Geoffrey Swain. Deciding to Collectivise Latvian Agriculture. (56.61.lpp.)

Valters Grīviņš, 25.08.2014


Deciding to Collectivise Latvian Agriculture

Although the Latvian Communist Party had returned to the country in autumn 1944 denying all the rumours that the collectivisation of agriculture was imminent, they did in fact plan to begin collectivising Latvian farms within six months of the post-war land reform being completed. The post-war land reform was deemed complete on December 1945 and the first calls for collectivisation were heard from some district party secretaries as early as April 1946. Thus when the Central Committee held its XI Plenum on 11-12 April 1946 the Jelgava district secretary responded with calls for collectivisation when he was criticised for failing to meet his plan targets [1].

The Jelgava district secretary’s problem was this. He had been called on to increase agricultural production, yet the impact of the land reform had been to “middlise” the peasantry, creating a mass of small-holdings with low productivity. Soviet figures published in the early 1960s showed that in early 1947 some 14.9% of peasants had holdings of under 10 hectares; 51.5% of peasants had holdings of from 10-20 hectares; and 33.6% of the peasantry had between 20-30 hectares.

Land holding

Democratic Latvia

1940 Reform

1944 reform

up to 10 ha




10-20 ha




20-30 ha




(over 20 ha)




over 30 ha




This overall levelling process resulted in a drift towards subsistence agriculture; there was no increase in the area of land sown from 1945-47 and no increase in the quantity of livestock; the number of pigs even fell [2].

It is hardly surprising, then, that on 13 July 1946, in preparation for the XII Central Committee Plenum on 18-19 July, the Minister of Agriculture drew up a proposal calling for a move towards the establishment of collective farms. In each selected region from three to five model collective farms would be established and used for educational purposes; the aim would be to have such model farms established in every part of the country by the end of 1947. This proposal was then forwarded to the Soviet Communist Party’s “Bureau for Latvia”, which from 29 December 1944 to 24 March 1947 oversaw the activities of the LCP Central Committee Bureau. The verdict of the Bureau for Latvia was this: it was important to choose the moment when collectivisation could be carried out with the least “losses”. Preparations could begin at once on establishing key commissions, and budget allocations could be prepared for 1947; but no public steps should be taken. The very earliest any overt moves could be made towards establishing [57.lpp.] collective farms would be spring 1947. The reason for such caution, and in particular for such secrecy, was this: it was essential to wait until the Paris Peace Conference - called to draft treaties with Finland, Italy, Hungary, Romania and Bulgaria - was over. Any “kulak nationalist” resistance to the establishment of collective farms could only “complicate the activity of our delegations” to that conference [3].

The opening of the Peace Conference had indeed prompted a new flurry of rumours in Latvia that there might be some form of foreign intervention to restore Latvia’s independence. A report from Daugavpils presented to the XII Central Committee Plenum on 18-19 July 1946 stressed that, while the situation had clearly improved on the previous year, rumours about action by the British were again circulating. The Peace Conference had prompted “an especially large” batch of rumours, it was reported, and the party had responded with meetings to discuss Molotov’s speech at the opening session in Paris [4].

By summer 1946 there had indeed been an upsurge in activity by the nationalist partisans. As early as May officials began to express concern that the amnesty offered in September 1945 to those “bandits” who surrendered was ceasing to have an impact. On the contrary, there were several reports that those who had left the forests the previous autumn had once again resumed the armed struggle. As the talks in Paris began, reports came in from across the country of an unacceptable increase in “bandit” activity. A report from Rezekne summed up the situation: the number of those accepting the government’s amnesty was sharply down by June 1946, and the number of incidents, and the seriousness of their nature, was up [5]. The LCP resolved to tackle this by repeating the offer of an amnesty. On 15 August LCP Secretary Janis Kalnberzins linked his new offer of an amnesty for all “those hiding in the forests” to what he called some of the absurd rumours linked to the Peace Conference. In Paris there had been no support for “those hoping to unleash a new war” and he ended by repeating the comment of the leader of a delegation from the Anglo-Soviet Friendship Society which had just visited Riga: “No one wants a war over Latvia” [6]. That the international agenda was on people’s minds was made clear in a December 1946 survey of the questions asked at meetings called in the run up to the elections to the Latvian SSR Supreme Soviet, first planned for December 1946 and then postponed to February 1947. Among the most frequently asked questions were: what does it mean to have a Latvian delegation at the Paris Peace Conference, and is the LSSR recognised by Great Britain [7].

By October 1946 harvest returns made clear that the Soviet Union was on the edge of famine. The Bureau for Latvia was called together to see what could be done in Latvia to prevent the situation getting worse. It was an occasion for much hand-ringing, for there seemed no easy way to improve agricultural production. Kalnberzins reported that, just as the Bureau for Latvia had feared, the Paris Conference had provoked an upsurge in “kulak activity”:


What is new this year is this: the kulak has got braver, he feels that grain will help resolve a whole range of issues as far as Soviet power is concerned, making various calculations about the Peace Conference” [8].

Moscow’s representatives preferred to put the blame on the LCP’s district secretaries who seemed soft on kulaks. V. F. Ryazanov, the Chairman of the Bureau for Latvia, concluded that one or more district secretaries would have to be sacked [9].

Although the Bureau for Latvia blamed the district secretaries, and Kalnberzins blamed the kulaks, in fact it was the Bureau for Latvia itself which was to blame for the then state of Latvian agriculture. Because the Bureau for Latvia had banned any discussion of collectivisation, district secretaries had had no choice but to think of other ways to increase agricultural production. These were aired at the XV Central Committee Plenum on 30-31 January 1947. It was Vilis Lacis, the country’s notional Prime Minister, who suggested that one way forward might be to resettle peasants from the eastern region of Latgale, where the landholdings were small and there was rural overpopulation, to Zemgale and Kurzeme, where there was much unworked land. This notion was enthusiastically endorsed by the secretary of the Madona district, who stressed that he could supply migrant labourers from Latgale with homes as well as 15 hectares of land; thousands could come [10]. The Jelgava district secretary did not favour resettlement from one region to another, but resettlement within localities. He felt the way to solve the poor productivity of those who owned 30 hectares was to stop treating them as enemies and address their real needs. When you talked to such peasants, he said, you discovered that they were only prepared to farm from 10-15 hectares of land because they wanted to be considered middle peasants. In such cases the Jelgava authorities had taken away half the land of these “kulaks” and given it to others to farm. This could be repeated on a national scale, he said: on a voluntary basis new farmers could be moved on to such unwanted “kulak” land. This radical proposal, almost Bukharinist in its suggestion that “kulaks” could move peacefully towards socialism, was met by cries from the floor: “we should set up collective farms!” [11].

By the time of the next Central Committee Plenum, on 17-18 March 1947, it had been decided to stop this drift towards “a mini-NEP” [12]. Both the Bureau for Latvia and the LCP Bureau agreed that by the end of 1946 an important victory had been achieved in the struggle against the nationalist partisans. In a report to Moscow dated 15 January 1947 Kalnberzins gave an upbeat assessment of the struggle against “bourgeois nationalists”. Having listed the 388 “bandits” killed, the 3,642 arrested and the 2,569 who had accepted the amnesty, he noted that the party’s opponents were now leaving the forests. Lack of support had left them no choice but to go “deeper underground”, trying to found urban based cells or encourage “kulaks” to engage in economic sabotage. Rumours of British intervention, so much a feature of the summer, were rarely heard by the end of the year [13]. The Bureau for Latvia was just as positive in its assessment. In its end of year report it stated that there had been a dramatic improvement [59.lpp.] in the situation during the course of1946 and that the “bourgeois nationalist” underground and its armed bands were now “basically destroyed”. The failure of the “English” to materialise, plus the elimination of some six partisan staffs, had forced the “bandits” to form smaller and smaller grouplets, which, devoid of instructions, were often prepared to surrender or forced to resort to robberies in order to survive [14]. Their failure to disrupt the elections to the Latvian Supreme Soviet on 9 February 1947, and the party’s success in evincing some, albeit small-scale, enthusiasm for the political process persuaded the Bureau for Latvia that its basic tasks had been achieved [15].

On 4 February 1947, only days after Molotov had initialled his copy of the peace treaties discussed in Paris [16], the Bureau for Latvia instructed the LCP Bureau to draw up detailed proposals for collectivisation [17]. These were discussed on 7 March 1947 when their tone was modified to play down any suggestion that the time was as yet ripe for a “general movement” towards collectivisation [18]; the revised proposals were then presented to the March Plenum. In his address to that assembly, Kalnberzins made clear there was to be no more prevarication; the progress towards collectivisation would be slow and sure, based on the development of experimental model farms, but it had begun [19]. A delegation would shortly go to Moscow to clarify some of the details of a collective farm statute for Latvia [20]. There were still some dissident voices. One district secretary was still worried that no clear decision had been taken about those owning 30 hectares; establishing collective farms would take time, but what should be done now, he asked, about the 30 hectare-owning so-called “kulak” who possessed just one horse and one cow and simply could not work the land he owned - were these saboteurs or just old men and women? [21] Silence from the podium and new anti-kulak rhetoric was his answer. A year later the party’s agriculture expert on the Latvian Academy of Science’s condemned any suggestion that there might be a “third way” forward for Latvia (other than the status quo or collectivisation) as “a kulak anti-kolkhoz fabrication” [22].


Lēmuma pieņemšana par lauksaimniecības kolektivizāciju Latvijā

Lēmuma pieņemšanas process ilga apmēram gadu, kas izskaidrojams ar attiecībām starp LK(b)P CK Biroju un VK(b)P Latvijas biroju (Latbirojs), kas uzraudzīja LK(b)P Biroja darbību no 1944.gada 29.decembra līdz 1947.gada 24.martam. 1944.gada rudenī atgriežoties Latvijā, LK(b)P pārstāvji apgalvoja, ka kolektivizācija nenotiks. Taču sešus mēnešus pēc zemes reformas beigām tika sastādīts pirmais kolektivizācijas plāns, kuru paredzēja īstenot 1946.gada vasarā. Daži LK(b)P apriņķu komitēju sekretāri piedāvāja sākt kolektivizāciju pat agrāk - 1946.gada pavasarī. Latbirojs noraidīja šo plānu kā nesavlaicīgu.

Ņemot vērā starptautisko stāvokli un gaidāmo miera konferenci Parīzē (padomju diplomātu, arī LPSR Ārlietu Ministra Pētera Valeskalna, darbību stipri sarežģītu ziņas par “bandītu” grupu aktivizēšanos Latvijā miera konferences laikā), Latvijas birojs uzskatīja, ka labāk būtu atlikt kolektivizāciju līdz 1947.gada pavasarim. Patiesībā 1946.gada vasarā un rudenī ievērojami pieauga nacionālo partizānu aktivitātes. Miera konferences atklāšana izraisīja daudz baumu par angļu gaidāmo atbalstu Latvijas neatkarības atgūšanā. J.Kalnbērziņš informēja Latbiroju: “Šogad jauns ir tas, ka budzis kļuvis drošāks, viņš jūt, ka labība zināmā mērā risina veselu virkni padomju varai svarīgu jautājumu … sakarā ar miera konferenci”.

Ir pilnīgi skaidrs, kāpēc Latbirojs nolēma atlikt kolektivizāciju uz vēlāko laiku. Tomēr Latbiroja locekļi uzstāja, lai šis lēmums paliek slepens. Tādējādi 1946.-47. gada rudenī un ziemā diskusija par kolektivizāciju bija aizliegta. Dabiski, ka apriņķu komiteju sekretāriem bija jāmeklē citas iespējas, kā palielināt lauksaimniecības ražošanas produktivitāti. LK(b)P CK XV plēnumā 1947.gada janvārī delegāti apsprieda produktivitātes palielināšanas iespējas, saglabājoties privātīpašumam uz zemi. Bija pat priekšlikumi “sadraudzēties” ar budžiem. Neapzinoties, Latbirojs līdz ar to atbalstīja domu par “trešo ceļu” - Latvijas iztikšanu bez kolektivizācijas.

1947.gada 4.februārī, dažas dienas pēc tam, kad Molotovs parakstīja miera līgumu ar bijušajiem Vācijas sabiedrotajiem, Latbirojs ieteica LK(b)P CK gatavot jaunu kolektivizācijas plānu. Šo plānu apstiprināja CK marta plēnumā. “Trešā ceļa” iespēja tomēr joprojām saistīja dažu komunistu prātus, tāpēc 1948.gadā “Большевик Советской Латвии” atgādināja lasītājiem, ka Staļins uzskata “trešo ceļu” par “kulaku pretkolhozu safabricējumu”.


[1] Latvian State Archives fond 101, opis 9, delo 4.pp.74-90. (Hereafter 101.)

[2] Ya. Vanag ‘Sozdanie i ukreplenie kolkhoznogo stroya v LSSR’ pp. 379-380, p. 385.

[3] Russian State Archive for Social and Political Research (RGASPI) fond 600, opis 1, delo18, p. 18. (Hereafter 600.)

[4] 101.9.6, p. 172

[5] This summary of nationalist partisan activity is drawn from several reports: 101.9.35a, pp. 21, 24-5, 32, 46, 166; and 101.9.69, pp. 54, 58, 72, 76.

[6] 101.9.69, p.103

[7] 101.9.54 p.146

[8] 600.1.11, p. 18, p. 23, p. 27

[9] 600.1.11, p. 27

[10] 101.10.3, pp. 26-27, 33.

[11] 101.10.3, p. 35

[12] “Mini NEP” is the phrase used to describe the state of affairs early in 1947 by J Labsvirs in his 1959 Indiana University thesis “A Case Study in the Sovietisation of the Baltic States: Collectivisation of Latvian Agriculture, 1944-56”.

[13] 101.10.52. p. 4.

[14] 600.1.23, pp.1-3

[15] 101.10.40, p. 334

[16] Keesings Contemporary Archives, 1946-8 (Bath), p. 8442

[17] 101.10.40 p.46

[18] 101.10.41, pp. 146-8

[19] 101.10.5, p. 22

[20] 101.10.5, p. 157

[21] 101.10.5, p. 78

[22] Ya. Bumber ‘Sel’skoe khozyaistvo Sovetskoi Latvii na pod’eme’ Bol’shevik Sovetskoi Latvii no. 3, 1948, pp. 40-50.