Contraction of kollektivnoye khozyajstvo (collective farm / collective cooperative.)

Kolkhoz existed along with state farms sovkhoz – contraction of sovietskoye khozyajstvo (Soviet farm.)

Kolkhoz and sovkhoz were the two components of the socialized agriculture that began to emerge after the Bolshevik Revolution with the goal to replace family farming. This shift to collective farming was disrupted by the forced collectivization campaign in 1928.

A kolkhoz paid the peasants a share of the farm’s product and profit according to the number of workdays, while a sovkhoz paid a salary. In reality, many kolkhoz did not pay their members at all. Khrushchev authorized a guaranteed wage to kolkhoz members, similar to sovkhoz employees, thus recognizing them as hired hands rather than cooperative members.

Members of kolkhoz were allowed to hold a small area of private land and some animals. The size of the private plot was usually about one acre. Before the Bolshevik Revolution a peasant with less than thirteen and a half acres was considered too poor to maintain a family. However, the productivity of such plots was high. For example, in 1938 they represented less than four percent of sown land but over twenty percent of agricultural output.

As a cooperative, a collective farm had joint ownership of non-land assets (the land in the Soviet Union was nationalized). On paper, the membership was voluntary but, in practice, it was forced.

Members of the kolkhoz were required to do a minimum number of days work per year on both the kolkhoz and on other government work such as road building. If they did not, their private plot could be confiscated or they could be sentenced to hard labor.

In practice, some members bribed the kolkhoz management to show they put in the required work days, while they worked on their plots and sold their produce at city markets. Members did not have the right to leave, or to take their share of assets if they did.

In both the kolkhoz and sovkhoz, a system of internal passports prevented movement from rural to urban areas. Until 1969, children born on a collective farm were forced by law to work there as adults unless they were given permission to leave. In effect, farmers became tied to their sovkhoz or kolkhoz as serfs, with the government bureaucracy a landowner.

The kolkhoz was required to sell their crop to the state at fixed prices that were set low and remained unchanged for long periods of time. The difference between these prices and what the state charged consumers represented a major source of income for the Soviet government.

See Khrushchev (Agricultural Reforms).

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