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Journal Article

On the Human Costs of Collectivization in the Soviet Union

Massimo Livi-Bacci
Population and Development Review
Vol. 19, No. 4 (Dec., 1993), pp. 743-766
Published by: Population Council
DOI: 10.2307/2938412
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2938412
Page Count: 24

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Topics: Mortality, Population estimates, Death, Age, Famine, Censuses, Demography, Peasant class, Life tables, Disasters
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On the Human Costs of Collectivization in the Soviet Union
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Abstract

Population statistics suppressed or hidden during the 1930s are now emerging from the archives of the former Soviet Union. Of foremost importance is the 1937 census, the results of which are now available. In light of the new data it is possible to reappraise the human losses generated by the liquidation of the kulaks, forced collectivization, and the famine of 1932-33. Using appropriate hypotheses concerning the normal level of mortality and the number of births between the 1926 and the 1937 censuses, the article presents a plausible range of estimates of excess mortality during the decade, from a minimum of about 6 million to a maximum of about 13 million. Many estimates arrived at in earlier studies fall within this range, but some of them are too conservative or are clearly exaggerated. Parallels are drawn between this man-made catastrophe and the 1959-61 famine that occurred in China as a consequence of the Great Leap Forward. In both cases economic, political, and social circumstances--forced acceleration of industrialization, forced collectivization, increased compulsory grain procurement--not only caused decline in agricultural output and starvation, but weakened traditional networks of mutual support and crippled the traditional defenses that could mitigate economic and social stress.

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