2 To the 60th anniversary of turning Wild Lands into Fertile Lands

To the 60th anniversary of turning Wild Lands into Fertile Lands

Finest hour of “virgin soil”

Reforms and people in the USSR


August 16, 1956, in the USSR there was adopted a resolution “About irrigation and the development of virgin soil lands”. More than a half million people went to the steppes of Kazakhstan, the Volga region, Siberia and the Urals.

“In such way, foremost people of reaping are honored on virgin farm” Leninskiy ” ” / Photo: Iosiph Budnevich

The development of virgin land on color photographs from the archives of the “Ogonyok” magazine – in the photo gallery of the famous newspaper.

The development of virgin land began in 1954 when in the Soviet Union there was a grain deficit. 50 thousand. Of Komsomol members from the central part of the country went to the Aktyubinsk region (Kazakh ASSR), plant grain culture.

“Through virgin soil” / Photo: A. Gostev


During the time of the development of virgin lands program more than 45 million hectares of land: 25.5 million ha – in Kazakhstan, Siberia and the Urals – 17 million hectares was plowed and planted with new crops.

“Best pig-woman Maria Rogacheva with her pet” / Photo: Yakov Ryumkin


Workforce for new lands was attracted from the western part of the USSR. Mobilized young Komsomol members got free transport, allowance for a thousand rubles. In addition, they had a soft loan amounting to 20 thousand for 10 years for housing building. During five years from the state budget, 20 billion rubles were allocated for this purpose.

“Friends of a tractor driver Kiparenko Maria (on the left) and Sofia Borsch came to develop virgin lands in the Northern Kazakhstan” / Photo: N. Drachinsky

“Night cleaning at the farm ” Sunrise ” in North Kazakhstan region” / Photo: Iosiph Budnevich

“Young virgin landers – tractor driver and cooker of brigade came to the virgin lands” / Photo: B. Kuzmin


In total in 1954-1959 years in the campaign for the development of new agricultural land were involved 1.7 million people.

“Student of MHTS in the name of Bauman works on virgin combiner” / Photo: Simon Friedland


“In 1956, there was a great year. Harvest in the desert was grown very rich, instead of the promised 600 million there was 1 billion tons of grain “, – wrote in his book” Virgin land”Leonid Brezhnev.

“Bread of virgin lands” / Photo: Dmitry Baltermants


In 1956 in the USSR there was collected a record harvest of 125 million tons of grains, half of which was obtained in the virgin lands.

” New settlers of tractor team: from left to right, Mikhail Antipov, tractor driver Ivan Zanin and Nikolay Solovyov” / Photo: Alexander Gostev


“People have to reckon with the natural processes and adapt to them, contrasting their fabrication to wild nature. But whatever happened, and despite all the difficulties, the virgin bread remained the cheapest one “, – Nikita Khrushchev wrote in his memoirs.

“Cinema without an address. Bus-theater “Malutka” “/ Photo: K. Kasimov


In virgin areas, there was organized a usual for youth leisure: clubs, cinemas, and libraries.


“For the second year in a row, the primacy among the mechanization is held by the farm” Lenin Zholy ” in Kokchetav region by communist Marat Mutagarova. Along with him there are three siblings – the Communists Rafhat, Rashid and Farid”/ Photo: Iosiph Budnevich


To get quick results and high harvest, virgin lands were fertilized with chemicals. Their consumption, and accordingly, production in the country has doubled.

“Here it is, virgin bread” / Photo: V. Krupin


Staff ignored the particular climate of the steppe zone – active use of fertilizers has led to frequent dusty storms, erosion, and loss of soil fertility.

“Kazakhstanets” tractors on the shipping site of Pavlodar Tractor Plant” / Photo: Joseph Budnevich

“Achievements of a senior of Lugovskoy stud farm Zhambyl region, delegate of the XXVI Congress of the CPSU, Hero of Socialist Labor, first virgin soil lander Nadir Begaziev are widely known” / Photo: Iosiph Budnevich

“On the central current” / Photo: Joseph Budnevich

“Gravshina Luba (on the left) and Galina Kazakova “/ Photo: Alexander Gostev


The sharp outflow of the work force from the central part of the Soviet Union had a negative impact on the performance of agricultural production in these regions. In 1974, the authorities announced a “second virgin soil” – this time in nonblack earth European part of Russia.

“Animal husbandry – the second virgin soil of Kazakhstan. The animal husbandry feeding complex for 30 thousand sheep in the Uighur district of the Almaty region “/ Photo: Joseph Budnevich


Plowing of giant lands in Kazakhstan has led to a reduction of pasture and hay fields. This reflected in the traditional sectors of agriculture in the region – animal husbandry, which was in the early 1960s in a crisis.

“A worker of the elevator Ayman Seytkasimova” / Photo: Oleg Knorring

“Mayra Khasenova spent twenty-third harvest time in the combine. Before going into the field. Mayra Khasenova, husband Saylubek and son Moscow (the son is named after the capital) “/ Photo: Joseph Budnevich

“Worker of gas-station of Nazarevskaya MTS in Altai Territory Lubov Serova” / Photo: Galina Sanko


“The water of Irtysh channel – Karaganda is successfully used in the farm fields of Pavlodar and Karaganda regions” / Photo: Joseph Budnevich

“Bread of Kazakhstan” / Photo: Oleg Knorring


Virgin soil saga captured the Soviet Union so hard, that in 1961 the Akmolinsk town in Kazakhstan was renamed into Tselinograd (now it is the capital of the republic – Astana), in 1963 Ust-Uyskiy district in Kurgan region was renamed in Tselinniy.

“Until recently, the tractor driver Leonid Panov was a miner, and now picks up virgin lands in the Altai, in the Kulunda steppe ” / Photo: Alexander Gostev


About 4 thousand virgin soil workers were awarded orders and medals, five of them were awarded the title of Hero of Socialist Labor.

“Virgin land habitable. It is rainy outside”/ Photo: Isaac Tunkel

“Funny minute” / Photo: Alexander Gostev


Considering all the successes of the pioneers of the virgin soils program first people didn’t want to still live on cultivated lands. From 1965 to 2000, 280 thousand people left only from 10 of the virgin areas of the Orenburg region. This is four times more than the number of arrived in the region for the agricultural work.


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2 responses to “To the 60th anniversary of turning Wild Lands into Fertile Lands”

  1. Martin Barlow says:

    These are great pictures in the way they illustrate the propaganda that was produced at the time, and the hope that went with Khrushchev’s idea, which seemed a good one for the first couple of years. However, while it’s mentioned in passing, perhaps a bit more about how the soil and climate in fact proved quite unsuitable for this type of cultivation would have been appropriate, and how the soil ended up sterile and unproductive, with widespread erosion. In the long term it proved a bit of a disaster as far as I understand it, though I stand to be corrected.

  2. RB says:

    All of these pictures of Russia are very interesting. The health of hard working people and the happiness of the children. We lost a lot of what was good for us. Now too much sugar is killing everyone in the world.

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