The First Five Year Plan lasted from 1928-1932. Generally speaking, it was the goal of Joseph Stalin to transform the USSR from a predominately agrarian society, into an industrialized one. One of the key pillars of this first plan involved a process called collectivization.
During this period of collectivization, a great deal of anti-religious sentiment developed. Many churches were decommissioned and destroyed at this time. Above is an image of the famous Christ the Savior Cathedral being demolished in Moscow.
The process of collectivization began in 1927. Stalin hoped to reverse the New Economic Policy (NEP) which had been establish in 1921. The NEP involved the implementation of a series of capitalist programs to get the country back on its feet after the Russian Revolution. To its critics, the NEP was a retreat from the communist ideal. Stalin was determined to rid the country of the capitalist tendencies that had arisen. The main goal of collectivization was to transform the Soviet Union’s countryside from what had been predominately individual farms, into collective farms. This process often times involved moving mass numbers of people to new locations. This process commonly involved the use of force.
Stalin also had an immense hatred for a group of successful capitalist farmers called Kulaks. This hatred can be seen in the removal of Kulaks in the propaganda poster above.
As a result of this systematic upheaval, many people in the Soviet Union experienced famine and starvation. Despite the immense struggle to collectivize, and the many deaths that resulted, it would eventually prove to be a key element in the Soviet victory in the Second World War.
One place within the Soviet Union that experienced some of the most profound repercussions of collectivization, was Kazakhstan. It is estimated that at least 1.5 million Kazakhs died of famine; predominately brought on by collectivization. This particular Soviet Republic was devastated so badly primarily due to the forced settlement and collectivization of the Kazakh pastoral nomads. These people had been nomadic for millennia and were suddenly forced to begin farming. Tragically, with this forced adaptation of unfamiliar means of survival, famine became widespread, and many people began to die of starvation.
Above is a picture of people in Kazakhstan attempting to migrate from a famine-stricken area.
Overall, the late 1920’s and early 1930’s was an incredibly difficult time for the Soviet Union. Many know the story of the famines in the Ukraine, however, the mass starvation that occurred in Kazakhstan has been understudied. Going forward, it is incredibly important to know the history and struggles of all people within the incredibly diverse Soviet Union, not just the European portions which frequently receive much of the attention from historians.
- Demolition of Christ the Savior Cathedral — https://www.google.com/search?q=christ+the+savior+church+demolition&hl=en&authuser=0&source=lnms&tbm=isch&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwihueq_mpzhAhUizlkKHdDRDTgQ_AUIDygC&biw=1280&bih=610#imgrc=Ejas6JNLqWKF9M:
- “Strengthen working discipline in collective farms” — Soviet propaganda poster — https://www.google.com/search?biw=1280&bih=610&tbm=isch&sa=1&ei=QzKYXObvEKa8ggexu76QBQ&q=Strengthen+working+discipline+in+collective+farms&oq=Strengthen+working+discipline+in+collective+farms&gs_l=img.3…2024031.2024031..2024902…0.0..0.49.49.1……1….2j1..gws-wiz-img.j5daAOOhAQ0#imgrc=tLaYje5Z7FYvNM:
- Kazakhs Escaping from Famine Image– https://www.rferl.org/a/A_Tragedy_Kazakhstan_Must_Never_Forget/1357455.html