Khrushchev’s Corn Crusade: The Industrial Ideal and Agricultural Practice in the Era of Post-Stalin Reform, 1953–1964 Public Deposited

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  • March 20, 2019
  • Hale-Dorrell, Aaron Todd
    • Affiliation: College of Arts and Sciences, Department of History
  • A study of N. S. Khrushchev's crusade to make the USSR into a powerhouse corn producer, this dissertation sheds light on policy, governance, and life on Soviet collective farms in the post-Stalin decade, 1953-64. Neither contradictory nor irrational, as scholars have maintained, this agricultural program derived its rationale from the American model of corn-based industrial agriculture that, after World War II, spread to industrial countries and to the Third World, where it became known as the Green Revolution. Inspired by the results that modern technologies--chemicals, machines, hybrids--were achieving, Khrushchev developed policies that linked the USSR to transnational currents in agriculture, which took its place among the many spheres in which Soviet practices paralleled global trends. Expecting these initiatives to boost Soviet farms' productivity and to make the abundance heralding the communist utopia a reality, Khrushchev never lost faith that corn would rectify a chronic shortage of the livestock feed required to produce the meat and milk the USSR needed to catch up with and overtake America. By enriching citizens' diets and providing them a better life, Khrushchev hoped to seize a victory in the Cold War competition with capitalism and to win over Third World hearts and minds for the socialist cause. Drawing on documents from central and local archives, I investigate how officials and peasants implemented Khrushchev's policies, revealing the remarkable capacity of collective farmers and of officialdom to sidestep orders at every turn. As a result, the agrarian reforms proved imperfect and the returns, although substantial, did not match Khrushchev's pledges, thereby sapping his legitimacy. Industrial farming thrived in social, economic, and climatic conditions around the world, but in the Soviet Union these methods were thwarted by policy failures, ingrained bureaucratic norms, the climate, Khrushchev's own mistakes, widespread deceit by subordinates, and a labor crisis on the collective farms. These challenges remained to confront future reformers, but Khrushchev's efforts left a legacy that made industrial principles--and corn--a part of Soviet farming practice throughout subsequent decades.
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  • In Copyright
  • Raleigh, Donald
  • Doctor of Philosophy
Graduation year
  • 2014

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