A kolkhoz plural kolkhozy, was a form of collective farming
Collective farming
Collective farming and communal farming are types of agricultural production in which the holdings of several farmers are run as a joint enterprise...

 in the Soviet Union
Soviet Union
The Soviet Union , officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics , was a constitutionally socialist state that existed in Eurasia between 1922 and 1991....

 that existed along with state farm
A farm is an area of land, or, for aquaculture, lake, river or sea, including various structures, devoted primarily to the practice of producing and managing food , fibres and, increasingly, fuel. It is the basic production facility in food production. Farms may be owned and operated by a single...

s (sovkhoz
A sovkhoz , typically translated as state farm, is a state-owned farm. The term originated in the Soviet Union, hence the name. The term is still in use in some post-Soviet states, e.g., Russia and Belarus. It is usually contrasted with kolkhoz, which is a collective-owned farm...

, plural sovkhozy). The word is a contraction of коллекти́вное хозя́йство, or "collective farm", while sovkhoz is a contraction of советское хозяйство (Soviet farm). Kolkhozy and sovkhozy were the two components of the socialized farm sector that began to emerge in Soviet agriculture after the October Revolution
October Revolution
The October Revolution , also known as the Great October Socialist Revolution , Red October, the October Uprising or the Bolshevik Revolution, was a political revolution and a part of the Russian Revolution of 1917...

 of 1917 as an antithesis to individual or family farm
Family farm
A family farm is a farm owned and operated by a family, and often passed down from generation to generation. It is the basic unit of the mostly agricultural economy of much of human history and continues to be so in developing nations...

ing. The 1920s were characterized by spontaneous and apparently voluntary emergence of collective farms, which included an updated version of the traditional Russian “commune”, the generic “farming association” (zemledel’cheskaya artel
Artel is a general term for various cooperative associations in Russia and Ukraine, historical and modern.Historically, artels were semi-formal associations for various enterprises: fishing, mining, commerce, of loaders, loggers, thieves, beggars, etc. Often artels worked far from home and lived...

), the association for joint cultivation of land
Association for Joint Cultivation of Land
An Association for Joint Cultivation of Land , TOZ, was a form of Agricultural cooperative in early Soviet Union . In a TOZ, only land and labor were common....

 (TOZ), and finally the kolkhoz. This peaceful and gradual shift to collective farming in the first 15 years after the October Revolution was turned into a violent stampede during the forced collectivization campaign that began in 1928.

Kolkhoz as a pseudo-cooperative

As a collective farm, a kolkhoz was legally organized as a production cooperative. The Standard Charter of a kolkhoz, which since the early 1930s had the force of law in the USSR, is a model of cooperative principles in print. It speaks of the kolkhoz as a “form of agricultural production cooperative of peasants that voluntarily unite for the purpose of joint agricultural production based on ... collective labor.” It asserts that “the kolkhoz is managed according to the principles of socialist self-management, democracy, and openness, with active participation of the members in decisions concerning all aspects of internal life”.

In practice, the collective farm that emerged after Stalin’s collectivization campaign did not have many characteristics of a true cooperative, except joint ownership of non-land assets by the members (the land in the Soviet Union was nationalized in 1917) and remuneration in proportion to labor and not capital from residual profits. The basic principle of voluntary membership was violated by the process of forced collectivization; members did not retain a right of free exit, and those who managed to leave could not take their share of land and assets with them (neither in kind nor in cash-equivalent form). The role of the “sovereign” general assembly and the “democratically elected” management was in practice reduced to rubber-stamping the plans, targets, and decisions made by the district and provincial authorities. They imposed detailed work programs and nominated their preferred managerial candidates. The kolkhozy rapidly metamorphosed from cooperatives to an offshoot of the state sector (although notionally they continued to be owned by their members). Since the mid-1930s, numerous kolkhozy changed their status to sovkhozy or vice versa, depending on current taxation policies and other discriminatory practices applicable to workers in the two categories of farms. The faint dividing lines between collective and state farms were obliterated almost totally in the late 1960s, when Khrushchev’s administration authorized a guaranteed wage to kolkhoz members, similarly to sovkhoz employees. Essentially, his administration recognized their status as hired hands rather than authentic cooperative members. The guaranteed wage provision was incorporated in the 1969 version of the Standard Charter.

The brigade

The question of internal organization was important in the new kolkhozy. The most basic measure was to divide the workforce into a number of groups, generally known as brigades, for working purposes. `By July 1929 it was already normal practice for the large kolkhoz of 200-400 households to be divided into temporary or permanent work units of 15-30 households.' The authorities gradually came down in favour of the fixed, combined brigade, that is the brigade with its personnel, land, equipment and draught horses fixed to it for the whole period of agricultural operations, and taking responsibility for all relevant tasks during that period. The brigade was headed by a brigade leader (brigadir). He was usually a local man (few were women).

After the kolkhoz amalgamations of 1950 the territorial successor of the old village kolkhoz was the "complex brigade" (brigade of brigades), a sub-unit of the new enlarged kolkhoz.

The zveno

Brigades could be subdivided into smaller units called zvenos (links) for carrying out some or all of their tasks.

Kolkhoz life under Stalin

In a kolkhoz, a member, called kolkhoznik (колхо́зник, feminine колхо́зница), was paid a share of the farm’s product and profit according to the number of workdays, while a sovkhoz employed salaried workers. In practice, many Kolkhoz did not pay their "members" much at all. In 1946, 30 percent of Kolkhoz paid no cash for labor at all, 10.6 paid no grain, and 73.2 percent paid 500 grams of grain or less per day worked. In addition the kolkhoz was required to sell their crop to the State which fixed prices for the grain. These were set very low and the difference between what the State paid the farm and what the State charged consumers represented a major source of income for the Soviet government. In 1948 the Soviet government charged wholesalers 335 rubles for 100 kilograms of rye
Rye is a grass grown extensively as a grain and as a forage crop. It is a member of the wheat tribe and is closely related to barley and wheat. Rye grain is used for flour, rye bread, rye beer, some whiskeys, some vodkas, and animal fodder...

, but paid the kolkhoz roughly 8 rubles. Nor did such prices change much to keep up with inflation. Prices paid by the Soviet government hardly changed at all between 1929 and 1953 meaning that the State did not pay one half or even one third of the cost of production.

Members of kolkhoz were allowed to hold a small area of private land and some animals. The size of the private plot varied over the Soviet period but was usually about 1 acre (0.404686 ha). Before the Russian Revolution of 1917
Russian Revolution of 1917
The Russian Revolution is the collective term for a series of revolutions in Russia in 1917, which destroyed the Tsarist autocracy and led to the creation of the Soviet Union. The Tsar was deposed and replaced by a provisional government in the first revolution of February 1917...

 a peasant with less than 13.5 acres (5.5 ha) was considered too poor to maintain a family. However, the productivity of such plots is reflected in the fact that in 1938 3.9 percent of total sown land was in the form of private plots, but in 1937 those plots produced 21.5 percent of gross agriculture output.

Members of the kolkhoz were required to do a minimum number of days work per year on both the kolkhoz and on other government work such as road building. In one kolkhoz the requirements were a minimum of 130 days a year for each able-bodied adult and 50 days per boy aged between 12 and 16. That was distributed around the year according to the agricultural cycle. If kolkhoz members did not perform the required minimum of work, the penalties could involve confiscation of the farmer's private plot, a trial in front of a People's Court that could result in three to eight months of hard labour on the kolkhoz, or up to one year in a corrective labor camp
Labor camp
A labor camp is a simplified detention facility where inmates are forced to engage in penal labor. Labor camps have many common aspects with slavery and with prisons...


In both the kolkhoz and sovkhoz, a system of internal passports prevented movement from rural areas to urban areas. Until 1969 all children born on a collective farm were forced by law to work there as adults unless they were specifically given permission to leave. In effect, farmers became tied to their sovkhoz or kolkhoz in what may be described as a system of "neo-serfdom", in which the Communist bureaucracy replaced the former landowners.

See collectivisation in the USSR
Collectivisation in the USSR
Collectivization in the Soviet Union was a policy pursued under Stalin between 1928 and 1940. The goal of this policy was to consolidate individual land and labour into collective farms...

 and agriculture in the Soviet Union for general discussion of Soviet agriculture.

Basic statistics for the USSR

Kolkhozy and sovkhozy in the USSR: number of farms, average size, and share in agricultural production
Year Number of
Number of
size, ha
size, ha
Share of
Share of
Share of
1960 44,000 7,400 6,600 26,200 44% 18% 38%
1965 36,300 11,700 6,100 24,600 41% 24% 35%
1970 33,000 15,000 6,100 20,800 40% 28% 32%
1975 28,500 18,100 6,400 18,900 37% 31% 32%
1980 25,900 21,100 6,600 17,200 35% 36% 29%
1985 26,200 22,700 6,500 16,100 36% 36% 28%
1990 29,100 23,500 5,900 15,300 36% 38% 26%

Source: Statistical Yearbook of the USSR, various years, State Statistical Committee of the USSR, Moscow.

The disappearance of the kolkhoz after 1991

With the dissolution of the Soviet Union
Dissolution of the Soviet Union
The dissolution of the Soviet Union was the disintegration of the federal political structures and central government of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics , resulting in the independence of all fifteen republics of the Soviet Union between March 11, 1990 and December 25, 1991...

 in December 1991, the former Soviet republics
Post-Soviet states
The post-Soviet states, also commonly known as the Former Soviet Union or former Soviet republics, are the 15 independent states that split off from the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics in its dissolution in December 1991...

 became independent states that pursued, with varying degrees of vigor and resolve, a general policy of transition
Transition economy
A transition economy or transitional economy is an economy which is changing from a centrally planned economy to a free market. Transition economies undergo economic liberalization, where market forces set prices rather than a central planning organization and trade barriers are removed,...

 from the Soviet centrally planned economy to a market economy
Market economy
A market economy is an economy in which the prices of goods and services are determined in a free price system. This is often contrasted with a state-directed or planned economy. Market economies can range from hypothetically pure laissez-faire variants to an assortment of real-world mixed...

. Farm restructuring was one of the components of the transition agenda in the New Independent States, all of which adopted laws (typically called "Law on Enterprises and Entrepreneurship" in the various native languages) that allowed new corporate forms
A corporation is created under the laws of a state as a separate legal entity that has privileges and liabilities that are distinct from those of its members. There are many different forms of corporations, most of which are used to conduct business. Early corporations were established by charter...

 of farming to emerge (in addition to family farms). These corporate farms could organize as partnerships, limited-liability companies, joint-stock societies, or agricultural cooperatives, and the traditional kolkhozy and sovkhozy — collective and state farms — were generally required to re-register in one of the new corporate forms as chosen by the general assembly of their members or workers. This legal requirement led to massive "external restructuring" of kolkhozy and sovkhozy through re-registration in new corporate forms. The number of kolkhozy and sovkhozy declined rapidly after 1992, while other corporate forms gained in prominence. Still, field surveys conducted in CIS countries in the 1990s generally indicated that, in the opinion of the members and the managers, many of the new corporate farms behaved and functioned for all practical reasons like the old kolkhozy. Formal re-registration only "changed the sign on the door" and did not produce radical internal restructuring of the traditional Soviet farm, although this was badly needed for improving productivity and efficiency of the former Soviet farms.

Number of kolkhozy and all corporate farms in Russia, Ukraine, and Moldova 1990-2005
Russia Ukraine Moldova
Year Number of
All corporate
Number of
All corporate
Number of
All corporate
1990 12,800 29,400 8,354 10,792 531 1,891
1995 5,522 26,874 450 10,914 490 1,232
2000 3,000 27,645 0 14,308 41 1,386
2005 2,000 22,135 0 17,671 4 1,846

  • For Russia, Agriculture in Russia, statistical yearbook, State Statistical Committee, Moscow, various years.
  • For Ukraine, Rethinking Agricultural Reform in Ukraine, IAMO, Halle, Germany.
  • For Moldova, land balance tables, State Land Cadastre Agency, Chisinau, various years.

Kolkhozy have disappeared completely in Transcaucasian and Central Asia
Central Asia
Central Asia is a core region of the Asian continent from the Caspian Sea in the west, China in the east, Afghanistan in the south, and Russia in the north...

n states. In Armenia, Georgia, and Azerbaijan
Economy of Azerbaijan
Azerbaijan is an economy that has completed its post-Soviet transition into a major oil based economy , from one where the state played the major role...

 the disappearance of the kolkhoz was part of an overall individualization of agriculture, with family farms displacing corporate farms in general. In Central Asian countries, corporate farms persist, but no kolkhozy remain. Thus, in Turkmenistan
Turkmenistan , formerly also known as Turkmenia is one of the Turkic states in Central Asia. Until 1991, it was a constituent republic of the Soviet Union, the Turkmen Soviet Socialist Republic . Turkmenistan is one of the six independent Turkic states...

, a presidential decree of June 1995 summarily "reorganized" all kolkhozy into "peasant associations" . In Tajikistan
Agriculture in Tajikistan
Tajikistan is a highly agrarian country, with its rural population at more than 70% and agriculture accounting for 60% of employment and around 30% of GDP...

, a presidential decree of October 1995 initiated a process of conversion of kolkhozy into share-based farms operating on leased land, agricultural production cooperatives, and dehkan (peasant) farms. However, contrary to the practice in all other CIS
CIS usually refers to the Commonwealth of Independent States, a modern political entity consisting of eleven former Soviet Union republics.The acronym CIS may also refer to:-Organizations:...

 countries, one-third of the 30,000 peasant farms in Tajikistan are organized as collective dehkan farms and not family farms. These collective dehkan farms are often referred to as "kolkhozy" in the vernacular, although legally they are a different organizational form and the number of "true" kolkhozy in Tajikistan today is less than 50. Similarly in Uzbekistan
Agriculture in Uzbekistan
Agriculture in Uzbekistan employs 28% of the country's labor force and contributes 24% of its GDP . Crop agriculture requires irrigation and occurs mainly in river valleys and oases. Cultivable land is 4.4 million hectares, or about 10% of Uzbekistan's total area, and it has to be shared between...

 the 1998 Land Code renamed all kolkhozy and sovkhozy shirkats (Uzbek
Uzbek language
Uzbek is a Turkic language and the official language of Uzbekistan. It has about 25.5 million native speakers, and it is spoken by the Uzbeks in Uzbekistan and elsewhere in Central Asia...

 for agricultural cooperatives) and just five years later, in October 2003, the government's new strategy for land reform prescribed a sweeping reorientation from shirkats to peasant farms, which since then have virtually replaced all corporate farms.

Countries outside the USSR

  • Landwirtschaftliche Produktionsgenossenschaft
    Landwirtschaftliche Produktionsgenossenschaft
    The German expression Landwirtschaftliche Produktionsgenossenschaft , or — more commonly — its acronym LPG was the official designation for large, collectivised farms in the former East Germany, corresponding to Soviet Kolkhoz.The collectivisation of private and state owned agricultural...

    , LPG - GDR
  • Rolnicza Spółdzielnia Produkcyjna, RSP - Poland
    Poland , officially the Republic of Poland , is a country in Central Europe bordered by Germany to the west; the Czech Republic and Slovakia to the south; Ukraine, Belarus and Lithuania to the east; and the Baltic Sea and Kaliningrad Oblast, a Russian exclave, to the north...

  • Termelőszövetkezet, TSZ - Hungary
    People's Republic of Hungary
    The People's Republic of Hungary or Hungarian People's Republic was the official state name of Hungary from 1949 to 1989 during its Communist period under the guidance of the Soviet Union. The state remained in existence until 1989 when opposition forces consolidated in forcing the regime to...

  • Cooperativa Agricola de Productie, CAP - Romania

See also

  • Zveno (Soviet collective farming)
    Zveno (Soviet collective farming)
    The zveno was a small grassroots work-group within Soviet collective farms. It was, or became, a subunit within the collective-farm brigade.-Evolution during the 1930s:...

     - working subunit of the brigade in a collective farm
  • Sovkhoz
    A sovkhoz , typically translated as state farm, is a state-owned farm. The term originated in the Soviet Union, hence the name. The term is still in use in some post-Soviet states, e.g., Russia and Belarus. It is usually contrasted with kolkhoz, which is a collective-owned farm...

     - Soviet state farm
  • Kibbutz
    A kibbutz is a collective community in Israel that was traditionally based on agriculture. Today, farming has been partly supplanted by other economic branches, including industrial plants and high-tech enterprises. Kibbutzim began as utopian communities, a combination of socialism and Zionism...

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