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Rida Sohaib History Russia Year 12

Exam Question
Question: How successful were Stalins industrial policies in developing the Russian economy in the
years 1928-41?
There can be no doubt that Stalins policies of industrialization transformed the economy of
Russia. He aimed to create an economy which could be self sufficient and compete with the Western
superpowers. In this he was successful, as Russia managed to survive the Second World War better than
it had the First. However, his success had its limitations. The three Five Year Plans (FYP) had different
priorities. The first one focused mainly on the rapid creation of heavy industry. The second one focused
on consolidation more than growth, while the third one aimed to prepare Russia for war. All these aims
achieved varying levels of success.
The first FYP aimed to industrialize Russia. Stalin was focused on heavy industries so that he
could prepare Russia for war. The industries of coal, steel, iron, electricity were focused on the most.
This plan was mostly successful in fulfilling the aims. The production of electricity trebled. Oil and coal
production doubled. The industry of steel production grew rapidly. New complexes, factories and
machinery were built. Some new industries started to grow. These were enormous successes and were
accompanied by a shift from a rural Russia to an urban one. However, there were many failures as well.
The skilled workforce shrunk because of the warfare against the skilled bourgeoisie, which caused a lack
of skilled management and hampered Russias growth. Consumer goods were neglected very badly, with
huge shortages of basic commodities such as shoes. Shortage of raw materials often meant that
factories were unable to meet their targets and frequently faked the statistics to avoid repercussions.
Due to focus on high output, quality declined the goods produced were sometimes so substandard
that they could not be used.
The second FYP was still focused on industrialization. However, it corrected previous mistakes
and focused also on consolidation of the economic development achieved during the first Five Year Plan.
Heavy industry benefitted from the plants set up in the last five years. By the end of the second FYP,
Russia was self sufficient in making machines and working metals, a great transformation by Stalin since
Russia had always been very backward in industry. There was rapid growth in the industries of transport
and communication. Workers were trained in high order skills to improve human capital and targets
were scaled back and were more detailed, making them more realistic. The purges provided enormous
amounts of cheap labour from the gulags, the labour camps. There was an increased focus on consumer
goods; however, the industry still had a low priority compared to heavy industry. Oil production also
failed to meet targets. Thus the economy of Russia was transformed greatly due to Stalins policies but
success was continuously offset by weaknesses.
The third FYP was focused on preparing Russia for a war. On the surface, it appears to be
successful since by the time of the World War, the USSR had created a successful industrial base for a
powerful arms industry. There was a rapid growth in defense and armaments, and heavy industry had
continued to grow, though unevenly. However, the consumer goods were lagging again, showing that
Rida Sohaib History Russia Year 12
the growth in industry was at the expense of the citizens. Due to the high amount of resources diverted
to the defense industry, there were shortages in other sectors of the economy. This was worsened by
the purging of most of the members of Gosplan which meant that the administration and the
implementation of the third FYP was quite chaotic. Additionally, the oil industry failed to meet its
modest targets, resulting in a fuel crisis.
In conclusion, Stalin can be considered to be successful in his aim to develop Russias economy.
Russia was industrialized very rapidly, with high amount of output produced from heavy industry. Russia
was also an economy prepared for war, a high achievement considering that both the Tsarist regime and
the Provisional Government were unable to do so. However, Stalins policies can also be considered to
be failures since the industrialization came at a huge expense to the nation since consumer goods
remained a low priority and the quality of the output was often subpar.