March 02, 2015

Dizzy with "Success": The Horrors of Collectivization

Dizzy with "Success": The Horrors of Collectivization

On March 2, 1930, Pravda published Stalin’s “Dizzy with Success” speech, in which the Soviet dictator called for a halt to the allegedly successful policy of collectivization – where “successful” actually meant “abysmal failure at a terrifyingly high human and social cost.” The halt was only temporary, and the horrors of collectivization continued into the next decade, as illustrated in the following memoirs by Zinaida Nikitichna Ilnitskaya.

When I started first grade (in 1930), the kolkhozes started to form. The church was closed, and my parents joined the kolkhoz. They gave up their land, their cow, and their horse, as well as the cart, plow, and harrow. Every day the kolkhoz would give us a free liter of milk, for which we had to stand in line. The kolkhoz took bad care of the livestock – it was half-starved and would often run back to where it still thought home was. The cow would moo by the fence, while the horse would stomp the ground. My father would lead them back to the kolkhoz, while my mother, my sister, and I cried – we felt so sorry for it. In 1929 and 1930 they started the dekulakization.

In 1932 my father was put in jail (he was the head of the kolkhoz) because a bale of unthreshed wheat burned out in the field: he’d “overlooked it.” At first they put him in the neighboring village of Yasynova (5 km away). Later they planned to send him to the district capital (Lyubashevka), then to Odessa. Mama would take care packages for my father to Yasynova. She asked the head of the jail about when my father was to be sent to Lyubashevka, but he said that my father should be freed, seeing as his guilt had not been proven.

Soon our family was dekulakized (it was the last one of 1932). All our property was inventoried. Mama was taken to the village Soviet and put in a room with a lot of other women like her. Everything from the house was carted away to the Soviet. The children were shooed out of the house: “Go wherever you like, just don’t come home.” […]

After finding out that the narrator’s father would probably not be released, the entire family fled to Yalta. On a tip from a family member, they returned to the village after a year, because the kolkhoz needed laborers.

We immediately arrived at our house. Someone was living there, but when we arrived it was immediately cleared. The kolkhoz would not accept Mama – they said the head of the house needed to come. Mama wrote urgently to my father [who was still in Yalta]. My father came, and we were immediately accepted into the kolkhoz. Our cow was no longer there – it had been slaughtered for meat. We were offered another cow, but my father refused. It was very hard for us, since we were left with no cow and no farm. […]

It was the spring of 1933. The kolkhozes were poor, with nothing to sow. Every evening they invited the heads of houses to the kolkhoz office and demanded their signatures that they would give up grain for the sowing. But no one could sign, since no one had grain. They would keep the heads there until late, demanding signatures, then let them go, having achieved nothing, and invite them back the next night; there was a special person going around, inviting people. A few times special representatives from the provincial government would be in the office. Some villagers would hide grain, but pike-carrying men would search yards for stashes of grain, find them, and confiscate them. They’d go around the houses, and wherever they found even a little beans or peas, they’d take everything.


Memoirs posted by Vadim Kachala, translated by Eugenia Sokolskaya

Image source: Wikimedia commons


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