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Akbota's Grandmother: Reconstruction of Soviet Economy after WWII

Dec 25, 2008, 2:34 AM 0

I. Introduction

The victory in bloody war opened a new page in the history of the Soviet Union. Potential possibility of changes in a political mode, economy, and culture opened. As a result of war the parity of forces on international scene sharply changed. Despite heavy losses, the country’s victory in the World War II, its huge economic potential, presence of powerful army, formation under the direction of the USSR of the block of the people’s democratic states have transformed the Soviet Union into a new super state. However, there were a set of problems in the country after the war, with which the state already ought to struggle. Reconstruction of the economy became one of the central problems during the post-war time, the government decided to use the work of Gulag’s prisoners and influence people by ideology to increase the USSR’s economy. According to Yevsei Liberman (1967)

“The rapid rate of Soviet economic development, begun in 1921-1922, was based upon Lenin’s theory that socialism and communism could be built in our country if public ownership of the means of production was established and the economy was centrally planned.” (p.53)


II. The problem

In the conditions of transition from war to the peace there were questions on ways of the further development of a national economy. It was a question of fast reconstruction of the industry and agrarian sector. In the first post-war years the country position was similar to the martial law. So, there was a labor’s acute shortage that led to turnover of staff, shortage of products, high percentage of different diseases, there was a process of conversion of the industrial enterprises which have been reconstructed during the war on the territory of USSR. As Pozharov (2005, p. 166) said:

One ofthe crucial factors is the military (war) economy. Experience shows that victory in a big war implies, first and foremost, a military-economic victory, which creates the material basis for superiority in military might. This is possible not only with superiority or equality of the economic opportunities of the belligerent states, but also when a country has significantly lesser economic might, but is able to gear it more fully to its military goals and build a more efficient military economy than that of the enemy.”


 Also, the agrarian sector had suffered because products were delivered for the front and the city; heavy taxes were withdrawn from peasants in the war. But how the government did solve these problems?

1) Using the work of Gulag’s prisoners.

From the history we know that many innocent people had been deprived of their freedom. So, among the real criminals there were soldiers and marshals, the simple peasants, many party and statesmen, scientists, creative intelligence in the Gulag. The state had started to use work of prisoners as one more economic resource, maintained them as a free or cheap labor. Prisoners of Gulag worked on construction of many industrial enterprises, in agriculture, in extracting branches and on timber cuttings. According to Shirokov (2007, p. 158):

“A new impetus for the spread of prison-camp complexes came when the Soviet Union embarked on a program of accelerated industrialization. Indeed, their prime objective was to serve economic objectives. It was then that GULAG came into being. It was created as a specialized agency to enforce penalties but was rather used as an instrument of forced labor backing up major projects of the national economy.


2) Influencing people by ideology.

But nevertheless, I think that the more effective way was influencing simple people, citizens by the force of its ideology. Joachim Zweynert (2006) wrote that Soviet ideology rested on three pillars: on the belief that Marxism – Leninism offered a ‘true’ interpretation of social reality, on democratic centralism (the dictatorship of the CPSU), and on a centrally planned economy. People put enormous efforts for improving the position of the country thanks for great wish to prove to the whole world that the USSR was the super state with high level of economy. People worked with one enthusiasm about the fast light future, about democracy, and nobody thought that actually they lived in a totalitarian mode. As we know, the government influenced people through the literature, cinema, music, painting, newspapers, it means that the ideology was in all spheres of life and the Bolshevik party controlled the mass consciousness with it.

My grandmother Zhumagul(2008) told me that she was grown up in children’s home because her parents were died in the Great Patriotic War. And the post-war period was very difficult not only for her, but also for all Soviet Union. As Pozharov(2005) noticed, just as during the war, Russia faces a titanic challenge: to be or not to be. The national economy was in a bad plight, there was a strong shortage of the foodstuffs, money, labors. But despite these problems, people trusted in an idea of creation of the developed country and used the best efforts for achieving of this purpose. During summer vacations, even schoolgirls worked on fields and collected vegetables, fruits, it means that they also brought the contribution to restoration of agriculture of USSR.

III. Conclusion

To conclude the two most appropriate decisions that helped the Soviet Union to solve their economic problems in agriculture and industry sphere is using the work of Gulag’s prisoners and the other by influencing people’s ideology. So, the first problem solving was more severe, because lot of innocent people was prisonned and they had to work hardly to survive. Nevertheless, the best way of solving the problem was influencing people by ideology, because it was more humane and profitable. But after the Stalin’s death in 1953 the USSR had different problem solving in economics.


Works cited

Bernhard, M.(2007). Gulag: life and death inside the Soviet concentration camps. Journal of Cold War studies, 9(3), 191-195.

Liberman, Y.(1967). The Soviet economic reform. Foreign Affairs, 46(1), 53-63.

Pozharov, A.(2005). Military-Economic Victory and Its Lessons (On the 60th Anniversary of the Soviet Union’s Victory in the Great Patriotic War). Military Thought, 14(2), 158-168.

Shirokov, A.(2007). A history of Gulag. 1918-1958. Socioeconomic and political-legal aspects. Social Sciences, 38(4), 158-162.

Zhumagul grandmother’s story (2008).

Zweynert, J.(2006). Economic ideas and institutional change: evidence from soviet economic debates 1987–1991. Europe-Asia Studies, 58(2), 169-192.

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