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Comparison of Agrarian Reform in Russia and Georgia Under Socialism

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The agrarian reform’s goal, in general, is to bring harmony between the rural and the urban people. Agrarian reform is fundamental because of its economic gain of the country because more than half the population is employed in the agricultural area. Agriculture is the primary source of living, especially for the countries that are still in the process of developing. Tsarist Russia failed to have peaceful relations with its citizens due to their unsuccessful agrarian law. Bolsheviks planned to avoid such mistakes.

Making a change to the agrarian law was very important to not only the Bolsheviks but to the Menshevik Georgians as well. For Russia, The First World War and the revolution crippled Russia’s economy and brought instability and chaos to the country. The new Russian state would mainly have to rely on the agrarian reform, because as mentioned before it brings economic uprising to the country, and that is precisely what they needed. Support from the working class and peasants was necessary if the crippled Bolshevik state was going to strive, leading to the new government establishing the law that said that the control of the land would be passed on to the lower class in the form of state collective farms.

The previous government failed to address the agrarian question and what the Bolsheviks offered to the lower class, was acceptable to the majority of the citizens, although the promises that were made were far from being perfect. The lower class wanted land divided up into millions of smallholdings while the Bolsheviks trusted in collective farms worked on by the lower class on behalf of the population. Lenin knew that if his Revolutions was going to live for a long time, he needed to establish several things, such as: Winning over the peasants by offering them the land that the previous government failed to do. While property was not exactly gifted to the peasants, the new agrarian law meant that those who worked on the land after the 1917 Revolution had much more control over the way that land was farmed. The collective farms may not have been a utopia for the peasants, but they were living better than they were, during the former government. Lenin knew that he had to offer the lower class something that would be unheard of in previous governments in order to gain the population’s trust and keep the new communist state in power.

In Georgia, on the other hand, there had been the usage of an ambitious, and mainly practical, program to separate the large estates and distribute land to the landless lower class. Unlike the Bolsheviks the Georgian Mensheviks did not just promise their people ideal circumstances only to remain in power, they actually planned to fulfill. This was the goal concerning the Georgian Social Democrats all along because they learned from the experience of the western Georgian region of Guria around the time of there 1905 revolution, where the fed up working class overthrew the Tsarist government and changed the relationship between them and the Social democratic party. The Georgian Social Democrats were a voice for the working class. They saw it as their responsibility to improve the lives of the majority of their population (the working class), unlike the Bolsheviks who had little or no support in the countryside. The Georgian Social Democrats also didn’t support state ownership of the farms. In their Marxist interpretation of Russia as an “Asiatic” society, they were convinced that state ownership of farmland provided the material basis not for socialism, but for despotism (absolute power).

These two states had, somewhat the same goal, and they were under the same ideology of socialism. The Russian Bolsheviks and Georgian Mensheviks both wanted economic uprising and were eager to do this with their agrarian (land) reforms. Because of the similarity in purpose and the difference in action it can be said that this topic is fascinating mainly because it shows the difference in socialist states, in this case, Bolshevik Russia and Menshevik Georgia, and their plans and actions towards the betterment of their countries. To conduct such an investigation a number of primary and secondary sources will be used, such as: “A Social-Democratic Peasant Republic” by Karl Kautsky (Primary source); Eric Lee’s blogs (Secondary source); “Between Red and White” by Leon Trotsky (Primary); and “Socialism in Colors” by Stephen Jones (Secondary).

Before 1917

In order to compare and contrast the agrarian reforms of these two states, it could be said that it is necessary to take a look at the past and analyze what led up to the change. In Russia, there were the Stolypin agrarian changes. A series of law changes presented by Petr Stolypin, the leader of the Council of Ministers of the former Russian government, between 1906 and 1911 in order to rebuild the peasant landholding basis. They were initiated during the Revolution of 1905 of a push to manage the continuous agrarian issue.

Even before the Bolsheviks came to power the peasant and agrarian problem was a dominant issue in Russia. In the early 1900’s over half of the lower class could not survive on agriculture alone. A significant reason for this was the extreme increase of population. The Russian population grew by about 50 per cent between 1885 and 1913. The enactment in which the laws were altered were introduced as the ukase ‘Concerning the Fulfillment of Certain Existing Laws on Rural Ground Ownership and Land Use’ (22 November 1906) and the law was passed by the State Duma on twenty-seven June 1910.

All workers were given the privilege to leave such organizations alongside the terrains distributed to them. Workers likewise learned that they had the opportunity to request that their portions be combined into an incorporated landholding, which could be cultivated as a khutir (if the family was settled on the property) or a vidrub (if the family stayed in a town). The last right denoted an extreme takeoff from the routine with regards to cultivating little, dissipated segments of land. The Peasant Land Bank gave credits to the buy of land to build up vidrub or khutir property.

The last change was the Statute on Land. Organization of 11 June 1911, which set a clear plan for the land settlement commissions (at the gubernia and area volost levels) made by the ukase of 1906. In the Russian Empire in 1907-15 roughly 26 percent of the complete obshchina participation (2.5 million householders) exploited the changes to gain about 16.9 million desiatins of land (15 percent of all-out collective property). The new framework urged laborers to demonstrate activity and to improve their family units. Help was given by the Peasant Land Bank, farming associations, co-agents, and zemstvo agronomists. As a result of progressions in horticultural methods (crop turn) crop yields likewise improved (by 20 percent in 1904-12), and the estimation of farmsteads rose.

The purpose of Stolypin’s changes was to improve the situation of the wealthier workers and establish it as a base of help for the agitated royal routine. Accordingly, the changes profited just around 25 percent of the families. Poor and some center salary workers couldn’t purchase land as a result of high costs (400 to 700 rubles for each desiatin in Right-Bank Ukraine) and were not given credit by the Peasant Land Bank. A considerable number of such laborers at long last emigrated to the Urals to Asiatic Russia and the Far East, a practice also urged by Stolypin to decrease the country’s overpopulation. Eventually the reforms gave rise to a significantly more noteworthy social differentiation among peasants, with the most significant laborer family units becoming more prominent and the quantity of average measured property reducing. Stolypin’s changes were along these lines cruelly criticized by Vladimir Lenin just as by Russian and Ukrainian communist parties. Georgia was annexed by the Russian empire since 1801, meaning the same rules were applied.


Soon after the Bolsheviks rose to power, In November 1917, the new government issued a new land law, which was one of over 190 laws passed in the first six months of the Bolshevik government’s existence. The rushed laws also show how one-dimensional and chaotic the new government already was. This new land law stated that: there would not be any private land ownership; land could also not be sold or mortgaged; All privately owned property was to be held by the government with no price to be paid. These lands also included the land owned by the former higher class such as the Romanovs (tsarist leaders), property owned by the nobles, as well as church land and private estates. All of this land was “to be placed at the disposition of the workers who work on them.’ The government-controlled territory was handed over the land cabinet and district soviets. They expressed that land could only be worked on by the people who physically worked on that land. They were not allowed to hire other workers to work for them. To put it in general context, these policies led to lots of cases of starvation in the country and was a failure.

In Georgia, on the other hand, the most noteworthy accomplishment was their agrarian reform (1918-1919). Rather than following the footsteps of the new Bolshevik government, which, as mentioned before, brought far-reaching starvation, they offered land to the workers, expecting to make a class of thriving workers. Apparently, the change was an amazing success, and Georgia never had problems with their citizens contrasting to the situation in Russia (and later, under constrained collectivization). Also, in contrast to the Bolsheviks, thee Georgians believed in the value of independent worker’s guilds. The guilds wanted, and got, the right to strike in the nation’s new constitution. They also talked the government into the legislature to make a tripartite ‘Wages Board’, which was revolutionary at the time. They were displaying a social welfare state that would not appear anywhere else in Europe for quite a long time.

There were, of course, issues. At that point, like now, Russia exploited ethnic minorities and their protests. The Georgians had the managed to keep up their authority over their areas of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, however not without a price. Even though they were resolved to full national self-assurance, they frequently took care of the national minorities, playing into Russian hands. At the time, Russia was encountering a civil war. However, the one thing that the Reds (Bolsheviks) and Whites (Mensheviks) could agree on was that little nations like Georgia had no right to a free state.

Georgia adopted a strategy of neutrality in the war lack of bias in that war, setting them not just against the Bolsheviks, yet also against the Mensheviks, this implied Georgia was urgently searching for allies on the planet. Their diplomats could be found in the significant countries of Europe, specifically at the Paris harmony meeting. They scored some real victories, in the end winning acknowledgment from Britain and others. They additionally looked for recognition and backing for what they saw to be one more of the major forces: the international socialist movement. A group of socialist leaders, headed by Karl Kautsky (who was often called ‘the pope of Marxism’) visited in 1920, and they were amazed by what the Georgians had accomplished. One leader of the British Labor Party in the gathering said that the Georgians had made one of the perfect socialist states.

Although the apparent differences between the agrarian law of these two states, it could be said that to some extent, they have similarities as well. The main similarity is that both governments planned to have change brought to their agriculture due to the failures of previous leaderships. The ideas were similar, but the execution of their promises is what set apart the two socialist states. Russian industry was mainly destroyed by the wars of intervention, and a large amount of the everyday urban workers died in the Red Army. Given the military needs, the longer-term communist development policy was not so much on the plan at this stage. But, the Soviet regime embarked on some land redistribution, attempting to disassemble the Stolypin reforms beyond what many would consider possible.

Coming out of the shadow of the failed Stolypin Land Reforms, it is not surprising that the lower class continued to express hostility and suspicion at the notion of private land ownership. In peasant accounts of the fall of 1917, this worry strikes a universal chord: in a resolution by a gathering of laborers in Petrograd, the collective body encouraged the Soviets too, “immediately declare all the land public and hand it over for disposal by the volost land committees.” The idea that the land should be shared was profoundly established in collective custom, so it isn’t astounding that the workers were responding against the hereditary land occupation via proprietors now and requesting an arrival to the public land framework – “Land is the common and equal legacy of all people and so cannot be the object of private ownership by individual persons…ownership of land, as property, is one of the most unnatural of crimes.”

These sources might be arguable because the Soviet Union was very strict on what was to be published in order to keep their ideology sacred and not give the citizens alternative ideas. This would apply more to the first decade of the Soviet Union due to its new government and the fear of having opposition. “The act passed on the 7th of March 1918 prescribed that poor peasants needing land, could only lease portions of land reserve from the state. But a new Act, passed on the 28th of January 1919, specified that they could purchase the state land at a moderate price’. This step could be seen as another difference in the views of Bolshevik Russia and Menshevik Georgia regarding the land issue. With this new law, Georgia definitely went out of the socialistic boundaries and did what was necessary for the country, unlike Russia which strictly stuck to the ideas of Socialism no matter how much a change was needed and how urgent it was.

As mentioned before the Georgian Social Democrats and the Russian Bolsheviks had different strategies to the agrarian question. When there was war communism in Russia, the Bolsheviks treated the laborers both as providers of essential products, but also as foes. For quite a while, the connection between the laborers and the ordinary urban workers in Russia was harmed by the threatening hostility shown by the Bolshevik leadership towards the peasants. This began to change with the promotion of the New Economic Policy in 1921.

Also, even that just endured a couple of years before Stalin released the destructive war against the laborers known as ‘constrained collectivization.’ Then, in Georgia under Social Democratic leadership, there was nothing like that threatening, or hostility between workers and peasants. The Minister of Agriculture in the Georgian government, Noe Khomeriki and his comrades understood the peasant’s hunger for land, due to them being in their position in the past.

Indeed, even before Georgia declared its independence in May 1918, they drove an agrarian change through the Transcaucasian parliament. However, it was not until Georgia was utterly free that their ideas progressed toward becoming a reality. Their agricultural program included some state ownership of land and the confiscation of the properties owned by the tsar and church, however in general, their attention was towards offering the property to the peasants. To say the least, in this, they were, to a great extent, successful. There were a few moments of peasant distress, usually tied to ethnic conflict. But, in general, the peasants who supported the Social Democrats when they originally came to power kept on supporting them until the very end.


In conclusion, these two states who were almost identical in ideology, were, in fact, very different, especially in their approach towards agriculture. While the Bolsheviks restricted human rights and were in the desperation of economic improvement no matter the cost, the Georgian Mensheviks fulfilled their promises towards the working class. The Georgians were having good results nationally and also internationally and were on the way of becoming a remarkably improved country after their one hundred years of being a part of the Russian empire. Unfortunately, the Soviet Russian powers captured Tbilisi, forced the withdrawal of the Georgian government to Batumi and afterward it’s clearing on Allied ships. The Georgian Social Democrats were defeated, yet they didn’t surrender. They kept up a semi-legal existence for the first couple of years under Soviet rule, and eventually in August 1924 launched a rebellion which was quickly crushed by the Red Army. In December 1930, the first prime minister of independent Georgia, Noe Ramishvili, was killed by a Soviet operator in Paris. About ten years had gone since the destruction of the Georgian Republic by the Russian Red Army. However, Stalin still dreaded the likelihood of a Social Democratic party coming back to control.

In the numerous decades that went by, when Georgia was a province of a gigantic Soviet Union, the genuine history of this period could not be told or thought in this nation. But, it was likewise forgotten outside of Georgia, as Social Democratic parties moved on, and individuals bit by bit acknowledged the stability of Soviet rule in this nation. It was an experiment in democratic socialism, and from multiple points of view, it was a noteworthy achievement.


  1. “A Social-Democratic Peasant Republic” by Karl Kautsky
  2. “The Experiment: Georgia’s Experiment in Democratic Socialism, 1918-1921” by Eric Lee
  3. “Between Red and White” by Leon Trotsky
  4. “Socialism in Colors” by Stephen Jones
  5. “The Russian Revolution” by Rosa Luxemburg (mainly chapter two)
  6. “ The End of the Russian Land Commune” by Dorothy Atkinson

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