A New Hope…Может Быть?

Virgin Lands Campaign: How the USSR tried to counter food ...
Nikita Khrushchev visiting the fields of the Moskovsky State Farm, https://www.rbth.com/multimedia/history/2017/08/16/virgin-lands-campaign-how-the-ussr-tried-to-counter-food-shortages_823652

Привет друзья!


I hope that everyone is staying safe and well! Last time I ended on kind of a hopeful note from with a quote from Freeze about why the Soviet people fought in WWII, which stated, “Revulsion from the barbarism of the Nazis was certainly one motivation. On a deeper level, however, there was a sense that the war was a national struggle. For millions of people the war was for the survival of Russia…most of those who waged war did so not because they wanted to preserve the Soviet Union as it was, but in the hope that it would soon evolve into something better” (391-392). Today, we’re going to jump right off from that quote, and look at some of the promises and perils of post-Stalin reforms, specifically the Virgin Lands program.


Stalin was notorious for putting his focus on industrialization, therefore, in an effort to de-Stalinize, Khrushchev attempted to reform the agricultural system of the Soviet Union. “Agriculture, the unloved stepchild of Stalinist economics, became a focus of development. The policy yielded immediate results, as output increased 35.5 per cent (1954-8); the ‘Virgin Lands’ programme opened up an additional 41.8 million hectares of arable land, which produced high yields and a spectacular bumper crop in 1958. Altogether, the average annual output between 1949-53 and 1959-63 increased by 43.8 million tons (28.9 million tons of which came from the virgin lands)” (Freeze 424). Interestingly enough though, Khrushchev decided to cut back on agriculture after this success, “Encouraged by this success, Khrushchev cut back on the investment in agriculture (its share of investment falling from 12.8 percent in 1958 to 2.4 per cent in 1960), on the assumption that the virgin lands would sustain large harvests” (Freeze 424).


Not surprisingly, the program wasn’t as successful as it was hoped to be. “Nor did his panacea – the Virgin Lands programme – work the expected miracle. As a result of drought, erosion, and weed infestation, the output from the virgin lands fell far short of plan expectations. After the first bumper harvests, output steadily declined in the late 1950s, partly for want of grass covers and fertilizers to renew the soil. Worse still was the irreversible damage caused by feckless cultivation of areas unsuited for grain production: in 1960-5 wind erosion ruined twelve million hectares of land (four million in Kazakhstan alone) – roughly half of the Virgin Lands” (Freeze 431). You can’t cut the majority of funding from your program and expect the output to still be as high as it initially was, and it’s also unfair to your people to make claims of focusing on agriculture, and then cut the funding, especially when a lot of your citizens are in the agriculture industry. But, it doesn’t seem that Khrushchev was letting the Soviet people in on how badly the Virgin Lands program was going.


USSR postage stamp of 1979, celebrating the 25th anniversary of the Virgin Lands campaign; https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Virgin_Lands_campaign#/media/File:25th_anniversary_of_conquering_virgin_land._USSR_block._1979.jpg


Interestingly enough, Khrushchev attended a conference of leading agricultural workers of the Virgin Land Territory in 1961, boasting of the Virgin Land programs success. He even said during a speech, “The Virgin Land Territory is a territory with the richest potentialities, a territory with a great future…Your territory already possesses a total sown area of 18,400,000 hectares. To get a better picture of the Virgin Land Territory’s important role in grain production, it suffices to compare the data on wheat production in your territory and in the United States. In the United States wheat production has averaged 2,189,000,000 poods over the past three years. The Virgin Land Territory has produced 2,234,000,000 poods of wheat in three years. That is, the annual wheat production in your territory is already one-third the annual wheat production of the United States.” Of course, saying these things would make the Virgin Lands program seem promising to the Soviet people, and this program seemed as if it would be very successful, especially because of these numbers given. Knowing that there was a drought and irreversible damage, there is no way that the territory had the “richest potentialities”, and I’m sure that the farmers were aware of that. It seems like the speech was a way to give the Soviet people a false sense of hope, a way for Khrushchev to continue making the peasants believe he would fulfill his promise.


Khrushchev has good ideas, and I applaud him for attempting to make actual change in the Soviet system. I believe that policies like these were meant for the good of the people, but the execution just wasn’t there. You can’t just put a lot of time and effort into a policy or reform, see that it does well, cut it most of its funding, and then expect it to sustain its original output. Which brings me back to my question, did the Soviet system evolve into something better for its people? It depends on how you look at it. The policies and reforms definitely did not achieve their aims, but an actual effort was made to make it better for them. So, what it really comes down to is, was it worth it to just see the effort, or did it even matter because real change wasn’t really enacted?


Спасибо за всё,






Works Cited:

“THE DEVELOPMENT OF THE VIRGIN LAND IS A GREAT VICTORY OF THE PARTY’S LENINIST POLICY.-Speech by Comrade N. S. Khrushchev at Conference of Leading Agricultural Workers of Virgin Land Territory March 14, 1961” Current Digest of the Russian Press, The , 12 Apr. 1961, https://dlib.eastview.com/browse/doc/13792518.

Freeze, Gregory L. Russia: a History. Oxford University Press, 2009.

A Tribute to the Soviet People

File:Red Army flag (reverse).svg - Wikimedia Commons
For our Soviet Motherland, https://www.google.com/search?q=red+army+flag&sxsrf=ALeKk02_UXTExw2swjjX7lWeyk679EGP4A:1586723598476&tbm=isch&source=iu&ictx=1&fir=WmKQgvNTSSpxmM%253A%252CeV6Z9iFS5dolIM%252C_&vet=1&usg=AI4_-kRld8ohHcKz0ELGHF3AuMSpkPz8Ug&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwiEnsaD3uPoAhV1lnIEHamDABUQ9QEwA3oECAgQMQ#imgrc=WmKQgvNTSSpxmM:



To all who celebrate, Happy Easter, and I hope that everyone is staying safe and well! This week I want to talk about how the Soviets managed to prevail during World War II, specifically focusing on the willpower and patriotism of the Soviet people.


The Soviet people were game changers during World War II, men, women, soldiers, and civilians were willing to sacrifice everything for the fight. “By the time the war was over 8.6 million Soviet troops and at least 17 million civilians had been killed. Twenty-five million survivors were homeless…The war had destroyed 1,700 towns, 70,000 villages, 30,000 factories, and 65,000 kilometres of railway” (Freeze 392). It’s hard for us now to imagine this level of absolute devastation and reading about this makes you wonder how a country could come out on the other side victorious and how the people were continuously willing to fight.

Natalia Peshkova, https://iremember.ru/en/memoirs/others/natalia-peshkova/


We can get a sense of this ‘how’ through memoirs of the Soviet people. Natalia Peshkova was a medic during World War II, and at one point her memoir details the shortage of food that her unit faced after her first battle. They dug up frost-bitten potatoes to eat, and one time after finding a broken truck, they discovered gasoline-soaked cookies – of which one of her friends ate out of hunger. Despite these conditions, and what is key here, is that Peshkova details the patriotism that was felt – stating “Patriotism was a real thing, not an exaggeration. Every one of us fought for our Motherland.”

Klavdia Kalugina, https://iremember.ru/en/memoirs/snipers/klavdia-kalugina/

Another memoir is that of Klavdia Kalugina. The war began when Kalugina was only 15, and she went to work at the “Respirator” munitions factory in Orekhovo-Zuevo. On days that she was off of work, she was required to attend classes for her secondary education. After she finished this secondary education, she volunteered to go to a sniper school at the age of 17 and was the youngest one who attended. While at the school, she became partners and friends with Marusia Chikvintseva, and they along with other girls were sent to the front lines on March 1, 1944. Throughout her memoir she details different battles she was a part of, how they usually slept on the ground, freezing, how they shot from the trenches, what their relations were like with the local people, and how the local people would sometimes invite them to dinner. What was so striking about Kalugina’s memoir, to me, was how she discussed her partner, Chikvintseva. Kalugina talks about how partners were always next to each other, at arm’s length, together all the time, so obviously you would form a strong bond with that partner. Unfortunately, Chikvintseva was killed while on watch, and Kalugina says, “I live for her now.” To me, this was so striking because it shows the camaraderie that was felt between the Soviet people fighting this war, and it illustrates the willpower that the Soviets had to have felt to continue on. They were fighting for each other and for their country.


The answer to these questions according to Freeze is, “Revulsion from the barbarism of the Nazis was certainly one motivation. On a deeper level, however, there was a sense that the war was a national struggle. For millions of people the war was for the survival of Russia…most of those who waged war did so not because they wanted to preserve the Soviet Union as it was, but in the hope that it would soon evolve into something better” (391-392). Both these memoirs and what is written in Freeze’s book illustrate how this war was truly won by the Soviet people. Through their willpower during hard-fought battles and the patriotism felt by all Soviet citizens, soldiers or civilians, the Soviets were able to prevail over the Nazis, and it wouldn’t have been possible without them.


До следующего раза,




Who Runs The World? Not Girls in 1924 Soviet Russia

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Communist Party Propaganda Poster, https://www.antikbar.co.uk/original_vintage_posters/propaganda_posters/communist_party_congress_ussr_komsomol/PP0820/


Привет, друзья! (Hello, friends!)


I hope that everyone is doing okay during the quarantine and has plenty of toilet paper! In this blog, I want to focus on how the revolution affected social norms regarding gender roles, and how early Soviet policy toward the family attempted to realize revolutionary values.


The Komsomol is a great example of what social norms were like in 1924. The Komsomol was an organization for young people aged 14 to 18 that was primarily a political organ for spreading Communist teachings and preparing future members of the Communist Party. Male members outnumbered females eight to one throughout the 1920s, which is partly because of the traditional exclusion of women, and also because the Komsomol was thought of as a representation of atheism, hooliganism, and sexual depravity, and men didn’t want their wives and daughters to be a part of it. The main reason for this disparity, though, was because of the Komsomol itself – many of the cells (that were mostly male dominated) disregarded girls, and the girls were subject to constant discouragement, discrimination, and harassment from the boys.


The Komsomol gender problem can’t simply be reduced to sexism, indifference, and harassment, the difficulty was also that the ethos of a young communist was coded masculine – even if a girl negotiated the boys’ torment, her femininity precluded her from becoming a true communist. Girls that struggled to fit in started dressing more masculine as a statement of their revolutionary authenticity, but this was also hated by the boys- even the People’s Commissar of Health called this a violation of nature. Girls were at pains to find a middle ground, on one hand outward displays of femininity were considered ideologically taboo and threatened to distract sexually charged boys, but on the other hand girls’ efforts to erase their femininity were met with scorn. No matter what these girls did they were consistently put down, there was no place that they seemingly belong, especially so in the Komsomol, which was supposed to be a place that was for both genders. Saying that there was a revolution in social norms was simply a lie, especially in a time where women were SUPPOSED to have more rights and be treated as equal.


Switching topics, early Soviet policy revolutionized the family. “Perceiving the patriarchal, religiously sanctioned family as tsarist society in microcosm, Soviet state legislation in 1918 gave official recognition only to civil marriages, made divorce readily available, declared the legal equality of women, and granted full rights to children born out of wedlock” (Freeze 331). The Bolsheviks effectively turned the system onto its head – and took Russia into completely uncharted territory. It makes sense why the party would have wanted to do this, because they were determined to rid Russia of anything that had to do with the Tsar. Freeze also quotes on the same page that “allowing Soviet citizens to dissolve marriages easily produced a true social revolution,” but I would argue that it kind of backfired on the Bolshevik party in a way.


Freeze goes on to say, “But these innovations also led to family instability and astronomical rates of family dissolution.” (331). It doesn’t really surprise me that the rates of family dissolution were this high, because I think people probably went crazy over the idea. It’s kind of like when you get a new toy and you get super excited about it, so you go nuts and that’s all you want to play with. Divorce was something that the Russian family had never had access to, and I would say that a lot of people were in unhappy marriages, so now that they had the ability to split and run, they did. The Bolshevik party used this new attitude towards the family to put their revolutionary goals into action on the social level, even if it sent the family schematic into chaos.


Overall, I think that it’s really interesting how women were still treated the same as before, even after being given rights and gaining equality. A part of me also wonders if the Communist Party granted these rights solely because it was opposite of what was happening under the Tsar’s rule, and if they thought of the repercussions that could happen – because they kind of did happen. Let me know what you think!


До следующего раза,



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How the Rostov Kremlin Got its Mojo Back

Здравствуйте! (Hello!)


The great photographer Sergei Prokudin-Gorskii took this photo sometime between his journey through the Russian Federation between 1905-1915. Pictured, is the entry way to a covered gallery in the Rostov kremlin. In my opinion, kremlins are some of the most beautiful buildings in Russia, and I think that this picture demonstrates that beauty. Now, if you don’t know what a kremlin is, or understand the significance of a kremlin, good news! I’m going to explain, because I don’t think that one can truly understand the social and economic implications of this without first understanding what a kremlin is (but don’t worry, I won’t get too deep into it, because that it not what this blog is about!).


A kremlin, or кремль, is basically a fortress within a city – and there are currently twenty of them still remaining in Russia today. The most famous of all of the kremlins is the one located in the heart of Moscow, which is where the President conducts political business. In medieval cases (like this Rostov kremlin), kremlins contained cathedrals, palaces, governmental offices, and munition stores; they were usually strategically located along a river, and were separated from the city by walls, moats, towers, ramparts, and battlements. Kremlins have a rich history, and they’re very beautiful as well!


Now that we’ve discussed what kremlins are, let’s take a deeper look at the photo above. This kremlin’s name is Court of the Metropolitan, and it was built in the 1670s and 1680s by Metropolitan Jonah Sysoevich. The metropolitanate was eventually transferred from Rostov to Yaroslavl in 1787, and the kremlin was basically abandoned and left to decay. What I think is interesting, is that during the 18th century Rostov’s status began to decline, and it was eventually demoted as both a regional and religious centre – which goes hand in hand with the events of this kremlin’s metropolitanate moving. It is almost as if the kremlin is symbolic of what was going on with the people and the area.


The 19th century, however, is much brighter. During the 19th century, Rostov was a very important trade centre, and its market was the third largest in Russia. The soil was very fertile, so it was possible to grow vegetables – and those vegetables supplied Moscow and St. Petersburg. Rostov was also the centre for trade in raw materials, namely the textile industries of Ivanovo, Kostroma, Vladimir, and Yaroslavl. The incredible part of this, is that the local merchants actually gathered their funds to maintain the decayed kremlin.


The kremlin opened back as a museum in 1883, called the White Chamber, as a museum of church antiquities. Two years later, Tsar Nicholas, heir to the throne, became the museum’s official patron. What I think is beautiful about this photo, is that it contains so much history in such a small snapshot. When you think about it, the merchants did not have to use their money to try to keep the kremlin maintained. There are so many different ways that money could have been used: it could have been saved, used to buy food and clothes, used to work on their homes, or so many other things.


I think that this says a lot about both the social and economic status at that time. Socially, the people were willing to come together – it was not a time of strife. Which says a lot because one would assume that the merchants would do whatever they could to make the most money (which is even something that could be true today). These people wanted to do good for something that mattered to them. Economically, Rostov went from lost status to booming; the trade and agriculture opportunities there were phenomenal. I think that there is also a parallel here between social and economic status and the kremlin itself – they followed the same pattern. As status was lost in Rostov, the kremlin decayed, as the industries in Rostov boomed, the kremlin blossomed.


What I think is so cool about this photo, is that it gives us one beautiful snapshot in time. It leaves the viewer wondering if the walls could talk, what would they say. It is a feature that has been around for centuries, I’m sure it has stories it has so many stories it could tell.


До следующего раза, (Until next time,)



Лорин (Lauren)