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Kulak (Russian: кулак, Ukrainian: куркуль or kurkul) is a term for prosperous Russian peasants who usually owned a large farm and several horses or cattle, and could hire labor and even lease land. The kulaks were leading figures in the peasant villages prior to the Russian Revolution of 1917. The term kulak was used interchangeably with as "enemy of the people."

Vladimir Lenin ordered execution of kulaks, or dekulakization program to terrorize village and rural populations into submission under the Soviet yoke. An order dated November 8, 1918 illustrates the terrorist tactics used by the Bolsheviks in the early days of the Russian Revolution:

Comrades! The revolt by the five kulak administrative districts must be suppressed without mercy. The interest of the entire revolution demands this, because we have now before us our final decisive battle "with the kulaks." We need to set an example.

  1. You need to hang (hang without fail, so that the public sees) at least 100 notorious kulaks, the rich, and the bloodsuckers.
  2. Publish their names.
  3. Take away all of their grain.
  4. Execute the hostages - in accordance with yesterday's telegram.

This needs to be accomplished in such a way, that people for hundreds of miles around will see, tremble, know and scream out: let's choke and strangle those blood-sucking kulaks. Telegraph us acknowledging receipt and execution of this.

Yours, Lenin

P.S. Use your toughest people for this.[1]

When Joseph Stalin rose to power, kulaks resisted some of his measures of collectivization and were accused of speculation.[2] Resistance usually involved the burning of ones crops, or the killing of ones livestock.[3] Stalin responded with a brutality of horrific proportions, known as "Dekulakization". On 27 December, 1929 he announced the "liquidation of the kulaks as class". The purpose of this was to combat supposed "counter revolutionaries", but in reality it served to enable the advance of collectivization. The kulaks and their families had all of their property confiscated by the state. Stalin then either executed, put in labor camps, or deported them to Siberia or central Asia. It is unclear how many died to the Soviet policies of dekulakization and collectivization, but most estimates place the death toll around 15 million.[4] Dekulakization was also a factor in the man-made famine (Holodomor) in Soviet controlled Ukraine, which claimed around 7 million lives.[5] In 1934, the Communist Party justified their actions with the statement "Not one of them [Kulaks] was guilty of anything; but they belonged to a class that was guilty of everything".


As a delayed effect of the kulak purges, the 1980s saw the Soviet Union turn to the United States to purchase grain; their supplies were still critically weakened from the mass destruction of their agricultural intellect and manpower during the purge. Russian agriculture is still somewhat reeling from these effects, and it remains weak to this day.

Other Uses

"KULAK" was the code name given by the KGB in Venona cables to U.S. Republican party nominee Thomas Dewey who ran against incumbent Democratic Franklin Delano Roosevelt for President in 1944.[6]


  1. Lenin's Hanging Order, English translation.
  2. Our Daily Bread: Socialist Distribution and the Art of Survival in In Stalin's Russia, 1927-1941, Elena Aleksandrovna Osokina, Kate Transchel
  3. Walters, E. Garrison. The Other Europe, Eastern Europe to 1945. New York, Dorset Press, 1988. pg. 319
  4. Robert Conquest. The Harvest of Sorrow: Soviet Collectivization and the Terror-Famine. Oxford University Press: 1986. ISBN 0-19-505180-7. pg. 306
  5. John Heidenrich, How to Prevent Genocide: A Guide for Policymakers, Scholars, and the Concerned Citizen (2001): 20 million, including Kulaks: 7 million, Gulag: 12 million, Great Purge: 1.2 million (minus 50,000 survivors).
  6. Venona 1433 - 1435 New York to Moscow, 10 October 1944, p.1 p.2p.3