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date: 08 May 2021

Abstract and Keywords

In the Soviet Union and Maoist China several deadly famines occurred. The article argues that there is no necessary relation between collectivization of agriculture and famine. In many cases in Eastern Europe, collective agriculture was introduced and established for decades without causing mass starvation, especially when communist governments were willing to accept a mixed economy in the countryside. In the Soviet Union in 1931 and in China in 1959, however, collectivization did produce famines on a mammoth scale. These resulted directly from government decisions to launch overambitious industrial programmes to escape backwardness. Rapid urbanization and the resulting increase of millions of eaters in the urban rationing system, together with grain exports, overburdened the peasants. Rural consumption was curbed to a point that tens of millions could not survive.

Keywords: famine, collectivization, Maoist China, Soviet Union, Eastern Europe, peasant–state relations, industrialization, land reform, grain crisis, Great Leap Forward

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