Surplus Appropriation System

Surplus Appropriation System


(prodrazverstka), a system of procuring agricultural products.

The surplus food appropriation system consisted in the compulsory sale of all surplus grains and other products by peasants to the state at fixed prices and according to norms that allowed the peasants to retain quantities needed for their personal and farming needs. The system was applied by the Soviet state during the Civil War of 1918–20.

In 1918, the center of Soviet Russia was cut off from the country’s most important agricultural regions. Grain reserves became depleted, and the urban population and poorest peasants went hungry. In order to satisfy the population’s minimal needs, the Soviet government was compelled to introduce a strict system of estimating surplus foodstuffs. These foodstuffs were principally in the hands of the prosperous peasants, who were trying to put an end to the state grain monopoly and to preserve free trade. Under these circumstances, the appropriation of surplus food was the only possible form of grain procurement. “The surplus appropriation system was the best measure available to the insufficiently organized state to maintain itself in the incredibly arduous war against the landowners” (V. I. Lenin, Poln. sobr. soch., 5th ed., vol. 44, p. 7). The surplus appropriation system was implemented in the second half of 1918 in the provinces of Tula, Viatka, Kaluga, and Vitebsk and elsewhere.

A decree of the Council of People’s Commissars dated Jan. 11, 1919, introduced the surplus appropriation system in the entire territory of Soviet Russia. It was later introduced in the Ukraine and Byelorussia (1919) and in Turkestan and Siberia (1920). In accordance with the resolution of the People’s Commissariat for Foodstuffs dated Jan. 13, 1919, on food appropriation, state quotas were estimated on the basis of data from provinces concerning the area of land under cultivation, crop yield, and reserves from previous years. Within provinces, grain was appropriated according to districts, volosts (small rural districts), and settlements, and from individual peasant families. Produce was collected by agencies of the People’s Commissariat for Foodstuffs and by food appropriation detachments, assisted by Committees of the Poor (Kombedy) and by the local soviets. The surplus appropriation system was an expression of the dictatorship of the working class and the poorest peasantry.

At first the surplus appropriation system extended to grain and feed-grain crops. During the procurement campaign of 1919–20, the system also covered potatoes and meat; by the end of 1920 it embraced almost all agricultural products. In 1918–19, some 107.9 million poods (1 pood= 16.38 kg) of grain and feed-grain crops were collected; in 1919–20, 212.5 million poods; and in 1920–21, 367 million poods. The surplus appropriation system enabled the Soviet state to resolve the vitally important problems of supplying foodstuffs to the Red Army and urban workers according to plan and of supplying industry with raw materials. The increase in food procurement through the surplus appropriation system delimited the system of commodity-money relations. The free sale of grain and bread was prohibited.

The appropriation of surplus food affected all aspects of economic relations between city and village and became an important element of “War Communism.” After the Civil War ended, the surplus appropriation system no longer met the requirements of socialist construction, since it retarded the reestablishment of the national economy and hindered the growth of productive forces. The area of land under cultivation decreased, and there were declines in crop yield and in the amount of produce collected. Retention of the system aroused resentment among the peasants and in some areas caused revolts of kulaks and SR’s. When the New Economic Policy was instituted in the Soviet Union, the surplus appropriation system was replaced by a food tax (March 1921), in accordance with a resolution of the Tenth Congress of the RCP(B).


Lenin, V. I. “Predvaritel’nyi, chernovoi nabrosok tezisov, naschet krest’ian, 8 fevralia 1921 g.” Poln. sobr. soch., 5th ed., vol. 42.
Lenin, V. I. “Doklad o zamene razverstki natural’nym nalogom 15 marta.” Ibid., vol. 43.
Lenin, V. I. “O prodovol’stvennom naloge.” Ibid.
Lenin, V. I. “Doklad o taktike RKP(b) 5 iiulia 1921 g.” Ibid., vol. 44.
Lenin, V. I. “Novaia ekonomicheskaia politika i zadachi politprosvetov.” Ibid.
Istoriia KPSS, vol. 3, book 2. Moscow, 1968.
Gimpel’son, E. G. “Voennyi kommunizm”: politika, praktika, ideologiia. Moscow, 1973.
Gladkov, I. A. Ocherki sovetskoi ekonomiki, 1917–1920 gg. Moscow, 1956.
Strizhkov, Iu. K. “Iz istorii vvedeniia prodovol’stvennoi razverstki.” In the collection Istoricheskie zapiski, vol. 71. Moscow, 1962.