'Peasants from the plow' to 'professors from the plow': The culture of the Soviet People's Commissariat of Agriculture, 1921-29

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This article focuses on a critical element of early Bolshevik political discourse: the promotion of 'common people ' - peasants and workers -into prominent positions in the state and economic apparatuses during the first dozen years of Soviet power. Programmes to bring in industrial workers to leading positions in the Central government in the Soviet Union have been thoroughly investigated by historians. Those to promote peasants have not. By 1929 the highly publicised programmes to promote peasants into leadership positions, which had been pursued for nearly a decade, had been deemed a failure. In this article, for the first time, peasant promotion is considered. Based on research done in newly opened Soviet party and state archives, it details for the first time the peculiar nature of programmes to promote peasants into the central offices of the largest Soviet ministry, the People's Commissariat of Agriculture. Examination of the planning and execution of, and reaction to, these programmes between the beginning of the New Economic Policy and the launching of collectivisation in 1929 gives new insight into Bolshevik political and bureaucratic culture, the nature of post-revolutionary elites, and aspects of Bolshevik and intelligentsia perceptions of the rural population.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)131-158
Number of pages28
JournalJournal of Peasant Studies
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jan 1998
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Cultural Studies
  • Anthropology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)


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