence undermines Stalin’s statement, STATISTIC more and more people were dying of famine during the period of collectivization. Although, Source 3 opposes the view that agricultural policy failed, its reliability is debateable and should be questioned before it is taken into account.
Source 4 is an extract from Eduard Shevardandse’s ‘The future belongs to Freedom’ Source 4 describes the Virgin Land Schemes introduced by Khrushchev/. One must note that the writer was a Communist Youth League activist, and may have been more likely to exaggerate the support the peasants actually gave to the scheme. There is no mention of opposition to the scheme, on the contrary Shevardandse describes the “trains packed with young volunteers” this stands for optimism on part of peasantry towards the scheme. Source 5 confirms the implication in Source 4 of support in some measure for the project as the scheme did successfully increase the amount of grain produced between 1958 to 1965 from 100 to 114. While the evidence in Source 4 may be true to some extent, the reliability of the source is questionable.
The other factor source 4 presents is the relative success of the scheme. Source 5 does seem to disagree with the statement that the policy failed due to the increase in grain production.
In Source 4 it is suggested that the policy could have been a triumph had it not been for “stupid decisions” which weighed down many successes. These “ill-conceived strategies” included lack of coherence between the crops and the terrain, and deficiency of storage place for the grain, consequently the “crops rotted in the fields”. Source 5 reinforces the feeling that the scheme was a failure, as the agricultural output during the seven year plan only increased by 14%, the target for 1965 was 170, only 114 was achieved. Source 6 also argued that Khrushchev’s policy was for the most part unsuccessful. However the failure is blamed on Khrushchev’s inheritance of “a generation of neglect”.
The reliability of some sources must be taken into consideration. Some sources suggest subjectivity and bias such as Sources 3 and 4. Policies such as Stolypin’s land reforms and Khrushchev’s Virgin Land Schemes are shown to have limited success, but ultimately they both failed to reach targets required. By and large, all the sources do converge in the belief that most of the agricultural policies did fail consistently to a degree. Similarly there is evidence that it was resisted by Peasantry both under Tsarist and Communist rule.

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