Russia: The Last Laugh

Back in 1956, when Nikita Khrushchev's risky gamble on the Virgin Lands seemed to be paying off, the Soviet ruler gleefully gibed at Western predictions that his pet scheme for plowing up 100 million acres of marginal land in Siberia and Kazakhstan could never solve Russia's chronic food shortage. "He laughs best who laughs last," chuckled Khrushchev. "So let us laugh at how these sorry forecasters have miscalculated."

But Nikita laughed too soon. Yields in Kazakhstan slumped from an initial 16 bu. per acre to 5 bu. per acre last year, and Moscow was forced to buy more than 11 million...

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