The Soviet famine of 1932–33 is an event in human history which is still little understood. While there is a consensus among Western scholars that such an event took place, the causes, geographical extent, and the severity in terms of excess mortality are today still being extensively debated. One reason for the debate stems from the lack of hard demographic and economic evidence that would conclusively define the event, particularly from the Soviet Union before 1987. To fully appreciate the content and significance of of the Cairns' reports, they must be placed within an historical context. The task is to broadly outline what took place in the Soviet countryside over fifty years ago. To accomplish this, the following topics are addressed: collectivization of Soviet agriculture; Soviet agriculture during the First Five-Year Plan 1928–32, and the famine of the 1932–33.