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village, small rural population unit, held together by common economic and political ties. Based on agricultural production, a village is smaller than a town and has been the normal unit of community living in most areas of the world throughout history.

The Village Community

The village community consists of a group of people, possibly linked by blood, using land, sometimes held communally, for cultivation and pasturage. This community, noted in the history of many cultures, is thought to have originated in the area of present-day Iraq and Iran, and its establishment seems to have paralleled the transformation of tribal life from nomadic hunting to stable agriculture. Although innumerable variations in patterns of village life have existed, the typical village was small, consisting of perhaps 5 to 30 families. Homes were situated together for sociability and defense, and land surrounding the living quarters was farmed. This farmland might extend for as much as a mile (1.6 km) and was generally parceled out in varying proportions to each family. There were also woods and meadows used for pasturage, firewood, and hunting, which were often held in common.


In ancient times the village was largely self-sufficient, but with the development of the town and city the village became more integrated economically and politically with the larger society. At one time there was a great debate amongst anthropologists as to whether villages arose out of the independent settlement of a kindred group that held property communally or whether they were established by a hierarchal authority such as the Roman Empire, in which land was controlled privately or by the state. Today it is generally agreed that there may have been separate and different origins of the village, each area developing independently according to its specific history. For this reason village life once found in Wales, Mexico (see ejido), the Balkans, Russia (see mir), China, Africa, Sweden, India, and Java may all differ considerably from each other.

In England property was at one time held largely in common and each village member was comparatively equal to all others. Sometime between the 5th and 10th cent., however, something resembling a feudal pattern emerged, with a lord ruling each village. After the Norman conquest (1066) this feudal hold was solidified, and village life changed considerably, especially in its property relations (see feudalism; manorial system). In the United States the village life found today bears little resemblance to the small villages of past eras. Moreover, most farming in the United States takes place on land privately owned and may thus differ from the aforementioned village agricultural pattern. Nonetheless, the village is still the predominant form of community organization in many parts of the world, including much of Asia, Africa, and Latin America.


See H. Maine, Village-Communities in the East and West (1871); E. Nasse, On the Agricultural Community of the Middle Ages (tr. 1871); P. H. Ditchfield, Old Village Life (1920); G. G. Coulton, The Medieval Village (1925, repr. 1960); J. M. Halpern, The Changing Village Community (1967); D. Fraser, Village Planning in the Primitive World (1968); G. Dalton, ed., Economic Development and Social Change: The Modernization of Village Communities (1971); R. Critchfield, Villages (1983); F. West, The Village (1985).

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A small group of houses and related facilities surrounded by countryside; typically smaller than a township.
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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



(in Russian, derevnia, probably from the Old Russian deru, drat’—to clear the land of forests, to bring virgin land under the plow). In the narrow meaning of the term, which has become historically established in the Russian language, a village is a small agricultural settlement—one of the types of rural populated areas. The word derevnia (village) originated in northeastern Russia in the 14th century and spread to other areas of Central Russia. The other type of settlement characteristic of these areas was the selo (town), which was distinguished from the village primarily by its larger size and often by the presence of a landowner’s estate or church (in the Soviet period, the site of a rural soviet). Various terms were used for populated areas including vyselki (settlements), pochinki (small settlements), khutors (individual farmsteads), and zaimki (squatters’ holdings). In the southern agricultural regions of European Russia, primarily in the Don and Kuban’, large agricultural settlements were usually called stanitsy. In the mountainous regions of the northern Caucasus the primary type of settlement was the aul. The Armenians’ equivalent of the derevnia was the giukh or shen, and the farmers of Middle Asia had the kishlak. In Russian writing the general term derevnia was often substituted for these and other names of peasant settlements.

In the broad sense the concept of the village encompasses not only all types of permanent settlements whose inhabitants are peasants, agricultural workers, and others engaged primarily in agriculture, but also all the socioeconomic, cultural, life-style, and natural geographic characteristics and conditions of life in the village as a socioeconomic category contrasted with the city. All aspects of village life and the village itself as a socioeconomic category, the formation of its main classes (above all, the peasants and the separate strata of the peasantry), and its relationship with the city underwent major changes throughout the historical development of society and the changes in socioeconomic systems.

The specific socioeconomic features of the village are determined by the direct relationship between its inhabitants and the land in the economic development of territory and use of its natural resources through purposeful transformational activity in various sectors of agriculture. The relationship between the inhabitants and the land leads to the dispersion of villages, the comparatively small size of rural populated areas, the adaptation of the basic occupations to the natural environment, seasonal cycles in work, patterns of settlement, and many other aspects of life. It also results in a relatively small variety of occupations, less developed division of labor, and a lower level of consumer and cultural services than are found in the city. Stability in way of life and traditions was typical of the village. Even under conditions of internal class and social contradictions, the forms of social organization and control that arose historically in the pre-socialist village—for example, the rural peasant commune, village assembly, and the elected village elder—were based primarily on people’s interdependence in economic activity and in living together in one settlement, rather than on a division of labor or a contract relationship. The main social classes in the presocialist village were determined primarily by the nature (form) of ownership of the land, and the main social conflicts resulted from the struggle to change land relationships and the struggle for agrarian reform and for fundamental revolutionary transformations in the forms of land ownership and production relationships in the village. The objective of this struggle was to turn the land over to those who worked on it.

In describing villages as rural settlements, geography and ethnology take note of the characteristics of their territorial location—that is, the settlement pattern of the area (for example, few populated centers in the northern regions near the pole, the focal pattern in the forest zone, and the cluster pattern in the farming zone). The size or population density of settlements is noted, as well as the shape of their spatial organization (for example, disorderly clusters, row villages, and street villages).

Specific combinations of the pattern of settlement and the shapes of settlements are often associated with particular regions. For example, the mountainous regions are usually characterized by the so-called focal pattern of settlement with concentration of settlements in isolated mountain valleys. At the same time, within the settlement, structures are arranged in disorderly vertical steps.

The characteristics of the geographic location of settlements, their layouts, and the characteristics of housing, food, and clothing are related to natural conditions, the types of agricultural occupation, and folk traditions, which differ greatly in different areas of the world.

The opposition between the city and the village appeared with the first class systems and is being eliminated only after the victory of the socialist method of production. During the transition from socialism to communism the fundamental differences between the city and the village are gradually eliminated.

The percentage of village inhabitants in the total population of the world is gradually decreasing, because of the development of large-scale industry and urbanization. At the beginning of the 19th century 95-97 percent of the world’s population lived in rural areas, at the beginning of the 20th century approximately 85 percent, and in 1970 less than 65 percent. The lowest percentage of rural population is found in the developed capitalist countries, such as Great Britain and the FRG (approximately 20 percent) and the USA (approximately 25 percent). These figures include people who live in rural areas but are not engaged in agricultural labor. The highest percentage of village inhabitants is found in the countries of Asia and Africa: for example, in India, approximately 80 percent, in China, more than 80 percent, and in Uganda, Ruanda, and Burundi, approximately 95 percent. According to the census of 1897 the rural population of Russia (within present-day USSR borders) constituted 85 percent of the total population. In the USSR in 1939 the rural population was 68 percent of the total, and in 1970 it was 44 percent (with fluctuations from 35 percent in Estonia to 68 percent in Moldavia). In many of the developing countries of Asia, Africa, and Latin America the absolute number of village residents continues to grow, despite a reduction in the percentage of the total population that is rural. However, this picture will probably change in the coming decades. According to forecasts by UN demographers, less than one-third of the entire population of the globe will be living in villages by the year 2000.

There is a higher percentage of men in the villages in the economically developed capitalist countries, because they perform the primary agricultural jobs. In these countries a relatively higher percentage of women than of men leave to work in the cities. The migration of some men from the village to the city is observed in most other countries of the world. According to the 1970 census, men constituted 45.7 percent of the rural population of the USSR and 46.3 percent of the urban population. Because the migrants to the cities are predominantly young and middle-aged people, there is usually a shortage of these age groups in the villages.

In almost all countries, the birth rate in the village is higher than in the city. Families in the village are usually considerably larger than urban families, and extended families continue to exist in the villages of many developing countries. The mortality rate is higher in the villages than it is in the cities, especially in the economically underdeveloped countries. The primary reason for this is that medical service in the village is not as well organized as it is in the city, and sanitary conditions are worse. Marriages are usually made earlier in the village than in the city. However, in many economically developed countries, including the USSR, the differences in the natural movement of village and city populations are not great, and they tend to be blurred. Another basic characteristic of the village in comparison with the city is the more homogeneous national, religious, and racial composition of its inhabitants.

Historical survey. PRECLASS SOCIETY. In preclass society the village was merely a territorial consolidation of permanent residences—historically, the first type of communal settlement of people. It appeared with the transition from hunting and gathering to the beginnings of farming and animal husbandry and the subsequent transition from a nomadic life to a settled life. After nomadic livestock raising developed into an independent occupation, the village was involved primarily with farming, supplemented by the subsidiary sectors of animal husbandry, poultry raising, fishing, and hunting.

The clan-tribe organization, which prevailed in primitive society, was reflected in the territorial distribution of people. The village was usually a clan commune governed by the clan elders. The land was the property of all members of the clan or tribe, and production and consumption were collective. As settlements were consolidated, clan groups usually occupied particular parts of the village. The breakup of the clan commune into large and small families and the transition to the individual economy weakened collectivism. Nonetheless, family relationships continued to be very important in the life of the village, maintaining the customs of mutual assistance and collective labor, particularly in labor intensive jobs such as clearing the land, digging irrigation canals, and building houses.

Ethnologic and archaeological data indicate that in the early stages of the development of society the village was most often a group of houses located near a source of water. The layout was determined primarily by the needs for self-defense and for the protection of domestic animals. The sizes of villages varied greatly, depending on natural conditions and the type of economy. In forest zones, villages were usually small because of the difficulty of clearing large areas of forest, but in the steppe zones, villages were larger, partly because the steppe regions had relatively few sources of water. The settlements of the ancient Germans and many of the ancient Slavs were characterized by a clustered, unsystematic arrangement of homes and streets. In the large villages of the Gauls, who lived on open terrain, houses usually stretched in rows along rivers (the so-called row layout).

Ethnologic data indicate that houses were usually arranged in a circle (for example, among the Fulbe, Masai, and Bantu peoples in Africa and the Iroquois in North America) or a rectangle (for example, the Creek Indians in North America). They were usually enclosed by high fences between the structures on the village’s perimeter or by an outside barrier, such as a high palisade. The interior of such a village was used as a pen for livestock and as gardens or for public necessities. The so-called public houses, which were commonly used among many peoples for meetings of tribal members and men’s societies, were usually built in the exact center of the village. The villages on piles in Southeast Asia and the villages of the Indians of the American Southwest—the so-called pueblos—are unique. House-villages (malokct) were found among the Indians of South America. Among the Minangkabau (island of Sumatra) villages were surrounded by a ditch or small wall.

An increase in population, usually in the areas of intensive agriculture (irrigated agriculture), led to the consolidation of villages, which already had thousands of inhabitants. However, even when surrounded by walls, such a village was not yet a city. Cities appeared only with the development of crafts and trade and their separation from farming. The spread of private property and increasing inequality in property ownership led to the breakup of primitive society and the appearance of the state. The ruling strata isolated themselves from those working directly in agriculture and settled in the cities. The existence of cities was only possible at the expense of the intensive labor of the exploited village. Exploitation of the village was based on noneconomic compulsion, which was precisely the basis on which the opposition between the city and the village arose. “The antagonism between town and country begins with the transition from barbarism to civilization, from tribe to state, from locality to nation, and runs through the whole history of civilization to the present day” (K. Marx, in K. Marx and F. Engels, Soch., 2nd ed., vol. 3, pp. 49-50).

EARLY CLASS SOCIETY. In early class societies the inhabitants of villages constituted a large majority of the population, and therefore, the main socioeconomic and cultural characteristics of the society were determined to a large extent by the life of the village. The breakup of the clan-tribe order, the mixing of different groups in settlements, and the spread of private property resulted in the replacement of the clan commune by the village or neighborhood commune (obshchina). Such communes were no longer led by clan elders but by elected village elders. Particularly important questions were decided by an assembly of all the adult members of the commune. Small family communes such as the South Slav zadruga, which lasted until the 19th century, could exist within the framework of a village commune. In some countries, such as Ireland, the transition to a settled life took place after private property had already appeared. This resulted in villages of a few homes lived in by small family groups.

The ruling classes tried to take the communal lands and enslave the workers of the village. This process was quite rapid in the central regions of the ancient Roman state. During the first centuries of the Common Era the primary form of Roman agricultural settlement was the estate, which consisted of the landowner’s farm, which was managed with the labor of slaves or semifree tenant farmers (coloni), and the “personal” farms of the latter. At the same time, free villages survived, where the communal order continued to prevail. The reorganization of economic life after the invasion of the Germanic tribes (fourth-fifth centuries A.D.) led to the decline of the cities, a temporary strengthening of the socioeconomic role of the village, and a strengthening of certain forms of the commune (marks), which continued to exist even after the feudal economic system became established in the village. The commune persisted very tenaciously in some Western European countries (England and Norway) and in Eastern Europe, including Russia, where significant groups of peasants had not been made serfs in the early feudal era. The commune also survived in many countries in Asia, including India, and China, and in Africa.

The external appearance of the village also changed considerably in the early class systems. Palisades, ditches, and other defensive structures disappeared in the villages of the slave-owning age, because the defense of the villages against outside enemies was assigned to the army. The rural settlements of the Roman Empire typically included the slaveowner’s country home and barracks for the slaves. Characteristic of the feudal age in Western Europe, were feudal castles, behind whose fortified walls the inhabitants of neighboring villages would frequently take shelter in case of external danger. In the countries of Eastern Europe, where the political system was more centralized, the lords’ manors and various outbuildings were usually located next to the village. The consolidation of villages and the development of the economy and transportation led to a change in the building plan of villages. The row or street layout became increasingly common, and there were many villages with radial layouts, at the center of which a square with a church was usually located.

The peasant farm was a subsistence farm, especially in the early Middle Ages. Production satisfied the needs of the producer and his family and, if the peasant was feudally dependent, the needs of the feudal lord for food, clothing, and other objects and implements for personal use. This promoted the development of domestic crafts and various enterprises in the village. With the spread of commodity-money relationships and the quitrent associated with them, some of the handicraft items were sold. Areas near the feudal castles or squares in the large villages usually became sites for markets. Some villages with large markets attracted artisans, who settled there permanently, and became the nucleus of new cities.

RUS’ THROUGH 19TH-CENTURY RUSSIA. The establishment of villages in Rus’ was associated with the development of agriculture and the transition from farming in cleared forest areas to the two- and three-field systems. The first villages, which usually consisted of two or three households, took shape as permanent settlements in the forest and forest-steppe zones, with the spread of the fallow system of farming. The territorial spread of villages, especially in the southeast, ceased in the 13th century as a result of the Mongol invasion. However, the invasion led to the appearance of new villages in northern and northwestern Rus’, in places where the Mongols were unable to establish their authority. These villages were founded by persons who had fled the central regions. The further development of the village was associated with the restoration of the economy in the northern Russian principalities in the second half of the 13th century and beginning of the 14th century.

In the 1370’s and 1380’s the village is mentioned in the sources as the primary form of settlement in northeastern Rus’. Some villages were established on the sites of destroyed settlements (wastelands). Others, which had survived the period of the Mongol invasion, grew as a result of an influx of population, an increase in the number of households, and the expansion and growing complexity of economic units. Still others were built from scratch in areas that had been taken over. During the 13th to 15th centuries villages were founded primarily by Russian communal peasants who were independent of feudal property owners. Later, as large numbers of communal peasants were drawn into feudal dependence, the feudal lords contributed to the development of villages by granting the peasants long-term privileges, loans, and gifts. The monasteries and important boyars were particularly active in establishing new villages and expanding old ones. As late as the 17th and 18th centuries, villages were founded primarily as settlements, where the peasants paid quitrent to the feudal state or feudal property owners.

During the 14th through the 16th century, when subsistence farming and weak market relationships predominated, most villages consisted of few households. However, the trend toward consolidation of Russian villages began to grow stronger in the 16th century in connection with the drawing of the Russian villages into commodity-money relationships and bringing them closer to the market, as well as the desire of the feudal lords to practice better organized, more intensive agriculture. Information on the appearance of villages with ten to 15 households dates from the 16th century. The process of village consolidation continued in the 17th century, especially in the regions adjacent to large Russian cities. Villages with dozens of households were established around a number of cities, including Moscow, Nizhny-Novgorod, Vladimir, and Murom. Almost all of these villages paid monetary quitrent. At the same time, new villages continued to appear. They were started with five to seven households and later expanded because of the influx of population from the outside and the breakup of families.

Growing economic complexity and the expansion of handicraft production in addition to farming were noteworthy features of large 17th-century villages. In many quitrent villages the peasants engaged in seasonal work, entrepreneurial activity, and rent transactions. Beginning in the 17th century the differences between large villages and towns gradually disappeared. Large villages with advantageous economic conditions overtook the old towns in their development. In the 18th and 19th centuries Russian villages increasingly experienced the changes typical of the period of the breakup of the feudal and serfdom order and the establishment of capitalist relationships.

The most ancient type of spatial organization in Russian villages is the cluster (focal) layout, in which structures are arranged without order in individual groups, sometimes at significant distances from each other. These groups developed chiefly as a result of the growth of the large-family “one-household village” (a peasant estate with a hut and farm buildings surrounded by a fence). In the forest zone, villages with a row (linear) layout developed, which was characterized by continous construction, with one household next to the other in a single line. (In the old linear villages, several rows, called columns, are found.) All the houses faced the “pretty side”—that is, toward the sun—or they were built facing a river, lake, or ravine. In northern villages located on the banks of rivers the huts faced away from the river, and gardens were set on the sloping bank behind the huts. With the development of trade, peasant houses were built along thoroughfares, facing the road and sometimes in two or three parallel rows. Less frequently encountered were so-called circular villages, in which structures were arranged around a center, such as a common pasture, lake, church, or market square. Radial layouts (several streets going out from a single center—a market square or church) were formed on the basis of circular plans and possibly also on the basis of cluster layout. They were typical of large settlements in the forest and forest-steppe zones, which were established around fortified points on the southern frontier of the Muscovite state in the 15th through 17th century. During the 18th and 19th centuries radial plans were used in the commercial towns of the central zone.

In the 18th century government authorities began to control the planning of villages. However, practical steps by the government in village planning really began only in the 19th century, when the construction of streets was ordered. (A law promulgated in 1817 also ordered that places be set aside for a square with a church and for public buildings.) Villages, which had generally developed along rivers or roads, gradually received street layouts (primarily in the mid-19th century). Houses were located either on one side of a street (the one-sided street village, in which certain service structures were often set on the opposite side) or on both sides (the two-sided street village). Until the 20th century, villages built according to modern plans coexisted with traditional types of villages with cluster and linear layouts and with large settlements, which combined different types of plans. Uniformity in types of residential and service structures began to disappear in the 20th century, as villages progressively broke into classes.

WESTERN EUROPE. In those Western European countries where serfdom did not develop extensively, peasants began to be freed from certain forms of feudal dependence as early as the 12th and 13th centuries. East of the Elbe, however, the development of commodity-money relationships in the 16th and 17th centuries also involved binding the peasants to the land and intensified exploitation of them by the landlords, who had become involved in trade in agricultural products. In some countries the elimination of the peasants’ feudal dependence, which was a result of the development of capitalist relationships and of the unceasing class struggle, also involved depriving peasants of their land. This was done on a large scale in 17th-century England, where communal lands were fenced and peasant plowland was turned into sheep pastures. In those countries of Europe where feudally dependent peasants were switched to monetary quitrent relatively early and established personal farms, small land ownership came to predominate in the villages (for example in northern European countries such as Denmark). Capitalism in agriculture developed with particular speed in the USA, where there had never been any feudally dependent villages and where the settlement and development of land by European colonists progressed by means of the establishment of small rural settlements and, often, individual farms.

In the eastern part of Germany (Prussia) and most of the countries of Eastern Europe the so-called Prussian form of village evolution prevailed. It was characterized by the growth of feudal landlord farming into a large-scale Junker capitalist system, which used the labor of landless, destitute peasants. The villages were usually larger than those in the countries of Western Europe.

The development of capitalism in the villages was characterized by the yielding of the subsistence economy to the commodity-money economy, which was directed toward trade with the growing cities. The new economy was strengthened by consolidation and by a switch to specialization and concentration on single crops, including industrial crops that provided raw materials to urban industry. The orientation toward crop specialization was promoted by improvements in field farming and animal husbandry and by the gradual mechanization of labor. The cottage industry that had developed during the feudal age also began to be market-oriented, and it soon gave way to village workshops.

The class differentiation of the village intensified, and a stratum of rich peasants emerged, whose large farms of purchased or rented land were worked by hired laborers. Groups of village merchants and entrepreneurs emerged; they specialized in organizing village workshops and acted as middlemen in transactions between the village and city. The small landowners could not compete with the large ones, nor could the village artisans compete with urban industry. Thus, the number of destitute peasants—the rural proletariat—increased, and the phenomena of so-called relative agrarian overpopulation grew more severe and was only partly alleviated by the development of seasonal work in the cities. In most of the capitalist countries of Europe the relative overpopulation of the village caused a massive migration of peasants to the cities and consequently, a decrease in the number of village inhabitants. Special ties were established between villages and cities located near each other. Many inhabitants of villages near cities broke completely or partly with farming but continued to live in the villages. Such villages, which were typical of a number of industrial regions in Russia and the Ukraine (for example, the Donbas) gradually changed in appearance, becoming workers’ settlements with semiurban homes and streets.

With the development of capitalism, the cities consolidated and strengthened their political and economic domination of the villages, exploiting them by usurious loans and by raising the monopoly prices on industrial goods and lowering prices for agricultural products and raw materials. The villages increasingly lagged behind the cities in the development of the material-technical base of production, and there was also a significant lag in the level of cultural development (particularly, in education) and in the domestic living conditions of the village population. Backward conditions in the villages promoted the preservation in them of a strong church influence, solid patriarchal traditionalism, and various superstitions and prejudices. “The predominance of the town over the countryside (economically, politically, intellectually, and in all other aspects) is a universal and inevitable thing in all countries where there is commodity production and capitalism” (V. I. Lenin, Poln. sobr. soch., 5th ed., vol. 2, pp. 223-24).

RUSSIA, 1861-1917. In the Russian village the development of capitalism generally followed the so-called Prussian path. As a result of the Peasant Reform of 1861, a significant share of peasant land was taken away in favor of the landowners. In addition, harsh redemption payments were instituted for the land kept by the peasants, and certain semifeudal obligations were preserved. Agriculture in postreform Russian villages was characterized by primitive equipment, low yield in grain crops, and low productivity in animal husbandry. At the end of the 19th century, 10 million peasant farms had approximately as much land as the 30,000 landlord farms. Hunger and poverty were the lot of a significant part of the population of the prerevolutionary village in Russia. Almost universal illiteracy, poor housing conditions, and unsanitary living conditions led to frequent outbreaks of epidemics and to high child mortality. In 1901, Lenin wrote: “The peasant was reduced to beggary. He lived together with his cattle, was clothed in rags, and fared on weeds; . . . The peasants were in a state of chronic starvation, and they died by the tens of thousands from famine and epidemics in bad harvest years, which recurred with increasing frequency” (ibid., vol. 4, p. 431).

Preservation of the communal form of land ownership, mutual guarantees of payments, and other institutions retarded but could not stop the development of capitalist relationships in the village. The events of the first Russian Revolution of 1905-07 and the Stolypin Agrarian Reform of 1906, whose primary objective was to break up communal land use in the interests of the prosperous minority in the villages (the kulaks) and establish small farms out of communal holdings, accelerated the development of capitalism in the villages. Between 1906 and 1915 more than 2 million peasant farms were formed from the communes. The development of capitalism in the Russian village proceeded not only “in depth” but also “in breadth,” as was indicated by the growth of resettlement. In turn, this was associated with the phenomenon known as obratnichestvo—that is, the return of completely destitute peasants to their old places of residence. Thus, resettlement could not resolve the crisis in the Russian village.

World War I (1914-18) brought great deprivations to the village but, at the same time, enriched the kulaks. The process of class differentiation of the peasantry progressed rapidly in the village. By 1917, 65 percent of the peasant households were classified as poor, 20 percent were middle-level households, and 15 percent were kulak households. More than one-third of all households had no horses, and 15 percent did not own plowlands. Therefore, because of its economic position, the toiling peasantry became an active ally of the working class in its struggle to overthrow tsarism and the power of the landlords and capitalists and to achieve socialism.

The city’s dominance over the village became particularly strong during the age of imperialism, when financial capital spread its power over the village through bank loans, controlling a significant share of land ownership and trade turnover and robbing the village through high interest rates on debts. At the same time, the capitalist city had an interest in the village as the source of food products and raw materials and as a reserve of work forces for growing industry. Therefore, the city sought to influence the development of the village by, for example, supporting land reforms, which promoted the further growth of capitalism in the village. Lenin wrote: “The town inevitably leads the country. The country inevitably follows the town. The only question is which class, of the ’urban classes,’ will succeed in leading the country, will cope with this task, and what forms will leadership by the town assume” (ibid., vol. 40, p. 5).

PRESENT-DAY CAPITALIST COUNTRIES. In the agriculture of present-day capitalist countries, land and capital are being concentrated, and large monopolies are seizing dominant positions in agricultural production. Small and middle-level peasants and farmers, unable to compete with large agricultural monopolies, are being ruined. In the USA between 1950 and 1967, 2.24 million small and middle-level farmers (more than 41 percent of the total number of farm households) lost their land and were ruined. In the same period, the percentage of large-scale capitalist farms (selling $10,000 or more) increased 9 percent to 32 percent. The document Tasks at the Present Stage of the Struggle Against Imperialism and United Action of Communist and Worker Parties and All Anti-imperialist Forces, which was passed at the International Conference of Communist and Workers Parties in Moscow on June 17, 1969, points out: “The rule of financial capital and the implementation of ’agricultural programs’ by the monopoly state leads to the ruin of an increasing number of small and middle-level peasants. The peasants have been offering growing resistance to these measures in recent times; they are rising up in mass actions that enjoy the support of the urban workers. Strengthening the alliance of the workers and peasants is one of the primary conditions for success in the struggle against the monopolies and their power” (Mezhdunarodnoe Soveshchanie kommunisticheskikh iz pabochikh partii: Dokumenty i materialy, Moscow, 1969, p. 307).

In the developed capitalist countries the scientific and technological revolution of the 20th century has brought a rapid rise in labor productivity in agriculture and the establishment of more flexible and more varied forms of relationships between the village and the city and between the agricultural producers and trade and industrial enterprises. In the social structure of the villages in these countries, an increasingly important place is held not only by the inhabitants employed in agricultural production but also by production and office workers who are not engaged directly in agriculture but who work at enterprises that belong to agrarian industrial complexes. Despite a certain convergence of urban and rural standards of living in the developed capitalist countries in terms of wages, cultural facilities and other indexes, the village still lags significantly behind the city.

COLONIAL AND DEPENDENT COUNTRIES. The evolution of the village in the colonial and dependent countries of Asia, Latin America, and especially Africa has followed a unique path. Before European colonialists penetrated to these areas, a significant number of peoples were only in the initial stages of forming a class society. Various foreign commercial companies exploited the villages in these countries and promoted the development of commodity-money relationships in them. The colonial powers instituted private ownership of land and seasonal work, thus accelerating the breakdown of the rural commune and the development of capitalism. In a number of colonial countries a significant part of the land wound up in the hands of colonialists or foreign entrepreneurs, who developed large-scale plantation farming, using the local population for hired and sometimes semicompulsory labor (for example, British plantations in African countries and American fruit companies in Latin America). In colonial countries the peasants’ struggle for land merged directly with the struggle against imperialism and colonialism for national independence.

After World War II, in countries where progressive circles of the national bourgeoisie had taken power, certain agrarian reforms were carried out under pressure from the popular masses. The condition of peasants without land or with very little land was improved to some degree by these reforms. At the same time, in a number of colonial countries, agrarian reforms accelerated capitalist development and social differentiation in the villages. The difficulties of socioeconomic development in these countries are also associated with population growth, which has accelerated sharply in the last two decades and is manifested in more severe cases of relative agrarian overpopulation and the trend toward forcing the peasants out of the village into the city.

In many outlying regions of the developing countries the external appearance of villages has changed little for many centuries. Poverty still reigns, there are virtually no schools or hospitals, and people huddle together in miserable primitive huts. Hunting and gathering continue to play a significant role in some regions, as do other unproductive forms of economic activity. Like the other countries of the socialist community, the Soviet Union is expanding friendly relations with the developing countries and giving them every possible kind of selfless assistance in their struggle for national independence and economic and cultural development.

USSR AND OTHER SOCIALIST COUNTRIES. The Great October Socialist Revolution in Russia abolished the power of the landlords and capitalists and laid the foundations for eliminating the opposition between the city and the village and developing the countryside in the new socialist way. The first important step in this direction was nationalization of the land (the Land Decree,of November 1917) and elimination of the class of gentry landlords. The peasants received more than 150 million hectares of former gentry and imperial land free of charge. For the most part, the land was distributed among peasants who had little or no land. During the confiscation and distribution of gentry lands the class struggle between the poor and rich peasants grew acute. The working class sent its representatives to the village to carry out the agrarian program, organize the village poor to fight against the kulaks, and build a new life in the village. The kulaks were deprived of 50 million hectares of land, which was distributed among the poor and middle peasants. The village was increasingly the home of middle peasants. By 1928-29 approximately 60 percent of all peasant households in the countryside were middle peasants, 35 percent were poor peasants, and only about 5 percent were kulaks.

A struggle unfolded in the village to eliminate illiteracy and raise the cultural level of the inhabitants. In the first years of Soviet power different forms of rural cooperatives began to appear—associations in marketing, supply, and credit, partnerships for joint working of the land, and the first collective farms, which were called communes. The introduction of the New Economic Policy (NEP) in 1921, which involved the substitution of the tax in kind for the surplus-appropriation system, created new stimuli for increasing commodity output in agriculture. Relations between the village and the city also began to take new forms, which were based on growth in economic ties and a greater role for the city in restoring and developing agriculture.

The mass kolkhoz movement, which began in 1929, and the liquidation of the kulaks as a class, which was carried out on the basis of collectivization, were organically related to the socialist industrialization of the country. Progressive workers and experienced Communists commissioned by the party to the village played an enormous part in the formation and consolidation of the kolkhozes. In 1928, 1.7 percent of all peasant households were collectivized. In 1931 the figure was 52.7 percent, and by 1940 it was 96.9 percent. The kolkhozes’ needs for equipment were met primarily by organizing machine tractor stations (MTS) in the countryside. “The introduction into the Soviet countryside of farming meant a far-reaching revolution in economic relations, in the entire way of life of the peasantry. Collectivization forever delivered the countryside from kulak bondage, class differentiation, ruin, and poverty” (Programma KPSS, 1971, p. 14). The peasantry became a class in socialist society. Further progress in the Soviet countryside was inseparably tied to the development of kolkhozes and sovkhozes and to major socioeconomic and cultural transformations in the whole life of the USSR. Industrialization of the country made it possible to establish an essentially new material technical base in the village and to supply kolkhozes and sovkhozes with modern machinery. In the countryside the number of machine operators, agronomists, and other specialists with higher and secondary education increased every year, resulting in a significant change in the social composition of the village population. The mechanization and electrification of agriculture, the introduction of progressive farming techniques, and other measures led to a growth in labor productivity and made it possible to release part of the village population for work in rapidly growing industry. The fundamental differences between the city and the Soviet village were being rapidly overcome.

The problems of planning, building, and renovating Soviet villages have acquired state significance. The transformation of the historically established appearance of the village began with the construction of sovkhoz and MTS settlements. After the late 1920’s, these settlements were often built according to specially developed master plans, which usually envisioned the division of the village on a functional basis into three independent zones: production, residential, and social-domestic (buildings for administration and cultural and everyday activities). In addition, master plans provided for park areas and cleanup, as well as for the construction of some urban-type residential buildings. The collectivization of agriculture and the industrialization of the country created the prerequisites for applying the principles of planning and construction to all rural populated areas. During the construction of new settlements and the rebuilding of kishlaks in the Middle Asian republics, well-arranged streets were laid out to replace narrow, crooked alleys crowded by high clay walls.

The Soviet village and the kolkhoz system withstood the harsh trials of the Great Patriotic War (1941-45). The enemy burned and destroyed approximately 70,000 rural populated areas in the territory under fascist occupation and destroyed approximately 100,000 kolkhozes, sovkhozes, and MTS. Millions of Soviet people died as a result of military action and the mass persecutions carried out by the Hitlerites. Losses were particularly great among the male population. Wartime losses and destruction, in addition to the movement by part of the rural population to work in industry, resulted in a reduction in the population of the Soviet countryside. In 1945 the number of able-bodied men on the kolkhozes was 60 percent below the prewar figure. In the republics of the European USSR the size of the rural population continued to decrease in the postwar years, as people left the countryside for the cities and industrial regions. The sizes of kolkhoz families decreased, and in the early 1950’s half of the households did not have an able-bodied man. Full reconstruction and further development of the villages in these regions demanded enormous efforts by the entire country and substantial capital investments by the Soviet state.

The development of the Soviet village in the postwar period has involved the continuing comprehensive improvement of the kolkhoz system and its machine base. The number of machine operators rose from 1.4 million in 1940 to 3.5 million by Apr. 1, 1971. The number of technical specialists with higher and secondary education increased from 50,000 in 1940 to 821,000 in 1970. In 1970 99.8 percent of all kolkhozes and sovkhozes in the country had the use of electric power. Irrigation and improvement of agricultural lands, establishment of forest shelter belts in the steppe regions, use of mineral fertilizers, and similar measures are being carried out on a large scale.

Since the mid-1950’s there has been particularly extensive construction of production and public buildings and housing in the countryside. Many rural settlements are built according to standard or specially developed master plans (the settlement of Vertelishki in the Byelorussian SSR, architects V. N. Emel’ianov and G. V. Zaborskii; Dainava in the Lithuanian SSR, architects R. A. Kamaitis and V.-K. J. Simkus; and Saku, Kurtna, and Vinni in the Estonian SSR, architects B. B. Mirov, V. A. Pormeister, and V. A. Herkel’). Public centers with administrative buildings, libraries, clubs, schools, athletic facilities, stores, consumer service enterprises, post offices, and telegraph and telephone offices are under construction, and there is extensive housing under way. In 1966-69 alone new buildings with a total area of 148.3 million sq m were built. (Between 1946 and 1969, the figure was 551.7 million sq m.) The percentage of wooden and adobe buildings is decreasing, and the number of brick and stone buildings and buildings made of modern building materials, such as reinforced concrete, is increasing. Many of the new buildings are close to urban buildings in their level of comfort. The consolidation of kolkhozes and the merging of several small populated areas have improved villages and bettered everyday life. The reconstruction of existing settlements will make it possible gradually to transform them into urbantype settlements.

Fundamental changes have also taken place in the culture of the Soviet village. Illiteracy has been eliminated, and the network of schools is continuously growing. The low level of village culture is a thing of the past. Between 1946 and 1970 more than 90,000 elementary, incomplete secondary, and secondary schools were built and opened, with places for 15,750,000 pupils. In 1941, only 6 percent of the working people in the countryside had secondary or higher education, whereas at the end of 1970, over 50 percent had achieved this level of education. In 1970 there were more than 100,000 different types of clubs in the villages, and 90,700 libraries with 588.1 million books and magazines. (In 1913 there were 11,300 libraries with 4.4 million books and magazines). By 1970 there were 133,200 film projection units. (The average number of trips to film showings per rural resident is close to that of the urban resident.) The continuous improvement of material living conditions in the village, the growth of culture, and scientific propaganda for atheism have caused a retreat from religion by the rural population and a decrease in the number of believers. The purchasing power of rural residents is increasing, and modern furniture and clothing, bicycles and motorcycles, motor vehicles, radios, and televisions have become part of their everyday life.

Economic and cultural ties between the socialist village and the socialist city are expanding. The city supplies the village with machinery and trains the cadres of specialists—agronomists, physicians, teachers, engineers, and technicians—who promote an increase in agricultural production, the amelioration of the village, and a higher cultural level among its population.

Socialist production relationships have also been victorious in the villages of the other socialist countries. Relying on the experience of the USSR and taking account of the specific features of development in their own countries, the other socialist countries transformed small, scattered peasant households into large-scale cooperative socialist farms and established large-scale state farms. In Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, the German Democratic Republic, Hungary, Rumania, the Mongolian People’s Republic, the Korean People’s Democratic Republic, the People’s Republic of China, and Albania collectivization is basically completed. Definite successes have also been achieved in establishing cooperative agriculture in Poland, Yugoslavia, and Cuba. The external appearance of the village in these countries is also changing. Villages are well-organized, and new, modern housing and production, public, and cultural buildings are being built. The standard of living and culture of the rural population is rising steadily.

The development of the village in the USSR and the other socialist countries is moving toward the further convergence of the village and the city. The historically established differences between the city and the village are being overcome through planned organization of highly mechanized socialist production in agriculture, establishment of agrarian-industrial complexes, and the bringing of the level of agricultural production closer to that of industry, while building the material-technical base of socialism and communism.

The elimination of the fundamental differences between the city and the village, which is being achieved by the Soviet state, has also resulted in more rapid growth of income for the rural population. In 1970, for example, the real incomes of the peasants (per laborer average) had increased 12 times in comparison with 1913. (The incomes of industrial and office workers increased eight times in the same period.) The growth of the peasants’ money incomes accelerated particularly during the eighth five-year plan. The wages of industrial and office workers increased 26 percent, and the money incomes of kolkhoz farmers from the public sector rose 42 percent.

Electrification of the village and transformation of rural populated areas into consolidated urban-type settlements with well-organized buildings, consumer services, domestic enterprises, and cultural and medical institutions are also very important in eliminating the differences between urban and rural life. Closing the gap between urban and rural standards of living is one of the primary ways to erase the differences between the city and the village.

“Elimination of socioeconomic and cultural distinctions between town and country and of differences in their living conditions will be one of the greatest gains in communist construction” (Programma KPSS, 1971, p. 85).


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Lenin, V. I. “Novye dannye o zakonakh razvitiia kapitalizma v zemledelii.’’ Ibid., vol. 27.
Lenin, V. I. “O kooperatsii.” Ibid., vol. 45.
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(the Russian village until 1861)


(planning of the Russian and Soviet village)

The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.

What does it mean when you dream about a village?

If we were raised in a small town, a dream about a village can relate to our childhood. A village can also symbolize everything from the community we have at our workplace to the global community.

The Dream Encyclopedia, Second Edition © 2009 Visible Ink Press®. All rights reserved.


1. a small group of houses in a country area, larger than a hamlet
2. the inhabitants of such a community collectively
3. an incorporated municipality smaller than a town in various parts of the US and Canada
4. a group of habitats of certain animals
5. NZ a self-contained city area having its own shops, etc.
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005
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