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We can get a good idea of how the process of collectivization worked from looking at the province of Smolensk Smolensk on the eve of collectivization was an overwhelmingly agricultural province More than 90 per cent of the population lived in the countryside Less than l per cent of the land was collectivized The private sector accounted for 987 per cent of the gross agricultural output Out of a total of 393523 peasant households registered in 1927 5 per cent were classified as kulaks 70 per cent as middle peasants and 25 per cent as poor peasants In tsarist days the Smolensk area had been one of the centers of flax and hemp culture After the Revolution however the cultivation of flax and hemp declined sharply population pressure and the expanding needs of home consumption led to a considerable shift to potatoes grain and fodder groups and livestock breeding The NEP years registered significant gains in food output but population increase outraced growth in production and the percentage of marketed produce steadily declined The decision of the Soviet authorities to abandon the NEP and embark on a policy of agricultural collectivization and rapid industrialization had its immediate repercussions in Smolensk as elsewhere The first victims of the new campaign in the countryside were the kulaks They controlled a substantial part of the agricultural surplus which was essential to feed the new factory centers They could be counted on to resist collectivization most staunchly during 1927-28 when the noose was gradually tightened around their necks The initial attack on the kulaks involved a sharp increase in their tax burden designed to force them to disgorge their grain surpluses At the same time up to a third of all poor-peasant households were freed from all agricultural taxes and economic aid to poor-peasant groups in the form of agricultural credit and other assistance was increased Measures were also taken to raise wages for hired laborers working
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