One of Khrushchev’s original goals as leader of the Soviet Union was to have a revolution, not within the government, but in agriculture. Khrushchev understood how important it was to have food on the table for his Soviet comrades, because if they could not eat, then they would not be productive workers. He once 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.” One of the ways in which he thought that he would be able to ensure that his food stockpiles were never depleted was by implementing a nationwide push for the growing of corn. Land had already be set aside in the south for farming with the Virgin Land Program, but Khrushchev wanted to push corn way beyond its limits, and he would pay severely for this.
At first, corn productions were going just as planned. The Soviet Government planned to make their cropland similar to what the fly-over states were for the United States. They planned for corn to replace other foods, and almost to take over russian cuisine. An article in the Russian Press in 1962 called “Bounteous Gifts of Corn” tried to push this ideal on the Soviet people. First, it goes into great detail explaining why corn is the new superior crop of the future, and how it will lead to food security in the kitchen. It tries to say that it has great nutritional value, and even goes so far as to say that it has a traditional spot in the kitchen of any average Soviet household. The article recommends making “Corn Borsch” which could be a bit interesting. By far the most humorous statement though was the fact that the author of the article thought that all beers should be made strictly from corn. Lastly, the article recommended that the government double their efforts to produce even more corn, and add new equipment to the farmers arsenal to make it happen.
At first the new production of corn was going incredibly well. By 1955 corn production had been growing exponentially, and this could be attributed to the warm weather of those summers. But by 1963, things started to go very wrong. With the extreme amount of land being converted to grow corn, other valuable crops were not being produced. More importantly, the land that the corn was growing on was not conducive at all to maintaining good crops. The weather was much too cold and lacked the correct soil for the crop, and eventually the corn would just not grow. In the summer of 1962 eighty percent of the corn crops failed, causing extreme panic within the country. The basis of agriculture in the country had just failed, miserably. This had a tremendously negative effect on Khrushchev’s reputation, especially among farmers and peasants.
Video on the farming process: http://www.soviethistory.org/index.php?page=subject&show=video&SubjectID=1961corn&Year=1961&navi=byYear
This seemed like a good plan in theory but it seems like Khruschev just dove into it without really planning it out. Again this is another period of Russian history where they faced problems in agriculture and by now you’d think that they would have learned from their past mistakes. Good post
I thought you did a great job about outlining the introduction and failure of corn production under Khrushchev. I didn’t realize that the use of corn in local farming and the local diet in the Soviet Union was such a forced measure of the government. It is unfortunate that it didn’t work out and that the population had to suffer.
It really is baffling how a country who’s economic centerpiece was agriculture just half a century ago could have such huge issues with that same endeavor just a few years in the future. One would think after years of mastering the art of farming there would be no way that such wide scale failure could even be plausible. Perhaps it was just the rapid efforts of industrialization and the technological advancements of the space race that resulted in a complete change of priorities and, as a result, the strengths of the past were lost. Very good post.
Great picture to choose! There certainly was a need to reform agriculture, considering Russia and the USSR’s past with famine problems in the winter.
I love the juxtaposition of the state that the agricultural sector of the government was in just only several decades after the revolution. As a country that was so hell-bent on becoming industrialized, you would think that it would have been an easy process, but Khrushchev seemed to bite off more than he could chew and made a mess of the whole thing.
I really enjoyed your article. It is a good point that the Soviets, mainly Khrushchev, dove too whole heatedly into the project, neglecting the outcome of growing too much corn and not enough of everything else. Also, I really liked the picture.
On a lighter note, I think we can all be grateful that corn borshcht and corn beer never caught on.
Similar to what everyone has commented prior, I really liked the picture that you chose to go along with your blogpost. This is an interesting topic because the Soviets spent so much effort on growing corn that they neglected other aspects of agriculture. The tidbits about corn beer and corn borsch are also pretty hilarious. Great job on this post!
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