The Corn Man

Following the Virgin Lands Program, Nikita Khrushchev was looking for a solution for the U.S.S.R’s next major issue, the Soviets diminished livestock population. To increase the number of livestock yields, Khrushchev began a  campaign to promote corn as a feed crop in Russia. In 1959 he toured middle America to witness Corn production in the United States. I think the nature of the campaign is best illustrated in this picture of Khrushchev while in the U.S.


(Khrushchev with Roswell Garst, as he visits American Farms)

When Khrushchev visited the U.S. his visit was highly publicized, newspapers around the country covered the visit. He was exceptionally well received in the mid-west where he shook hands and visited many local farmers. Including a man named Roswell Garst. Khrushchev and Garst had met in the U.S.S.R and became friends. He toured Garst’s farms and asked questions about the techniques and machinery used. He was so impressed with what he saw in America that he attempted to implement it back in Russia. Unfortunately, it had a very short and limited run of success.


When Khrushchev arrived back in Russia, he began what was known as the Corn Campaign. Which was the continued push for more production of corn throughout Russia. It was poorly received by the peasants who are stated in saying “We don’t need to sow corn; it will just cause a lot of trouble and bring little use.” (Freeze p.430) Khrushchev would soon become known as Kukuruznik or “Corn-man” to the people, due to his blind obsession with the vegetable  Here are some statistical facts based off of the 17 moments article “Corn Campaign.” According to the article sown acreage of corn rose from 4.3 million hectares in 1954 to 18 million hectares in 1955. This was due to favorably hot weather during two successive years’ growing seasons, corn harvests were abundant. The real failure of the moment to corn was Khrushchev’s failure to concentrate on more efficient methods of cultivating, fertilizing, and mechanically harvesting corn, Soviet leaders merely just expanded the acreage to areas lacking in appropriate climatic conditions and sufficient labor supplies. This was probably due to his overconfidence in his personal knowledge of agriculture. However, the acreage continued to increase, so that by 1960 total acreage increased to 28 million hectares and reached 37 million by 1962. The latter year, cool and rainy in the spring and early summer throughout European Russia, proved disastrous for corn. Some 70 to 80 percent of the acreage planted died. Even in southern regions, where grain corn harvests rose from four million tons in 1953 to 14 million in 1964, yields remained low, and labor inputs averaged three times higher than inputs for wheat. What made matters worse was that all the while, hay production had declined throughout the country, from 64 million tons in 1953 to 47 million in 1965. Meaning even though Corn production had increased it merely only made up for the lack of hay being produced instead of increasing the overall amount of feed. This created a skepticism to the new crop, and a growing lack of faith in Khrushchev’s an ability to lead.


(Some Soviet Posters of the Corn Campaign)

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(This post earned a “red star” award from the editorial team.)


Work Cited:

Freeze, Gregory L. “From Stalinism to Stagnation 1953-1985.” Russia a History. New York: Oxford University Press, 2009. 430-431. Print.

von Geldern, James. “Corn Campaign.” Soviet history, Accessed 7 April 2018

Scali, John. “Soviet Leader Tired But Smiling in Heart of Iowa’s Tall Corn Country.” Carroll Daily Times Herald. 23 September 1959.

D. Korolev. “BOUNTEOUS GIFTS OF CORN” Current Digest of the Russian Press, The , 18 Jul. 1962,

“(Editorial)-FOR HIGH CORN YIELDS” Current Digest of the Russian Press, The , 10 Aug. 1955,


5 thoughts on “The Corn Man

  1. This was a great post! The images you included are excellent, and I think it’s important to realize that the failure cannot be completely blamed on the weather. Expanding without innovating techniques was a recipe for disaster for the corn campaign, and it led to a quick collapse. How did the Soviet people receive this collapse?

    Liked by 2 people

    1. The Soviet people were upset about switching to Corn in the first place, so when it failed it only added to their suspicion and lack of trust in Khrushchev’s decision making.


  2. Eric Iredale

    Without reading things like this and lacking an understanding of agriculture make the idea of farming seem so simple and straightforward. Hard to understand that even with modern techniques and technology there is a lot that can go wrong. Also hard to think of how much could have been different for the Soviet Union had Khrushchev been more successful with his farming campaigns.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I thoroughly enjoyed this post – you used some great sources as pictures. I agree with some of the other comments that the process of expanding the agricultural market was nonsensical without innovations to technology and gaining a basic understanding of the necessary processes.

    Liked by 1 person

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