Theme 4 - Social developments, 1917-85


How successful was the government in providing social security for the Soviet people between 1917 and 1985?

  • It was a basic communist principle that everything was provided for by the state

Full employment, housing and social benefits, 1917-53

The labour market under Lenin

  • Civil war led people to go to countryside where food was more reliable
  • Meant that there wasn't enough workers so government issued a decree saying anyone unemployed should go to factories
  • 1918 - Labour conscription introduced to make sure Red Army won civil war
  • Labour exchanges established but were unpopular
  • End of civil war meant soldiers were unemployed - however wage rise under NEP
  • During NEP, Arteli's formed - groups of people who organised work and shared resources
  • Wage gap rose during NEP - skilled workers demanded more

Industrialisation and full employment

  • 1930 - first country to achieve full employment in peacetime
  • Excessive targets meant a huge labour force was needed
  • Lack of technology and collectivisation put strain on labour force - was labour shortages
  • Impacts of full employment:
    • Divisions in the workplace - skilled and unskilled
    • Restrictions on trade unions - poor working conditions
    • October 1930 - unemployment benefit cancelled - left to the unions
    • Productivity low - hard, repetitive work
    • Internal passports to prevent workers switching jobs (due to poor conditions)
    • Wage gap increased - incentives offered for being high-skilled
    • Honours, medals, rewards given to model workers
    • Absenteeism - harsh punishments but not effective due to need for labour
    • Huge pressure on labour during WW2 - strain on women until men returned
  • Despite full employment, average person had a poor quality of life


  • 1917 - housing of rich redistributed to poor - however soon became corrupt. Also not enough housing to go around
  • Industrialisation increased demand for workers housing - population growth
  • Resources for housing non-existent - workers lived in tents, huts, or the factories
  • 1930s - housing improved - drab, repetitive housing with communal features - however still not enough; only for very committted workers
  • Strain on family life - communal living meant lack of privacy
  • Improvements in rural housing slower to happen
  • WW2 resulted in a destruction of housing in cities

Social benefits

  • Food availible in workplace canteen
  • Work clothes given free
  • Trade unions organised most benefits - holidays, sports, films etc. Very important to stay in favour with unions
  • Health care designed by government - effective in controlling epidemics
  • Increase in training for doctors and a lot of women in health care workforce
  • By 1953, employment, housing, social services all provided for but poor quality

Khrushchev, Brezhnev and the promotion of a stable society, 1953-85

  • Khrushchev announced in 1961 that population would enjoy benefits of socialism
  • Developed socialism was a society instilled with revolutionary values:collectivism, politcal conciousness, active participation. Lot of support for this

What were the key features of social stability under developed socialism?

  • Full employment
    • Soviet constitution guarenteed employment
    • Some employment - seasons in farming and recent graduates
    • Lack of job satisfaction - undemanding, pointless, repetitive
    • Real wage rises


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