Committees of the Poor

The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Committees of the Poor


(Kombedy), organizations of the rural poor. The Kombedy were the bases for the dictatorship of the proletariat in the countryside and operated in European Russia and Byelorussia in the second half of 1918.

The emergence of independent class organizations of the rural poor was caused by the intensification of the struggle between the poor and the kulaks that took place during the confiscation of land in the winter of 1917–18 and the redistribution of the land in the spring of 1918. The class struggle in the villages was intensified by the provisions crisis in the summer of 1918. The Communist Party adopted a hard line in curbing the kulaks who refused to provide grain to the state at fixed prices. On June 11, 1918, the All-Russian Central Executive Committee confirmed the Council of People’s Commissars’ decree On the Organization and Supplying of the Village Poor. According to the decree, local soviets were to establish volost (small rural district) and village committees of the poor. All rural inhabitants “except for known kulaks and the rich” could vote for and be elected to the committees. Thus, middle peasants could also participate in the committees of the poor.

The committees of the poor distributed grain, necessities, and agricultural tools.They assisted provisions bodies in the confiscation of grain surpluses from the kulaks. Created in the face of fierce resistance from the kulaks and petit bourgeois parties, including the Left Socialist Revolutionaries, the committees were organized and run under the leadership and with the participation of Communist Party bodies and of the urban workers assigned to the provisions and harvesting-requisitioning detachments. A total of 122,000 committees of the poor were created in 33 provinces of European Russia and Byelorussia by November 1918.

In many places, the committees of the poor conducted new elections to the soviets, which had been under the influence of the kulaks, or concentrated power in their own hands. Where peasant soviets consistently carried out a policy of the dictatorship of the proletariat, the committees of the poor operated in cooperation with them. The activity of the committees went beyond the framework of the functions defined by the decree of June 11. They dealt with questions of the economic life of the countryside, carried out the mobilization and recruitment of volunteers into the Red Army, and conducted cultural and educational work. The soviets and the committees of the poor participated in the redistribution of the peasant land, including the allotment land, seized from the kulaks (out of a total of 80 million desiatiny of kulak land, 50 million was ruled to be in excess of the local equalizing norm and was confiscated), and redistributed pomeshchik (landlord) land and tools in cases where such tools had fallen into the hands of the kulaks.

The committees had fulfilled their tasks by the end of 1918. On Nov. 9, 1918, the Sixth Extraordinary All-Russian Congress of Soviets adopted a decision on new elections to the volost and village soviets, entrusting the conduct of these elections to the committees of the poor, which were to be disbanded after the elections. The new elections of the soviets in the countryside and the dissolution of the committees were carried out from the end of December 1918 through 1919.

The organization of committees of the poor in the Ukraine was undertaken during the period of the restoration of Soviet power, beginning at the end of 1918. From the 1920’s to the early 1930’s, organizations similar to the committees were functioning; these included the committees of peasants with small holdings (komitety nezamozhnykh selian) in the Ukrainian SSR and the Koshchi (unions of poor peasants) in the Middle Asian Soviet republics and Kazakhstan.


Lenin, V. I. Poln. sobr. soch. 5th ed. (See Reference Volume, part 1, p. 248.)
Istoriia SSSR, vol. 7. Moscow, 1967. Pages 379–85, 423–27.
Istoriia KPSS, vol. 3, book 2. Moscow, 1968. Pages 87–99.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
References in periodicals archive ?
His analysis of grain requisitioning, the committees of the poor, and bag men (people who illegally hauled grain in sacks to sell privately) all constitute genuine contributions to matters about which we still know too little.
Bednota immediately became a weapon in the campaign by Committees of the Poor to establish Bolshevik control in the countryside, serving to "awaken consciousness in the village." (5) Despite claims that the newspaper was successfully agitating the village, the Central Committee Commission on Work in the Village proceeded in the fall of 1923 to move forward with creating a new peasant newspaper, Kresr'ianskaia gazeta (The Peasant Gazette), that would be aimed not solely at the "more politically aware" village elements, but at the "broad peasant masses." (6)
354, speech on November 8, 1918 to a conference of delegates from Committees of the Poor from the central provinces.