The Soft Line on Agriculture: The Case of Narkomzem and its Specialists, 1921–27

  • Markus Wehner
Part of the International Council for Central and East European Studies book series (ICCEES)


Peasant policy in the Soviet Union of the 1920s is not a new topic for historians. However, previous studies in this field have focused too narrowly upon the positions of the leaders of the Bolshevik Party, which were determined by tactical considerations and political calculations.1 The contradictory nature of peasant policy of the 1920s must be understood as the result of the struggle between various groups and institutions within the central state apparatus. The Party leaders, ill-versed in questions of agriculture and of the countryside in general, were dependent upon the work of special agencies and ministries (’People’s Commissariats’) and their specialists. The latter advocated a variety of different positions. Pluralism, missing in its social and political guises in the Soviet Union, appears instead as ‘institutional pluralism’, a battle between bureaucratic entities. The battle in the 1920s differed from later conflicts within the Soviet bureaucracy in the fact that simultaneously it was a conflict between concepts of development, since the path which the country would take was still open. This lent it a unique drama.


Central Committee Agrarian Specialist Agrarian Policy Working Peasant Agricultural Prex 
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© Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Limited 1998

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  • Markus Wehner

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