Dekulakization: Human Nature, the Dangers of Resentment, and How it Led to the Death of Millions of Russian Farmers

Jack P. Carroll ’24

Contributing Writer

Our undergraduate careers are an intense and rewarding time period in our lives. We all are working diligently to perfect our resumes and land our dream job or be admitted into a top graduate program. As we begin this journey, it is crucial—for the well-being and future success of everyone in our class—that we work hard and develop a supportive community in which we actively encourage and congratulate one another’s academic progress and accomplishments.

A failure to remain encouraging and respectful of each other’s successes could potentially lead to the development of a hostile community that facilitates the immaturities of jealousy and hatred. These immaturities lie in infamy as they, historically, have stunted individual success and ruthlessly destroyed some of the most productive communities. 

In order to truly grasp the perilous consequences that are associated with resentment, it is crucial that we recount the brutal massacre of a population of Russian farmers, commonly known as the kulaks, in the early twentieth century as part of a Soviet sponsored initiative known as “Dekulakization.”

Before recounting the tragic death of the kulaks, it is important to obtain a clear and concise understanding of resentment to better understand the intensity of the underlying negative emotions that motivated the barbarous persecution of some of the most innocent and undeserving of people.

 As defined by Merriam-Webster, resentment can be regarded as “A feeling of indignant displeasure or persistent ill will at something regarded as wrong, insult, or injury.”

In other words, resentment is a negative emotion rooted in the individual’s inability to overcome one’s jealousy of others, as well as one’s failure to make up for one’s own displeasure and personal shortcomings. With these particular definitions in mind, let us now revisit and deconstruct the devastating plight of the kulaks and better assess how to avoid this infamy and jealousy.

As described in the 2018 internationally best-selling book 12 Rules for Life by the renowned clinical psychologist and professor of psychology at the University of Toronto Dr. Jordan B. Peterson, the kulaks were “the most skillful and hardworking farmers” as well as a “small minority of people” who were responsible for most of the agricultural production throughout the Soviet Union. 

As a result of their productivity and agricultural skill, the kulaks were also the “richest peasants” and enjoyed relatively profound economic success, that is, for what the times and government would permit.  The typical kulak, as Peterson notes, owned “a small number of cows, a couple of hired hands, or a few acres more than was typical.” 

However, in the eyes of a resentful ruling class, that is, the Soviet Union, the financial success of the kulaks was unacceptable in those times. In response to their success, the Soviets developed a vicious propaganda campaign in a desperate attempt to villainize the kulaks’ economic success and financial gains. As best summarized by Peterson, the Soviet’s purported the resentful and politically charged lie that the kulaks had “gathered their wealth by plundering those around them.” The Soviet’s further justified their false and inhumane depiction of the kulaks’ success by promoting the pseudo-moralistic and power motivated principles that “wealth signified oppression” and “private property was theft.” 

While stringently following the previously quoted economic principles in the name of equity, the Soviets shot and killed thirty thousand kulaks, raped their women, confiscated their property, looted their personal belongings, and exiled millions to Siberia where many died in the process of traveling from a myriad of severe illnesses including typhoid, measles, and scarlet fever. As a result of the mass exportation of the kulaks, the proceeding agricultural decline led six million people in the Ukraine to die from starvation. With regard to the death toll of the kulaks themselves, it is speculated that three million were killed under Stalin’s Five-Year Plans alone, a devestating loss that demonstrates the worst of humanity. 

Some who have read up to this point may regard the connection of resentment to Dekulakization as a deliberate exaggeration, or perhaps even a provocative stunt. Such dismissive claims only reveal that the person making them has not deeply considered the monstrous implications of resentment, or their own proclivity for evil and destruction as humans capable of possessing and acting upon such negative emotions. One then may be inclined to ask, “Why would one avoid contemplating such pressing behavioral and societal issues which concern our own human nature?” For the very reason one may pose this question: such thoughts concern our own human nature. In modern society, it appears as though any thought of ourselves as being anything but moral creatures that are for the public and social good are bound to evoke internal feelings of guilt and discomfort from which we feel morally obligated to reconcile. 

Indeed, as revealed by the moral justness and divinity through which the Soviets viewed their persecution of the kulaks, the existential struggle of the human race has forever concerned the individual’s refusal to objectively recognize one’s self as a complex being that is capable of pursuing both destruction and virtuosity—chaos and order, if you will. 

Returning to my original message, I hope we are able to recognize the plight of the kulaks as a constant reminder of the devastating consequences that are associated with resentment. While such negative emotions are not likely to result in anything akin to the suffering experienced by the kulaks, they are, as revealed by the biblical story of Cain and Abel, guaranteed to plague personal well-being and close relationships with chaos and distress. In the context of school, when we find ourselves becoming resentful of, for example, a high-achieving friend or classmate, it is imperative to recognize our own immaturity and lack of gratitude before lashing out and subjecting the target of our frustration to undeserved suffering—as the Soviet’s once did to the kulaks. 

As was once cautioned and warned by the renowned 19th-century German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche, “Nothing on Earth consumes a man more quickly than the passion of resentment.” 

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