Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Plowed ground smells of earthworms and empires

Break virgin lands!
V. Livanova, 1954

There was a time they loved an accordionist, and now the time has come when they love a tractor driver.
A Russian proverb

Here is another poster which proclaims developing of virgin land as main means of agricultural boosting declared by Nikita Khrushchev . The slogan says: “Break virgin lands” and is accompanied by a short quatrain:

These lands are priceless.
Year by year
We should raise more and more
Grain for people.

Before the
Revolution tractors were scarce as peasants did not have property rights on land they were cultivating and could not even dream about mechanization. And after the Revolution another problem occurred: the horses were all confiscated for army needs during the WW1 and the Civil War and the cows were all confiscated as a result of the War Communism policy. So when the whole thing settled down a bit, there were no draught means to plow and the peasants could not physically pull the plows themselves as during the war years the land became virgin. So in 1923 the first Soviet tractor “Zaporoshets” was built. It was an unsophisticated machine with three wheels, no cabin and torque engine, which worked on crude oil. The tractor was very simple to service and operate and it did play a great role in agricultural development of the country.

The caterpillar-tractor on the poster is the most popular model of the fifties called “
Stalinets – 80”. It was named after Stalin like many other things in the Soviet Union. The women behind are “plugary” – plow-operators. They were lifting the plow at turnabouts or in case there was a stone. This was an extremely hard work because of the huge clouds of dust and exhausts from the pulling tractor. Stalinets’ production started in 1946 right after the War. For Soviet workers and peasants this was a machine from heaven – it had a full metal cabin with folding canvas roof, tilting windows and a powerful diesel engine which was capable of 92 horsepower at 1000 rpm. It could pull 8800 kgf at a speed of 10 km/h. In 1946-1958 there were built more than 200 thousand of S-80 tractors which were working at construction of Volgo-Baltic Waterway, during Antarctic exploration, on Karakum’s channel, at Bratsk hydroelectric plant, BAM and many other ambitious Soviet projects not to mention regular duties like plowing and towing.

This is why tractors were always a kind of a fetish for Soviet propaganda - it were these simple machines which paved the way to the
Gagarin’s launch in space.