Land and Water Reforms

Land and Water Reforms


a series of socioeconomic reforms in Middle Asia and Kazakhstan, implemented by Soviet power in the 1920’s to wipe out the holdovers of tsarism’s colonial land policy, eliminate pomeshchik (landlord) land tenure, and sharply reduce bai and kulak land tenure in favor of the mass of farm laborers and middle peasantry. The land and water reforms were carried out in 1921 and 1922 in the Turkestan ASSR and in Kazakhstan and from 1925 to 1929 in all the Soviet republics formed by the national-state delineation of Middle Asia.

The specific conditions of the region, including the under-developed economic structure and the maintenance of feudal-patriarchal relations in agriculture (the bais owned the best lands, pastures, and water supplies), determined the specific character and the rate of the revolutionary agrarian transformations, which was slower than that of Central Russia. In 1918, only the land of the tsar’s family, officials, the wealthiest bais, and individual agricultural and industrial capitalist associations was confiscated. The Land and Water Reforms of 1921–22 were carried out on the basis of the resolutions of the Central Committee of the RCP (Bolshevik) of June 29, 1920, the decisions of the Fifth Congress of the Communist Party of Turkestan and the Ninth All-Turkestan Congress of Soviets in September 1920, and the decrees of the Central Executive Committee of the Kirghiz ASSR (the original name of the Kazakh Republic) of Feb. 2, 1921, and Apr. 19, 1921. The main aim of the reform was to give the local (Kirghiz, Kazakh, Uzbek) and Russian peasantry equal rights to land and water.

Lands which had been seized by Russian kulak settlers were handed over to the native population, and excess live-stock, seeds, and agricultural implements were taken from the kulaks. Over 232,000 hectares (ha) of land were taken from the kulaks during the reform in the Turkestan ASSR, of which 12,800 ha were given to farm laborers and poor peasants. The native population in Kazakhstan received over 470,000 ha of land.

The next stage of the agrarian reform was the Land and Water Reform of 1925–29. The reform began with the decree of the Central Executive Committee of the Uzbek SSR entitled On the Nationalization of Land and Water and the decree On the Land and Water Reform, of Dec. 2, 1925, as well as the decrees of the Central Executive Committee and the Council of People’s Commissars of the Turkmen SSR of Sept. 24, 1925. According to these resolutions, all lands requiring irrigation belonging to pomeshchiks who did not cultivate them with their own efforts and lands belonging to individuals whose main source of livelihood was trade or unearned income were subject to confiscation and transfer into the state fund. Norms of laboring land tenure were established at 7–10 desiatinas (7.6–10.9 ha). Surplus lands were subject to confiscation, and surplus agricultural implements were subject to compulsory redemption. As a result of the land and water reforms, 6,763 farms (holdings) of bais, big merchants, clergy, moneylenders, and former officials of emirs and khans were eliminated in Middle Asia. Surplus lands were taken away from 37,759 kulak holdings. In all, 281,171 ha of land were taken. Land was allotted to 123,418 landless native peasants and native peasants with insufficient land. These peasants also received agricultural implements, foodstuffs, and seed loans. The allocation of water was entrusted to agencies of Soviet power. The agrarian reform in the Kazakh ASSR, based on the decrees of the Central Executive Committee and the Council of People’s Commissars of the Kazakh ASSR of May 20, 1926, and Aug. 27, 1928, was adapted to the specific characteristics of the affected areas. Wealthy cattle-breeding holdings having over 400 head of cattle in the nomadic regions, over 300 head in the seminomadic regions, and over 150 head in the settled regions were subject to confiscation. Five head of cattle for each member of the family (but no more than 25 head per family) in the nomadic regions, three head for each individual (no more than 16 per family) in the seminomadic regions, and two head per individual (no more than 11 per family) in the settled regions could be kept as a working element of nonexploitative farms. In all, 696 large holdings with 145,000 head of cattle were eliminated in Kazakhstan. Approximately 80 percent of the cattle were distributed among the laboring peasantry, with the remainder given to state land bodies, kolkhozes, and sovkhozes. By 1928 poor and middle peasants in Kazakhstan had received approximately 1.36 million ha of hayfields and 1.25 million ha of arable land. The native peasantry was exempted from the payment of rent to the bais, payments that on the eve of the land and water reforms had amounted to 25 million to 28 million rubles annually.

The revolutionary-democratic land and water reforms improved the condition of the toiling masses of the native peasantry. They stirred the broad masses of the poor and middle peasants of the kishlaks and auls (hamlets and villages) and organized and united them around Soviet power. A decisive blow was inflicted on the economic strength and political and ideological influence of the bais. The implementation of the reforms was accompanied by an acute class struggle, with a sharp intensification of the contradictions between the poor and middle peasant masses and the clerical and feudal elements, supported by the nationalist-minded section of the intelligentsia. The land and water reforms did not fully solve the agrarian problem. Land hunger, strip farming, and water shortages remained to a significant degree, as did elements of feudal and capitalist exploitation, such as sharecropping and the use of hired labor. However, the reforms completely eliminated feudal landowning, sharply restricted the land tenure of the kulaks, and protected and defended the interests of the poor and middle peasants. The land and water reforms promoted the transformation of the kishlaks and auls into villages made up basically of middle peasants. The reforms hastened the development of various forms of cooperation, including the formation of several dozen collective farms. The reforms also facilitated the transition of the peoples of Middle Asia and Kazakhstan to socialism, bypassing the capitalist stage, and prepared the ground for the socialist transformation of agriculture in the republics of Middle Asia on the basis of collectivization. Similar reforms were carried out in the Buriat region, Dagestan, and other national regions in the 1920’s and the beginning of the 1930’s.


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