The Soviet Farm Complex : industrial agriculture in a Socialist context, 1945-1965
Author(s)Smith, Jenny Leigh
Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Program in Science, Technology and Society.
Deborah K. Fitzgerald.
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"The Soviet Farm Complex" is a history of food, farming and the environment in the postwar Soviet Union. It tells the story of how different technical and institutional authorities created an industrial Soviet countryside in the generation after World War II. Beyond the leadership of the Soviet state, international trade relationships, new technologies, unusual scientific cultures, stubborn environmental realities and human shortcomings played important roles in shaping the progress of agricultural change. Four historical fields inform this project: the history of technology, agricultural history, Soviet history and environmental history. Each of the five chapters addresses a different time, place and theme in the history of the Soviet countryside, providing a close-up view of the most important aspects of postwar rural change. Soviet agricultural reform has often been interpreted as a failure: a textbook case of poor central planning and destructive, high-modernist logic on the part of the Soviet state. In fact, this study shows that the collective farming system as a whole was not particularly dysfunctional, nor was it doomed to failure simply by virtue of being centrally planned.(cont.) Much like the capitalist farms with which it competed, Soviet farms struggled to overcome enormous environmental, economic and social barriers to success. Similarly to capitalist systems, the Soviet Union's farming complexes succeeded in some places, while failing spectacularly in others. The history of Soviet agricultural change is not a history of faceless state agents imposing change from a great distance. Rather, it is made up of many different kinds of people working at many different jobs. Agricultural scientists and bureaucrats performed research, wrote reports, created policies and issued orders, sometimes against their better judgment and sometimes with the full force of their beliefs behind them. On the ground, agricultural laborers tried to follow the orders that originated from these higher echelons although workers and their work often experienced periods of great transition. In the universities, teachers endeavored to instruct their students in modern and efficient methods of producing food, and in every city and village the powerful tool of Soviet propaganda strived to persuade citizens of the value and logic of all aspects of agricultural modernization.(cont.) By examining the connections between state authority, agricultural modernization and environmental change, this dissertation shows that the industrialization of the Soviet countryside was a dynamic and convoluted process, affected far more by the seemingly trivial histories of genetic variation, animal nutrition and weather than by the machinations of powerful politicians or the mismanagement of inept bureaucrats.
Thesis (Ph. D. in History, Anthropology, and Science, Technology and Society (HASTS))--Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Program in Science, Technology and Society, 2006.MIT Dewey Library copy issued in pages.Includes bibliographical references (leaves 190-200).
DepartmentMassachusetts Institute of Technology. Program in Science, Technology and Society.
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Program in Science, Technology and Society.