The previous figures clearly highlight the substantially agricultural character of the USSR, which does not contrast with the accentuated tendency towards industrialization which characterizes the efforts of the Soviet government. It should also be added that these efforts have brought about the greatest transformations outside the European territory, whose economy, as far as it is possible to judge from a period like the present one, does not seem to have been profoundly altered yet, at least as regards the reciprocal relationship. among its substantial elements.
The statistical data concerning the use of the land that can be read from various authors are so disparate, that a certain caution is advised in using them. Content to a large approximation, it can be assumed that for the entire USSR have: from 1 / 3to 2 / 5 forests, about 1 / 5 meadows and pastures, another 1 / 5 arable and the remainder, around 1 / 4, non-agricultural productive and unproductive. These proportions are likely to be somewhat different in the European sector, where both crops and forests occupy relatively larger areas, but reliable data are lacking. However, a significant increase in arable land is recorded for the USSR from the post-war period to the present day, as shown in the following table.
The same table also shows how the part made to cereal crops has gradually decreased proportionally, to the benefit of the others. Nevertheless, wheat, rye, oats, barley and maize alone occupy 70 to 80% of the arable land; with minor cereals and potatoes it rises to 80-90%. the table below.
The decreases marked in the immediate post-war period are related to general and local crises (civil war); the recent fluctuations with the inevitable shocks determined in the rural economy by the decisive process of unification of the scattered small individual farms – characterized by agriculture of a generally extensive type, and in almost primitive conditions – in state bodies (sovetskoe chozjajstvo, or sovchoz) or collectivized (kollektivnoe chozjajstvo or kolchoz), created precisely to favor the technical improvement of production. The transition from one system to another is, as far as cereal crops are concerned, summarized in the footnote.
In 1933, individual rural farms, comprising 35% of the entire agricultural population of the USSR, thus affected a small part of the areas cultivated with cereals, and the profound repercussions that the process of unification caused throughout Russia, especially in its European sector, must be taken into account by examining the statistics of agricultural production, which at first poorly compare with those of the pre-war period.
Wheat, rye and oats represent the cornerstones of this production, but only recently the first has ended up with a decisive prevalence over the other two, of which the latter is also widely used, as well as for breeding, for human nutrition. Oats are grown mainly in central and southern Russia, from NE Ukraine. through the high-Don, Oka and the Middle Volga, the lower Kama and the Urals median (slightly more than 1 / 10 of the crop is given by Ukraine, 1 / 25 from White Russia).
The area of diffusion of wheat is wider, which goes beyond 60 ° N., but finds in the European sector the most favorable conditions for development in southern Russia, maximum in the Ukrainian steppes, even if the poor distribution of rainfall and their failure will determine, with sad frequency, disastrous famines, followed by mass movements of agricultural population (insignificant production of White Russia, about 1 / 3of the European total is given by Ukraine alone). The dominion of rye is even wider, which embraces all of European Russia, with the exception of the arid districts on the lower Ural and the Arctic Tundra; the areas in which the production is more intense, however, correspond more or less to those in which the culture is concentrated oat (1 / 4 of the European Ukraine is collected; from the White Russia about 1 / 25). Barley and millet are equally widespread; the first, however, prefers the selvage circumpontica and southern Russia (about half the crop rests Ukraine), while the second is much cultivated also in central Russia (Ukraine less than 1 / 3 of the European quantity). Wheat and rye have retained, or slightly increased, in terms of cultivated area, their pre-war positions; instead, oats and barley have lost ground; only maize it has more than quadrupled its domain, which by pontico coast goes along the Dnieper up to 52 ° N. (and therefore about 2 / 3 of the harvest will have to Ukraine). Of the minor cereals, buckwheat (Polygonum fagopyrum), of Asian origin, which finds good development conditions in southern Russia and is cultivated on about 2 million hectares. Together with cereals, the potato plays a decisive role in domestic consumption, especially in the central and northern sectors; the cultivated area increased in 1933 to over 6.2 million ha. (about 1 / 5 of the European will have to Ukraine product).
As for the crops, the statistical data of the entire USSR can be summarized for the most important cereals (and potatoes) as in tab. previous.
The millet and phagopyrus yields were 2.9-3.2 and 1.6-1.3 million tonnes. approximately, respectively, between 1928 and 1932. The unitary production, in comparison with the pre-war period, highlights fluctuations of small importance; the advantages of better technical equipment still appear neutralized by the inconvenience that the transformation of pipeline systems has produced in the rural masses; discomfort translated into frequent exodus from the countryside and consequent abandonment of crops.
In the pre-war period Russia was the largest exporter in the world cereal products, providing it only in the five years 1909-13, about 1 / 5 of wheat, 1 / 3 of the rye and oats and more than 3 / 5 exported barley. Having lost these positions during the war and the revolutionary crisis, the USSR also saw a rapid increase in domestic consumption, due to the growing mass of the workers and the very changed standard of living of the rural classes, so that the surplus destined for exports was it went away reducing. At the same time, however, the imbalance between productive and consumer areas that characterized the pre-war situation was attenuated, evidently tending the efforts of the Soviet government to also regional autonomy, which avoids the shocks caused by the fluctuations in crops and exchanges that must be done there. assignment.
The development of industrial crops in the post-war period is summarized in the previous table which refers, it should be repeated, to the entire USSR
Cotton is almost all grown outside Europe (the quantity that is produced in the Crimea and in the lower Volga, where its introduction is very recent, is negligible); flax essentially in White Russia, and in the central region (upper Volga) for the fiber, in Ukraine and on the lower Volga for the seed. The extension and importance of hemp, to which the peasants of southern Russia (Ukraine and Penza district) are dedicated, is much less: the relative area has fluctuated, in recent years, from 800 to 950 thousand ha., With a production of 400-500 thousand tons. of seed and 350-450 thousand fibers. Almost all sugar beet is also produced in Ukraine and southern Russia (Voronezh districts); the contraction marked by the harvests in recent years is related to the intense transformation of farms affected by it. Among the oleaceae plants, the sunflower is of great importance, more and more widely used for food and widespread, as well as in Ukraine, in central Russia and meridiomle.
No less remarkable is the place made, among the industrial tobacco plants, whose cultivation extends, from the Crimea and the Kuban ′, to central Russia. The relative area more than doubled from 1929 to 1933 (85 thousand ha.), But with the participation of various non-European sectors. Product (around 100-120 thousand tons per year) and exports are increasing.
Horticultural crops include lentils and peas for non-negligible quantities for export. Of the former, grown in the black soils area and in the regions of the middle and lower Volga, the USSR produces 70 and exports about 75% of the world quantity (340-350 and 60-65 thousand tons, respectively, in the last years); for the latter, which also come from southern Russia, participates with 1 / 4 in round numbers to the production and worldwide export.
The importance of tree crops in the agricultural economy is scarce. Except for some narrow strips along the shores of the Black Sea, the lower Don and especially in the Crimea, the vine is unknown to the Russian territory; the production of wine therefore has little more than local importance, despite the value of some of the qualities produced (Crimea, lower Volga). On the other hand, fruit cultivation (apples, plums, apricots, pears, etc.) is more widespread, which is found as a complementary and also specialized agricultural activity (Podolia, lower Dnieper plain) in various places in southern Russia and up to the middle Volga and in Russia. central; in the first place apples appear, which are mostly used for the preparation of drinks (cider).