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Agriculture in Russia in XXth century

Galas M.L.



A certain change, not yet fully understood by the society and the state, has happened in Russia during XX century. This change will be decisive in determining the outlook of the country in the future. Peasantry, that was the main estate of the country throughout its history, has taken the place of the social outsider.

On the brink of XX century, based on population census of 1897, the rural inhabitants comprised 85% of Russian demographic potential. 88,3 mln. people (70,3 % of total population) were making their living out of agriculture as a main business in Russian Empire. Another 4,5 mln. people (3,6 %) were raising cattle. Thus, 74% of all efficient population was involved in agricultural business. In 1913, agriculture comprised 53,1 % of total national wealth (Russian borders prior to 1939).

During XX century, the share of rural workers in Russia, as in other developed countries, was decreasing. In 1959, rural inhabitants in Russia comprised 48 % of total population, with 39 % of all labor resources occupied in agriculture. In 1980, these figures were 30,0 % and 15,0 % respectively; in 1990 26,0 % and 13,2 %; in 1994 27,0 % and 15,4 %.

The share of agricultural field in national wealth of Russian Federation was simultaneously decreasing in 1970 it comprised 17,1%; in 1991 15,6 %; in 1994 8,2 %; in 1996 the share of agriculture in gross domestic product was 8,9 %.

Urbanization is an objective process. However, in USSR and Russia, it was developing throughout the complex history and thus, has gained a certain specific trends.

First of all, the Russian village went through a number of historical cataclysms, connected to society changes during October Revolution in 1917, Civil War 19181920, devastating Great Patriotic War 19411945. All these events were disturbing the natural-historical evolution of agriculture and undermined the productive forces in village.

Secondly, a number of radical changes in agriculture were accomplished during the short historical period in Russia (Stolypin reforms of 19061912; social reforms of 19171918; collectivization of 19291932; agriculture reforms of 1990-s). During these reforms, the property relationships and social-economic situation within the business activities were radically changing.

Thirdly, the decrease in agricultural employment was not accompanied by adequate growth of the efficiency of agricultural labor. Because of that, the country constantly has problems with food, and farming lack of workers.

Fourthly, the industry, services and other non-agricultural fields were slowly developing in rural areas, stimulating the intense migration of population to large industrial cities. As a result, the rural areas were depopulated, the number of villages has decreased significantly (from 500 thousand in the beginning of the century to 150 by the beginning of 1990 s) and the society lost the social control over the significant regions.

In the beginning of XX century, Russia was the world leader in agricultural production. Russian grain harvested area was 48548 thousand hectares and production of grain per capita was more than 500 kg during 19091914. Notably, in 1999 the harvested area was 46 525 thousand hectares and production of grain per capita nor more than 340 kg. The total production of potato during 19091913 was 34 230 thousand tons with harvested area 2 706 thousand hectares. In 1999 these figures were 31 233 thousand tons and 3255 thousand hectares respectively. The share of agriculture in national wealth of the country was 52 %. Just butter export brought Russia 2 times more gold than all domestic gold mining.

During the first twenty years of XX century, landlord farms and large regular farms could be considered as capitalized farms. It should be noted, that domestic agrarian production of this period was mainly produced by peasantry: landlords owned 9,7 % of cultivated areas, 5,8 % of cattle, 6,2 % of horses, 5 % of pigs, 12 % of total production and 22 % of marketable grain. Large peasant farms comprised nor more than 20 % of the total farmer's population, but amassed up to 8090 % of all private and 50 % of rented lands. These farms amassed about 40 % of total agricultural production and 50 % of all marketable grain.

Looking back at last 100 years of almost constant agricultural reforms, we have the opportunity to estimate their effectiveness. Collectivization, mechanization, chemistry advances, amelioration, cultivation of virgin lands, enlargement of farms all these actions seemed to be very rational to many people. However, by their final results, which are well traced by the statistical studies following the final crop, all these reforms were failing, i.e. provided much less positive results than were expected. Possibly, the agriculture is less than other economic fields open to centralization and state-administrative regulations.



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