Kolkhoz (Russian: колхо́з, IPA: [kɐlˈxos] (listen), a contraction of коллективное хозяйство, "collective ownership", kollektivnoye khozaystvo) is the name given to large farms that existed in the Soviet Union, and that were organised as a cooperative. A group of people would run these farms; they also owned the means of production (like the machines they needed), but not the land, which was owned by the state.
The state also ran farms during that time, which were known as Sovkhoz. These farms existed from about 1917, the date of the October Revolution, to 1991, when the Soviet Union was disbanded. In a Sovkhoz, people were employed, and did not own any means of production.
As a collective farm, a kolkhoz was legally organized as a production cooperative. The Standard Charter of a kolkhoz is a model of cooperative principles in print. It speaks of the kolkhoz as a "form of agricultural production cooperative of peasants that voluntarily unite for the purpose of joint agricultural production based on [...] collective labor". It asserts that "the kolkhoz is managed according to the principles of socialist self-management, democracy, and openness, with active participation of the members in decisions concerning all aspects of internal life".
They imposed detailed work programs and nominated their preferred managerial candidates. Since the mid-1930s, the kolkhozes had been in effect an offshoot of the state sector (although notionally they continued to be owned by their members). Nevertheless, in locations with particularly good land or if it happened to have capable management, some kolkhozes accumulated substantial sums of money in their bank accounts. As a result, many kolkhozes were formally nationalized by changing their status to sovkhozes. The faint dividing lines between collective and state farms were obliterated almost totally in the late 1960s, when Khrushchev's administration authorized a guaranteed wage to kolkhoz members, similarly to sovkhoz employees. Essentially, his administration recognized their status as hired hands rather than authentic cooperative members. The guaranteed wage provision was incorporated in the 1969 version of the Standard Charter.
- Standard Kolkhoz Charter, Agropromizdat, Moscow (1989), pp. 4,37 (Russian).
- V.I. Semchik , Cooperation and the Law, Naukova Dumka, Kiev (1991) (Russian).
- E.V. Serova, Agricultural Cooperation in the USSR, Agropromizdat, Moscow (1991) (Russian).