State farm

State farm (Ukrainian: radianske hospodarstvo or radhosp; Russian: sovetskoe khoziaistvo or sovkhoz). A state farming enterprise. According to Soviet theory the state farm was the highest and most fully socialist form of agricultural organization. State farms were agricultural ‘factories,’ where all the means of production were nationalized, and the labor was hired. In the latter respect state farms differed from other forms of socialist farming, including collective farms, associations for the joint cultivation of land, and artels.

State farms were first introduced in the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics in 1919–20, during the period of War Communism. The Bolshevik authorities forcibly took back the landowners' estates and equipment that had been divided among the peasants. By the summer of 1919 there were 1,256 state farms in Ukraine, with 1.3 million ha of land, more than in Soviet Russia. Another 1.3 million ha had been taken over by sugar manufacturing and alcohol distilling enterprises. In practice the state farms were able to work only one-half of their land, because they lacked workers and other resources. The introduction of state farms was resisted strongly by the peasantry. Their resistance led the Communist Party to adopt, at the Seventh Party Conference in December 1919, a slower tempo for establishing state farms throughout the USSR. Many state farms were also dissolved after that time. By the end of 1920 there were only 571 state farms, with 409,300 ha, in Ukraine. The decline continued, so that by 1923 there were only 423 farms, with 242,000 ha, or 0.65 percent of all arable land, in Ukraine. During the New Economic Policy period state farms were combined into large agricultural trusts. In addition some 100 state farms belonged to large factories and supplied their workers with food. Many of those farms were still plagued by a shortage of manpower and resources. In 1925 the Ukrainian State Farm Trust leased out, in return for one-half of the harvest, over 20 percent of its land to peasants, because it could not work the land on its own. In 1927, state farms accounted for only 1.8 percent of the capital funds in agriculture, 0.9 percent of the livestock, and 4.9 percent of the farm inventory. But the regime favored the state farms and gave them priority access to tractors and other machines, hoping to turn them into model farms.

During the collectivization the political sections of state farms helped to force the peasants into joining collective farms. The Party considered transforming the collective farms into state ones but did not carry through the plan. By the beginning of 1934 there were 768 state farms organized into trusts, and many more belonged to various enterprises and institutions. In 1934, state farms in the Ukrainian SSR owned 3.4 million ha of seeded land, 11,828 tractors, 309,000 draft animals, 703,000 cattle (including 292,000 cows), 1.2 million hogs, and 631,000 sheep and goats. Later, special suburban state farms were established to provide food for the urban population. Some state farms established by the NKVD were worked by prisoners.

State farms continued to operate in Ukraine under the Nazi occupation during the Second World War. In 1945 there were 784 state farms, with 1,172,000 ha of land, 198,000 workers, and 6,400 tractors. Their number continued to grow: to 902 in 1960, 1,605 in 1970, 2,110 in 1980, and 2,514 in 1987. Although state farms were usually much larger than collective farms, their average size was declining: whereas in 1958 the average farm had 6,500 ha of land, of which 4,200 ha were under cultivation, by 1980 the respective figures were 4,600 ha and 3,400 ha. On average they were approximately one-third larger than collective farms. State farms were most common in southern Ukraine and, after that, in central Ukraine; they were least common in Polisia and western Ukraine.

In 1987 approximately 19.7 percent of the total land area and 23.9 percent of the agricultural land in Ukraine belonged to state farms. State farms had some 7.4 million ha under cultivation. Of that area, 3.5 million ha were seeded with grain crops; 0.6 ha with industrial crops; 0.3 ha with potatoes, vegetables, and melons; and 3 million ha with feed crops. In addition they owned 5 million head of cattle (including 1.6 million milk cows), 3.4 million hogs, and 1.9 million sheep and goats. State farms produced 0.9 million t of meat, 4.6 million t of milk, 7.9 billion eggs, and 6,800 t of wool. In total they employed 1.4 million people, including 1.1 million in agriculture. In 1970, when state farms accounted for over 21 percent of the agricultural land, they provided only 14.9 percent of the gross agricultural product in the Ukrainian SSR. Productivity was somewhat higher than on collective farms, but much lower than on the small private plots. State farms supplied a higher proportion of their output to the state: in 1970 they turned over 38 percent of their grain to the state, compared to 33 percent for collective farms. More important, the state paid state farms lower grain procurement prices than other farms and thus realized a higher profit on the sale of their products. In response to the problems faced by collective farms, in the 1960s the average wage of their members was raised considerably and allowed to surpass the wage of state farm workers. The latter generally worked shorter hours, however, and were guaranteed a certain daily wage.

The prices of machinery, fuel, building materials, and fertilizer for state and collective farms were equalized in the 1960s. Since procurement prices for state farms remained a little lower than for collective farms, state farms ran larger deficits in their operation. The economic position of state farms was improved somewhat through greater specialization. Most state farms began to specialize in milk and beef production, fruit and vegetable growing, poultry farming, or grain growing.

State farms were much more common and important in the Russian Soviet Federated Socialist Republic than in the Ukrainian SSR. There they accounted for over 53 percent of all agricultural land in 1970. They were paid higher prices by the government than state farms in Ukraine, and their workers were paid higher wages. There was no economic rationale for such discrimination.

Sovkhozy k XV godovshchine Oktiabria (Moscow–Leningrad 1932)
Ievushenko, A. Radhospy Ukraïny za 50 rokiv Radians’koï vlady (Kyiv 1967)
Sil’s’ke hospodarstvo URSR: Statystychnyi zbirnyk (Kyiv 1969)
Pohorielov, M.; Pakhomov, Iu. Ekonomichna reforma v radhospakh (Kyiv 1970)
Zemnin, I.; Bogdenko, M. Sovkhozy SSSR: Kratkii istoricheskii ocherk 1917–1975 (Moscow 1976)

 Vsevolod Holubnychy

[This article originally appeared in the Encyclopedia of Ukraine, vol. 5 (1993).]

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