When Joseph Stalin faced a shortage of grains during his leadership, he turned to collectivization in order to increase grain procurement. The reason for adopting collectivization as an economic strategy was twofold: first, the systematic and industrialized state equipment was far more efficient than strip farming, second, it would be a direct attack on the “class alien” status the kulaks had constituted. Moreover, collectivization would give the state the capabilities needed to engulf the kulaks into the system—collectivization therefore led to dekulakization.
Peasants where naturally skeptical of collectivization and many dekulaked themselves by selling their own land out of fear that the state would confiscate it anyway. In 1930, the Central Committee called for the collectivization of the majority of arable land and peasant farms in accordance to the First Five Year Plan (FFYP). The FFYP was such a large endeavor that it required thousands of workers to go out to villages and fight kulak resistance. Those who resisted were either sent to labor camps, deported, resettled, or killed. Stalin infamously stated that the collectivization process left the state officials “dizzy with success”.
Nevertheless, peasants found ways to resist against collectivization by various means: they would slaughter their livestock, destroy farm property, and slowly carry out directives. These methods made it impossible for the state to meet its procurement quotas, and therefore the kolkhozes received no pay. It is estimated that at least five million died from famine.
The famous Space Race between the US and the Soviet Union saw the USSR sent Yuri Gagarin to space, making him the first human to do so. This was an era in which both super powers competed in all realms of life from mathematics, to chess, to athletics, to music. Gagarin’s feat was the pinnacle of Soviet achievement and it made Americans anxious from that day forward.
Yuri’s accomplishment was part of a greater movement that had distanced itself from the authoritarian Stalinism of decades past. Yuri went to space in 1961 during Nikita Khrushchev’s administration.
Khrushchev had been leading the Soviet Union for 8 years at this point and his Secret Speech laid the foundation for his policies going forward.
Khrushchev denounced the cult-personality of Stalinism and went ahead and emptied the Gulags. The consequences of this De-Stalinization included concessions to Poland, a brutal repression in Hungary, and the opening of the Kremlin to foreigners. This coupled with his unprecedented trip to the United States, angered many in the USSR who still saw the US as the ultimate capitalist enemy of the Soviet way of life. However many forget that if it were not for Khrushchev’s aggressive push against Stalinization soon after Stalin’s death, the Thaw would’ve taken far longer than it did—which may have led to an American being the first man in space!