Feelin’ a lil corny

Life Magazine: The Cornball Act Down on the Farm (1959) Khrushchev visit to an American corn farm, with a goal of bolstering his program against Soviet critics, attracted considerable attention in the United States as well.

Life Magazine: The Cornball Act Down on the Farm (1959)
Khrushchev visit to an American corn farm, with a goal of bolstering his program against Soviet critics, attracted considerable attention in the United States as well.

Similar to the grain problem of the previous decade, Russia also began to see a shortage of corn around the turn of the 1960s. Nikita Khrushchev, also the mastermind behind the Virgin Lands Campaign, decided it was time to run a similar campaign to solve this problem. He stated, “There will be no communism if our country has as much metal and cement as you like but meat and grain are in short supply.” Corn, which can be used as feed for livestock, was running low but Khrushchev wanted to use it as a “fodder crop,” which in turn would increase the livestock numbers in the country.

Soloviev: Hybrid Seeds are the Rule for High Corn Harvests! (1956) Source: International Poster Gallery. 1998.

Soloviev: Hybrid Seeds are the Rule for High Corn Harvests! (1956)
Source: International Poster Gallery. 1998.

Corn seed was initially imported from, ironically, the United States of all countries because of our high corn production. A corn research institute was also created in Ukraine, along with other corn initiatives. As a result, by 1962, Russia was growing 37 million hectares of corn. Compared to a mere 4.3 million hectares in 1954, this was huge. Because of this new investment in corn, 14,000-15,000 workers were appointed to work the fields in Ukraine– a rather large number of field workers.

Millet, Buckwheat, Rice (1965) Source: International Poster Gallery. 1998.

Millet, Buckwheat, Rice (1965)
Source: International Poster Gallery. 1998.

This campaign, while on the surface appeared to help Russia, did have a few rough patches that eventually led to its ultimate demise. The weather in some regions turned to be unfit for corn growth– 70-80 percent of the corn in these regions ended up dying because of this. According to Comrade Medvedovsky, Vice-Chairman of the Cherkassy Province Executive Committee, “Harvest operations are going badly. Corn remains to be reaped from about 100,000 hectares. Rain is holding up the work. In the past five days we have collected corn from 7000 hectares, whereas earlier we were collecting it from more than 25,000 hectares in the same length of time. What will happen next? All depends on the weather. But we shall manage before Nov. 1.”

During this whole ordeal, the production of another essential crop, hay, had declined. Coalitions of farmers believed corn to be the culprit, and this “alien crop” had to go.

(Video on Khrushchev’s trip to Iowa, where he learned to plant corn)

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Koziov, A. “LET US NOT LEAVE A SINGLE STALK OR A SINGLE EAR IN THE FIELD!”Current Digest of the Soviet Press. East View Information Services, 23 Nov. 1960. Web. 30 Oct. 2014. <http://dlib.eastview.com/browse/doc/13818570>.

Von Geldern, James. “1961: Corn Campaign.” Seventeen Moments in Soviet History. N.p., n.d. Web. 30 Oct. 2014. <http://soviethistory.macalester.edu/index.php?page=subject&SubjectID=1961corn&Year=1961>.

“Virgin Lands Campaign.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 30 Oct. 2014. Web. 30 Oct. 2014. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Virgin_Lands_Campaign>.

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16 Responses to Feelin’ a lil corny

  1. I really enjoyed the pictures you incorporated into your post, and the irony behind important corn from the USA was enjoyable.
    As I read more and more about Russia, I’m starting to get the feel that Russia’s primary problem throughout it’s history is that when it goes into a new direction, Russia just dives right in feet first and guns blazing. The 70-80% crop failures in some areas struck me as just startling high, and yet probably easily avoidable with some cautionary planning and research.

  2. Both corn posts this week were great. This whole concept of a government pushing a foreign food is hilarious to me. It would be like if the US government started making us eat/grow rice. Yeah, we know what rice is and grow quite a bit but it definitely “foreign” to us compared to other countries. I dont think farmers in the states would take that too well.

  3. As the others pointed out, interesting point on the Soviet Union importing corn from the United States. I also didn’t realize Khrushchev visited Iowa to learn more about corn – interesting find!

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