Swell the Harvest was a song written in 1930 by a state employed poet. The song is about farmers trading in their old farm equipment that their grandfathers used for new, more modern farm equipment that is far more efficient at planting crops.
It was common for peasant farmers to sing short songs whenever they farmed, so the government hoped that songs like Swell the Harvest would catch on and become popular. This was an advertisement campaign of sorts with the hope being that these types of songs would ultimately convince farmers to buy the more technologically advanced and more productive machines so that they could produce more food.
This song was written directly in the middle of the first 5-year plan. At this point, there was a lot of pressure to participate in and to adhere to the ideals of the Cultural Revolution. It was through artistic messaging such as this short song that the Soviet government was trying to change the country’s “backwardness”.
The Soviet government had such an interest in modernizing the countries relatively primitive farms that along with songs, they also made films about farming. One such movie came out in 1939 and was called Трактористы (Tractor Drivers). This film was a comedy/romance about a girl on a collective farm in Ukraine.
- Russian Reader Picture (p.142 Swell the Harvest)
9 thoughts on “Soviet Tunes: Swell the Harvest”
The Soviet government saw themselves as backwards because they were not industrialized. In order to become industrialized, they needed their farmers to adopt modern farming techniques (to produce more crops). The best way to do this was to give them the new farming technology/equipment. The point of the song is to convince the farmers to get the new equipment.
Thanks! Yeah I think the government influence over culture is really interesting as well. In my Russian Lit class, we learned about socialist realism and how artists in this time period were supposed to be “the engineers of the human soul”. I think that this concept definitely applies to this song.
That’s cool that they sang just to pass the time and make their work go by faster. It makes me think of when I run, I listen to music to make the run go by faster. I am a little confused though, if the Soviet government was trying to change the “backwardness” of the country, then why did they sell new farming technology if they wanted the peasants to turn to industrialization?
It’s exactly how people will listen to music now. It also reminds me of how slaves in the U.S. would often times come up with songs when they were working incredibly long days in horrible conditions. Generally, singing helps with the passage of time.