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Stalin and Wheat: Collective Farms and Composite Portraits
Vol. 3, No. 2 (Spring 2003), pp. 14-16
Published by: University of California Press
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.1525/gfc.2003.3.2.14
Page Count: 3
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In late 1939, USSR in Construction, the Soviet propaganda magazine, published a special issue on the Stalin Collective Farm in the Ukraine. The inside front cover of the magazine contained an anonymous paean to socialist farming, attributing its success to the foresight and support of Joseph Stalin, the nation's leader. On the page flanking the euphoric opening text was a near full-page portrait of Comrade Stalin composed of multi-hued grains including millet, alfalfa, and poppy. Grain, or the absence thereof, was fundamental to the development of collective farms in the Soviet Union. By early 1929, government pressure to form large state-run farms had increased and Stalin declared war on the kulaks, or rich peasants. The kulaks responded by killing their livestock, destroying their crops, and demolishing their homesteads. Nonetheless, collectivization, backed by the Party apparatus, continued relentlessly. Needless to say, none of the resistance to collectivized agriculture was evident in USSR in Construction's depiction of life on the Stalin Collective Farm. At the end of the issue, the apparent happiness and prosperity of the workers were attributed to the virtues of socialism. In the later 1930s, with the inauguration of Stalin's "cult of personality," the nation was consistently equated with Stalin himself, hence the choice of his profile for the composite grain portrait. The seamlessness with which a multitude of grains could become a composite portrait of the nation's leader shows how successfully the Soviet government was able to rewrite the history of agricultural collectivization. The pain, loss, and resistance of the small landowners was successfully obliterated and replaced by a new narrative in which collective farm workers prospered and found happiness within a political system that was now synonymous with the beneficence of a single individual, Joseph Stalin.