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Stalin and the Rise of a
Five Year Plan’s, Collectivisation and
• Should Stalin be remembered as a murderer of 20 million people
or as the man who turned Russia into a global superpower?
Millions were worked to death in the
Gulag slave labour camps during the
Russian Holocaust in 1933
Prisoners with severe malnutrition are seen here
in a camp hospital. Most of these prisoners were
expected to die.
Who do you think the statue is of?
What would be the purpose of this building?
Why was this never built?
Was Russia changed by the Stalinist Revolution of 1928-41?
• Historians have tended to focus more on the struggle for power rather than the
social and economic backdrop of 1920’s
• Brovkin (Russia After Lenin) said NEP Russia was ‘an independent and vibrant
• Communists had eliminated organised opposition but did not feel completely
secure – reinforced power through propaganda, agitation and invoking class
• Many sections of society found communist attitudes irritating or patronising
– imposing new mentality and values had little impact.
• Peasants – resistant to change and interference.
• Workers – disliked communist attitudes, apathetic and saw conditions much
the same as under the Tsar.
• Youth movements such as the Komsomol made mischief with the Church
without a serious interest in ‘building socialism’. ‘They were more interested in
vodka than Marx.’
• Police reports showed that they had not succeeded in implanting an attitude of
class consciousness in the population at large.
• Stalin decided a ‘second revolution’ was required for two reasons
1. To build a socialist economic system / make Russia a great power.
2. To strengthen control of the party by making a pre-emptive strike against
peasants and complacent CP members
Phases of Development
1928-1930 – accelerated industrialisation, urbanisation and forced
collectivisation – shortages led to rationing in towns and cities.
1930-1932 – economic policy was confused. The first ‘Five Year Plans’
had not been planned properly. Attempts to hit targets led to decline in
rate of industrial growth. Free peasant market legalised.
1933 – disastrous 1932 harvest (Stalin supposedly let it get worse.) grain
quotas increased. Targets for Second Five Year Plan more realistic.
1934-1936 – spectacular economic development. Factories built in first
plan began to produce, agriculture slowly recovered. Standard of living
rose and rationing was abolished. Increased repression.
1937-1941 – mass repression and prep for war. Purges caused a slowing
down in agriculture, despite a tightening of labour discipline.
Methods – Historical Views
Chapter 9 ‘Building Paradise’ gives a good overview of Five Year
Plans and Collectivisation – here you can find primary evidence
to support historical opinions.
• Pre-1917 Russia had been a predominantly agricultural
• 1930s saw a massive shift to industrial production – grew at
greater rate than pre-1914.
View 1 - very critical of Stalin’s policies – as he used terror as a
political and economic weapon. R. Conquest, The Harvest of
• Forced collectivisation
• Kulaks (rich peasants/grain hoarders) killed, deported or
forced to work on industrial projects.
• Famine devastated large areas, especially Ukraine.
Methods – Historical Views
View 2 – brutal change from above was part of a long
tradition in Russia – Stalin was just on a larger, more
ferocious scale. A. Nove, An Economic History of the USSR –
‘difficult to make omelettes without breaking eggs.’
View 3 – economic changes go hand-in-hand with
ideology. The importance of class warfare was promoted by
Five Year Plans. Though regime did have to include
capitalist elements – wage differentials, incentives to
View 4 – industrialisation and collectivisation heavily
linked – food had to be provided for industrial workers via
the quotas. A. Nove – ‘peasants were the major losers.’
We will smite the kulak
who agitates for reducing
What is Kenez’s opinion of Stalin’s methods?
Who suffered the most?
happening in this
What does it tell
us about Stalin’s
Long Live the Stalinist Order of Heroes and Stakhanovites!
• Russians were pioneers in statistical analysis – 1920s figures are
• 1930s – figures distorted or simply not published.
• Most historians agree – considerable increase in output of most
goods, consumer goods given low priority, major decline in
• High proportion of GDP invested in defence, technological
innovation not encouraged in most sectors, system inefficiently
• Industrialisation was successful in so far as it laid the
foundations for USSR victory in WWII.
• Long-term – crude top-down model of command economy was
inflexible, inefficient and discouraged initiative. Left problems
for Stalin’s successors has system was resistant to change.
Interpretations of success
• Stalin achieved his objective of eliminating the peasantry as a
potentially independent force.
• Won the battle for collectivisation and secured a regular supply
• Massive increase in fuel production and engineering.
• Leningrad and Moscow expanded.
• Succeeded through propaganda in telling public they must work
hard for future of Russia.
• Unemployment disappeared, working conditions difficult.
• Not efficient, increased production down to new workforce (ex-
• Many simply worked harder – built on people power rather than
• Made great leap forward in sheer quantities
• Agriculture recovered slightly when
peasants given concessions such as right to
• Industrialisation crucial in defeat of
• Economic revolution probably a long-term failure.
• Great human cost.
• Peasantry keener on small private plots than collectives.
• Grain sometimes had to purchased from abroad.
• System of long-term planning prevented development
• Did not produce great quantities of consumer goods that
• Economic problems would undermine Soviet regime.
• Difficult to gauge overall success and failure.
• A dispossessed kulak would feel very
differently to a skilled engineer.
• Stalin had not built socialism – collective
farmers still traded freely once quotas were
met, specialist earned more, people allowed to
buy consumer goods (if available).
• Not socialism that Marx would recognise but
society had changed beyond recognition from
Stalin and ….!!
• Der Faterland
• Efimov was the
leading satirist of
ectID=1936terror&Year=1936 Great Terror
• The dictatorship of the proletariat really meant
the dictatorship of Stalin.
• No political institutions could challenge Stalin’s
• Politburo met less and less.
• Stalin relied on party members who owed their
positions to him and others he controlled
• Purges and show trials were used to eliminate
left and right – many of the people who had
opposed him in 1920s.
Historians on Terror!
• Some emphasise Stalin’s personal qualities – mental instability or
• Many western and post-Soviet historians see Stalin’s methods as a
continuation of Lenin.
• Some see Stalin’s brutality as a part of a broader Russian tradition of
despotic leadership (Ivan the Terrible, Peter the Great) – nothing to do
• Terror can be justified as regime needed to create a ‘siege mentality’ in
Russia to justify sacrifices of economic revolution.
• Surrounded by hostile countries and fearful of attack.
• Purges could be seen as scapegoats for the difficulties and failures of
• Secret police had quotas the meet.
• Russians fearful of being denounced often denounced someone else
• Pre-Kirov Affair (see sheet) – knee-jerk reactions to opposition to
• Post-Kirov – more direct with political motivations.
• NKVD Chief Yezhov was a zealous supporter of terror tactics and
• Stalin had eliminated all likely potential opposition to his leadership by
late 1934 and was the unchallenged leader of both party and state.
• Nevertheless, he proceeded to purge the party rank and file and to
terrorize the entire country with widespread arrests and executions.
• During the ensuing Great Terror, which included the notorious show
trials of Stalin's former Bolshevik opponents in 1936-1938 and
reached its peak in 1937 and 1938, millions of innocent Soviet citizens
were sent off to labour camps or killed in prison.
• By the time the terror subsided in 1939, Stalin had managed to bring
both the party and the public to a state of complete submission to his
• Soviet society was so atomized and the people so fearful of reprisals
that mass arrests were no longer necessary.
• Stalin ruled as absolute dictator of the Soviet Union throughout World
War II and until his death in March 1953.
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