Thursday, August 26, 2010

Russian farmers during winter...what did they do?

I am doing some research into farming in Russia around 1914-1917 (focusing on pre-Revolution era) and I am really struggling to find out what farmers would do during the winter months, specifically in areas which receive a lot of snow?

I guess farming the land wasn't possible, but I can't find any information on what they would have been doing during winter. I understand that some workers would travel around for work, but I'm interested in those who would have owned their own farms and stayed there all year (kulaks I think?).

Asked by Abby

First of all I need to explain the Russian term "KULAK". (Kulak - eng. FIST)
This word (which has very negative meaning in Russian) describes the richest farmers (of the beginning of the XX century), who outsourced labor for heavy works and who were lenders of money and material to less fortunate neighbors.

Climate dictated habits & traditions of all nations. If Russian were engaged only in tilling the soil or wheat processing, the people would disappear either from cold or famine. That is why the unique nature of Russian plan required plowmen to adapt two types of the economy - the summer one and the winter one.
The objective of summer economy was to support the family with «agricultural activity».
The objective of the winter one - was to get the income « from the crafts/business activity ». If the frost took care of the land in the winter the Russian farmer had nothing there. He had to be involved in some kind of business.
In fact, the budget of Russian peasants consisted of only 50-75% of their agricultural work. The other 25-50 % of the income came from "trade or business".
Majority of men went to towns with own horse to become temporary cabs.
However many young families couldn't permit themselves to own a horse as it was very expensive to own an animal in the winter.
Others went to towns with the other men of their village to be hired for temporary works (carpenters, blacksmiths, etc). They tried to stay close together and formed ARTELs (or cooperatives).

That is why there were very few healthy young men left in the villages during the winter, if not to say NONE
The majority of families consisted of women and older members of the family with children.
P.S. So I am afraid Abby, I won't be able to bring any news to your research. HELAS ! new info here


  1. There was another way for Russian folks to survive during winter. I was born In Ukraine, in a small village called Kalinovka. Its a place full of natural riches, and naturally grown vegetables. My Grandparents had a big field of potatoes and other kind of vegetables. Before winter comes, they collect all the food that needed to be stored for winter. The foods that survive long are: Potatoes, carrots, beets, radishes, dried peas, beans, onions. etc. They also made a pickled tomatoes and cucumbers for winters. They made "Kampot", Boiled fruits with sweet water. They made any kind of Jams for winter. Jams are really good to use during winter. Like if you are sick and do not feel like eating. a Cup of milk and a bread spread with Jam are really helpful in making a sick person feel better. They also make sure to get honey in a medium size jar for winter[ in case if someone falls sick]. All of the "food" they stored was in the underground[ under house] or another place where it seems like ' toiled sized booth and has stairs inside leading underground, just like people stored wines ;).

  2. Thank you for the comment! Of cause it is all correct. Just I referred to the men-farmers of pre-revolutionary times (beginning of XX century)