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From Communism to Anti-Communism

 | 
Andre Liebich
, 
Svetlana Yakimovich

Soviet Life in 1931

Young Collective Farmer

Ronald Grigor Suny

Texte intégral

The back of the document reads in German: “ PRESSE-CLICHÉ No. 65987. Nordkaukasus. Getreidestaatsgut N2 U.B.z.: ein junger Kollektivwirtschaftsbauer bei der Aussaat. Photostudie”. [Purple stamp] “UNIONBILD G.m.b.H. (…)” – [“North Caucasus. Grain state farm: a young collective farmer during sowing”]. Black and white photograph; 14 x 18.5 cm.

1At the end of the 1920s, after Stalin had defeated both the Left and the Right Opposition, the Soviet Union embarked upon what would be known as the Velikii Perelom or the “Great Upheaval.” This involved a radical and ruthless campaign of collectivization of agriculture and a forced, intensive process of industrialization. These great collective efforts changed the face of the Soviet Union and affected every one of its citizens.

2The series of photographs preserved in the Souvarine collection under the heading “Soviet Life in 1931”, reflect their times in ways that are revealing in many different aspects. They may have been intended as propaganda but they portray more than they intend. In this photograph we may note the freshness of the face of the “Russian” boy (though perhaps Ukrainian?), a collective farm peasant in the North Caucasus, his unassuming gaze, his confidence with his horses. At the same time the bareness of the landscape and the poor clothing give a sense of the hardships endured by Soviet peasants.

3This picture, as well as the others in the series, have a directness and simplicity about them but without the glorification and heroism of Socialist Realist depictions in films and paintings. This is realism that exposes a “socialist” revolution that was about hard work and the delayed possibility of a better life. One can only guess at the later fate of this young boy, whether he was one of the millions soon destined to starve along with other peasants, whether he would be killed in action during the Second World War or perish in a German prison camp, or whether he would be among the more fortunate ones who would survive hunger and war and return to a devastated land.

4One of the reasons advanced, both by political actors and historians, for the decision to undertake “The Great Upheaval” was the need to prepare the country for the war that was bound to come. At the time this picture was taken, in 1931, Stalin warned that the Soviet Union had ten years to prepare itself for a fateful confrontation. The disarming assurance of the boy in the picture suggests that he does not foresee any of the tragedies that the country would encounter. If he thought of the future it was in the terms that Stalin proclaimed, “Life will be more joyous, comrades,” he promised. Here though the toughness of making it through the day is much more evident than the joy.

Bibliographie

Robert W. Davies, The Socialist Offensive: The Collectivization of Soviet Agriculture, 1929-1930, Basingstoke: Macmillan, 1980.

Sheila Fitzpatrick, Stalin’s Peasants: Resistance and Survival in the Russian Village after Collectivization, London: Oxford University Press, 1994.

Table des illustrations

Légende The back of the document reads in German: “ PRESSE-CLICHÉ No. 65987. Nordkaukasus. Getreidestaatsgut N2 U.B.z.: ein junger Kollektivwirtschaftsbauer bei der Aussaat. Photostudie”. [Purple stamp] “UNIONBILD G.m.b.H. (…)” – [“North Caucasus. Grain state farm: a young collective farmer during sowing”]. Black and white photograph; 14 x 18.5 cm.
URL http://books.openedition.org/iheid/docannexe/image/6622/img-1.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 317k

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