Also found in: Dictionary.
Related to Sovkhozes: sovkhozy, Sovhoz
The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



(sovelskie khoziaistva), in the USSR, large mechanized market-production socialist state agricultural enterprises. Sovkhozes are based on state (public) socialist ownership of land and other means of production; they work on an economic accountability basis and regulate their own activity according to the Statute on Socialist State Production Enterprise. Sovkhozes have their own bylaws and independent budgets and enjoy the rights of a juristic person. Many sovkhozes belong to various types of production associations, including state kolkhoz associations. Sovkhozes and kolkhozes are the form in which productive forces develop in agriculture during the period of transition to communism.

In 1974 there were 17,717 sovkhozes, including 1,579 grain-growing sovkhozes, 282 beet-growing sovkhozes, 300 cotton-growing sovkhozes, 2,643 sovkhozes for the cultivation of various fruits and vegetables, 6,814 dairy and beef-dairy sovkhozes, 952 swine-raising sovkhozes, 1,385 sheep-raising sovkhozes, 1,128 poultry-raising sovkhozes, 94 horse-breeding sovkhozes, 108 reindeer-breeding sovkhozes, and 135 fur-farming sovkhozes. Tables 1 and 2 show the course of development and the size of sovkhozes in the USSR.

Development. V. I. Lenin, during the period of preparation for the socialist revolution, substantiated the necessity of establishing state agricultural enterprises. His “April Theses” of 1917 posed the question of using large gentry estates as the basis for organizing state farms, which, after the victory of the socialist revolution, would serve as a model of large-scale public socialist production. The first sovkhozes were formed after publication of the Decree on Land of Oct. 27 (Nov. 9), 1917. These sovkhozes were in fact state horse farms; in 1918 sovkhozes with various specializations, for example, beet raising and pedigreed livestock raising, were established. The basic objectives of the establishment of sovkhozes were defined by the Statute on Socialist Land Organization and Measures for the Transition to Socialist Farming (1919). By 1922 there were 4,316 sovkhozes, with 3,324,000 hectares (ha) of land. The organization of sovkhozes was viewed as one of the key preparatory steps in the collectivization of agriculture. Sovkhozes were intended not only to strengthen the food production base of the state but also to set an example of sophisticated farm management for the peasants. The sovkhozes were also to provide the peasants with technical assistance and with pedigreed livestock and varietal seeds, thus encouraging peasant households to join together in large collective farms. The sovkhozes performed these tasks successfully.

As the program of socialist transformation of agriculture went forward, the assistance provided by sovkhozes to peasant farms and, later, to kolkhozes increasingly involved production services. Many sovkhozes used special tractor fleets for this purpose. The first state machine-tractor station (MTS) was set up in 1928 in Berezovka Raion, Odessa Oblast, on the basis of the tractor fleet of the T. Shevchenko Sovkhoz. In April 1928 the Politburo of the Central Committee of the ACP(B) passed a decree expanding and strengthening existing sovkhozes and organizing and developing new (grain-growing) ones. One of the first highly mechanized grain-growing sovkhozes set up as a result of the decree was the Gigant Sovkhoz in the Sal Steppe of Rostov Oblast. By 1930 there were more than 140 grain-growing sovkhozes in operation. Between 1927 and 1929 the total planted area at sovkhozes increased from 1,559,000 to 2,273,800 ha, including an increase for grain crops from 1,030,000 to 1,537,400 ha.

The livestock herd also grew significantly. In 1930 the Sixteenth Congress of the ACP(B) adopted a resolution on the formation of specialized livestock sovkhozes, and, as a result, 140 cattle-raising sovkhozes (Skotovod Trust), 350 swine-raising sovkhozes (Svinovod Trust), 115 sheep-raising sovkhozes (Ovtse-vod Trust), and other livestock sovkhozes were established. Maslotrest (Butter Trust) and Gossortfond (State Varietal Seed Fund) were organized, as were cotton-growing, reindeer-raising, and other associations. Small sovkhozes were consolidated.

The development of sovkhoz production was stopped by the Great Patriotic War of 1941–45. The fascist German aggressors inflicted enormous-damage on agriculture. In the occupied regions 1,876 sovkhozes, 45 percent of the total number, were plundered and destroyed. After the war the destroyed sovkhozes were rebuilt, and by 1950 sovkhoz production exceeded the prewar level for many indexes (see Table 1). As a result of a decree passed by the February-March 1954 Plenum of the Central Committee of the USSR concerning increasing grain production through the development of virgin and abandoned lands, 425 highly mechanized grain-growing sovkhozes were established in 1954–55 in virgin lands in Kazakhstan, Siberia, the Volga Region, and the Urals. These sovkhozes have become major grain

Table 1. Primary indexes of the development of sovkhozes
Number of sovkhozes ...............4,1594,9887,37511,68117,717
Average annual number of employees (thousands) ...............1,3731,6655,8008,23010,107
Net agricultural output at 1965 prices (billions of rubles) ...............16.930.1
Planted area (thousands of ha) ...............11,55912,89467,20889,062105,844
grain crops ...............7,6817,55042,83159,64366,597
industrial crops ...............3303312,0163,3913,807
Livestock (thousands)
cattle ...............2,4622,80214,43724,50134,605
cows ...............9528425,0848,91811,874
hogs ...............1,9102,49412,65512,53519,447
sheep and goats ...............5,9087,63331,58046,43160,223
Number of tractors (thousands) ...............7474403681994
Number of grain-harvesting combines (thousands) ...............2733206265346
Number of trucks (thousands) ...............2133238335453
Table 2. Average size of sovkhozes (1974)
 Total land (thousands of ha)Arable land (thousands of ha)Number of livestock
   Cattle2CowsHogsSheep and goats
1 The average poultry-raising sovkhoz has 248,000 poultry
2 Includes cows
Allsovkhozes ...............19.16.01,9556701,1563,577
Sovkhozes of the Ministry of Agriculture of the USSR ...............20.46.32,0477041,1993,800
Grain-growing ...............34.019.93,6741,1141,9494,471
Cotton-growing ...............8.34.21,2323362732,279
Vegetable and vegetable-dairy ...............6.73.62,079824678787
Dairy and beef-dairy ...............11.45.32,5058889001,296
Sheep-raising ...............113.89.81,74451626330,263
Swine-raising ...............10.27.12,1167878,476383
Poultry-raising1 ...............3.02.071726366155
Feedlot ...............8.23.8727230145203

suppliers: between 1954 and 1974 the virgin lands produced roughly 31 billion poods (1 pood = 16.38 kg) of high-quality, inexpensive grain, as well as a large quantity of other agricultural commodities.

The March 1965 Plenum of the Central Committee of the CPSU played a historic role in the development of sovkhozes. It worked out a number of economic measures to improve agricultural production, including consolidation of the material and technical base of the sovkhozes and kolkhozes, establishment of firm five-year plans for the sale of agricultural commodities to the state, stimulation of production above the levels called for by the plans, and improvement of the system of labor and bonus payments to workers at sovkhozes. The actions taken in conformity with the decisions of the March and later plenums of the Central Committee of the CPSU and the Twenty-fourth Party Congress secured a significant and stable rise in agricultural production. Gross agricultural output at the sovkhozes rose from 16.9 to 30.1 billion rubles between 1965 and 1974. The increase in agricultural production was achieved primarily through the intensification of agriculture, which led to a rise in the yield of crops and in the productivity of animal husbandry. Between 1965 and 1974 the yield of grain crops at sovkhozes rose from 6.7 to 11.7 quintals per ha, and the yield of vegetable crops increased from 120 to 155.6 quintals per ha (at sovkhozes of the Ministry of Agriculture of the USSR). During the same period, the average annual milk yield per cow rose from 2,121 kg to 2,399 kg, and average production per hen increased from 149 to 207 eggs a year.

In 1974, to further accelerate the development of agriculture, including sovkhoz production, the Central Committee of the CPSU and the Council of Ministers of the USSR adopted the decree On Measures for the Further Development of the Agriculture of the Nonchernozem Zone of the RSFSR. The decree envisioned a series of socioeconomic steps to increase the efficiency of agricultural production. By 1974 there were 4,331 sovkhozes in the nonchernozem zone.

The national economic importance of sovkhozes is steadily growing. Between 1940 and 1974 the share of sovkhozes and other state farms (poultry farms, pedigreed livestock and horse farms, teaching and experimental farms) in agricultural commodity output rose from 12 to 41 percent. Table 3 shows the share of sovkhozes and other state farms in the country’s overall production of certain agricultural commodities. In 1974 the sovkhoz share of state purchases was 44 percent for grain, 27 percent for raw cotton, 8 percent for sugar beets, 36 percent for potatoes and 57 percent for other vegetables, 44 percent for meat, 42 percent for milk, 73 percent for eggs, and 47 percent for wool. The market ratio, that is, the percent of crop sent to market, was 100 percent for raw cotton, sugar beets (industrial), and wool; about 60 percent for grain; and more than 90 percent for milk, meat, and eggs.

Material and technical base. Between 1940 and 1974 the number of tractors at sovkhozes increased 13 times, combines 12 times, and trucks more than 20 times (see Table 1). Primary field jobs (plowing; planting grain, cotton, and sugar beets; harvesting grain and silage crops) and the production of many livestock products were fully mechanized. Potato planting and the interrow tillage of sugar beets, corn, and other crops are almost fully mechanized. In 1974 milking was 85 percent mechanized, sheep shearing 96 percent, water supply at hog farms 93 percent, and water supply at cattle farms 77 percent. All sovkhozes have been electrified. Between 1960 and 1974 the number of electric motors rose from 321,000 to 4,161,000, and the consumption of electricity increased from 2,277,000,000 to 21,345,000,000 kW-hr. Mechanization and electrification of sovkhoz production resulted in a 140 percent rise in the productivity of labor between 1940 and 1974.

Improving the use of the land is essential for bolstering the material and technical base of sovkhozes. In accordance with the decision of the May 1966 Plenum of the Central Committee of the CPSU a program of water-supply construction and land improvement is being carried out at sovkhozes. Deliveries of inorganic fertilizers, chemical means of plant protection, and feed phosphates are increasing.

Specialization. The specialization of sovkhoz production is determined by the state plan for the sale of agricultural commodities

Table 3. Share of sovkhozes and other state farms in gross and commodity agricultural output (in percent)
Grain ...............81037434345
Raw cotton ...............6615152727
Sugar beets ...............447788
Vegetables (not including potatoes) ...............91626454052
Potatoes ...............2511181426
Meat ...............91622313442
Milk ...............61517303042
EggS ...............239214670
Wool ...............121527304546
Table 4. Number of state farms and their share of total arable land in certain socialist European countries
 Total state farmsArable land (thousands of ha)Percentage of countryTotal state farmsArable land (thousands of ha)Percentage of countryTotal state farmsArable land (thousands of ha)Percentage of country
1Total agricultural land
German Democratic Republic5723327.05112886.0489451.519.7

to the state, giving due consideration to local natural and economic conditions. The production orientation of a sovkhoz is defined by the principal sector, the one that has the largest share of gross and commodity output. (A small number of sovkhozes have two or three principal production sectors.) A few additional sectors are organized at sovkhozes to make efficient use of internal resources. Sovkhozes also set up various kinds of subsidiary enterprises, for example, to support the principal agricultural sectors (repair workshops, power plants), to process agricultural raw materials (vegetables, fruits, milk), and to produce building materials.

Intrafarm specialization at sovkhozes is achieved by singling out specialized subdivisions, such as crop-growing and seed-raising brigades, sugar-beet-raising teams, and specialized livestock farms. Intrasectorial specialization is characterized by the isolation of specific stages of production: for example, in swine raising there are cross breeding, fattening, and pedigree stock breeding sovkhozes or farms.

Interfarm specialization among sovkhozes is developing on the basis of interfarm division of labor by particular sectors of agricultural production and expansion of interfarm ties. The intensification of agriculture promotes greater specialization (specializing in one type of product or a group of related products), which makes it possible to organize agricultural production on an industrial basis. Large specialized sovkhozes have established livestock complexes marked by high production but low expenditures for feed (a decrease of 20–30 percent) and labor (a twofold or threefold decrease).

The increasing specialization of production is accompanied by the growth in interfarm production cooperation. This has resulted in new forms of social production and management, for example, large interfarm enterprises and various types of production associations and firms. Many sovkhozes belong to industrial-type enterprises and associations, such as sovkhoz-plants, combines, and agrarian and industrial conglomerates. In 1974 more than 40 percent of the sovkhozes held shares in interfarm cooperative enterprises.

Production and organizational structure. The production and organizational structure of the sovkhozes depends on the specialization and the level of intensification of production, the amount of land area, and gross output. The primary production units at sovkhozes are production brigades, which are joined regionally into divisions or livestock farms. The production subdivisions have at their disposal agricultural land (arable land, hayfields, pastures), work animals, productive livestock, machinery, various structures, and other means of production, as well as a permanent group of workers. The operations of a production brigade are based on internal economic accountability.

Payment for labor. Sovkhoz workers are paid wages. Depending on economic organization, the job-rate plus bonus, piece-rate plus bonus, or time-rate plus bonus system of wages is used. Quotas for livestock care and output are determined with due regard for local conditions. In addition to the basic pay, additional payments and raises are available that take into account a worker’s skills, length of service at a particular farm, and ability to decrease the time needed to gather the harvest. A system of material incentives (bonuses) from profits for achievement of high overall production indexes is also used.

Sovkhozes have skilled managers, agricultural specialists, machine operators, and stockmen. The average sovkhoz has 30 specialists with higher and secondary agricultural educations. The number of machine operators at sovkhozes rose from 812,000 in 1960 to 1.65 million in 1974. New occupations typical of modern industrial production have appeared, for example, operators, expediters, mechanics, and power engineers.

Planning. Sovkhoz production is organized and developed on a planned basis. Centralized planned management is combined with economic independence and initiative for the enterprise. The plan for state purchases of agricultural output, the volume of capital investment, the wages fund, and the allocation of fixed capital are set for sovkhozes in a centralized manner. The assortment of crops, area of cultivation, crop yield, herd size, livestock productivity, and other production indexes are planned at the sovkhoz. The sum total of planned profit is determined at the farm and ratified by a higher-ranking organization. Sovkhozes draw up long-term plans (five-year plans and outlines of economic organization); the annual production and financial plan for the sovkhoz; the production plans of divisions, livestock farms, and brigades; and work plans (for work periods).

Financing. The economic activity of sovkhozes is financed by the sovkhozes themselves (profit, depreciation allowances), the state budget, capital redistributed by higher-ranking bodies (profit, circulating capital, depreciation allowances), and centralized funds administered by the Ministry of Agriculture. The fixed capital granted by the state and the sovkhoz’s own circulating capital make up the sovkhoz’s statutory fund, which is replenished by deductions from profit. Sovkhozes borrow circulating capital in the form of credit from the Gosbank (State Bank). Since 1967, in conformity with a decree approved by the Central Committee of the CPSU and the Council of Ministers of the USSR on Apr. 13, 1967, sovkhozes began to adopt the principle of full economic accountability. As of 1975 all sovkhozes were operating on full economic accountability. The decree On Mea

Table 5. Yield of primary agricultural crops at state farms (1974) (quintals per ha)
 HungaryGerman Democratic RepublicPolandRumaniaCzechoslovakia
Grains and legumes42.839.431.627.132.7
Sugar beets383296275254355
Table 6. Livestock productivity at state farms (1974)
 HungaryGerman Democratic RepublicPolandRumaniaCzechoslovakia
Milk (per cow, kg)3,1453,7693,3472,4402,859
Eggs (per hen)221222172213238
Wool (per sheep, kg)

sures for the Further Development of Economic Accountability at Sovkhozes and Other State Agricultural Enterprises, which was approved on Nov. 20, 1973, by the Central Committee of the CPSU and the Council of Ministers of the USSR, envisioned the continuation of budget appropriations for production capital investments and other planned expenditures at certain farms until the farms achieved economic efficiency sufficient to allow them to work under conditions of full economic accountability.

Management. Sovkhozes are run on the principle of one-man management. The director, who is appointed by the higher-ranking organization, manages and is responsible for the work of the sovkhoz. At most sovkhozes management is organized regionally and has a three-level structure (director, division manager, and brigade leader). The sovkhozes of the Baltic republics and the northwestern oblasts of the RSFSR have a two-level management structure (director and leader of a comprehensive brigade or director and section chief). With the development of production specialization and concentration, sovkhozes are switching from multisectoral divisions to specialized subdivisions called shops and from the regional to the sectoral principle of management. The experience of leading farms shows that given appropriate conditions (rational redistribution of functions among management workers and organization of such auxiliary services as expediting, material-technical supply, and marketing) management by the sectoral principle promotes more efficient use of internal resources and raises the productivity of management labor. State management of sovkhozes is carried on by appropriate bodies: specialized trusts, agricultural administrations, raion executive committees, production associations, and ministries of agriculture.


Table 7. Index of gross output at state farms in certain European socialist countries (1960 = 100)
German Democratic Republic116125153

Other socialist countries. The establishment of a state sector in the agriculture of the other socialist countries was based on the Leninist principle of setting up large socialist agricultural enterprises. State socialist agricultural enterprises were first formed in the European socialist countries during the land reforms of the mid-1940’s. Using nationalized gentry estates and other state-owned agricultural lands and following the model of sovkhozes in the USSR, state farms were organized in Bulgaria, Hungary, Poland, Czechoslovakia, and Yugoslavia. Similar state holdings were established in the German Democratic Republic, and state crop-growing and livestock farms (called state farms after 1949) were organized in Rumania. In most of the socialist countries the state agricultural enterprises were essential for the establishment of cooperative production among peasants in the late 1940’s and early 1950’s.

Until the mid-1960’s most state farms developed as narrowly specialized farms (primarily for seed and planting material production and pedigreed livestock raising). Subsequently many of them turned to general production, specializing in the production of crops and livestock products. A significant number of the state farms are located in suburban areas. Table 4 shows the number of state farms and their share of total arable land in certain socialist countries of Europe.

In 1974 the Mongolian People’s Republic had 36 state farms, which included 66 percent of the country’s cultivated land; the Democratic Republic of Vietnam’s 105 state farms had 300,000 ha of arable land. In 1960 the People’s Democratic Republic of Korea had 169 state farms, including 6 percent of the country’s arable land.

The material and technical base of the state farms is rapidly developing. In 1974 the average state farm in Hungary had 66 tractors, in Poland 19, in Rumania 74, in Czechoslovakia 97, and in Mongolia 82. Consolidation of the material and technical base and steps to intensify agriculture have resulted in a high level of productivity in land cultivation and livestock raising (see Tables 5 and 6). Table 7 shows the growth in the gross output of state farms in certain European socialist countries.

Most of the state farms in the European socialist countries participate in interfarm cooperation and belong to various interfarm and agrarian and industrial conglomerates, often playing a leading role. In Bulgaria, for example, all state farms are included in agrarian and industrial conglomerates. In Poland and Yugoslavia many state farms and state enterprises for processing of agricultural products belong to large agrarian and industrial conglomerates. Virtually all the state holdings of the German Democratic Republic participate in various forms of interfarm cooperation and agrarian and industrial integration.



Brezhnev, L. I. Voprosy agrarnoipolitiki KPSS i osvoenie tselinnykh zemel’ Kazakhstana, 2nd ed. Moscow, 1974.
Sel’skoe khoziaistvo SSSR na sovremennom etape. Dostizheniia i perspektivy. Moscow, 1972.
Zelenin, I. E. Sovkhozy v SSSR (1941–1950). Moscow, 1969.
Bogdenko, M. L. Sovkhozy SSSR: 1951–1958. Moscow, 1972.
Sel’skoe khoziaistvo Sovetskogo Soiuza. Moscow, 1970.
Ekonomika sotsialisticheskogo sel’skogo khoziaistvo v sovremennykh usloviiakh. Moscow, 1971.
Narodnoe khoziaistvo SSSR v 1974. Moscow, 1975.
Statisticheskii ezhegodnik stran-chlenov Soveta Ekonomicheskoi Vzaimopomoshchi. Moscow [1975].
Problemy razvitiia sel’skogo khoziaistvo sotsialisticheskikh stran Evropy. Moscow, 1973.
The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
References in periodicals archive ?
It appears that half of the recorded commemorative names in Central Harjumaa belong to kolkhozes and sovkhozes. The origins of the commemorative names of the kolkhozes and sovkhozes can be divided into two groups: (1) names of persons important in Soviet politics (2/3 of the names); (2) names important for national identity and national heritage (1/3 of the names).
The Kyrgyz on the other hand were living in kolkhoz or sovkhozes, which collapsed due to the restructuring of the economy and pushed the Kyrgyz to migrate to cities.
Decollectivisation, which comprises the conversion or dissolution of Sovietstyle kolkhozes and sovkhozes and the transfer of land to individually operated farms through restitution, implied a repossession of the land and property that were nationalised and expropriated in conjunction with Soviet annexation in 1940.
Since the large-scale kolkhozes and sovkhozes were integrated units and functioned more as local municipalities, it is reasonable to assume that rural citizens in the peripheral parts of Estonia experienced profound disadvantages when this kind of infrastructure and associated services broke down as outcomes of decollectivisation (21)
To name only Japanese authors, Yoshida Setsuko, Fujimoto Toko, and Kikuta Haruka have studied the functions and transformations of kin networks after the demise of kolkhozes and sovkhozes in Kyrgyzstan, the significance of the experience of socialism in the post-Soviet Islamic revival in Kazakhstan, and the enduring influence of Soviet-style modernization on Muslim artisans in Uzbekistan, respectively.
(2.) In 1990, the RFE had 761 sovkhozes, 84 kolkhozes, 1289 subsidiaries of industrial factories, plus 1.3 million individual farm plots and 700,000 garden-farm associations.
(1) On the eve of economic reform in 1990, the small agricultural sector was organized into giant sovkhozes (state farms), kolkhozes (collective farms), and agricultural subsidiaries of industrial factories.
In practice, however, the legal ban on buying and selling of land plots withdrawn from former kolkhozes and sovkhozes was bypassed even before January 2003 by presidential decrees and government resolutions.
Agricultural land is mainly owned by the rural population, that is, workers and pensioners of farm enterprises created by reorganisation of kolkhozes and sovkhozes. This is a low-income segment of the Russian population.
The houses of the farmers are getting empty as the inhabitants move to modern house complexes of sovkhozes and kolkhozes.
In Riazan, however, most of this meat was not passed on to the population but resold by the cooperatives back to the kolkhozes and sovkhozes, which in turn resubmitted it as "new" meat to the procurement agencies, thus creating a potentially never-ending cycle of resubmitted meat.
The analysis reported in this article uses the data of 144 corporate farms (generally former kolkhozes and sovkhozes) that participated in the 2003 BASIS survey in three oblasts (Rostov, Ivanovo, and Nizhnii Novgorod).