Was the Virgin Lands Campaign a Success?

After the death of Stalin in March 1953, Nikita Khrushchev succeeded as the First Secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU). Georgii Malenkov (Council of Ministers) and Lavrentii Beria (leader of the KGB) joined Khrushchev as formed a collective leadership. This collective leadership quickly derailed, as Khrushchev and Malenkov conspired against Beria. Beria was accused of anti-party and anti-state activities and was executed in 1953. Malenkov resigned as prime minister in 1955. This led to Khrushchev ended up winning complete power and control over Soviet military and government. Khrushchev didn’t take any time to use his platform to denounce Stalinism. During Khrushchev’s reign, he transformed the Soviet Union during this critical time in history. One way Khrushchev tried to produce a solution for the food shortages that arose from Stalin’s regime was through the Virgin Lands Campaign.

Virgin Lands Campaign

Khrushchev came up with a plan to boost the Soviet Union’s agricultural production, known as the Virgin Lands Campaign. The Virgin Lands campaign’s purpose was to open up tens of millions of hectares of land so people could cultivate the land. The area of cultivation were in northern Kazakhstan and the Altai region.


Over 300,000 people volunteered to settle on and cultivate the area. After an unsuccessful year in 1955, the Soviet Union saw the largest harvest in its history in 1956 with about 60 million grain produced coming from the virgin lands. Within the span of six years (1954 to 1960), the area of land sown increased by 46 million hectares. The Virgin Lands Campaign was successful in mitigating short-term food shortages in the Soviet Union. However, the Virgin Lands Campaign was perceived by many as ineffective. (http://soviethistory.msu.edu/1954-2/virgin-lands-campaign/) Crop yields from virgin lands were inconsistent each year.


The Virgin Lands Campaign was initiated. The area plowed up was no less than 19 million hectares. (http://soviethistory.msu.edu/1954-2/virgin-lands-campaign. http://soviethistory.msu.edu/1954-2/virgin-lands-campaign/
The total output of grain was 14,793,000 tons (65% higher than the average grain yield for 1949-195) (Durgin). The amount of crops planted was larger than anticipated, resulting in a significantly higher amount of grain produced than harvested (McCauley)


An additional 14 million hectares were plowed. However, the 1955 harvest was a huge disappointment due to droughts, specifically in Kazakhstan. The harvest went down 35% from 1954’s harvest (McCauley).


The largest harvest in Soviet history. Grain input increased by 180%. Crop cultivation nearly equaled the combined production of the previous two years (McCauley).


Another failure due to drought. Grain output decreased 40% from 1956’s harvest (Durgin).


A relatively successful harvest. Only 8% below the 1956 harvest (Durgin).


Another relatively successful harvest. Only 6% below the 1958 harvest. The crop cultivation was down due to an early winter, which killed a lot of the crops (McCauley)


Harvests were never as successful as the 1965 harvest and were on a steady decline afterwards.

Works Cited:

Durgin, Jr., Frank A. (1962). “The Virgin Lands Programme 1954-1960”. Soviet Studies.
Martin McCauley, Khrushchev and the Development of Soviet Agriculture: The Virgin Lands Program 1953-1964 Holmes & Meier Publishers, Inc., New York, 1976.

Down with Religion

In the Trash!

What role did nationality and religion play in the formation of the Soviet State?

After the 1917 Revolution, one of the Bolsheviks’ main objective was to reverse the deeply-rooted Russian Orthodox ideals in order to establish gosateizm (state atheism). The new regime confiscated church property, ridiculed religion and its followers, and propagated atheism in the education system. https://www.loc.gov/exhibits/archives/anti.html

Image result for soviet anti religious campaigns
“Ban Religious Holidays”

The Bolsheviks came up with a three-prong plan to undermine any church authority (including splitting the church from within, assaulting the religion of national minorities and confiscating the wealth of the Orthodox Church).

“Religion is poison! Take care of your children!”

Vladimir Lenin, leader of the Bolsheviks, wrote in “The Attitude of the Workers’ Party to Religion:”

Religion is the opium of the people: this saying of Marx is the cornerstone of the entire ideology of Marxism about religion. All modern religions and churches, all and of every kind of religious organizations are always considered by Marxism as the organs of bourgeois reaction, used for the protection of the exploitation and the stupefaction of the working class.

The Bolsheviks advocated the complete elimination of the Church and surrender of the Church’s gold, gems, and precious metals, blaming the Church for the famine. Churches were ransacked and thousands of priests were trialed and executed.

Let’s Talk About Sex

By New Look Media Team (http://newlookmedia.ru/IDNV/Arhiv.html Контент доступен на условиях лицензии Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike) – http://www.newlookmedia.ru/IDNV/Novyj_Vzglad/Stranic/Novyj_vzglad_1993.html#5 (http://newlookmedia.ru/IDNV/Arhiv.html Контент доступен на условиях лицензии Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike), CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=10833399
Article Title: “Ordinary Sex”
This was published in the newspaper called Novy Vzglyad about prostitutes working for the KGB.

In the period of glasnost, or openness, in the Soviet Union, the conversation on prostitution became a public topic (Von Geldern). It wasn’t until 1987 that specific laws prohibiting prostitution were introduced in the Soviet Union. Prior to 1987, prostitution was taboo to many Soviets. I found it interesting that during an American talk show for American and Soviet audiences, when the American host discussed sex, Russians used the English word for sex, showing that “sex” is a foreign concept because there was no word for it in the Russian language.

Prostitution was becoming more structured and organize. There was a hierarchy within prostitution: foreign-currency prostitutes, middle-level prostitutes, and train-station prostitutes (Maidanskaya). Many young girls saw prostitution as a way to get money and leave their hometowns. An article spread around that glorified prostitution, and 14-16 year-old girls streamed into Moscow in hopes of attaining this luxurious life. However, most girls didn’t get further than being train-station prostitutes (Maidanskaya).

Some viewed prostitution as a way for a woman to choose what she does with her body. Some people noticed the problems that arose with prostitution, such as the huge increase in AIDS and sexually transmitted diseases and organized crime. Once prostitution was recognized, administrative sanctions were imposed that affected over 5,000 prostitutes. There were proposals to shoot, (yes, with an armed weapon) put in prison, or exile prostitutes, but many punitive laws have proven to be ineffective.

http://By Source, Fair use, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=14306189

Many authors and directors even started writing about and documenting the life of prostitutes in the Soviet Union. The most distinguishable work that started the discussions was a novel (that was later adapted into a movie) Intergirl. Vladimir Kunin, the author of the Intergirl novel, followed prostitutes for several of months and conducted a study on their activities (Kon). The film tells the story of one foreign-currency prostitute (which is the highest-ranking prostitute in the Soviet Union) named Tanya. Intergirl was very successful, being the most watched Soviet film in 1989. Intergirl had a sad outcome for Tanya and the people closest to her. Intergirl, along with other works produced around this time, spread the message that women “found no liberation or happy fate when she revealed her body” (Von Geldern).

Works Cited:

Kon, Igor (1997). Опасный секс: Насилие, проституция, болезни [Dangerous sex: Violence, prostitution, diseases]. Sexual Culture In Russia: The Strawberry on the Birch (in Russian). Moscow: OGI. ISBN978-5-900241-33-3.

Maidanskaya, Nadezhda. Combating Prostitution: A Pessimistic View.War Against Prostitution: The Prose of the ‘Sweet Life.

Von Geldern, James. Female Sexuality. Seventeen Moments in Soviet History. soviethistory.msu.edu/1985-2/female-sexuality/

Going off the Rails on a Murmansk Train

Here is a picture taken by Sergey Prokudin-Gorsky in 1915. The photo is called Ladva Station on the Murmansk Railroad. Uneveness of the Railway.  Prokudin captured this photo (along with thousands of others) while traveling through the Russia Empire.

St. Ladva Murm. zh.d. nerovnosti puti
St. Ladva Murm. zh.d. nerovnosti puti
Translation: Ladva Station on the Murmansk railroad. Uneveness of the railway

Murmansk is a port city in northwest Russia. It was the last city founded in the Russian Empire. Murmansk gives people in western Russia highway and railway access to Europe. It is the largest city north of the Arctic Circle, and it is a major port of the Arctic Ocean. (World of Geography)

Map of Murmansk, Murmansk Oblast, Russia

This photo was interesting to me because the development of railways was crucial to the industrialization of Russia between the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th century. Russia was late to the industrialization game compared to western Europe. Sergei Witte, who was the minister of Finance, oversaw the construction of the Trans-Siberian Railroad. Russia’s economy experienced incredible growth during Witte’s tenure due to the expansion of the Trans-Siberian Railway and the increase in exports of natural resources (Russiapedia). The economic and industrial growth that Russia experienced during this period of time would establish the foundation of Russia as it changed into the Soviet Union later in the century.

Although Russia experienced great economic success, there were still many kinks Russia had to work out with the outcomes of industrialization. Russia didn’t prepare for the fact that industrialization would create more jobs in cities. There was an influx of peasants who came into the cities to look for work, creating the industrial proletariat social class. This was a negative outcome because the cities in Russia didn’t increase the construction of new housing, so many of the workers experienced unhygienic, cold, unsanitary, and poor living conditions. (alphahistory). Russia also had to rely on other countries for technology and machines in order to be able to sustain growth. Finally, Russia faced problems that included a lack of venture capitalists and low labor productivity, as well as a struggling domestic market due to a largely poor population (Freeze 216).  Despite all of these problems Russia faced during its Industrial Revolution, the economic growth that Russia experienced was what it needed to for Russia’s future developments and to become the power it reached in the later 20th century.

Works cited:

Freeze, Gregory L. Russia: A History. 3rd ed. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2009. Print.



“Sergei Witte – Russiapedia Politics and society Prominent Russians”russiapedia.rt.com.