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A kolkhoz [lower-alpha 1] (Russian:колхо́з,IPA:  [kɐlˈxos] ( Loudspeaker.svg listen )) was a form of collective farm in the Soviet Union. Kolkhozes existed along with state farms or sovkhoz. [lower-alpha 2] These were the two components of the socialized farm sector that began to emerge in Soviet agriculture after the October Revolution of 1917, as an antithesis both to the feudal structure of impoverished serfdom and aristocratic landlords and to individual or family farming.


The 1920s were characterized by spontaneous emergence of collective farms, under influence of traveling propaganda workers. Initially a collective farm resembled an updated version of the traditional Russian "commune", the generic "farming association" (zemledel’cheskaya artel), the association for joint cultivation of land (TOZ), and finally the kolkhoz. This gradual shift to collective farming in the first 15 years after the October Revolution was turned into a "violent stampede" during the forced collectivization campaign that began in 1928 as means to countering "counterrevolutionary elements".


The portmanteau колхоз, kolkhóz is a contraction of коллективное хозяйство, kollektívnoye khozyáystvo, 'collective farm'. [1] This Russian term was adopted into other languages as a loanword; however, some other languages calqued equivalents from native roots, such as Ukrainian колгосп, kolhósp, from колективне господарство, kolektývne hospodárstvo, [2] Belarusian калгас, kalhas; Estonian kolhoos; Latvian kolhozs; and Lithuanian kolūkis.

Kolkhoz as a pseudo-cooperative

As a collective farm, a kolkhoz was legally organized as a production cooperative. The Standard Charter of a kolkhoz, which since the early 1930s had the force of law in the USSR, is a model of cooperative principles in print. It speaks of the kolkhoz as a "form of agricultural production cooperative of peasants that voluntarily unite for the main purpose of joint agricultural production based on [...] collective labor". It asserts that "the kolkhoz is managed according to the principles of socialist self-management, democracy, and openness, with active participation of the members in decisions concerning all aspects of internal life". [3]

They imposed detailed work programs and nominated their preferred managerial candidates. [4] [5] Since the mid-1930s, the kolkhozes had been in effect an offshoot of the state sector (although notionally they continued to be owned by their members). Nevertheless, in locations with particularly good land or if it happened to have capable management, some kolkhozes accumulated substantial sums of money in their bank accounts. Subsequently, numerous kolkhozes were formally nationalized by changing their status to sovkhozes. In the late 1960s, Khrushchev's administration authorized a guaranteed wage to kolkhoz members, similarly to sovkhoz employees; this reduced the already minor distinction between state and collective farms. Essentially, his administration recognised their status as hired hands rather than authentic cooperative members. The guaranteed wage provision was incorporated in the 1969 version of the Standard Charter.

Work organization


The question of internal organization was important in the new kolkhozes. The most basic measure was to divide the workforce into a number of groups, generally known as brigades, for working purposes. By July 1929 it was already normal practice for the large kolkhoz of 200–400 households to be divided into temporary or permanent work units of 15–30 households.' [6] The authorities gradually became in favour of the fixed, combined brigade that is, the brigade with its personnel, land, equipment and draught horses fixed to it for the whole period of agricultural operations, and taking responsibility for all relevant tasks during that period. The brigade was headed by a brigade leader (brigadir). This was usually a local man (a few were women).

After the kolkhoz amalgamations of 1950 the territorial successor of the old village kolkhoz was the "complex brigade" (brigade of brigades), a sub-unit of the new enlarged kolkhoz.


Brigades could be subdivided into smaller units called zvenos (links) for carrying out some or all of their tasks.

Kolkhoz conditions in the Stalin period

"Kolkhoznik"; a fragment of a Taras Shevchenko monument in Kharkiv, Ukraine. Pam.Shevchenko Kolkhoznik krupno.JPG
"Kolkhoznik"; a fragment of a Taras Shevchenko monument in Kharkiv, Ukraine.

In a kolkhoz, a member, called a kolkhoznik (Russian : колхо́зник, feminine form kolkhoznitsa, Russian : колхо́зница), received a share of the farm's product and profit according to the number of days worked, whereas a sovkhoz employed salaried workers. In practice, most kolkhozy did not pay their "members" in cash at all. In 1946, 30 percent of kolkhozy paid no cash for labour at all, 10.6 paid no grain, and 73.2 percent paid 500 grams of grain or less per day worked. [7] In addition the kolkhoz was required to sell its grain crop and other products to the State at fixed prices. These were set by Soviet government very low, and the difference between what the State paid the farm and what the State charged consumers represented a major source of income for the Soviet government.

In 1948 the Soviet government charged wholesalers 335 rubles for 100 kilograms of rye, but paid the kolkhoz roughly 8 rubles. [8] Nor did such prices change much to keep up with inflation. Prices paid by the Soviet government hardly changed at all between 1929 and 1953, meaning that the State came to pay less than one half or even one third of the cost of production. [8]

Members of kolkhozy had the right to hold a small area of private land and some animals. The size of the private plot varied over the Soviet period, but was usually about 1 acre (0.40 ha). Before the Russian Revolution of 1917 a peasant with less than 13.5 acres (5.5 ha) was considered[ by whom? ] too poor to maintain a family. [9] However, the productivity of such plots is reflected in the fact that in 1938 3.9 percent of total sown land was in the form of private plots, but in 1937 those plots produced 21.5 percent of gross agriculture output. [10] Kolkhozniki had to do a minimum number of days work per year both on the kolkhoz and on other government work (such as road building). In one kolkhoz the requirements were a minimum of 130 days a year for each able-bodied adult and 50 days per boy aged between 12 and 16. That was distributed around the year according to the agricultural cycle. [11] If kolkhoz members did not perform the required minimum of work, the penalties could involve confiscation of the farmer's private plot, a trial in front of a People's Court that could result in three to eight months of hard labour on the kolkhoz or up to one year in a corrective labour camp. [12]

Basic statistics for the Soviet Union

Kolkhozes and sovkhozes in the Soviet Union: number of farms, average size, and share in agricultural production

YearNumber of kolkhozesNumber of sovkhozesKolkhoz size, haSovkhoz size, haShare of kolkhozesShare of sovkhozesShare of households

Source: Statistical Yearbook of the USSR, various years, State Statistical Committee of the USSR, Moscow.

Disappearance of the kolkhoz after 1991

With the dissolution of the Soviet Union in December 1991, the former Soviet republics became target for criminal interests and the unstable financial situation undermined any perspective for their development. The general policy of transition from the Soviet centrally planned economy to a market economy was announced. The number of kolkhozes and sovkhozes declined rapidly after 1992, while other corporate forms gained in prominence.

Still, field surveys conducted in CIS countries in the 1990s generally indicated that, in the opinion of the members and the managers, many of the new corporate farms behaved and functioned for all practical reasons like the old kolkhozes. [13] Formal re-registration did not produce radical internal restructuring of the traditional Soviet farm.

Number of kolkhozes and all corporate farms in Russia, Ukraine, and Moldova 1990-2005

YearNumber of kolkhozesAll corporate farmsNumber of kolkhozesAll corporate farmsNumber of kolkhozesAll corporate farms


Kolkhozes have disappeared almost completely in Transcaucasian and Central Asian states. In Armenia, Georgia, and Azerbaijan, the disappearance of the kolkhoz was part of an overall individualization of agriculture, with family farms displacing corporate farms in general. In Central Asian countries, some corporate farms persist, but no kolkhozes remain. Thus, in Turkmenistan, a presidential decree of June 1995 summarily "reorganized" all kolkhozes into "peasant associations" (Turkmen : daikhan berleshik). [13] In Tajikistan, a presidential decree of October 1995 initiated a process of conversion of kolkhozes into share-based farms operating on leased land, agricultural production cooperatives, and dehkan (peasant) farms. [14] However, contrary to the practice in all other CIS countries, one-third of the 30,000 peasant farms in Tajikistan are organized as collective dehkan farms and not family farms. These collective dehkan farms are often referred to as "kolkhozy" in the vernacular, although legally they are a different organizational form and the number of "true" kolkhozes in Tajikistan today[ when? ] is less than 50. Similarly in Uzbekistan the 1998 Land Code renamed all kolkhozes and sovkhozes shirkats (Uzbek for agricultural cooperatives) and just five years later, in October 2003, the government's new strategy for land reform prescribed a sweeping reorientation from shirkats to peasant farms, which since then have virtually replaced all corporate farms.

See also

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  1. Russian plural: kolkhozy; anglicized plural: kolkhozes.
  2. Russian:совхо́з, a contraction of советское хозяйство, soviet ownership or state ownership, sovetskoye khozaystvo. Russian plural: sovkhozy; anglicized plural: sovkhozes.
  1. "kolkhoz, n" . Oxford English Dictionary (Online ed.). Oxford University Press. Retrieved 2021-01-25. (Subscription or participating institution membership required.)
  2. Bilynsky, Andrii; Holubnychy, Vsevolod; Shumelda, Yakiv. "Collective farm". Internet Encyclopedia of Ukraine. Retrieved 2021-01-25.
  3. Standard Kolkhoz Charter, Agropromizdat, Moscow (1989), pp. 4,37 (Russian).
  4. V.I. Semchik , Cooperation and the Law, Naukova Dumka, Kiev (1991) (Russian).
  5. E.V. Serova, Agricultural Cooperation in the USSR, Agropromizdat, Moscow (1991) (Russian).
  6. R W Davies, The Soviet Collective Farm 1929–1930 (Harvard University Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1980), p.59.
  7. Exile and Discipline: The June 1948 campaign against Collective Farm shirkers by Jean Levesque, p. 13
  8. 1 2 Caroline Humphrey, Karl Marx Collective: Economy, society and religion in a Siberian collective farm, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge (1983), p. 96.
  9. Leonard E. Hubbard, The Economics of Soviet Agriculture, Macmillan, London (1939), p. 233.
  10. Roy D. Laird, Collective Farming in Russia: A Political Study of the Soviet Kolkhozy, University of Kansas Publications, Lawrence, Kansas (1958), p. 120.
  11. Fedor Belov, The History of a Soviet Collective Farm, Praeger, New York (1955), p. 87.
  12. Fedor Belov, op. cit., pp. 110-11.
  13. 1 2 Z. Lerman, C. Csaki, and G. Feder, Agriculture in Transition: Land Policies and Evolving Farm Structures in Post-Soviet Countries, Lexington Books, Lanham, MD (2004), Chapter 4.
  14. Murat Aminjanov, How many farms are there in Tajikistan?, Policy Brief 3, European Commission "Support for the Development, Implementation and Evaluation of Agricultural Policy in Tajikistan" Project, Dushanbe (October 2007).