In what ways and with what results did Stalin modernise the USSR to 1941?

Authors Avatar

Bethany Brookhouse

In what ways and with what results did Stalin modernise the USSR to 1941?

In 1931 Stalin made this statement at the Communist party conference, “"We are 50 or 100 years behind the advanced countries of the WEST. We must make good of this distance in ten years. Either we do it, or they crush us". Clearly, Lenin's NEP had not been effective in modernising Russia. Stalin dubbed the NEP as an impediment to communism and abandoned it in favour of ‘rapid industrialisation. The industry had to be developed to such an extent that Russia could end it’s economical dependance on backwards agriculture.  As Russia was recovering from war, its production from heavy industries was alarmingly low compared to other countries. Stalin recognised that this must be improved if they were to survive any possible attack that might come from the capitalist West attempting to destroy Communist Russia, which de deemed probable after an attack on the Russian Embassy in London. The USSR needed to invest in materials like coal, iron, steel and power to defend itself properly and become self sufficient. Rapid industrialisation was also needed for defense as the USSR was surrounded, as Stalin said, by governments that hated Communism: Romania, Iran, Finland and Poland. With Russia still so backwards in 1931, how much difference could Stalin make in ten years?

During this period, Russia's economy was completely transformed. After the abolition of the Vesenkha in 1928, the state planned the entire economy through the  or Gosplan. They issued instructions and orders, commands that were then passed down to factories, businesses or farms. They drew up a series of plans which Stalin named the Five Year Plans. The three Five-Year Plans were ambitious targets and goals that the industry and agriculture had to achieve. In practice, the emphasis was on achieving more than the set targets rather than meeting them. Such a system greatly discouraged individual initiative. For example, a factory manager received his targets and commands, and attempted to exceed them and follow orders exactly, in fear of being punished. The government controlled the resources it needed to achieve the economic targets. Factories, mines, transport and farms were owned by the state. The government exercised tight control over the labour force. Ordinary workers were harshly disciplined and poor workmanship and absence added to punishments. Millions of peasants were directed into the towns and cities to work in factories and mines, leaving mostly women and children in the countryside. Heavy industries were given high priority in the first Five Year Plan. Thus, consumer industries were neglected and agriculture was restructured to provide for industrial changes.

Join now!

The First Five Year Plan was aimed at expanding and modernising existing industries, establish new sectors, and relocating those in the west further to the east, so that they would be more secure and protected by the vast amounts of land if Russia were to be attacked by the West. Industrialisation meant that existing factories and equipment were now being used much more efficiently. Also, massive industrial centers such as Magnetigorsk and Gorki, examples of Stalin’s ‘gigantomania’, were built in the center. Many targets which the workers had to meet were unrealistic. For example, there was to be a 250% ...

This is a preview of the whole essay