Development of agriculture in Sintautai area in the 20th century

Raimondas Daniliauskas

The development of agriculture in Sintautai Valsčius (later–neighbourhood) has not been investigated before. The abolition of serfdom in Užnemunė region in 1807 and the land reform performed in 1864 in the Kingdom of Poland (Congress Poland) had ensured personal and farming freedom to peasants of this area and provided better conditions for education and culture to develop. The early started (from 1820s) division into homesteads ended in 1913 in Sintautai Valsčius.

In 1918–1940 the agriculture in Sintautai Valsčius developed in the same direction as in the County of Šakiai and Lithuania, as a whole. Because there were no manors and large (100 ha and more) landed properties in this area, the development of agriculture was based on 30–50 ha farms. A unique document “Sąrašas paskirstymo taisiaus kelių Sintautų valsčiaus sulig žemės rūšių 1925 m.“, presenting a list of road repair works in Sintautai area in 1925, enables to suppose that there were 184 farms from 30 to 50 ha in size of 753 ones in the Sintautai Valsčius. According to the landed property inventory done in 1930, the farmers owning 30–50 ha lands managed the area of 6,812.40 ha (40.4 percent) of the total 16,860.56 ha farmland in the Sintautai Valsčius. This was the largest number of such size farms in the County of Šakiai. Hence, more farmers could deal with agricultural commodity production and be more flexible with forming market, as well as use more up-to-date work tools, cultivate land with lower labour expenses and develop animal husbandry. As there were no manors in Sintautų area, the above farms are commonly called large ones.

The first Soviet occupation followed by that of Nazi had impoverished the economy of Lithuania. The Soviet post-war land reform and collectivisation abolished the private property. The basic source for living became a land plot of 0.6 ha in area, called “arai”, which enabled kolkhoz members to get even about 75 percent of their incomes (15–20 percent from public farming) as far as mid-1950s. Old agricultural traditions moved to new action stages. With modernisation of collective farms, individual demands were satisfied from the personal land plot. This enabled to maintain the connection with old traditions; moreover, an experience in individual and collective farming was developing and was useful for the farms which were formed later. when the Independence of Lithuania was restored.

The analysis based on one rural district allows to maintain that, in all times in Sintautai Valsčius, in spite of changes and reforms, a key momentum was and remains a farmer, no matter how he is called. Due to his toil and ingeniousness, both before and now, Lithuania as an agricultural land can survive in global space as a State, and Lithuanians as a Nation.