The proletarianisation of the farmlands

The proletarianisation of the farmlands
With the return of the Soviet occupation regime to Latvia, the 1940 agrarian reform – confiscation of land from large and medium size farms – was restarted. Some of this land was held by the state, some was made available for use by poor farmers and also non-farmers. Thus the number of small farms, poor and without agricultural machinery, increased rapidly.

The main role of Latvian farmers was to supply food to the state. They had to pay 'duties in kind', as well as agricultural tax, and do compulsory labour in forestry and road repair projects. In the early post-war years the amount of such compulsory labour was proportional to the size of the farm.

In 1947, in response to instructions from Moscow, the Latvian SSR government set up the criteria for what constitutes a well-to-do farmer, the so-called „kulaks". These farmers had to pay taxes several times larger than the „working" farmers. The registry of „kulaks" comprised farmers who before the occupation had owned 30 ha or more and who had used hired help. The „kulaks" were considered enemies of the working class and they were not accepted into the collective farms, the kolkhozes.

Many farmers slid into poverty trying to meet the state-imposed obligations. Often armed representatives of the authorities forced farmers to make their payments. Farmers, who were unable provide the required production, pay the taxes or do their assigned obligatory free labour, were either fined, jailed, deported, and their property confiscated. This ruined the formerly well-to-do farms.

The goal of such a policy was to force farmers to abandon individual farming in order to implement collective farming. This had already been achieved in the rest of the Soviet Union prior to the occupation of the Baltic States. Nevertheless farmers resisted as best they could and joined the kolkhozes only reluctantly, despite promises of relief by the Soviet authorities.

The situation changed after the 25 March 1949 deportations. Fearing possible deportation, most farmers joined the kolkhozes. Those who still refused to join were threatened with repressions. In summer 1950 small kolkhozes were combined into larger state farms. By the end of 1950 altogether 96.5% of individual farms had joined the kolkhozes.

Soviet ideologues characterised the post-war period as „fierce class struggle", „struggle to impose Soviet authority in the countryside". They admitted that the struggle ended only after the deportation of the „kulaks" and the forced collectivisation of the rest.