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Kulaks (from the Russian kulak, "fist") were peasants in Tsarist Russia who owned mid-sized farms as a result of reforms introduced by Peter Stolypin in 1906. Stolypin's intention was to create a group of prosperous farmers who would form a conservative political force. By the outbreak of World War I around 15 per cent of Russian farmers were kulaks.

Joseph Stalin began attacking kulaks in 1928 for not supplying enough food for industrial workers. He decided to replace them by setting up collective farms and forcing small farmers to join large-scale units. This collectivization was justified by saying that they would be in a position to afford the latest machinery and would enjoy increased production. However, the peasants were reluctant to give up their land and form state collectives.

Stalin was furious that as he saw it, the peasants were putting their own welfare before that of the Soviet Union. Thousands of kulaks were summarily executed, kulak property was confiscated to form collective farms, and an estimated five million kulaks were deported to Siberia or Central Asia. One quarter of these perished by the time they reached their destination. Although many of the people accused of being Kulaks, were poor peasants who were branded as Kulaks because they opposed Collectivisation.