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date: 30 May 2020

Abstract and Keywords

Much of Europe’s population still worked the land during the interwar years and peasants formed a crucial political and social constituency. Agriculture was vital to economic development, and the peasantry was central to social stability. The Great War had a major impact on European rural society and opened up the path to land reform and to a greater involvement of the peasantry in politics. In the early 1930s the Depression resulted in a slow decline of the agricultural sector and spurred states to intervene in support of markets and producers. Peasants played an important role in the growth of Italian Fascism and German National Socialism, and in some other parts of the Continent those who worked the land backed Communist parties. In the Soviet Union, Stalin embarked on an unprecedented attempt to collectivize rural society and eradicate the peasantry. While Stalin emerged victorious, he encountered strong peasant resistance.

Keywords: peasants, peasantry, rural society, politics, agriculture

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