Economic Recovery Under Stalin 1945-53

To what extent had the Soviet economy recovered from the impact of the great war by 1953?

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Timeline of the Period

May - End of the great patriotic war.
July - Potsdam conference.
Fourth five year plan introduced.
Declaration of US Truman doctrine and Marshall plan - Denounced by Zhdanov.
Dispute with western powers over Berlin.
Death of Zhdanov.
Campaign against western influences in the USSR.
Testing of first Soviet A-Bomb.
Fifth five year plan.
"Doctors plot" announced.
Death of Stalin.

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Recovery From The Great Patriotic War

The Soviet approach to recovery was traditional, based as it was upon the five year plan structure. It worked by allowing the state to decide upon targets and priorities for the next five years.

As always, emphasis was placed upon quantative rather than qualitative targets. Managers were more concerned with levels of producation than standard of goods produced.

Because the plan was based around government priorities, it failed to take into account actual consumer demand. Consumer goods were given a low priority and were often in short supply.

Soviet industry was typically inefficient and labour intensive. It depended upon masses of workers, who were often not very productive, working with often obsolete machinery. This problem was worsened by the high loss of manpower following the second world war.

In spite of this, the gains made between 1945 and 1950 were very impressive.

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The Impact of the Fourth Five Year Plan

Production of coal, oil and steel exceeded targets, often by significant amounts.

Production of electricity, to power industry, and tractors, for use in agriculture were particularly succesful. Electricity production doubled that of 1945 whilst tractor manufacture was twice its targeted level!

Other huge gains were made too: huge power stations which had been detroyed during the war were rebuilt, as were many miles of rail.

The assets stripped from other nations during the war contributed heavily to economic regrowth, as did the fact that areas of considerable mineral value, such as the Urals, remained untouched by opposition.

Peter Kenez stated that "It is indisputable that the Stalinist methods worked, and the speed of reconstruction was impressive".

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Agriculture Under the Fourth Five Year Plan

Agriculture had suffered even more during the war than industry. Stalin treated agriculture as industrys poor relation, seeing it as more of a means to raise capital through the sale of grain than to feed the people of the USSR. After 1945, the state took between 60 and 70 percent of harvested grain.

Though by 1950, grain production had increased greatly during the five post war years, it was still drastically below target.

This was partially due to the low investment that farms recieved.

Though there had been half hearted attempts to improve output, such as increased collectivisation, the formation of brigades and the planting of trees to reverse soil erosion, it was not until 1952 that the level of production reached levels even close to those of 1940.

Historian Alex Nove stated that Soviet agriculture in Stalins final years was characterized by "Ill judged interventions of authority, excessive centralization of decisions, extremely low prices, insufficient investment and lack of adequate incentives".

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