It’s 1985 and Soviet Farms Still Suck

The stagnation of the agricultural sector during Brezhnev’s tenure was one of the abject failures of his catastrophic regime. The farming question has existed in the USSR since it’s inception, as  infrastructure , land realignments, and human capital relocation projects have been attempted to convert this abundance of land into reliable arable farmland.

Brezhnev was also stumped by this problem, as agricultural growth slowed down despite the greatly expanding demand of the urban areas.  The Soviet failed to meet their goal consistently, forcing them to import foods from other nations. Many resorted to private farms and small gardens to meet their needs (Freeze 441).   One article from 1983 points to some potential causes of this as the organizational disarray of local agricultural administrations that had become complacent and inefficient:

Initiative has been stifled, dependent attitudes and administrative meddling have been fostered, and people are being held accountable not for end results but for carrying out certain prescribed farming operations. Some leading officials have grown accustomed to drawing on state funds as if they were their own and have shown little concern for utilizing loans and credits to greater advantage.


Constant changes in Soviet policy along with the uncertainty of the agricultural structure created many “push” factors that led to the social upheaval of the small village. The rural population within Russia was nearly cut in half  between 1939 and 1989. This mass exodus was problematic, as many younger people continued to leave for urban areas, leaving older generations to handle agricultural duties. Brezhnev was forced to commit resources to the development and restructuring of the agrarian sector that absorbed a lot of investment and time with little result.

Brezhnev saw the continuation of the USSR attempting to utilize its land, their most plentiful resource, and again the Soviet authorities were unable to find ways to make the land suitable for mass collective agriculture. In fact, these attempts proved disastrous in Central Asia when excessive irrigation causing the Aral Sea dried up, producing a variety of airborne toxins that had long-term health effects for those in the region. All in all, another chapter in the tragic saga of rural land management in Russia.


5 thoughts on “It’s 1985 and Soviet Farms Still Suck

  1. Joey, great post on Soviet agriculture! I think your writing gets at an interesting trend in a lot of nations that industrialized, i.e. the neglect of agriculture and the people that live in agricultural areas – despite the extreme importance of these areas to society. Great job!


  2. As Emma suggested, the “dying village” is a trope that appears across the urbanizing world in the late twentieth century. I like the way you chart the ongoing concerns and inability of the government to “do anything” about agriculture in the Soviet Union. If there was a “stagnant” economic area, this would have to be it.


  3. Agriculture really was one of the questions the Soviet Union never could answer, and it inevitably lead to its downfall. I definitely do think that mass urbanization, rural exodus, and lack of labor discipline were some major causes of the lack of agricultural development in the late Soviet Union. Really good post!


  4. This was a really awesome post! Its fascinating how the Soviet Union struggled so much in this one area and could not figure out a strong agricultural method, and yet they succeeded so much in other areas.


  5. This was a nice post. The age of stagnation is a great descriptor of the Soviet Union for this time. Agriculture is the key to a nation’s growth and if they cannot grow crops, they must trade for it. Soviet Union had corruption in both of these aspects.


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