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How successful was Stalin's attempt to industrialise the Soviet Union?

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How successful was Stalin's attempt to industrialise the Soviet Union? There has been considerable debate over the extent to which Stalin was successful in industrialising the Soviet Union. Industrialisation chiefly involves exploiting natural resources to create products that would be helpful to the society and to do this, greatly mechanise the industries and improve productivity. One of the views suggested by historians is that it was an immense success for Stalin. The scale and speed of industrial development in the USSR between 1928 and 1941 was enormous. Western economists reckoned the average annual growth rate was 13-14%, with 3-fold increase in oil output, 4-fold in iron and steel and 5-fold in coal. By 1928, USSR was producing 25% steel as Germany but by 1940 it was producing New industries were developed - aircraft, aluminium, new industrial centres, e.g. Magnitogorsk, and new skilled workforce came into place. The other view, however, suggests that there was hardly any significant progress during the period and the Five Year Plans were chaotic and, as argued by Alex Nove, unrealistic and disastrous failures. One of most important arguments in supporting the claim that Stalin's attempt to industrialise the USSR was successful is that during the Depression of 1929 and years following the wall Street Crash, when the whole western world's economies were suffering, the USSR's economy was actually growing and performing relatively much better. ...read more.


One of the most important indicators of the success of an industrialisation programme is the extent to which the country has been urbanised. This means the movement of population from the countries to the towns and the growth of big cities in which there are a large number of factories employing many workers. Between 1928-40 there was rapid urbanisation in the USSR-there can be little doubt about that. Moscow's population increased from 2.2m in 1929 to 3.6m in 1936, Leningrad also experienced urbanisation with its population increasing from 1.6m in 1926 to 3.5m in 1939. New cities were created and certain previously undeveloped areas such as the Donbass coal and steel region saw a massive growth in their population. The public transport system was developed and in the larger cities, underground railway was being developed. The railways system was increased massively and by 1928 there was over 50,000 kms. of railway lines stretched across Russia. However, urbanisation had its drawbacks. Each Soviet citizen had, on average, 5.88 sq. metres of living space during this period, which was well below the 8.25 sq. metres sanitary norm. In Moscow demand for houses were far greater than what the councils could provide for-In 1932 there were 550 people living in a local army barrack 15 feet wide and 800 feet long. ...read more.


Resources were in shortage and the factories constantly demanded more than they needed. Bribery and corruption were rife and some firms produced more and some less. As a result industrial production suffered. In the Second and Third FYP, the plans were sorted out better and the details were discussed with experts and realistic targets were set for firms to meet. New training schemes were set up and a better idea of costs and revenue was made-as a result industrial performance was improved greatly during these years. However, on the whole there were certain drawbacks of the drive. There was always confusion around especially helped by the colossal paperwork which was floating around everywhere. It contained targets, which were never met, profits, which one could never see, and this distracted the authorities to further raise the targets. Fighting between firms was prevalent over natural resources. There was always someone to blame if the targets were not met. This greatly slowed the pace of the industrialisation drive of Stalin. The process of industrialisation did result in the increase of the size of the economy and greater production although the process could have been much faster. Thus it was an attempt, which was met with partial success. However, it certainly set the ball rolling for the USSR to develop in a major industrial power in the future. Aruni Mukherjee 6MVW 1 ...read more.

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