Brezhnev’s “Nonblack Earth Program”

Khrushchev was removed from power and replaced by Leonid Brezhnev in 1964. Brezhnev had been secretary of the Central Committee of the Kazakhstan Communist Party during the initial years of the “Virgin Lands Project.” When he came to power, he immediately raised the prices paid to farmers for their products and guaranteed a wage for collective farmers.

His main goal was to revamp agriculture and rural life in the nonblack earth region of north European Russia. This cool, humid portion of the Soviet Union did not often experience drought. It had considerable potential for high agricultural production. Land reclamation on a large scale was necessary in this swampy, heavily glaciated area, however. To begin the process, drainage systems were laid, roads constructed, and new villages founded. High-quality seeds and fertilizers were made available to those who farmed here. Although a great deal of capital was invested, the returns turned out to be disappointing. This area has remained one of the poorest rural areas of Russia.