The Soviet Home Front, 1941-1945: A Social and Economic History of the USSR in World War II 0582009642, 9780582009646

The events of World War II remain among the most tragic of the 20th century. In Eastern Europe, World War II was bloody

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Table of contents :
List of Tables and Maps
Abbreviations and Technical Terms
Part One. On the Eve
1. Building Socialism
2. The Great Patriotic War
3. The State in Wartime
Part Two. Soviet Society at War
4. Mobilisation
5. Subsistence and Survival
6. The Social Order
Part Three. The Productive Effort
7. Fortresses of the Rear
8. Labour: 'The Ultimate Bottleneck'
9. ‘In Labour as in Combat'
10. Production: The Power of Victory
11 Planning: ‘The Military- Economic Staff
Important Dates
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The Soviet Home Front, a social and economic history o f the U S S R in W orld W ar II


Longman London and N ew York

LONGMAN GROUP UK LIMITED, Longman House, Burnt Mill, Harlow, Essex CM 20 2JE, England and Associated Companies throughout the world. Published in the United States o f America by Longman In c.' N ew York

© Longman Group UK Limited 1991 All rights reserved; no part o f this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise without either the prior written permission o f the Publishers or a licence permitting restricted copying in the United Kingdom issued by the Copyright Licensing Agency Ltd, 90 Tottenham Court Road, London W 1P 9HE First published 1991

British Library Cataloguing in Publication Data Harrison, Mark The Soviet home front, 1941-1945. I. Tide II. Barber, John 947.084 ISBN 0-582-00964-2 ISBN 0-582-00965-0 pbk

Library o f Congress Cataloging in Publication Data Barber, John, 1944— The Soviet home front, 1941—1945: a social and economic history o f the USSR in World W ar II / John Barber and Mark Harrison p. cm. Includes bibliographical references and index. ISBN 0-582-00964-2 (cased). - ISBN 0-582-00965-0 (paper) 1. Soviet U nion-H istory-1939-1945. 2. W orld War, 1939-1945 —Soviet Union. I. Harrison, Mark, 1949- . II. Tide. DK273.B27 1991 91 -2406 947.084’2—dc20 CIP Set in Bembo Produced by Longman Singapore Publishers (Pte) Ltd. Printed in Singapore


List of tables and maps Preface Acknowledgements Abbreviations and technical terms

PART ONE: On the Eve 1. Building Socialism ‘Socialism in a single country* The economy - strength and weakness Society in flux The Stalin regime T he threat o f war Soviet war preparations

2. The Great Patriotic War The Molotov—Ribbentrop pact Deception, miscalculation, surprise The retreat to Leningrad and Moscow From Moscow to Stalingrad T he grand alliance From Stalingrad to Berlin —and Manchuria The costs o f victory

3. The State in Wartime ‘All that Lenin created we have lost forever’ The structure o f wartime government Central-local relations

viii ix xi xii

1 3 3 5 8 10 13 15

19 19 21 26 30 33 36 39

45 45 46 48 v

The Soviet Home Front, 1941—1945

The high command The security organs Stalin and the Soviet leadership

50 51 53

PART TWO: Soviet Society at War


4. Mobilisation

59 59 63 68 73

‘AU for the front!’ Discipline Propaganda The people’s militia

5. Subsistence and Survival Supplying the population Rationing Local resources H unger The family

6. The Social Order W orkers Peasants InteUectuals Officials Nationalities Prisoners

PART THREE: The Productive Effort 7. Fortresses o f the Rear The needs o f war Invasion and evacuation Conversion to war production Capital construction in wartime

8. Labour: The TJltimate Bottleneck* The degree o f labour shortage W artime losses and mobilisation needs The mobilisation process The centralisation o f work-force controls


77 77 79 82 86 90

94 94 99 104 108 112 116

121 123 123 127 133 137

143 143 145 147 152



‘In Labour as in Combat*


Productivity in prewar perspective W ork discipline (I) —public sector employees W ork discipline (II) —collective farmers W ork discipline (III) —forced labour Economic incentives Morale and national feeling W artime productivity - success and failure

158 163 168 169 171 174 177

10. Production: The Power o f Victory Demand and supply Production for war Civilian industry and transport Food and agriculture Mutual aid The overall burden o f the war

11. Planning: 'The M ilitary-Economic Staff* Planning in prewar perspective The emergency regime, 1941—2 The revival o f formal planning Limits to centralisation

180 180 183 184 187 189 190

194 194 197 200 203



Tables Important Dates References Maps Index

213 223 231 241 246


L ist o f Tables and M aps

TABLES 1. Consumer products available, per head o f population, 1942-3 2. Official rations in 1944: some examples 3. The composition o f the Soviet working population, 1940- 5 4. The Soviet industrial work-force, 1940 and 1942—5 5. W om en’s share in employment, 1940-5 6. The Soviet kolkhoz work-force, 1941—5 7. The Gulag work-force, 1940-5 8. The Soviet war economy, 1941—5: official indices 9. Soviet employment, by branch o f output, 1940-5 10. N et output per worker, 1940 and 1942-4 11. N et national product by branch o f origin, 1940 and 1942-4 12. The burden o f Soviet defence outlays, 1940 and 1942-4

213 214 215 216 216 217 217 218 219 220 220 221

MAPS 1. The republics, major cities and other towns o f the USSR, 1941- 45 2. The Soviet-German front, 1941—2 3. The Soviet-German front, 1942-4 viii

242 244 245


The events which are the subject o f this book, although now nearly fifty yean away, remain among the most tragic o f the twentieth cen­ tury. In eastern Europe, W orld W ar II was bloody to a degree far exceeding the experience o f western Europe, or o f the Mediterranean or Pacific theatres. By the war’s end, for every dead Briton or Ameri­ can (including both solchen and civilians), some seven Japanese, twenty Germans and eighty-five Soviet citizens had died. O f all nations, it was the Soviet Union which paid by far the highest price for victory. H ow did Soviet society respond to the threat, then the reality o f war with Germany? H ow did the U SSR’s political and economic sys­ tem stand up to the colossal strain o f an invasion which penetrated deep into Soviet territory, and to the immense burden o f total war? H ow did the wartime experience change the U SSR ’s social and econ­ omic order, and influence its political future? These are the questions which this book seeks to answer. The book is divided into four parts. Part I reviews the background to Soviet involvement in W orld W ar II and outlines the main military and political developments. Chapter 1 describes the condition o f So­ viet society, the economy and political system on the eve o f war, and Soviet military preparedness. An overview o f the war itself, its main phases and turning points, and its effects on the Soviet state, follow in Chapters 2 and 3. Part II deals with the mobilisation o f Soviet society and the impact o f the war on the population. Chapter 4 considers the means em­ ployed to rally people behind the war effort. Chapter 5 describes the effect o f the war on living standards, while Chapter 6 examines the contributions and conditions o f the main social groups.


The Soviet Home Front, 1 9 4 1 -1 9 4 5

Part III assesses the wartime productive effort. Chapter 7 deals with the Soviet capital stock and its restructuring for war through evacu­ ation, conversion and new investment. The subject o f Chapters 8 and 9 is the work-force - its mobilisation, motivation and productivity. Chapter 10 evaluates Soviet wartime production, the development o f the main branches o f productive activity (war industry, civilian indus­ try and transport, food and agriculture), the vexed problem o f the contribution o f American aid, and the overall economic burden o f the war. Finally Chapter 11 recounts the role o f wartime economic plan­ ning and management in the productive effort. The book concludes with a short Epilogue about the wartime ex­ perience and its implications for postwar Soviet history. Responsibility for writing was divided between the authors as fol­ lows: Mark Harrison wrote Chapters 1, 2 and 7—11, and compiled the tables, maps and chronological outline. John Barber wrote Chapters 3-6. Both authors contributed to the Epilogue. They are ‘j ointly and severally’ responsible for the book as a whole, including all remaining errors o f fact and interpretation.


T he authors wish to acknowledge their considerable debt to the foll­ owing people, for helpful discussions, and for valuable criticism and advice: Richard Bidlack Wkodzimerz Brus Sir Alec Caimcross Julian Cooper Viktor Petrovich Danilov R obert W Davies Peter Gatrell Christine Harrison Katherine Hodgson Jacqueline Johnson Georgii Aleksandrovich Kumanev Catherine Merridale William Moskoff Lewis Siegelbaum Peter J D Wiles Eugène Zaleski Margarita Stefanovna Zinich T he authors are also grateful to their respective Universities o f Cambridge and Warwick for periods o f study leave during which this book was prepared.


Abbreviations and Technical Terms

All-Union Communist Party (Bolsheviks) —the name o f the only legal political party in the USSR (q v); from 1952, the Communist Party o f the Soviet Union. Central Com m ittee - the governing body o f the All-Union C om ­ munist Party (Bolsheviks) (q v), elected by the party congress. Commissar - the rank accorded to political oficers o f the Soviet Armed Forces. GKO or GOKO (Gosudarstvennyi komitet oborony) - State Defence Committee, the name for Stalin’s war cabinet. Gosplan (Gosudarstvennaya Planovaya Kommissiya) — the economic planning office o f the Sovnarkom (q v). Gulag (Glavnoe upravlenie tmdovo-ispravitel’nykh lageret) — C hief Admin­ istration o f Corrective Labour Camps o f the NKVD (q v). kolkhoz (kollektivnoe khozyaistvo) - collective farm, taking the form o f a producer cooperative. Kom som ol ( Vsesoyuznyi Lenirtskii Kommunisticheskii soyuz molodezhi) — the All-Union Leninist Communist League o f Youth, the youth wing o f the All-Union Communist Party (q v). MTS (imashinno-traktomaya stantsiya) — vehicle and tractor station, under state ownership, supplying machinery services to local kolkhozy (q v) in return for a share o f the harvested crop. narodnoe opolchenie (people’s militia) — home defence units estab­ lished from the civil populations o f the main towns and cities o f the front-line regions after the outbreak o f war in 1941. NKVD (Narodnyi kommissariat vnutrennykh del) — People’s Commissa­ riat o f Internal Afiairs, with responsibility for internal and frontier


Abbreviations and technical terms security and the administration o f prisons and labour camps and colonies. nomenklatura — the schedule o f posts in Soviet government, the economy, and other occupations o f ‘state significance’, reserved for party appointees; also used to refer collectively to government, economic and cultural officials as a social group. Peoples* Commissar - the title by which Soviet government minis­ ters were known from the October 1917 Revolution until 1946, not to be confused with commissars (q v) o f the Soviet Armed Forces. plenipotentiary (upoVnomochennyi) - a trouble-shooting personal agent from Moscow, e g from the GKO, Sovnarkom, or Central Committee (q v), armed with full powers o f the body concerned. Politburo (Political Bureau) - the executive core o f the party Central Committee (q v), chaired by Stalin as the party’s General Secretary. RSFSR or Russian Federation (Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic) - the largest o f the Soviet Socialist Republics comprising the USSR (q v). soviet (council) - the basic organ o f representative government in the USSR (q v). sovkhoz (sovetskoe khozyaistvo) - state farm, a nationalised enterprise owned by the state. Sovnarkom (Sovet narodnykh komissarov) - Council o f Peoples’ C om ­ missars (q v), the government o f the USSR, chaired by the Prime Minister. Stavka VGK (Stavka Verkhovnogo Glavnokomandovaniya) — Supreme H Q , the wartime headquarters o f Stalin as Supreme Com manderin-C hief o f the Soviet Armed Forces. USSR or Soviet Union (Union o f Soviet Socialist Republics) - con­ stituted in 1922 by the Russian Federation (q v) and the Ukrainian, Belorussian and Transcaucasian Soviet Socialist Republics (SSRs), joined in 1925 by the Central Asian SSRs; in 1940 Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania were also annexed to the USSR as SSRs. workpoint (trudoden) — the unit o f payment on the kolkhoz (q v); each workpoint was supposed to correspond to a day’s labour o f average skill and intensity, and each farm worker’s accumulated an­ nual total would determine their share in the farm’s net income.

X ll l

For Cathy, Jamie, and Sam


O n the E ve


Building Socialism1

‘SOCIALISM IN A SINGLE C O U N TR Y ’ T he first German troops and planes crossed the Soviet border at 4.00 a.m. (Moscow time) on Sunday, 22 June 1941. Soon there was gunfire along a continuous front which stretched more than a thousand kilo­ metres across the entire width o f continental Europe, from the Baltic Sea in the north-west to the Black Sea in the south-east. Hitler had launched his armies on the greatest land war in history. H e expected to attain victory quickly and easily. This is what Stalin had told the Soviet U nion’s new generation o f industrial managers just ten years earlier, in February 1931: O ne feature o f the history o f old Russia was the continual beatings she suffered for filling behind, for her backwardness. She was beaten by the Mongol Khans. She was beaten by the Turkish beys. She was beaten by the Swedish feudal lords. She was beaten by the Polish and Lithuanian gentry. She was beaten by the British and French capitalists. She was beaten by the Japanese barons. All beat her - for her backwardness: for military backwardness, for cultural backwardness, for political backwardness, for industrial backwardness, for agricultural backwardness. She was beaten because to do so was profitable and could be done with impunity. . . .1 1 O n Soviet history in the 1920s a classic overview is that o f Carr 1979. Stalin’s rise and the Stalin phenom enon have been analysed in standard works by Deutscher 1966, M cNeal 1988, and M edvedev 1989. The social history o f the interwar years is challengingly analysed by Lewin 1985, while economic developments are surveyed in depth by N ove 1982. New thinking in Soviet historical and literary accounts o f the Stalin period is summarised by Davies 1989. O n prewar military-economic trends and war preparations, see Erickson 1962, and Harrison 1985: chs 1, 2.


The Soviet Home Front, 1 9 4 1 -1 9 4 5 That is why we must no longer lag behind. W e are fifty or a hundred years behind the advanced countries. W e must make good this distance in ten years. Either we do it, or they crush us.2

T he events which began just ten years later gave this speech the status o f a magically accurate prophecy. In reality, o f course, Stalin could have had no precise idea o f the time remaining. In Germany, Hitler had not yet come to power; the aggressors which Stalin feared were, in the Far East, Japan, and, in Europe, Poland, France and Great Bri­ tain. The ‘ten years’ o f which Stalin spoke were just a round number, not an exact forecast, and his accuracy was coincidental. To Stalin’s credit, however, was the perception that industrial mod­ ernisation was a key to Soviet security. The Soviet system o f govern­ m ent and social ownership meant nothing if it could not compete w ith the advanced technical, commercial and military standards set by the capitalist industrial powers, and if it could not be defended against attack. In interwar Soviet policy, therefore, there was no dividing line be­ tween apparendy distinct objectives. Building up new industries under public ownership, building new fuel, energy and transport complexes and new cities, building up the defence industries and military-econ­ omic power, building the armed forces themselves and their combat stocks —all these things are fused together in what they called ‘build­ ing socialism in a single country’. Building socialism meant a process o f astonishing contradictions and paradoxes. In the decade before W orld W ar II, the Soviet Union w ent through a whirlwind transformation. The backward, largely agrarian economy was forced through years o f fundamental reconstruction, downgrading agriculture and rapidly throwing up new factories, power stations, railways and residential blocks. All the productive wealth that had not been brought into public ownership in the years o f revolution and civil war (1917—21) was now either nationalised or placed in the hands o f kolkhozy (cooperative farms); the main methods o f transfer­ ring assets and jobs from private to public or cooperative ownership were political campaigns and forced confiscations. In the 1930s, tens o f millions o f peasants became workers; hundreds o f thousands o f workers and peasants were prom oted into the official strata administering the first centrally planned economy. O f the ex­ panded resources available to the nation, the greater part was allocated to additional investment funds, then to military expenditures. Raising living standards came last as an economic objective; in the early 1930s, 2 Stalin 1940: 365-6.


Building Socialism

labour incomes fell sharply in both country and town, and even by the end o f the decade many were no better off than they had been in the 1920s. In the years before the war, Soviet politics shared the general fla­ vour o f paradox. Stalin had become the undisputed leader o f a great power. His personality dominated the decisions o f both the Com m un­ ist Party and the Soviet system o f government. In spite o f the poor conditions under which many lived, internal criticism o f his policies and personal position had been silenced. N one the less the regime seemed more insecure than ever, beset with criminal conspiracies and seditious plots; according to the ‘evidence* o f police investigation and show trials, the counter-revolutionary underground seemed to have strengthened its grip among the roots o f Soviet society. Externally, a traditional enemy (Japan) had embarked on a more dangerous, militar­ ist course o f territorial expansion in the Far East, while a friend o f the 1920s (Germany) was similarly committed in Europe. In 1936, Stalin declared that the U SSR’s socialist foundations had 1 been successfully completed. ‘Socialism in a single country’ was now a reality. The basis o f this claim was the far-reaching expansion o f public sector industries, the comprehensive collectivisation o f smallscale peasant farming, and virtual elimination o f private capital. After W orld W ar II, Stalin would claim that these prewar policies had also laid the basis for wartime supply o f what was necessary to beat Ger­ many.34 W hat, in reality, was the nature o f the prewar economic achievement?

THE ECONOMY - STRENGTH AND WEAKNESS From the vantage point o f 1941, most obvious o f prewar economic achievements was the dramatic rise o f Soviet industries under public ownership. According to authoritative western estimates, between 1928 and 1940 the output o f civilian industries multiplied 2.6 times (and munitions output grew seventy-fold). In these twelve years indus­ try, construction and transport expanded their contribution to the na­

3 Stalin 1940: 564. 4 Pravda, 10 February 1946.


The Soviet Home Front, 1 9 4 1 -1 9 4 5

tional income from little more than one-quarter to not far short o f one-half.5 But a big price tag had been attached to this radical change in the economic structure. The Stalinist drive to industrialise the country at ‘Bolshevik tempos’ tried to do too much too fast. Economic plans were overambitious, reflecting the triumph o f political decrees over economic appraisal. Factories were driven to raise immediate output regardless o f cost, quality or returns to society. Deadly campaigns o f purging and arrests were waged in order to attain impossible objec­ tives. The industrialisation drive had been accompanied by wholesale re­ organisation in agriculture. At the end o f the 1920s the market rela­ tionship with the peasantry was suspended. From then on, the state removed much o f the food surplus from the countryside by official levies. This was accompanied by ‘comprehensive collectivisation’. W ithin a few years, 25 million peasant farms were amalgamated into a quarter o f a million kolkhozy (collective farms), many o f them in a few weeks in the winter o f 1929—30. In the process, decisive damage was done to the rural economy. M uch o f it was done at the very outset by the new procurements system. Villages were stripped o f food and fodder. Unable to feed their animals, peasants slaughtered them; then there was a shortage o f ani­ mals to pull carts and ploughs. Unable to plough and harvest on time, peasants saw their grain yields plummet. By 1932 famine conditions prevailed. Recovery took many years; meanwhile, the base for indus­ trial accumulation was narrowed, rather than enlarged. The Stalinist economic transformation therefore contained negative results as well as positive achievements. Public ownership was not suf­ ficient to make everything go according to plan. N ew resources were created, but at the same time existing resources were destroyed, and all resources were used with less efficiency than before. R educed effi­ ciency was reflected in underutilised capacity, lost output and wasted investments. Lost resources were counted in the damage to agriculture (which resulted in turn in loss o f food supplies), and in excessive m or­ tality o f the population; the latter included those losses attributable to famines and deportations, and the destruction o f skilled personnel re­ sulting from purges.6 Less ambitious plans and less forcing o f the pace 5 Calculated from M ooisteen, Powell 1966: 622-3. All estimates are measured in rouble prices o f 1937. This traditional western estimate is roughly consistent w ith more recent Soviet unofficial reassessments, e g Selyunin, Khanin 1987, and Sovetskii Soyuz 1988. 6 For example. H unter 1983: 196.


Building Socialism

could have given industrial growth perhaps equal to (but more likely less than) that actually achieved, together with fewer social and econ­ omic tensions and higher morale o f the population. The expansion o f public sector industries under Stalinist policies was rapid and violent. It was also discontinuous; there were waves o f for­ ward motion, which came periodically to a halt in a state o f exhaus­ tion. In the dozen years before the war there were two complete cycles and perhaps the beginning o f a third. T he first involved a great upsurge under the first Five Year Plan (1928—32), culminating in in­ dustrial crisis and famine. Recovery was followed by another great mobilisation in the middle years o f the second Five Year Plan (19337). By 1937, however, the economy was once again in deep trouble. Years o f determined effort were required before the expansion process was at last resumed, already half way through the third Five Year Plan (1938-42), and with only months o f peace remaining. W hy did the economic growth process regularly grind to a halt? O n each occasion, there was a fatal combination o f internal and exter­ nal circumstances. The economy’s leaders pushed it too hard. At first there would be tremendous achievements and great leaps into the fu­ ture. Meanwhile, however, tensions would accumulate. T oo many big capital projects meant too many unfinished building sites which used up the economy’s stocks o f investment goods and then demanded more than could be made available from current production. Until they were finished, production could not be increased further. T oo much investment meant too much pressure on farmers for food and raw materials, and on workers for industrial goods, and it meant tight­ ened belts all round. At the same time, planners incorporated overoptimistic assumptions in their plans about productivity and food yields, and about the prospects for world peace and international trade. W hen harvests withered, when war threatened and external markets failed, Stalinist politicians who had grown used to having everything their own way demanded fulfilment o f the plan at all costs; rather than lower their sights and accept retrenchment, they preferred to launch new campaigns o f mass mobilisation, and new purges against the ‘enemies’ responsible for alleged sabotage o f the economy. Disintegra­ tion and demoralisation would ripple through the economy, halting expansion. The fact that by 1932, or 1937, the economy was in a mess was not, o f course, the end o f the story. Countervailing forces were also at work which would eventually restore sanity and enable growth to be resumed. W hen the strains became intolerable, and when pushing and shouting had clearly failed to improve matters, more expert advice 7

The Soviet Home Front, 194 Î—İ 9 4 5

would prevail. Big expensive projects far from completion would be quietly mothballed. Investment budgets would be cut back and bur­ eaucratic austerity decreed. Available resources would be concentrated on projects near completion, allowing production to increase again. T he spotlight would be turned back to improving information, morale and consumer supplies. Restoring economic balance, and the basis for its continued expan­ sion, were never easy. T he crisis o f the late 1930s involved a destabi­ lising combination o f a great investment mobilisation, huge unplanned increases in defence spending, and deadly repressions which swept through both the civil and military bureaucracies. There were three years o f stagnation, just when Soviet leaders most wanted additional resources. T he crisis was further prolonged in 1939-40 by the further demands o f military operations in eastern Poland and the Baltic region and the ‘winter war’ with Finland. However, by the beginning o f 1941 economic growth was being resumed.

SOCIETY IN FLUX Industrialisation and collectivisation together had meant restructuring o f the social order at a colossal rate. Transformations which had taken a century or more to secure in western Europe would be achieved within a single generation. T he quantitative change had many dimensions. T he m otor o f change was forced industrialisation, which had created 22 million jobs in the public sector and trebled its size in the twelve years, 1928-40. T he bulk o f new employment was concentrated in the basic industries, in factories, on railways and building sites. At least half o f the new workers were o f rural origin. While millions o f new recruits flooded into the factories and towns, hundreds o f thousands o f others were prom oted upward from the field and factory floor to positions o f man­ agerial and ministerial responsibility; they staffed the burgeoning party and ministerial apparatus. Many had gained, but for many others life had not improved. Those who benefited were the millions who participated most direcdy in the restructuring: peasants who became workers, workers w ho up­ graded their skills or became foremen and managers, workers who became officials and party organisers, officials prom oted upward through the expanding hierarchies o f government. The losers were


Building Socialism

those left behind or trodden down by the process o f change: peasants w ho remained in the hungry village, manual and staff workers unable to reconcile themselves to the changing demands o f work, and mil­ lions who were victimised by the security organs because o f their opi­ nions, associations or background, or just by accident. The haste o f the transformation had many unintended consequen­ ces. Among them was the extent to which socialist modernisation un­ expectedly reproduced prerevolutionary traditions in twentieth-century forms. Remodelling society in a hurry, faced with coundess urgent problems, practical’ yet inexperienced m en and women reached for ready-made solutions which as often as not were the traditional resorts o f the prerevolutionary past. These could be found in every branch o f life. The Russian Empire was succeeded by a new Soviet brotherhood o f Russians and minority nations. A new Stalinist bureaucracy replaced the old Imperial system o f domination over society. The economy was modernised and indus­ trialised, but m odem factories were operated at low productivity by a migratory work-force. Serfdom was long gone, but the peasantry was once more reduced to second-class status, tied to the land and com­ pelled to labour. W om en were invited to participate in social labour on equal terms with men, yet were expected to bear reinforced bur­ dens o f family, fertility and male authority. The old religion was sup­ pressed, but a new secular religion o f Marxism-Leninism took its place. Most visible o f all was the revival o f autocracy, with Stalin, general secretary o f the Central Committee o f the All-Union Communist Party o f Bolsheviks, as the autocrat. Like a Tsar, a ‘little father o f all the Russias’, his personal rule aspired to an absolute and arbitrary char­ acter, unrestrained by laws, made tolerable only by a contract o f per­ sonal loyalty with his subordinates and subjects. Like the Tsars, Stalin and the ‘little Stalins’ under him also found that they could not govern society entirely w ithout legality, constitutionalism and recognition o f the rights o f others. The social basis o f the Stalin regime was at first perilously narrow. At its core was a minority o f a minority —those officials and industrial workers w ho were typically young, o f urban working-class origin, pol­ itically militant, impatient to get the jo b done. They saw ‘the jo b ’ in terms which were in one sense sweeping and revolutionary, in another sense blinkered. A planned economy directed consciously, not by the blind forces o f the market; a society in which political consciousness and experience o f working life would count for more than education and manners; a culture o f material abundance and wom en’s economic 9

The Soviet Home Front, İ 9 4 İ —Î 9 4 5

independence combined with conventional family life. The effort to achieve these things trampled on many people, including many o f its most ardent supporters. Possibly, however, as the new working class stabilised and officialdom broadened its membership, its social founda­ tions also grew wider for a time.

THE STALIN REGIME There was no precedent in m odem history for the growth and powers o f the Soviet state before the war. H ow real was the new authority o f the party and government, and o f their leader Stalin? H ow sturdy was the towering edifice o f state? Was it built on firm rock or on shifting sands? The turn to rapid industrialisation at the end o f the 1920s had brought a colossal increase in the role, and hence the size and auth­ ority, o f the state. W hole areas o f Soviet life previously independent o f the state now came under its direct control. T o discharge its greatly enlarged functions, the size o f its apparatus increased hugely. ‘State building’ proceeded apace. The ambitions o f the new Leviathan, how­ ever, exceeded its capacities. The fantastic scale o f the tasks set by the leadership and the hectic speed o f change it demanded, the inexperi­ ence o f officials thrust into positions o f authority, the bewilderment, alienation and hostility o f many ordinary people whose fives were abrupdy altered, the sheer size o f the country and remoteness o f many o f its regions from central government — all these worked against the fulfilment o f the rulers’ plans. That great changes were none the less accomplished reflects their determination to succeed. In the process, the political system created under Lenin was trans­ formed. First and foremost, the role o f the Communist Party changed substantially. From being a forum for debate and the making o f policy at both higher and lower levels, it became primarily an instrument for implementing policies determined on high. Party congresses and con­ ferences, convened with diminishing frequency, became occasions not for the exchange o f opinions but for the display o f unanimity. Increas­ ingly, decisions were taken by informal groups o f top leaders rather than by formal party bodies. While party officials wielded great and growing authority, the significance o f rank-and-file party membership in terms o f political influence declined. Meanwhile the importance o f the state apparatus, especially the


Building Socialism

commissariats (ministries) and agencies in charge o f the economy, grew rapidly. So also did the role o f the secret police. The political leader­ ship, insecure and impatient, looked increasingly to the O G PU (from 1936, NKVD) to cut through red tape, widen botdenecks, deal with opponents. T he secret police became responsible for much more than intelligence gathering, state security and the repression o f opponents. Key projects o f economic and military significance were put under its jurisdiction. Its heads - Yagoda, Ezhov, then Beriya — were leading members o f the ruling group. (Membership o f the ruling group did not carry security o f tenure for anyone except Stalin himself, as Yago­ da and Ezhov would find, each being arrested and executed in turn in the late 1930s.) Along with the strengthening o f the state went ever greater cen­ tralisation. Having defeated their opponents and removed them from the leadership by 1930, the group around Stalin ruled w ithout any open dissent or challenge to its policies. Stalin himself increasingly concentrated power in his hands. His personal secretariat occupied the key position in the apparatus while, as general secretary o f the party central committee, his views were decisive in policy-making. Clearly he did not personally decide everything. He may often have acted as arbiter between different groups in the leadership. But he was able to intervene in any debate and, when he did, the effect could be devas­ tating. His ‘cult o f personality’ which blossomed from his fiftieth birth­ day in December 1929 onwards, although contrived and exaggerated in style, was a true reflection o f his enormous authority. At the same time, the power o f the Soviet leadership was limited by several factors. First, the ruling group was less monolithic than it appeared. Behind the scenes there were continual differences over economic, political and diplomatic issues. In the early 1930s these sometimes resulted in challenges to Stalin. There is evidence that at the seventeenth party congress (February 1934), many delegates wanted to replace Stalin with Kirov. Second, the party and state apparatus on which the ruling group relied was far from being an efficient, dependable machine for imple­ menting policy. In the provinces, especially, it was often disorganised, understaffed, overworked, corrupt, and unresponsive to M oscow’s de­ mands. Third, the population, although deprived o f open channels for ex­ pressing its views about official policies, displayed remarkable inven­ tiveness in evading and undermining directives from above. Workers, collective farmers, managers, officials, even local representatives o f the police and prosecution service, were — to Moscow’s frustration — fre­

The Soviet Home Front, İ 9 4 İ - Î 9 4 5

quently engaged in evading regulations and distorting information in order to mitigate the effects o f unworkable or unpopular policies. The response o f Soviet leaders was often to resort to coercion. Peasants who resisted, or might potentially have resisted farm collecti­ visation, were branded ‘kulaks’ (peasant capitalists exploiting the poor) and deported from their villages. Between 1930 and 1932 some 5 mil­ lion were exiled, imprisoned or sent to labour camps, many perishing in the process. ‘Bourgeois specialists’, professionals o f prerevolutionary origin in government or academic work, were periodically purged, as were former oppositionists. And in a series o f purges from 1933 on­ wards, ‘harmful’ elements were removed from the party on a variety o f pretexts. In the spring o f 1937 there was a quantum leap in state-directed repression. W hat precise combination o f circumstances precipitated the Great Purge is impossible at present to say. Fears o f a coup, a desire to pre-em pt any potential for a ‘fifth column’ in the event o f war, a genuine belief that the system was riddled with traitors and ‘enemies o f the people’, may all have played their part. Stalin’s distrust o f those who, behind the scenes, had tried to limit his powers in the early 1930s may also have been at work. And there may also have been a more widespread desire to raise a new generation o f officials and ex­ perts, educated and promoted under Stalin and owing everything to him, into the shoes o f the older generation. The fret is that Stalin unleashed the NKVD in an orgy o f repress­ ion. N o part o f the population was immune, though workers and peasants suffered least in proportion. The main targets were party and state officials, the armed forces, and the intelligentsia. The num ber o f victims can only be guessed at. By the end o f 1938, after the ma­ chinery o f the purge had been brought back under control, hundreds o f thousands had died; nearly 2 million were reportedly held in NKVD labour camps and colonies, half a million o f them condemned as ‘counter-revolutionaries’.7 This was an immense trauma, and its ef­ fects would be long lasting. For all this, it would be inaccurate to see terror as the main basis o f the Stalin regime. Stalin and his colleagues enjoyed considerable sup­ port from the population. Despite its savage treatment, the stratum o f officials, composed overwhelmingly o f prom oted ex-workers and ex­ peasants, gave loyal and active service. Many workers, who had benefited from the regime’s economic and social policies, had faith in Stalin and identified with government goals. Like other dictatorships 7 Dugin 1990.


Building Socialism

before and since, the Stalinist political system rested on a combination o f coercion and mass support.

TH E TH R EA T OF W A R T w o countries threatened the peaceful development o f the Soviet U nion in the 1930s - Japan and Germany. Japan was Russia’s tradi­ tional enemy, but in many ways Germany was traditionally her friend. As it turned out, the threat from Japan never materialised, and it was Germany which embroiled the USSR in a deadly war. As far as Japan was concerned, there had been many years o f his­ toric rivalry with Imperial Russia and the Soviet U nion over territory in the Far East, mainly in Manchuria (now China’s north-eastern provinces). In the late 1920s the Manchurian issue arose again, being resolved in 1931 by Japanese military occupation. The turn to a more aggressive foreign policy signalled social and political changes in Japan itself. Militarism and colonial expansionism were becoming more and more influential in Japanese government, with momentous results. At several points in the 1930s a new war o f Japan against the USSR must have seemed more likely than hostilities between Japan and the U nited States or Great Britain. T o the Soviet advantage, however, were two factors. First, the Japanese secredy defined their sphere o f strategic interest in the territories to the south —in China, and in the British, French and Dutch possessions o f east Asia and the Pacific. There were no Japanese designs on Soviet territory. T he Japanese atti­ tude to the Soviets resulted from this, and was simply one o f enforcing a ‘Keep out’ notice. Second, in 1938 and 1939, the Soviets actually fought two small and undeclared border wars with Japan. At Lake Khasan (Changkufeng) and then at Khalkin-Gol (Nomonhan) Soviet troops held off Japanese incursions into disputed territory. As a result, the military forces o f the two sides learnt mutual respect. The Soviet and Japanese governments concluded a pact o f non-agression in April 1941. H ow ­ ever, the Soviets continued to fear war with Japan, maintained signifi­ cant military and economic reserves in the Far East, and could not realistically assess the reliability o f the Japanese treaty until well into the war with Germany. W hen militarist Japan is compared with Nazi Germany, there can be no question that Germany was the more dangerous opponent. Yet, for much o f the interwar period, at least at an official level, Soviet13

The Soviet Home Front, 1941—194 5

German relations were closer and more friendly than relations with Japan —or indeed with any other country. Soviet complacency, fear and wishful thinking all came to play a certain part in this paradox. Initially, however, the good interwar rela­ tions between Germany and the USSR were based simply in mutual interest. Once the dust o f W orld W ar I had settled in Europe, these two countries found themselves both, for different reasons, cast out o f the international diplomatic and trading community. T he Germans, having begun the war, had lost it; the Russians, having joined the war against Germany, had then diverted their efforts into revolutionary up­ heaval, had reneged on treaty commitments to their British and French allies and had confiscated their assets in Russia. After the war, this shared isolation was expressed in the G erm anSoviet treaty o f Rapallo (April 1922). While Britain and France made some progress in subsequently weaning the new German republic away from its Soviet links, the two countries retained unusually close links o f diplomatic, commercial and military cooperation until the late 1920s. At the end o f the 1920s, a num ber o f developments conspired to upset this pragmatic friendship. The Wall Street crash and the slump in world markets destabilised the German economy, society and political system. Hitler and the National Socialists gathered support for a radical alternative o f the right to the existing structures o f liberal capitalism and parliamentary democracy. The German left found itself in a blind alley o f infighting and paralysis. (And Moscow carried a share o f the blame for this, for misreading H ider’s significance.) Mass unemploy­ ment, falling living standards and farm closures drove Germany’s citizens not towards socialist revolution, but in the direction o f mili­ tarisation and colonial annexations. Hitler became the German Chan­ cellor in January 1933, and soon assumed dictatorial powers. Although at first H ider often sought to present a diplomatic and statesmanlike face to the world, the Nazi regime was bent on over­ turning the balance o f power in Europe by means o f aggressive war­ fare. Hider believed that the survival o f the German race and nation state depended upon colonial annexations to give ‘living space’ for Germans in eastern Europe. Reinforcing eastward expansionism was Nazi hatred o f Bolshevism, which H ider regarded as an alien creed, undermining German racial purity and national supremacy. In Nazi perspectives on the future, Germany was to become the industrial centre o f a European trading area, exchanging her manufac­ tured products against the foodstuffs and raw materials to be made available from eastern and south-eastern Europe. Germans would be 14

Building Socialism

the master race, tolerating coexistence with Europeans o f AngloSaxon, Latin and Baltic ancestry, exploiting the Slavic races and root­ ing out the Jews. Hitler’s aim was to use military means to make Germany the chief continental power, accepting for the time being Britain’s role as the chief maritime power. But beyond this lay more hazily defined vistas o f world domination, and the conquest o f AngloAmerican resources. W hat all European nations feared was another Great W ar, on the model o f 1914-18, which would bleed them white for a second time in a generation. T he Nazi strategy, which played upon this fear, depended upon the assumption that such a war could be averted. In­ stead, rearming as far as possible by stealth, Germany must use limited resources o f military manpower and equipment to launch a series o f lightning wars against her neighbours in central and eastern Europe, picking them off one by one in brief campaigns before their powerful allies in the west could come together and mobilise their forces. In this way, Germany could secure her strategic objectives w ithout ever be­ coming involved in another Great War. At first, Stalin and his advisers understood nothing o f this. In the mid-1930s, however, a Soviet reassessment took place. In Soviet mili­ tary calculations Germany began to replace Japan as the most danger­ ous enemy. In the Soviet approach to European politics, the mistaken belief that the socialists were worse than Hitler gave way to concerted bids to build anti-fascist coalitions o f communists, socialists and other like-minded people called ’Popular Fronts’. In formal diplomacy, moves were set afoot to build an anti-German alliance o f nations for ‘collective security’. But the response o f other world leaders was cool. The British and French continued to believe they could five with Hitler. The Poles and Czechs trusted in their western allies; the Poles distrusted the Rus­ sians as much as they feared Germany. And, after 1937, with the ex­ posure o f ‘traitors* and ‘enemies’ in the highest reaches o f Soviet government, and the arrest o f the greater part o f the Soviet officer corps, none o f them was disposed to treat with the Soviet U nion as a serious candidate for a military alliance.

SOVIET W A R PREPARATIONS High military spending and continual preparation for war were already ingrained in Soviet military-economic policy in the 1930s. This was in 15

The Soviet Home Front, Î 9 4 İ - Î 9 4 5

sharp contrast to the background o f low military spending in most other European countries where, after W orld W ar I, it was believed that Great Wars had become prohibitively costly. The only country to rearm on a scale approaching Germany’s was the Soviet Union. The Soviet readiness to maintain high military spending in peacetime went back to the first years o f the revolution, when Bolshevik leaders had learnt the readiness o f powerful imperialist adversaries to take advantage o f any m oment o f weakness, and to in­ tervene against the Russian revolution by force. They had leamt then to put more trust in guns and shells, ships, tanks and aircraft than in paper treaties or diplomacy. Soviet policy prepared continually for war. At the same time, this was not preparation for any particular war, forecast or planned for any specific time and place, but insurance against the possibility o f war in general. Soviet military and economic planners did not set their sights on some particular operation to be launched on a set date, but instead aimed to build up an all-round, generalised military power ready for war at some point in the indefinite future. This pattem o f rearmament suffered from two main drawbacks. First, it was enormously costly. It required diversion from the civilian economy both o f millions o f young men w ho would otherwise have been available for work, and also o f just those industrial commodities in which the Soviet U nion was poorest: refined fuels, rare metals and high-quality alloys, precision engineering, scientific knowledge and technical expertise. All this was at the expense o f the civilian econ­ omy. W ith less military spending, living standards would have been higher, the deprivations and tensions o f rapid industrialisation would have been mitigated, workers and farmers would have been better re­ warded for their efforts, and morale would have been higher throughout Soviet society. The other drawback lay in the possibility o f miscalculation. Because the Soviet rearmament pattem aimed at some future war, it was never ready for war in the present. Changing forecasts and expectations meant that military plans were always under revision. The armed forces were always in the midst o f re-equipment and reorganisation. Military products already in mass production were always on the verge o f obsolescence; defence industries were always half way through re­ training and retooling. German leaders recognised this possibility and, in part, relied upon it. They planned their campaigns to overwhelm countries w ith a major potential for military power in the long run, like France or the USSR, using concentrated force with lightning speed to overrun the adversary 16

Building Socialism

immediately, well before its long-run potential for resistance could be marshalled and brought to bear. At the same time, compared to Germany's rearmament, the Soviet pattem carried important advantages. Germany's strategy was a gamble, staking everything on the possibility o f immediate victory. If Soviet resistance could deny victory to the aggressor in the short run, and turn the lightning war which the aggressor expected to w in into a protracted struggle, if the Soviets could finally bring to bear their en­ tire national resources upon the struggle, then the aggressor would have lost the advantage. In Germany’s case, she would have entered the war with limited military stocks and low rates o f defence output, expecting to win w ithout major loss or need o f replacement o f wea­ pons on any significant scale. If this expectation were frustrated, Ger­ many's position would be relatively weak; it would be Germany’s turn to mobilise frantically, to be forced to sacrifice the civilian economy to the needs o f the Army. Conscious o f the fragility o f the Nazi regime, H ider was determined to avoid this outcome. Soviet rearmament proceeded in the 1930s in two main waves. The first wave accompanied the first Five Year Plan. By the end o f it Soviet defence output had already reached a high plateau, considerably exceeding the level o f output o f any other European power. Here it remained until 1937 when growth was resumed. But by then, Soviet rearmament had lost its head start, in terms o f both quantity o f forces and quality o f weapons produced. In the Spanish civil war, Soviet advisers found that Soviet-produced munitions had already fidlen be­ hind new technical standards embodied in German supplies to the fasc­ ists. N ow Soviet defence output and force levels began to multiply again. Technical modernisation and re-equipment were accelerated. And on 1 September 1939, on the occasion o f the German—Soviet non-aggression pact, a new conscription law was introduced. The Soviet rearmament o f the last years before the war was im­ pressive in its volume and scope. It meant the further doubling and trebling o f defence output and R ed Army force levels. By June 1941 there were 5.4 million Soviet citizens in uniform (6 per cent o f the working population); every month, Soviet industry was producing 230 tanks, 700 military aircraft, 4,000 guns and mortars, more than 100,000 rifles and more than 1 million shells. At the same time, all this activity w on far less immediate military security for the Soviet U nion than might have been expected. O ne reason is that the Soviet concept o f combining massive expansion with modernisation resulted in wide differences o f quality. O f the millions o f soldiers, few were properly trained, or experienced in combat. Most 17

The Soviet Home Front, 1941—1945

were operating large numbers o f obsolete weapons according to out­ moded tactical guidelines; a minority was just learning to operate new ones in relatively restricted quantities, using new military doctrines which were only poorly absorbed. Then there were further reasons for poor results, which stemmed from domestic politics. In the Great Purge o f 1937-8 the R ed Army command had been decimated. The experienced core o f general and field officers had been replaced by a relatively immature, ill-educated cohort whose members were typically either drilled in Stalinist dog­ mas, or cowed by Stalinist threats. Those w ho had advocated a flexible response to external aggression, including the inevitability o f giving ground to the invader and the need to plan for defence in the interior o f the country, had been accused o f conspiring with Nazi leaders to hand over territory, and executed or imprisoned. In military doctrine, the concept o f the operation in depth was replaced by a rigid insistence on frontier defence: invading forces must be met on the Soviet border and repulsed by an immediate Soviet counteroffensive; then the war must be carried on to enemy territory. Thus Stalin, like Hitler, was preparing his country for a short war, and an offensive one. By massing Soviet forces on Soviet frontiers and giving the appearance o f an offensive deployment, Stalin hoped to deter German aggression. In practice, the bluff worked badly; it calmed Soviet fears and stimulated Stalin’s own complacency, while German observers were not impressed. The atmosphere o f repression inevitably influenced the content o f military-economic plans drawn up in the prewar years. There were plans for boosting ammunition production in the event o f war, but no realistic assessment o f combat needs because it was assumed that the war would end quickly in a victorious offensive. In factories and cities contingency plans were drawn up for war production in the event o f war, but some o f the most obvious preparations for a defensive cam­ paign were neglected. Specialised defence factories were concentrated in the vulnerable territories to the south and west. There was talk o f dispersing capacity into the interior regions, but nothing was done; it was always cheaper to expand output where production was already concentrated. N othing was done to prepare vital industrial assets for defence against air attack, or for possible evacuation, since the idea that territory might be yielded to an invader had itself become treasonous. Everyone in positions o f responsibility believed that there would always be time to make good any oversights.



The Great Patriotic W ar

T H E M O L O T O V -R IB B E N T R O P P A C T O n 23 August 1939, the Soviet and German foreign ministers signed a 'pact o f non-aggression’, w hich com m itted each country to setde d if­ ferences through negotiation, and to neutrality w ith respect to each other, should the other becom e involved in war. T he effect o f the treaty was to give Germany a free hand in Poland, w here a German invasion followed on 1 Septem ber. O n 3 Septem ber came the British and French declarations o f war; W orld W ar II had begun. Behind the scenes, Stalin had abandoned his search for collective security and an anti-G erm an coalition w ith Poland, France and Britain. Appeasement o f H itler, even collaboration, seemed the only rem aining alternative to war. B ut Stalin did not now abandon all his defences. In addition to the pact, w hich was published, there was also a further protocol, w hich rem ained secret, but w hich had infamous consequen­ ces. This dealt w ith the entire territory betw een existing Soviet and German borders. It gave western Poland to Germany, but assigned1 1 There already exist two Soviet official histories o f the war, and a third is now in preparation. First was the six-volume IVOVSS 1961-5, a product of the Khrushchev era of post-Stalin reformism. A highly readable but now rather dated western account based partly on the latter, partly on the author’s personal experiences as a war corre­ spondent, is W erth 1964. Bialer 1970 represents a useful synthesis o f Soviet memoirs and western analysis from the same period. Next comes the Brezhnev era’s twelve-vol­ ume IVMV 1973-82. For a detailed and authoritative western military history, also dating from the 1970s, see Erickson 1975, 1982. A third ten-volume official Soviet history is currently being written, intended (like all the others in their day) to tell the real truth about the war. Davies 1989 recounts current Soviet controversies over war­ time history.


The Soviet Home Front, Î 9 4 İ - İ 9 4 5

eastern Poland to the Soviet U nion. In the north it allotted Finland, Estonia and Latvia (later Lithuania was added, in exchange for the Polish district o f Lublin) to a Soviet sphere o f influence. T o the south­ east it recognised a Soviet interest in Bessarabia, w hich was part o f Rom ania. D uring the next year, Stalin called in all these com m itm ents. Polish resistance to Germany collapsed speedily, and during the second half o f Septem ber eastern Poland was absorbed into the Soviet Ukraine and Belorussia. At the same tim e, under new treaties o f ‘m utual aid*, Sov­ iet military garrisons were sent to Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. N ext came Soviet demands on Finland for greater coordination o f m ilitary policy, and to grant strategic bases for the defence o f Leningrad. A Finnish refusal was answered by war, w hich broke out on 30 N ovem ­ ber 1939. T he ‘w inter w ar’ was short, but terribly cosdy to both sides. Finnish forces resisted bitterly. T he Soviet attackers, neither trained nor equipped for guerrilla fighting in sub-Arctic conditions, were un­ able to w in a decisive victory w ithout huge reinforcem ent. In four m onths o f fighting, 25,000 Finnish soldiers and perhaps 200,000 Soviet troops lost their fives. At the end, Finland conceded territory around Leningrad but her orbit now m oved closer to Germany. M eanwhile the Soviet U nion had suffered international condem nation and was m ore isolated than ever. In the sum m er o f 1940, as the German military m achine rolled over France and poised itself on the English channel, the Soviet U nion cashed its last cheques under the M olotov—R ibbentrop pact’s secret protocol. In June, high-ranking Soviet emissaries, acting together w ith Soviet m ilitary garrisons, overthrew the governm ents o f the Baltic states and established new , pro-Soviet regimes. They w ere absorbed into the U SSR as new U nion Republics, and the annexations were legitimised by rigged ‘plebiscites’. At the same tim e the U SSR an­ nexed Bessarabia, w hich became Soviet Moldavia. In all o f these new territories, the ownership system was quickly refashioned on Soviet fines so that industry and trade were nationalised and farms collecti­ vised; many were arrested and im prisoned or deported. By these means, Soviet frontiers were m oved 200-350 kilometres westward, further away from im portant centres o f population and in­ dustry. T he Soviet fleet acquired im portant new naval bases. O n the map, Soviet security had been greatly enhanced. B ut in reality, the fines on the map were deceptive. T he new territories could not be fully integrated into defensive plans and fortifications in tim e. Instead o f adding to Soviet security, they proved a trap, a deadly quagmire o f popular hostility and national resentm ent where invading German di­ 20

The Great Patriotic War

visions w ould be greeted as liberators and Soviet defenders w ould flounder and sink.

D E C E P T IO N , M IS C A L C U L A T IO N , S U R P R IS E T he German decision to attack the Soviet U nion in the sum m er o f 1941 had tw o main motives. O ne was to realise the longstanding Nazi am bition o f eastward colonial expansion; this w ould make room for German farming settlers, and w ould also give the German econom y access to the raw materials and food produce o f the Ukraine and southern Russia. Poland, the U kraine and the Caucasus w ould becom e vassal states; the Baltic republics w ould eventually be absorbed into G reater Germany. European Russia itself w ould be parcelled up into colonies o f the R eich. Russian industries w ould be dismantled; the population o f the industrial north w ould be driven to Siberia, o r suffer death by starvation. This w ould make possible the transfer o f living space to ethnic Germans, and at the same tim e create a food surplus for transfer to Germany. In such a brutal enterprise, ideological and econom ic calculations w ere evenly mixed. T he w hole thing was inconceivable w ithout an initial presum ption that the Russians were subhumans (Untermenschen), whose needs and aspirations could be tram pled on w ithout regard. Also significant was the Nazi view o f Bolshevism as a Jewish—Slavic conspiracy against the German race. T here was a com plete rejection o f the idea that Germany had any civilising mission in the east. T he Russians and the other Slavs were not ju st barbarians, they were un­ w orthy o f civilisation, and the greatest service they could perform was to die to make room for the R eich. In the m onths o f preparation for w hat H itler had called a ‘war o f exterm ination’, W ehrm acht orders threw out the traditional rules o f war. T he civilian population o f the east, acting in resistance to the occupying forces, was to be subject to summary shootings and collective punishm ents. Crimes com m itted by Germ an soldiers against civilians w ere to go unpunished. C aptured Soviet officials and Army commissars (political officers) w ere to be executed at the front fine.2 H itler’s decision to invade Russia was also stim ulated by events and circumstances nearer at hand. In Septem ber 1939, German aggression against Poland had resulted in a w ar w ith Britain and France which 2 Dallin A 1957: chs II, III.


The Soviet Home Front, Î 9 4 1 -1 9 4 5

H itler had not intended - for then, at least. Hostilities w ith France had been resolved by a successful invasion and the French surrender o f June 1940. Expecting the British now to come to terms, H itler’s thoughts turned immediately to the next stage, an attack on the USSR in the spring o f 1941. Soon H ider became convinced that C hurchill’s refusal to negotiate was based on the Soviet presence in Germany’s rear. Stalin was encouraging Churchill to hold out; only w ith the de­ feat o f Russia w ould the British sue for peace, guaranteeing German dom ination o f Europe from the Channel to the Urals. H ider’s determ ination to knock the Soviet U nion out o f the bal­ ance o f forces in Europe was only strengthened by the Luftwaffe’s failure in the Batde o f Britain (August—O ctober 1940); Britain’s air defences had not broken, and there was now no imm ediate prospect either o f a British surrender or o f a successful invasion across the Channel. M ore than ever, Germany’s key to victory in the west was seen to lie in the east. In Decem ber 1940, H ider issued his D irective N o 21, ‘Case Barba­ rossa’. This ordered the preparation, by m id-M ay 1941, o f a massive invasion o f Soviet territory. Its aims w ould be the rapid destruction o f the Soviet arm ed forces; the securing o f territory up to a line running from A rkhangelsk on the W hite Sea to the Volga R iver from its upper reaches north and east o f M oscow dow n through Stalingrad to the Caspian Sea; and the subsequent elim ination o f Soviet industries rem aining to the east o f this line by aerial bom bing. T he main w eight o f the attack w ould be delivered in the north, penetrating first to Leningrad, then turning to M oscow and beyond; in the south, the imm ediate objective w ould be occupation o f the coal-metallurgical re­ gion o f the D onets R iver basin (the Donbass). T he invasion w ould be reinforced by Finnish and Rom anian troops.3 Preparations for this colossal operation were now pursued intensive­ ly. They were delayed for a few weeks in the spring o f 1941 by a crisis in the Balkans and the tem porary diversion o f German forces to the occupation o f Yugoslavia and Greece. By June 1941, how ever, the W ehrm acht had assembled a huge force on Soviet frontiers. It in­ cluded 2,800 tanks, 5,000 aircraft, 47,000 artillery pieces and 5.5 mil­ lion troops.4 T he first troops and aircraft crossed the Soviet border at 4.00 a.m. M oscow tim e (3.00 a.m. German sum m er time) on Sunday, 22 June. German field guns began shelling Soviet frontier positions and lines o f comm and and com m unication. A rm oured and infantry 3 Trevor-Roper 1966: 93-8. 4 Soviet estimates cited in Harrison 1985: 111.


The Great Patriotic War

units m oved across the border in strength. T he main Luftwaffe assault began at 4.15 a.m.; bom bers raided towns, troop encampm ents and airfields in the border area. This was a m om ent o f trium ph for German arms. T he W ehrm acht had undertaken the biggest ground operation in history, securing for it conditions o f virtually com plete surprise o f the adversary. Surprise o f the Soviet forces was both tactical and strategic. Tactical surprise m eant that Soviet units were caught unawares. For most o f them , the first and only w arning o f attack was a directive o f the People's C om ­ missariat o f Defence dispatched by telegraph at 11.45 p.m . on the eve o f the invasion, w arning o f the likelihood o f an attack in the next tw o days, but requiring troops not to respond to provocations ‘liable to create serious complications’.5 For many field units, this ambiguous w arning arrived after the invasion had actually begun. B ut the Soviets w ere surprised not only tactically. Strategic surprise m eant that the Soviet general staff was caught unprepared for the tim ing o f the Ger­ man assault, for its conditions, scale and character, and for the w hole nature o f the resulting campaign. They did not expect the Germans to invade; in the event o f a German attack, they expected a period o f heightened tensions, border incidents, negotiations and provocations to precede any large-scale fighting; in the event o f outright war, they expected the main blow to fall on the Ukraine; they planned to throw off the invading forces and proceed immediately to a counteroffensive w hich w ould carry the w ar on to German soil. Given the necessary scale and duration o f German preparations for ‘Barbarossa’, how could Soviet leaders have been surprised? T he con­ ditions for Soviet surprise were created partly in Berlin, partly in Mos­ cow. The Germans themselves considered surprise to be essential to suc­ cess in m ounting a speedy knockout blow against the Soviet U nion. O nly by surprise could the adversary be prevented from mobilising beforehand to frustrate German plans and inflict unacceptable losses on invading forces. H itler and his generals therefore m ounted a campaign o f deception, surrounding the preparation o f ‘Barbarossa’ w ith a de­ liberate fog o f unreality; this was ju st as m uch a part o f preparing the invasion o f Russia as concentrating troops and tanks on the eastern frontier. T he mist o f deception was to be dense, and each successive attem pt to penetrate it was to be confronted w ith enveloping layers o f illusion. In the first stages, German preparations w ere disguised as part o f a 5 Great Patriotic War 1974: 50.


The Soviet Home Front, İ 9 4 İ —İ9 4 5

build-up for ‘Sea lion’, the cross-Channel invasion o f the British Isles. T hen, as the eastward orientation o f preparations for ‘Barbarossa’ be­ came unmistakable, they were portrayed as a back-up operation auxil­ iary to ‘Sea lion’, a deception against the British, to lull them into a false sense o f security. O nce the idea o f ‘Sea lion’ had itself lost reality, and German preparations for war w ith the Soviet U nion could no longer be disguised as anything else, the idea was spread about that these were defensive preparations against the threat o f Soviet aggres­ sion. Lastly, as the threat o f German aggression became unmistakable, preparations for invasion were disguised as a psychological pressure on Stalin and a back-up for possible German demands on Soviet territory and resources in the U kraine, perhaps even an ultim atum , w hich could be followed by negotiation rather than inevitable hostilities.6 In spite o f German security surrounding ‘Barbarossa’, Soviet auth­ orities received many accurate warnings o f the com ing attack. These came through diplom atic, military and intelligence channels, from So­ viet field agents (notably R ichard Sorge in Tokyo), from the British and U nited States governm ents including directly from C hurchill and R oosevelt, from German deserters and even from the German ambas­ sador to M oscow. All correctly predicted the main directions and even the date o f the onslaught. T he result o f German deception, how ever, was that, while Stalin and other Soviet authorities received many indications o f an im pend­ ing German attack, they also received very many contra-indications. Even direct and detailed forecasts o f invasion need n o t be interpreted at free value, since they could always be understood as German disin­ form ation designed to attract attention away from German plans in the west, or as British provocation designed to draw the Soviet U nion into an unnecessary war w ith Germany, o r as German disinformation designed to provoke the Soviet U nion into a war in w hich the Soviets w ould be branded the aggressors, or as German psychological pressure designed to influence Soviet behaviour in negotiations. O nly w ith hindsight w ould it be possible to discriminate w ith com plete certainty betw een truths, half-truths and outright lies. At the same tim e, the situation in M oscow guaranteed the success o f the German campaign to deceive. H ere the political atmosphere was very im portant. Everyone understood the damage w hich war w ould inflict upon plans for peaceful econom ic developm ent, for rais­ ing living standards and the quality o f life after a decade o f econom ic struggle and deprivation; the desire to avoid w ar was very strong. If 6 Whaley 1973: 172-5.


The Great Patriotic War

w ar could not be averted altogether, then at least it must be postponed for a few years so that military preparations could be com pleted w ith­ out undue additional sacrifice. This atm osphere itself acted as a filter, tending to enhance the apparent value o f signals suggesting that war was not really inevitable or intended by Germany, and to discredit those w hich reflected German intentions faithfully. W hen it came to evaluating German intentions, the politicians were to blame. It was Stalin's views w hich dom inated to the exclusion o f all others, but in this Stalin was keenly supported by Politburo members such as Zhdanov, M alenkov, and Beriya as head o f security. They distrusted H itler, but they distrusted Churchill and Roosevelt m ore; they still hoped to appease Germany, to avert Soviet involvem ent in the w ar and to rem ain spectators while Europe burned. They com­ pletely underestim ated the seriousness o f the German determ ination to dismember the Soviet U nion and incorporate its European part into a greater German empire. T o make matters worse, the possibility o f a realistic professional assessment o f German intentions and appropriate Soviet responses had been all but destroyed in the R ed Army purge o f 1937-8. T here was no one in the general staff capable o f standing up to the wishful think­ ing o f the politicians, and delivering a sober, worst-case evaluation o f available intelligence, w ithout fear o f being branded a traitor or provo­ cateur. As a result, the German surprise attack was not only a m ilitary shock but also a devastating political and psychological blow. Stalin and his closest colleagues were primarily responsible for this state o f affairs. B ut they accepted no blame for it. O n the contrary, in the first weeks o f fighting Stalin made scapegoats out o f the m ilitary commanders responsible for frontier defence; a num ber o f them w ere charged w ith cowardice or treason and w ere shot. O nly after victory w ould Stalin half-hum orously refer to the mistakes o f the early period, know ing that no one w ould ask him to settle the account. It is also true that, even if Stalin had made no mistakes, if H itler had not secured any advantage o f strategic surprise or political or psy­ chological shock, the German forces w ould still have had the capacity to inflict huge losses o f m en and territory on the Soviet defenders. O n the other hand, w ithout the advantage ceded to them by Stalin’s mis­ takes, they m ight not have reached Stalingrad and the Caucasus.


The Soviet Home Front, 1941—1945

T H E R E T R E A T T O L E N IN G R A D A N D M O S C O W Germany was now to fight the U SSR for four years along a front w hich, at its widest, stretched 2,000 kilom etres across Europe from the Baltic Sea to the Caucasus m ountains and, at its furthest, 2,000 ki­ lom etres from Berlin. It was fought w ith tens o f millions o f soldiers, and hundreds o f thousands o f aircraft, tanks and guns on each side. It was the greatest land w ar o f all tim e. From a military point o f view, the w ar on the eastern front can be divided into four stages. In the first (June-D ecem ber 1941), the Ger­ mans had nearly everything their ow n way, but still did not w in a knockout blow. For the Soviets, w ith German troops at the gates o f M oscow, survival itself was at stake. T he end o f this first phase was m arked by the regeneration o f Soviet resistance. At first the Soviets fought alone, but before the end o f 1941 they had been joined by tw o great allies, the British and the Americans (Japan’s bom bing o f the U nited States naval base at Pearl H arbor in D ecem ber 1941 was immediately followed by a German declaration o f war). For the tim e being, Allied aid to Russia rem ained largely diplo­ matic and symbolic, but it grew in im portance in the second phase, w hich lasted the w hole o f 1942. T hroughout this second phase the eastern front was characterised by a strategic stalemate, w ith both sides struggling for advantage, w ith great new offensives, counteroffensives and manoeuvres; Soviet military determ ination nearly broke a second tim e, but in the end proved the stronger. T he stalemate was ended by decisive Soviet victories at Stalingrad at the beginning o f 1943, and later in the same year at K ursk-O rel. The balance was m oving m ore and m ore against Germany, both because o f the rising Soviet w ar effort and because Allied military and food aid to the Soviets at last became significant in am ount. N ow German defeat in the Soviet U nion became certain, although its speed, significance and cost to the Soviets rem ained to be seen. T he third phase lasted until the summer o f 1944. In this period, Soviet forces chased the Germans out o f Soviet territory. In June 1944, as Soviet troops were entering eastern Europe, the western Allies finally joined the war on land in w estern Europe, open­ ing a second front in France. From now the Germans were retreating from both directions. T he final phase culm inated in Berlin in May 1945 w ith Soviet capture o f Germany’s capital and Germany’s uncon­ ditional surrender to the Allies. T he rest o f this section is devoted to the first six m onths — the


The Great Patriotic War

Soviet struggle for military survival. T o begin w ith, ‘Barbarossa’ w ent well for Germany. In the first hours and days, Soviet frontier defences w ere pulverised and Soviet borders w ere deeply penetrated. T he Luft­ waffe quickly secured supremacy in the air; ju st in the first eight hours, the R ed Army lost one in seven o f its front-line com bat aircraft, m ost o f them on the ground.7 JW ithin weeks, W ehrm acht divisions had swept through the Baltic region. German troops entered Belorussia and the U kraine. German successes continued to m ount in August and September. Lightning advances and great w heeling m anoeuvres outflanked Soviet defences, seizing cities and trapping huge arm ies.jln early Septem ber Leningrad was cut off by land, its rem aining link w ith Soviet forces lying across Lake Ladoga. B ut the Germans failed to storm the city as the shattered Soviet divisions, retreating m ore slowly, finally dug their heels in. jlnstead, they laid siege to the city, w hich H ider intended to ‘w ipe from the free o f the earth’, its population to jie destroyed by starvation, shelling and shooting. T o the south, the Ukraine was deep­ ly penetrated; its capital, Kiev, was captured and the main coal and metallurgical region o f the Donbass became a theatre o f war. A m illion R ed Army soldiers were lost in tw o great encirclem ents, at Kiev in Septem ber and farther north at Vyaz'ma in the following m onth. At the end o f Septem ber the Germans launched the first stage o f O peration ‘T yphoon’, a knockout blow against M oscow itself. This was to be the first batde o f M oscow, and it lasted a m onth until the German offensive ran out o f m om entum . M oscow itself was almost captured; at the point o f nearest advance, the German tank comm an­ der could see the golden cupolas o f the Kremlin glinting in the sun­ shine through his field glasses. In m id-O ctober the civilian ministries and foreign embassies w ere ordered out o f M oscow and dispersed to cities in the interior. It was rum oured that Stalin him self had fled, and there was m om entary panic am ong the city’s rem aining civilian popu­ lation. B ut w ithin a few days o f this the German advance had exhausted itself. There w ere many reasons for this. O ne reason was that the im plem entation o f ‘Barbarossa’ had proceeded too frr and too fast, across a front 600 kilom etres deep and 1,500 kilom etres wide. As lines o f supply lengthened and m ultiplied, m ore and m ore o f the 7 By midday on 22 June the Soviet air force had lost 1,200 aircraft, 900 o f them on the ground, according to Bialer 1970: 205. An official figure o f 1,540 front-line combat aircraft on 22 June is available from VO voina 1970: 579, but this excludes numerous ‘obsolete’ types. According to Tupper 1982: 200, new types amounted to 19 per cent o f front-line strength, giving a total o f 8,105 front-line aircraft.


The Soviet Home Front, 1 9 4 1 -1 9 4 5

W ehrm acht’s capacities w ere pre-em pted by the need to bring up food, fuel and m unitions from the rear, less and less being left available for fighting the defender. Tanks ran out o f fuel and parts, guns ran out o f shells, troops became exhausted, had to dig in and could not main­ tain their initial m om entum . A factor o f decisive significance in the exhaustion o f the German advance was the grow ing resistance o f Soviet civilians and soldiers. M ilitary resistance was both weaker and stronger than German expec­ tations. T he sheer panic and disorder o f the Soviet retreat m eant that the German advance proceeded at times m uch m ore rapidly than ex­ pected. This contributed to German supply problems partly because German com bat forces became m ore easily separated from the German rear; partly because they took many m ore Soviet prisoners than was anticipated, and these prisoners had to be funnelled back to the rear, at the same tim e as com bat stores were being brought forward. Soviet military resistance was also stronger than expected. Although panicked, often cut off and leaderless, not all Soviet units gave up; instead many fought on desparately, w ithout orders o r supplies, to the last bullet and the last ration, even preferring death to surrender. U nder fire Soviet commanders, too, began to learn generalship in holding together shattered units, slowing their retreat, turning them around w ith speeches, w ith orders and threats o f shooting, w ith exam­ ples o f personal leadership, throw ing them back into com bat no m atter how w eakened or short o f equipm ent, smashing back at the invading troops, counterattacking ceaselessly. Stalin’s O rder N o 270 o f m idAugust 1941 also no doubt played a role. This decreed that Soviet deserters’ families were liable to arrest; it also declared that soldiers falling alive into German captivity had betrayed the m otherland, and deprived their families o f soldiers’ pensions. Because o f the unexpectedly bitter and unyielding character o f the Soviet forces in the midst o f this great catastrophe, the trium phant invader suffered casualties on a far greater scale than hitherto. In 1940, in the w hole o f the western campaign the W ehrm acht had lost some 156,000 m en, including 30,000 dead. By D ecem ber 1941, the R us­ sians had cost them three-quarters o f a m illion, the German dead to­ talling nearly 200,000.® Although far exceeded by Soviet losses, these were a price w hich Germany had n o t expected to pay. Civilian resistance, too, eventually slowed the German advance. At first, in the Baltic republics and in m uch o f the U kraine, civil resist­ ance was negligible. T he local population, if not pro-N azi, was at least8 8 German military sources, cited by W erth 1964: 259.


The Great Patriotic War

not anti-G erm an. B ut as the German forces advanced the position soon changed. H om e guard militias were recruited in the front-line districts, helping the regular troops o f the R ed Army by digging dit­ ches and shelters, building anti-tank defences, assisting evacuation and eventually fighting the enem y hand to hand. A policy o f 'scorched earth’ was in force on the Soviet side, denying the W ehrm acht the means to recoup its supply shortages at the expense o f captured stocks o f food and fuel. As people fled, they took w ith them w hat they could; w hat they left, they destroyed. Those w ho stayed behind soon leam t the reality o f German occupation policy and this, too, w ould eventually contribute to resistance. In N ovem ber, the m ud turned to frost. T he German supply situ­ ation became still m ore critical. H itler had not intended a w inter cam­ paign. W inter equipm ent, available in the rear, could not be brought forward because W ehrm acht transport troops w ere already fully em­ ployed on bringing up m unitions and fuel. N ow German soldiers and their weapons began to freeze into im m obility. T he second stage o f 'T yphoon’ was launched on 16 N ovem ber, but the renew ed German offensive against M oscow lasted a bare three weeks. O n all fronts, the German m om entum was entirely lost, while Soviet resistance was con­ solidated under Zhukov. O n the southern front German troops gave ground for the first tim e anywhere in Europe since H itler had begun to im plem ent his plans o f aggression w hen, at the end o f the m onth, the Soviets recaptured R ostov-on-D on. O n 5 D ecem ber the R ed Army launched a counteroffensive outside M oscow. This was a critical m om ent, because it confirm ed German loss o f the strategic initiative in the W orld W ar as a whole. Soon the enem y was pushed back 150-200 kilom etres. W ith the recapture o f significant territory, Soviet troops saw for the first tim e on a large scale the consequences o f occupation for people the Nazis regarded as Un­ termenschen — bum t-out huts, the disappearance o f able-bodied m en to the German rear, corpses hanging from telegraph poles, the first mass graves. In this first phase o f the war, decisive steps were taken to the ral­ lying o f national unity. T he unification o f the Soviet people behind their w ar effort was a process, not a single m om ent, and the process was not com pleted until the end o f 1942. At the end o f 1941, national survival still hung in the balance. Soviet troops were fighting w ith increasing effectiveness, for the tim e being; Soviet workers and indus­ tries were supplying them w ith the means o f com bat, for the m om ent. T he outlook, how ever, rem ained utterly grim. U p to the end o f the year the R ed Army had lost m ore than 3 m illion taken prisoner, and 29

The Soviet Home Front, 1 9 4 1 -1 9 4 5

at least half that num ber dead from all causes. Although tem porarily stalemated, the enem y was deep inside Soviet territory and, as 1942 w ould show, retained the capacity to inflict further huge damage. The civilian econom y was in ruins. T he ability, and willingness, o f Soviet people to fight and to labour on for years o f struggle hung in the balance. Soviet leaders, and Stalin himself, helped ensure they w ould do so by deferring to Russian national feeling and national and mili­ tary traditions. T he prew ar them es o f internal division and ‘intensified’ class struggle against the enem y w ithin gave way to national unifica­ tion in order to drive out the foreign invader.

F R O M M O S C O W T O S T A L IN G R A D T he year 1942 was the one in w hich things got still worse before they got better. T he German forces scored further outstanding successes over the Soviet defenders; in spite o f rising force levels and accelera­ ting war production, Soviet morale and the Soviet econom y teetered on a knife-edge. Success in the second batde o f M oscow em boldened Stalin. In early January 1942 he ordered a general counteroffensive w ith ambitious objectives: to lift the siege o f Leningrad, to smash the three main W ehrm acht army groups (N orth, C entre and South), and to clear German troops out o f the Donbass and Crimea. The counteroffensive continued through the early spring to April, by w hich tim e it had petered out on all fronts. Ill supplied, w ith insufficient reserves and too thinly deployed, the Soviet Army achieved none o f its main objectives. O ne main failure was to lift the siege o f Leningrad; how ever, the German stranglehold was eased, and w ith the opening o f the ice road (the ‘road o f life’) across Lake Ladoga in January the Leningraders could again be supplied, and many o f them evacuated by the returning transports. In general, the Soviet Army was able to push back German lines some 100-350 kilometres. T he W ehrm acht, how ever, did not only lose territory. Fifty Ger­ man divisions lost m ore than half their troops and arm ament, and total military losses exceeded 400,000 m en. A crisis resulted w hich was both military and political. T he military crisis was reflected in H itler’s im­ mediate removal o f his com m ander-in-chief o f ground forces (H ider him self assumed personal command) and o f all army group comm an­ ders. B ut a long crisis o f German policy was also beginning because


The Great Patriotic War

the strategy o f Blitzkrieg was finished. Germany’s lightning w ar against the U SSR had failed, and a still m ore bloody war o f attrition had begun, in w hich each nation’s full hum an, material and m oral resour­ ces w ould be throw n into the balance. Germany now had to adjust herself to the prospect o f a w ar o f long duration and unrem itting na­ tional effort. Frustrated outside M oscow, now H ider planned another decisive offensive. Again the ground was prepared by a campaign o f deception, to make Stalin think that the W ehrm acht intended to repeat the pre­ vious autum n’s frontal assault in the northern and central sectors, against Leningrad and M oscow. Again Stalin was taken in, and ordered strengthening o f Soviet deployments away from the southern sector. T he German operation, launched in May, was to send army group South back through the Crim ea and across the Ukraine to the D on and low er Volga rivers and to the oil-rich Caucasus; then there was the option o f turning to jo in w ith the central and northern army groups to encircle and take M oscow. At first everything w ent well. In May, on the southern flank o f the advance, the W ehrm acht pushed the Soviet Army out o f the Crim ea w ith heavy losses, though it still took the Germans tw o m onths to conclude the long siege o f Sevasto­ pol', w here they took 90,000 prisoners. By the tim e the Germans reached R ostov-on-D on at the end o f July the Soviet defenders were in a panic, and soldiers fled in large numbers. M eanwhile, on the northern line o f advance, German troops lunged across the Ukrainian steppe; a Soviet counteroffensive to retake Khar’kov ended disastrously in late May w ith the encirclem ent and capture o f tw o m ore Soviet armies — 200,000 m en. T he Germans reoccupied the Donbass, and prepared an assault on Voronezh, w hich was necessary in order to secure the northern flank o f the advance and threaten Stalingrad’s defences from the rear. At Voronezh, how ever, the German advance was held. For six weeks the front line ran through this sleepy provincial m arket tow n, w hich was almost com ­ pletely destroyed. Tem porarily frustrated, H ider shifted his priorities away to Staling­ rad and the Caucasus. M eanwhile, in the southern sector R ed Army discipline was tightened. Part o f this story was Stalin’s O rder N o 227 o f 28 July, four days after the R ostov panic; it accused the troops o f giving up the southern cities w ithout resistance and against orders, out o f cowardice, and ordered: ’N ot a step back.’ M ilitary police were deployed behind the lines, authorised to arrest stragglers and shoot those retreating w ithout orders. Officers w ho failed to hold their units together w ould be sent to the front to die in penal battalions. To 31

The Soviet Home Front, 1 9 4 1 -1 9 4 5

many o f the troops to w hom it was read, this harsh message resonated w ith a ring o f necessity. T o others, how ever, it was recalled afterwards as no m ore than an encouragem ent to further pointless expenditures o f hum an life.9 At the same tim e, Army reforms w ere set in m otion. T he profes­ sional status o f Army officers was raised, and political commissars sub­ ordinated to military commanders. N ew (or rather old, that is prerevolutionary) insignia and privileges o f rank w ere introduced. O ld national and military traditions w ere once again throw n into the bal­ ance. T here w ould be no m ore panics. H ow ever, in the south the Ger­ man forces continued to advance. At the end o f August they reached the Volga, entering Stalingrad itself in m id-Septem ber (at the same tim e German forces were rapidly occupying the Caucasus). Beyond Stalingrad there was now here left for the Soviet defenders, under Chuikov and V oronov, to retreat; Stalin refused to authorise the city’s evacuation. N ow weeks o f house-to-house fighting began, every inch o f every street being bitterly contested. O n both sides the attrition o f forces was appalling. T hen, in the latter part o f N ovem ber, Soviet forces under Zhukov and Vasilevskii struck an unexpected and decisive blow in the German rear, closing a ring around a third o f a m illion German troops. In the next tw o m onths most o f them w ould die because o f disease, hunger and cold as well as in the fighting, because they could not break out, and because H itler w ould not let them capitulate. W hen the surrender came only 90,000 were still alive. In the w hole operation the W ehrm acht had lost 800,000 troops, as well as thousands o f guns, tanks and aircraft. At their farthest reach, the Germans had engaged on a front w hich stretched 2,000 kilom etres from Finland in the north-w est to Turkey in the south. W hen they reached M ozdok in the Caucasus they were 2,000 kilom etres from Berlin. This was the exact measure o f the re­ treat w hich now faced them . W ith disaster at Stalingrad, the German forces in the Caucasus w ere hopelessly exposed and fell back as rapidly as they had advanced. From now on the Soviet Army w ould advance continuously, although still at great cost, to Berlin.

$ Davies 1989: 105-6.


The Great Patriotic War

T H E G R A N D A L L IA N C E T he Great Patriotic W ar o f the Soviet U nion was a part (arguably, the decisive part) o f W orld W ar II. T he Soviet U nion fought in alliance w ith Britain and the U nited States. This, like any alliance, suffered from clashes o f interest and opinion, resentm ent at the distribution o f costs and benefits, suspicion o f each other’s motives and intentions; and it did not long survive the end o f the war. Despite these strains, the alliance provided the indispensable basis for victory. It did so for tw o main reasons: awareness that fascism posed a deadly threat to both western democracy and Soviet comm unism , and recognition that no one partner in the alliance could achieve victory alone. This com m on interest was reflected in the speed w ith w hich the alliance took shape. O n the very day o f the invasion, C hurchill public­ ly offered to ‘give whatever help we can to Russia and the Russian people.’ Three weeks later a m utual assistance pact was signed. At the end o f July 1941, R oosevelt’s special envoy, Harry H opkins, arrived in M oscow to discuss the supply o f American military and econom ic aid, already being provided in huge quantities to Britain under the LendLease Act. In Septem ber, Lend-Lease was extended to include the U SSR. Goods supplied under it were neither lent nor leased, but am ounted to a conditional gift in recognition o f the American national interest in preventing a German victory. W ith American entry into the w ar in Decem ber 1941, A m erican-Soviet cooperation became a full alliance. From the earliest days o f the w ar to its end, therefore, there was continuous contact betw een the Soviet U nion and its western allies — through diplomatic and military missions, visits o f special envoys and foreign ministers, frequent comm unications betw een heads o f govern­ m ent, and summit meetings. Churchill, Roosevelt and Stalin m et at Tehran in N ovem ber 1943 and at Yalta in February 1945; in addition, C hurchill and Stalin m et in M oscow in August 1942 and O ctober 1944. In the dire conditions after the German attack, Soviet hopes o f western assistance, reflected in official statements, ran very high. In his first letter to Churchill, four weeks after the invasion, Stalin asked Britain to open a front in northern France and to jo in w ith the USSR in opening another front in N orw ay and Finland. W hen he m et H op­ kins at the end o f July, besides asking for weapons and industrial goods, Stalin said American troops w ould be welcom e anywhere on the Soviet front. At the beginning o f Septem ber, w ith the military


The Soviet Home Front, 1941—1945

situation rapidly worsening, he told Churchill that w ithout help the Soviet U nion w ould either suffer defeat or be weakened to such an extent that it w ould be unable to assist its allies for a long period. Specifically, a second front was needed that year in either the Balkans or France to relieve pressure on the Soviet U nion. W hen Churchill declared this impossible, Stalin proposed that Britain send 25 or 30 divisions to A rkhangelsk or, via Iran, to the southern regions o f the USSR. In the event, the western Allies were m ore forthcom ing w ith ma­ terial aid than w ith strategic support. D uring 1942, the trickle in­ creased. M ost o f it took the form o f m unitions and military vehicles, but there was an increasing elem ent o f industrial equipm ent and food­ stuffs. Almost all o f it was American, although the British and Cana­ dians also made a small contribution. In 1943 it became a steady flow; American shipments, w hich had averaged $100 m illion per m onth in 1942, now rose to $250 m illion m onthly and rem ained at that level through 1944. This was a significant addition to Soviet strength. Behind it lay a pooling o f Allied resources on an unprecedented scale. T here was nothing to compare w ith it in relations betw een the Axis powers. At the same tim e, officially speaking, the main American m otive was self-interest, not generosity, because Roosevelt had calcu­ lated that the U nited States w ould lose only from a German victory on the eastern front. B ut other factors included w ider public sympathy for the Soviet U nion, and adm iration too, particularly after the Stal­ ingrad victory. There was also a sense o f guilt at the relatively low level o f British and American engagement w ith Germany; as late as the end o f 1942, the R ed Army faced 266 Axis divisions, 193 o f them German, while Anglo-Am erican forces in Africa freed 15 Axis divi­ sions, only 4 o f them German. Soviet people were undoubtedly grateful for Allied aid, but in one aspect it grated on their sensibilities. The American strategy o f arm ing the Russians to fight Germany in the east (and Britain to fight Ger­ many in the air, and in the M editerranean) cost America dollars and resources, but the cost to the U SSR was measured in blood and lives. British and American soldiers and sailors were dying in the M editer­ ranean; RA F and USAF aircrews were dying over Germany, and the bom bing o f German cities and industries diverted the Luftwaffe from the eastern front to hom e defence. Still, the British and Americans died in relatively small numbers. Soviet citizens could not help but reflect that if British and American leaders had been as ready to spend lives as the Russians, then they w ould have gone to w ar against Ger­ many on land in Europe long before June 1944. T here was an agoni­ 34

The Great Patriotic War

sing gap betw een Soviet demands for the western Allies to open up a 'Second Front’ in France as early as possible, and the Anglo-American determ ination to w ait until absolutely overw helm ing force had been accumulated. Tim ing the opening o f a second front became one o f the thorniest problem s. In May 1942, Roosevelt and Churchill com m itted them ­ selves, albeit in vague terms, to ‘a second front in Europe in 1942’. Its postponem ent in favour o f a landing in N orth Africa, w hich Churchill announced to Stalin in August 1942, provoked a contem ptuous attack on British cowardice and fear o f the Germans. In February 1943 at Casablanca the western Allies discussed an invasion o f France in Au­ gust or Septem ber that year. In June, how ever, they inform ed the Soviet U nion that they w ould land in Sicily instead. Bitterly, Stalin reproached his partners for ‘w ithholding from our army, w hich has sacrificed so m uch, the anticipated substantial support o f the AngloAm erican armies’. It was hardly coincidental that the follow ing m onth he used the term 'G reat Patriotic W ar’ for the first tim e. N o t until the Tehran conference in N ovem ber 1943 did Churchill and R oosevelt give a firm com m itm ent to open the second front in the spring o f 1944. T he Norm andy landings o f 6 June 1944 created a tem porary m ood o f euphoria in M oscow. N ot least in military circles, Soviet hopes o f a rapid German collapse ran high. They were disappointed by strong German resistance. And although Germany now transferred substantial forces to the west, tw o-thirds o f its army rem ained in the east. It w ould take eleven m ore m onths’ heavy fighting before victory in Eu­ rope was w on. If strategic issues were a continual source o f friction, ideological differences had minimal visible effect on relations betw een the allies. In m arked contrast w ith past (and future) practice, each country’s pro­ paganda concentrated heavily on its partners’ merits. T o allay western fears o f com m unist subversion, the Com m unist International was dis­ solved in April 1943, although the underlying pow er relations o f Sov­ iet dom inance over foreign com m unist parties rem ained intact. Far m ore divisive were questions concerning the postwar fate o f eastern Europe and Germany. As the situation on the eastern front evolved to the Soviet advantage, and its determ ination and capacity to build a strong barrier against any future attack from the west became clear, disagreements grew sharper. Spheres o f influence, postwar borders and governm ents (especially o f Poland), the exaction o f German repar­ ations and Germany’s partition increasingly occupied the Allies. M eanwhile, there were ever-present fears, fed by rum our and press 35

The Soviet Home Front, Î 9 4 İ - 1 9 4 5

speculation, that one partner or another w ould renege on the com m it­ m ent to fight until Germany’s unconditional surrender to all the Allies, and conclude a separate peace. Given the prew ar background o f west* em appeasement and the M olotov-R ibbentrop pact, such fears were hardly groundless. And tentative contacts were made: betw een Soviet and Bulgarian representatives in O ctober 1941, betw een Soviet and German representatives in Sweden in June 1943, and betw een the American and German sides in Switzerland in M arch 1945. Despite these tensions, the forces holding the Allies together proved stronger than those dividing them . Recognising this, Roosevelt w rote to C hurchill only hours before his death in April 1945: *1 w ould m i­ nimize the general Soviet problem as m uch as possible because these problem s, in one form or another, seem to arise every day, and most o f them straighten o u t.’ T he alliance held. Substantial military and econom ic cooperation was achieved. Germany was defeated.

F R O M S T A L IN G R A D T O B E R L IN - A N D M A N C H U R IA T he rem ainder o f the w ar on the eastern front is the story o f how the Soviet Army pursued the enem y back to Berlin. T here was only one m ore significant setback in M arch 1943 w hen Soviet forces on the south-w estern front, advancing too rapidly, were caught by surprise in a German counteroffensive; Khar’kov was occupied again, and the German line stabilised. This prepared the ground for H ider’s last throw in Russia. In O peration ’Citadel’, H ider planned to entrap Soviet forces mass­ ing around Kursk for a sum m er offensive. T he German offensive was launched on 5 July 1943, and lasted for ten days. It failed to achieve an encirclem ent, and was answered by a huge Soviet counterm ove w hich developed into a five-week running batde. At the end o f it, the Germans had been pushed back 150 kilometres. This was the biggest tank engagement o f W orld W ar II, w ith 6,000 tanks on either side as well as thousands o f aircraft and hundreds o f thousands o f troops. It was also the last German offensive on the eastern front; after it, the W ehrm acht could no longer do anything to stop the Soviet advance, and could only seek to slow it down. Essential to the Soviet Arm y’s firepower, supply and m ovem ent after 1942 was the emergence o f w hat Stalin called ’an efficient and rapidly expanding w ar econom y’. Having overcom e the early crises,


The Great Patriotic War

the econom y was now geared up for a protracted war. Soviet factories w ere pouring out guns, bullets, tanks and shells on an unprecedented scale. T he cost o f this econom ic effort was no longer the shambles w hich had prevailed in every other sector o f activity in 1941—2, since the civilian econom y had been roughly stabilised and w ould now ex­ pand again (although it rem ained for below peacetime levels, and life in the rear rem ained extremely tough). T he Soviet effort was also boosted by the foct that American supplies w ere now beginning to arrive in quantity; these w ould add substantially to Soviet Army re­ sources, especially to food rations, means o f com m unications and m o­ bility in pursuit o f the retreating W ehrm acht. Betw een August and D ecem ber 1943, the Soviet Army liberated m ost o f central Russia and the Ukraine. In the north foundations were laid for the final relief o f Leningrad. T o the south, 200,000 German and R om anian troops w ere trapped in the Crimea. By the end o f the year the Nazis had lost tw o-thirds o f the territory they had occupied since June 1941. W ith the recovery o f occupied territory came a sharpening o f many issues —the rehabilitation o f populations decim ated by undernourishm ent, homelessness, deportations, reprisals and policies o f exterm ination; the reabsorption o f bum t-out villages, farmland stripped o f stock and poisoned by explosives and m etal fragments, fac­ tories and transportation systems broken and stripped o f m achinery and pow er sources; attitudes to the German nation whose military forces had brought these things about; the character and objectives o f post­ w ar recovery. T he year 1944 was to be know n as the year o f Stalin's ‘ten great victories'. These comprised 1 the relief o f Leningrad (January) 2 the encirclement o f German troops in the south-west Ukraine and entry into Romania (February—March) 3 the destruction o f German forces in the Crimea (May) 4 the defeat o f Finnish forces and re-establishment o f the 1940 frontier (June) 5 the liberation o f Belorussia, including the destruction o f twenty-five German divisions (June) 6 the entry o f Soviet forces into Poland against fierce resistance (July) 7 the occupation o f Romania and Bulgaria (August) 8 the liberation o f Latvia and Estonia (September) 9 the liberation o f Belgrade (October) 10 the expulsion o f German troops from northern Finland and Norway (October).

T he other decisive developm ent o f 1944 was, o f course, the Allied 37

The Soviet Home Front, 1 9 4 1 -1 9 4 5

invasion o f Norm andy w hich began on 6 June 1944, and w hich at last brought substantial diversion o f Germany’s ground forces from east to west. Missing from the list o f Soviet victories in 1944 was the liberation o f W arsaw. Soviet forces under Rokossovskii reached the Vistula river across from the city at the end o f July 1944, w here the advance was halted. T he next day the leaders o f W arsaw’s underground resistance made a call to insurrection. They fought until O ctober, w ithout assist­ ance; in the course o f the uprising, 300,000 Poles lost their lives. Sov­ iet troops did not actually enter W arsaw until m id-January 1945. A few days later, Soviet forces crossed the border into Germany. Against desperate resistance they fought their way to Berlin, Unking up w ith the U nited States Army on the Elbe river. R ight up to the end, the eastern front retained its bitterly contested character, the R ed Army suffering m ore than 300,000 casualties ju st in the final, tw ow eek Batde o f BerUn. W ith Soviet official attitudes at their m ost harshly anti-G erm an, Soviet Army troops not only secured the defeat o f the miUtary adversary but also carried out acts o f revenge upon the civihan population. H ider killed him self on 30 April, and the BerUn garrison surrendered to Zhukov on 2 May; the German capitulation followed w ith surrenders to the Anglo-American com m and on 7 May and to the Soviet comm and on 8 May. T he European w ar was over. T he final blow rem ained to be struck against Japan. At Yalta, in February 1945, Roosevelt had secured StaUn’s promise that the Soviet U nion w ould enter the war against Japan three m onths after victory in Europe; this was at a tim e w hen the miUtary defeat o f Japan, although ultim ately certain, seemed still far in the future. StaUn now prepared to fulfil this promise. B ut Roosevelt had died on 12 April, and Trum an had a secret. This was the atom ic bom b, first exploded experimentally on 16 July. T he Americans now hastened to use the bom b, to force a Japanese surrender before Soviet forces could enter the war, take part in the occupation o f the Japanese islands and claim a share in the postwar settlem ent in the Pacific. O n 6 August, tw o days before expiry o f the deadUne for a Soviet declaration o f w ar on Japan, the U nited States Air Force bom bed Hiroshim a, destroying the city and causing 75,000 immediate deaths. T he destruction o f Nagasaki, w ith 40,000 im m edi­ ate deaths, followed on 9 August. O n 14 August the Japanese govern­ m ent broadcast its intention to surrender. M eanwhile, the Soviet U nion had declared w ar on Japan. O n 9 August Soviet forces under Vasilevskii invaded M anchuria and began the rout o f Japan’s occupying forces. By the tim e their surrender began 38

The Great Patriotic War

on 19 August, the Japanese had lost 80,000 dead and 600,000 prison­ ers. B ut the truth was that the Japanese w ar m achine was already knocked out. T he M anchurian victory simply confirm ed the fact. T he real significance o f Hiroshim a and Nagasaki now became ap­ parent. The U nited States had dem onstrated its new w eapon not only in order to shatter further the broken will o f Japanese resistance, but also in order to send a message to M oscow. A Soviet invasion o f the Japanese islands was forestalled. W ith the atom bom b, the western Al­ lies had lost the need and the incentive to secure Soviet cooperation in the governm ent o f w orld affairs. Thus, the dead o f Hiroshim a and Nagasaki w ere both the last casualties o f W orld W ar II, and the first casualties o f the C old W ar.

T H E C O S T S O F V IC T O R Y This was the most costly w ar in history. W hat made it so was its essential character. For the w ar had several features w hich, in com bi­ nation, distinguished it from all wars before and afterwards. First, for Germany it was a ‘war o f exterm ination’. Germany’s fun­ dam ental aims were living space for German settlers and German fin­ ancial interests; grain for German workers, oil for German industry. W ith this were associated plans for reduction o f the Russian popula­ tion by tens o f millions by expulsion and starvation. O n the Soviet side, this made it a w ar o f national survival - a war for the fatherland, a patriotic war like the w ar o f 1812 against N apoleon’s invasion; soon it became know n as the Great Patriotic W ar. Second, for both sides it was, or else it soon became, a war o f production — although H itler did not intend it so. Germany sought a quick victory before the Soviets could mobilise their war industries, and before Germany w ould need to do the same. German failure to achieve this made a protracted w ar inevitable, in w hich the decisive w eight w ould be exercised by w ar production. T he w ar as a w hole w ould be w on or lost by the side that could bring to bear the greatest volum e o f resources. T hird, it became a war o f unique scale and intensity, and the east­ ern front became its decisive theatre. From the m om ent o f its incep­ tion until the western Allies opened the Second Front in Norm andy, the Soviet forces freed never less than 90 per cent o f Germany’s front­


The Soviet Home Front, 1 9 4 1 -1 9 4 5

line fighting strength on land.101 T he eastern front saw the biggest single land operation (‘Barbarossa'), the biggest artillery battle (Staling­ rad), the biggest tank battle (Kursk). O n the western front there was nothing to compare until D -D ay, except the cosdy and militarily inef­ fective thousand-bom ber raids on German cities. In the w inter o f 1942, decisive Allied victories were w on at Stalingrad in the east and at £1 Alamein in N orth Africa. T he entire battle o f Egypt cost Ger­ many 75,000 troops, 500 tanks and 1,000 artillery pieces.11 In the battle o f Stalingrad Germany lost 800,000 m en (of w hom only 90,000 rem ained alive at the m om ent o f surrender), 2,000 tanks and 10,000 guns.12 As for civilians, in the w inter o f 1941—2, m ore Leningraders starved to death every m onth than the total o f British civilians killed by German bombs in the entire war; the 1 m illion prem ature deaths in this one city greatly exceeded the com bined military and civilian ca­ sualties o f the British Em pire and dom inions and o f the U nited States. The overall costs arising direcdy from this war can be counted up in both hum an and financial terms. As for the hum an losses, the war V o u ld direcdy cause the prem ature deaths o f 50 m illion to 60 m illion people throughout the w orld.13 U p to half o f these w ere Soviet citizens. In Stalin’s lifetim e only 7 m illion Soviet war deaths w ere adm itted, in an attem pt to conceal the country's w eakened state from new post­ war adversaries abroad. Later this num ber was raised by Khrushchev to 20 m illion, and by Brezhnev to ‘m ore than 20 m illion’. Forty-five years w ould pass before a higher total, now set at 27 m illion to 28 m illion, w ould be officially acknowledged.14 This figure means that 10 VO voina 1984: 502. 11 War seen from Britain 1945: 20. 12 VO voina 1984: 200. 13 The leading Soviet demographer, Urlanis 1971: 294, gave a detailed analysis o f world-wide premature deaths totalling 50 million, on the basis o f a Soviet figure o f 20 million. 14 Soviet war losses are difficult to calculate because there were no population censuses between 1939 and 1959, and neither the prewar nor the postwar population is known for sure. After adjusting for altered Soviet frontiers, census data for 1939 can be projected forward to 1946, and those for 1959 can be run backward to the same point, suggesting an overall Soviet population deficit in 1946 o f not more than 50 million. From this figure an estimate o f the birth deficit resulting from the war must be de­ ducted in order to estimate the excess o f mortality from all causes in the war years. The figure o f 27 million to 28 million excess deaths was cited authoritatively by the Soviet Commander-in-Chief o f the Warsaw Pact forces in a VE Day anniversary speech in 1990 (Guardian, 8 May 1990); this was apparendy based on an emerging consensus among Soviet demographers, summarised by Rybakovskii 1989. However, a maximum scholarly estimate o f up to 40 million (one-fifth o f the prewar Soviet population), supplied by Kozlov V I 1989, cannot be excluded.


The Great Patriotic War

the w ar carried o ff no fewer than one in seven o f the prew ar Soviet population. W ho w ere the main elements in this number? Clearly, am ong the m ilitary, m en were in the great m ajority (wom en also served in uni­ form , but in far fewer numbers). B ut in the civilian population both w om en and m en perished in millions. Overall, the excess o f w om en over m en in the Soviet population (there w ere already m ore w om en than m en before the war) rose by perhaps 13 m illion. If so, the total num ber o f male deaths attributable to the w ar may be put at 20 m il-, lion to 20.5 m illion, and female deaths at 7 m illion to 7.5 m illion. W hat were the proportions between soldiers and civilians? In 1988—9, for the first tim e, the Soviet general staff carried out an official count o f reports o f military losses from front-line and supporting units o f the Arm ed Forces w hich, after checking against the wartim e count kept by the general staff itself, gave a figure for overall fatalities am ong the regular forces o f 8,668,400 killed, died o f wounds, illness and acci­ dents, missing, and captured and not returned. T he Soviet account also established a total o f 18 m illion soldiers w ounded (some m ore than 16 once), frostbitten or sick. T he figure o f 8.7 m illion military fatalities may still involve under­ statem ent, however, given our knowledge o f the scale o f m ortality in German prisoner o f w ar camps. T he Soviet general staff has estimated 1.5 m illion killed up to the end o f 1941. But according to German sources 3.35 m illion Soviet soldiers had feilen into Germ an hands by the end o f 1941, o f w hom m ore than 2 m illion had died already by February 1942.151617 Taking the w ar as a w hole, 5,754,000 Soviet prison­ ers o f w ar fell into German hands. T he num ber o f deaths am ong them (from shooting, hunger, cold, illness, and excessive labour) had already reached 3,222,000 by 1 May 1944,18 and may ultim ately have reached up to 4.7 m illion.19 This w ould leave the num ber o f Soviet military fatalities in com bat and in the rear as a residual o f no m ore than 4

15 Calculated from the 1959 census by Urlanis 1971: 286. 16 Moiseev 1990: 14. 17 Schulte 1989: 203. 18 Dallin A 1957: 427. 19 Beighahn 1982: 165. By comparison, deaths totalled 3.5 per cent among west­ ern Allied prisoners in German hands, and 31.5 per cent among German prisoners in Soviet hands (Schulte 1989: 181).


The Soviet Home Front, Î9 4 1 —İ9 4 5

millions. Y et it seems unlikely that fewer Soviet soldiers fell in battle than died in captivity.20 If the total o f prem ature deaths stands at 27 m illion to 28 m illion, and losses o f regular forces are taken as up to 9 m illion, then some 19 m illion civilians made up the m ajority o f Soviet w ar dead, caught in military crossfire, killed by bom bing, by blockade and hunger, dying as partisans, hostages and slaves. B ut we have only fragmentary inform ation about the com position o f this huge num ber - 1 m illion Leningraders, 1 m illion or m ore Jews.21 As for financial costs o f the war, a Soviet governm ent commission reported in Septem ber 1945 that the w ar had destroyed Soviet property costed at 679 billion prew ar roubles, or roughly 30 per cent o f the prew ar capital stock. In the occupied territories (most o f the destruction had been w rought on the territory o f the Russian Feder­ ation, the Ukraine and Belorussia), tw o-thirds o f the prew ar capital stock had been destroyed.22 In official words, The German-fascist invaders completely or partially destroyed and burnt 1,710 towns and settlements and more than 70,000 villages and hamlets; burnt and destroyed more than 6 million buildings and rendered homeless about 25 million people; destroyed 31,580 industrial enterprises, decommissioned metal works in which before the war was smelted about 60 per cent o f the steel, and mines yielding more than 60 per cent o f the coal in the country; destroyed 65 thousand kilometres o f railway lines and 4,100 stations, 36 thousand post and telegraph installations, telephone exchanges and other communications enterprises; destroyed and looted tens o f thousands o f collective and state farms, slaughtered, seized or drove back to Germany 7 million horses, 17 million cattle and oxen, 20 million pigs, 27 million sheep and goats. In addition they destroyed and looted 40 thousand hospitals and other medical establishments, 84 thousand schools, colleges, universities and research institutes, and 43 thousand public libraries.23

N or do these costs include the years o f wartim e deprivation o f the 20 Thus Kozlov VI 1989: 138 put Army losses at no fewer than 11 million to 13 million. 21 Officially 632,000 Leningraders died o f hunger and cold; adding in hunger deaths in the Leningrad suburbs, and deaths from other war-related causes, yields the higher (but unofficial) figure o f 1 million or more. See Pavlov 1965: xiv (introduction by H E Salisbury); Salisbury 1971: 610-12. German sources (Michalka vol 2 1985: 401) suggest losses from the Jewish population o f the occupied territories o f the USSR o f between 700,000 and 1 million, but Kozlov VI 1989: 137 has again proposed a higher figure o f ‘more than 2.5 millions’. 22 Tamarchenko 1967: 134. 23 Narkhoz 1987: 46.


The Great Patriotic War

population, the huge resources diverted from civilian uses to defence. T he same official commission calculated wartim e spending on the up­ keep o f the Armed Forces at 551 billion prew ar roubles (to w hich was to be added a further 50 billion roubles paid in war pensions and state support o f servicemen's families). These, together w ith further expen­ ditures on wartim e defence and econom ic conversion, and lost national incom e, made up a grand total o f 1,890 billion roubles. The w hole sum w ould represent some seven years’ earnings o f the prew ar population.2425 A t the end o f the day, how ever, all this destruction was ju st so m uch collateral damage. At the core o f w hat was going on lay killing and deaths in millions. T hat so many died suggests a last feature o f the w ar's character. In the broad sweep o f history, witnessed by intellectuals and com m enta­ tors and governm ent leaders, the war had meaning. It was a war against aggression and colonial annexations, and it was waged to rid the w orld o f fascism. It was called a 'ju st' war, the people’s war, the w ar o f the democracies. M ost Soviet people w ould rem em ber W orld W ar II as a 'patriotic w ar'. T heir husbands, sons and brothers had gone to fight for the fatherland, not for the sake o f some 'faraway country o f w hich we know so little',26 and they did not go to die in ‘some com er o f a foreign field'.27 But w hen it came to dying these meanings often disappeared. O rdinary people died, not in dozens or even hun­ dreds but in millions, not furthering a cause, but senselessly. They died sometimes o f neglect, because they were simply not im portant enough to be taken into account, they were killed often by miscalculation, because o f big mistakes and litde blunders, they were killed sometimes by their ow n side, out o f fear or cowardice, and they died in many episodes o f poindess savagery. N o one had a m onopoly o f hum ane consideration, or scientific foresight, or rational calculation —not H it­ ler, not Churchill, not Roosevelt, and certainly not Stalin. Even the deliberate sacrifices, the intended deaths and destruction, had almost been for nothing. T here had been no guarantee o f final success. O n m ore than one occasion, the Soviet U nion had stood on ^ j


24 Tamarchenko 1967: 135. 25 Millar, Linz 1978: 959. These authois’ own, more conservative estimate suggests a total war cost o f 3.9 years* prewar earnings by excluding servicemen’s and dependants’ consumption, and the costs o f wartime evacuation and conversion. 26 These words o f September 1938 expressed the disbelief o f the British Prime Minister, Chamberlain, that Britain could have reached the point o f war with Germany because o f the crisis over Czechoslovakia. Cited by Calder 1969: 29. 27 Brooke 1926: 15


The Soviet Home Front, 1941—1945

the brink o f catastrophe. In fact, o f all the countries o f Europe, the Soviet U nion was the only nation state to survive a deep invasion o f its territory by H itler’s W ehrm acht. H ow had Soviet people pulled their country together? H ow had they adapted their society and in­ stitutions for war? H ow had they mobilised their economy? And w ith w hat consequences for their country’s long-range development? These questions form the subject o f our book.



The State in W artim e1

‘ALL T H A T L E N IN C R E A T E D W E H A V E L O S T FO R EV ER ’ T he German invasion threw the Soviet leadership into confusion. T o the shock o f the collapse o f its foreign and defence policy, and the num bing im pact o f surprise attack, was added the chaos caused by the virtual breakdow n o f com m unications betw een M oscow and the front line. It was some days before Stalin could even grasp the full magni­ tude o f the disaster, and over a w eek passed before he assumed full com m and o f the country’s w ar effort. T he initial orders to the front-line forces reflected the prew ar as­ sum ption that an attack was likely to be m erely a provocation, and that in any case the R ed Army w ould have no difficulty in repulsing any aggressor. T he first order, issued less than four hours before war began, though received by front-line forces, if at all, only after hos­ tilities had started, warned o f a possible attack and put troops on com­ bat readiness, but it also prohibited ‘provocative actions o f any kind.’ T he second, issued three hours after O peration ‘Barbarossa’ had been launched, ordered Soviet troops (by now retreating under heavy fire) to counterattack, and called on the airforce (most o f w hich had already been destroyed on the ground) to bom b German airfields. T he third, issued late in the evening o f 22 June, sum m oned all Soviet front-line forces to take the offensive and ‘annihilate’ the enem y.12 A vacuum rapidly developed at the highest level. O n the first day 1 The best analysis o f the Soviet system of government in wartime is in Lieberman 1985. See also Kumanev 1988, Mitrofanova 1989 and Harrison 1985. 2 Erickson 1975: 106 ff.


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o f war, Stalin refused to make any public statem ent, and it was left to M olotov, Commissar o f Foreign Affairs and D eputy Chairm an o f Sovnarkom , to broadcast the news o f the German attack to the popula­ tion. Although Stalin had long meeting? w ith many leading political and military figures in the first w eek,3 he signed no published docu­ ments and made no public appearances. His initial confidence that H itler had made a m ajor error, for w hich the R ed Army w ould make him pay dearly w ithin a few weeks, was soon shattered by events at the front. T he fall o f M insk on 28 June threw him into despair. ‘All that Lenin created we have lost forever,’ he is said to have declared.45 In deep depression, he appears to have w ithdraw n from affairs o f state for a day or tw o. B ut his collapse was shortlived. O n 3 July he ad­ dressed the nation by radio, and in so doing identified him self as leader o f the Soviet people at war.

T H E S T R U C T U R E O F W A R T IM E G O V E R N M E N T M eanwhile the m achinery o f governm ent was adjusting to the de­ mands o f war. T hough based on the system o f extrem e centralisation, bureaucratic control and personalised pow er created in the 1930s, it had to m eet the urgent need to streamline decision-m aking and cut through red tape. Accordingly, new institutions and practices were superimposed on the existing structure o f the Party, people’s commis­ sariats and soviets. The most im portant innovation was the establishment o f the State Defence C om m ittee (GKO). T o leading Politburo members it rapidly became clear that a powerful war cabinet was needed. A deputation headed by M olotov proposed its creation to Stalin. Perhaps expecting to be forced out o f office, he seemed surprised to be asked to head it. T he G K O was established on 30 June, to deal, as Stalin said in his broadcast three days later, ’w ith the rapid m obilization o f all forces o f the peoples o f the U SSR’.6 N o Soviet political institution before or since had such powers as the GKO exercised during W orld W ar II. Its decisions had the force o f law; they were binding on all Party, Kom­ somol, soviet, governm ent and military organisations, as well as on all 3 For a detailed record of the times of the meetings and of those present, see Nachalo voiny 1990: 216-20. 4 McNeal 1988: 239. 5 Politicheskoe obrazovanie (9) 1988: 75. 6 Stalin 1945: 16.

The State in Wartime

individual citizens. Its activities ranged from strategy and the adminis­ tration o f the arm ed forces to econom ic production and the supply o f labour, materials and energy, from state security and public order to propaganda, ideology and foreign policy. As Stalin said, ‘all the pow er and authority o f the State’ were vested in it. Initially comprising five m en (Stalin, Beriya, M alenkov, M olotov and Voroshilov), the GKO was essentially a w ar cabinet o f civilian politicians. Voroshilov was its only military m em ber, and his influence declined sharply after his failure as com m ander o f the Leningrad front in sum m er 1941. For a Soviet institution, the GKO was unusually informal in its m ethods o f working. Meeting? w ere held frequently, often at the shortest notice, and w ithout w ritten agendas or m inutes. Besides GKO members, participants included other Politburo and Central Com m ittee members, regional Party secretaries, people’s com­ missars and specialists in the areas under discussion. M uch o f its pow er was delegated to plenipotentiaries, while the detailed elaboration o f its policies tended to be left to to individuals. In the first year o f the war in particular, its members (as well as other Politburo members not in the GKO) took direct individual responsibility for key sectors o f in­ dustry: M alenkov for aircraft and tank production, Beriya for arma­ m ent and m unitions, for example. GKO plenipotentiaries were frequently sent to investigate and resolve crises in the organisation o f the w ar effort. From the outset, business was also conducted through comm ittees (such as the C ouncil for Evacuation and the Transport Com m ittee) whose role became ever m ore im portant as tim e w ent on. In addition, local defence com m ittees, similarly endow ed w ith sweep­ ing powers, were form ed in m ore than seventy cities close to the front line, though the GKO itself retained direct responsibility for the defence o f M oscow and Leningrad. A crucial part o f the G K O ’s role was coordinating the w ork o f different parts o f the administrative structure. Im portant throughout the war, this became crucial w ith the exodus o f m uch o f the central Party and governm ent apparatus from the capital in O ctober 1941. As the Germans drew close to M oscow, most personnel were evacuated to destinations far in the rear: the Central Com m ittee apparatus, Gosplan, and the Commissariat o f Foreign Affairs to Kuibyshev, Finance to Kazan, Iron and Steel to G or'kii, Coal to Sverdlovsk, and so on.7 Some returned to the capital at the end o f D ecem ber 1941, but most rem ained scattered for considerably longer, not returning to M oscow until summer 1943. 7 Kumanev 1988: 105.


The Soviet Home Front, 1941—1945

T he G K O had only a small staff; its decisions were largely im­ plem ented through the governm ent and Party apparatuses. W ith the subordination o f both to the GK O , the distinction betw een their functions, w hich had always overlapped but had been kept formally distinct, diminished still further during the war. In the process, the significance o f tw o o f the main parts o f the Soviet political system, the Com m unist Party and the elected soviets, declined. T he Party’s central bodies ceased to have any im portant decision-m aking function. T he Politburo m et irregularly, and the Central C om m ittee only once, in January 1944, while there were no Party conferences or congresses for the duration o f the war. T he Secretariat o f the Central C om m ittee continued to be a key link in the political system, but only in an administrative capacity. T he national legislature, the Supreme Soviet, and its Presidium, w ere reduced, even m ore than before the war, to rubber-stam ping decisions taken elsewhere. T he im portance o f gov­ ernm ent bodies — Sovnarkom, the people’s commissariats, Gosplan — on the other hand was enhanced, since they had m uch o f the practical responsibility for im plem enting GK O decisions. W hether stream lining the decision-m aking process resulted in m ore efficient governm ent during the war, how ever, is doubtful. T he GKO system provided an indisputable source o f authority as well as coordi­ nation betw een different administrative heirarchies. B ut it did not elim inate the conflict o f departm ental interests, the arbitrary and often damaging interference o f powerfid individuals, o r the delays resulting from bureaucrats’ notorious unwillingness to take decisions. Pleni­ potentiaries were not an administrative panacea, since those o f the GKO could clash w ith those o f Sovnarkom or o f individual commissa­ riats or o f regional Party comm ittees. Effective in dealing w ith crises and in concentrating the country’s resources on the task o f achieving victory, the wartim e system o f governm ent may have been; efficient in the use o f hum an and material resources it was not.

C E N T R A L -L O C A L R E L A T IO N S Even before the war, relations betw een central and local authorities were often difficult. Despite the purges and the use o f terror against recalcitrant local officials, the centre’s orders were frequently only part­ ly fulfilled or simply ignored altogether. W ar greatly exacerbated the problems o f translating M oscow’s will into action at the local level.


The State in Wartime

T he immense administrative tasks o f extracting vast quantities o f ma­ terials and m anpow er from the econom y and the population, coping w ith m ajor dislocations to the transport and com m unications netw ork and the supply system, organising a massive evacuation o f plant and population, and later restoring order in the devastated liberated areas, had to be carried out by a diminished and w eakened body o f officials. Mass m obilisation o f Com munists for m ilitary or political service in the arm ed forces, including the departure o f large num bers o f Party and state cadres for the front, produced a chronic shortage o f qualified personnel in local governm ent. M any primary Party organisations ceased to exist, while it was often impossible to fill the executive com ­ m ittees (ispolkomy) o f local soviets, as the law required, from the ranks o f elected deputies. Campaigns were launched to recruit new members to the Party and prom ote new people into the local apparatus, but standards o f recruit­ m ent inevitably had to be low ered. T he result is described in a recent Soviet history o f wartim e adm inistration. Lack o f experience o f work, the difficulty and variety o f the tasks which cadres o f the soviets had to solve, poor knowledge o f legislation, and at times inadequate political and general educational standards, created additional difficulties in the work o f local organs o f state power, and were some o f the reasons for the large turnover o f leading cadres.8

T he centre responded to this situation by strengthening its ow n auth­ ority and pow er, particularly through the creation o f the GK O . It made wide use o f plenipotentiaries to im plem ent its policies in the localities and to provide itself w ith reliable inform ation. B ut there w ere limits to its capacity to direct local affairs, especially far in the rear, and it was obliged to devolve substantial responsibilities to local cadres. T he evacuation o f industrial plant and personnel betw een July and Decem ber 1941 is a case in point. W hile in theory all im portant decisions had to be taken by the Council for Evacuation or its pleni­ potentiaries, such was the extrem e urgency o f the operation that in practice many were taken on the spot by local authorities w ithout reference to the centre.910In industry, managers had m uch m ore control over the running o f their enterprises than before the war. And in the organisation o f food supply, central governm ent transferred m uch o f the responsibility for feeding the civilian population to the local auth­ orities. 8 Mitrofanova 1989: 247. 9 Harrison 1985: 72, 79. 10 See p. 83.


The Soviet Home Front, 1 9 4 Î - İ 9 4 5

Relations betw een central and local governm ent during the war were therefore characterised by a com bination o f central control and local autonom y. T he balance varied according to a region’s distance from the centre, and its econom ic or strategic im portance. It also changed over tim e, w ith a m arked centralising trend towards the end o f the war. But its main significance lay in the ability o f the Soviet system to adapt to critical circumstances. Flexibility rather than ex­ trem e centralisation was the key to the successful organisation o f the Soviet w ar effort.

T H E H IG H C O M M A N D The outbreak o f war produced a rapid reorganisation o f the m ilitary com m and structure. Its inadequacy had been immediately revealed by the German attack. O ne reason why the invasion was not m et by a coordinated Soviet response, why M oscow at first had virtually no control over Soviet front-line forces, why for many days Soviet resist­ ance consisted o f centres o f fierce fighting rather than a solid front, was the absence o f any effective comm and organisation at the centre. N othing had been done to provide strategic leadership in the event o f war. W hile a C h ief M ilitary C ouncil under the Commissariat o f Defence determ ined general military policy, and a General Staff planned operations, there was no single body to form ulate strategy and direct operations. A high comm and was hurriedly improvised. O n 23 June 1941, a ‘General Headquarters (Stavka) o f the H igh Com m and’ was estab­ lished. Headed by the Commissar o f Defence, Marshal Tim oshenko, its members included Stalin, the C hief o f the General Staff, the mar­ shals o f the U SSR, and the heads o f naval and air forces. W ith T im o­ shenko immediately departing for the front, and Stalin preoccupied w ith other m atters, m ore tim e w ent by before an effective organisation emerged. Eventually on 10 July the Stavka was renam ed ‘Stavka o f the Supreme Com m and’, w ith Stalin as Chairm an. Commissar o f Defence from 19 July, he became Supreme Com m ander on 8 August, and as such Chairm an o f ‘the Stavka o f the Supreme Com m ander o f the Soviet Armed Forces’.111 11 Erickson 1975: 136 ff. O n the functioning of the command structure during the war, see also Erickson 1982, Bialer 1970 and Shtemenko 1970.


The State in Wartime

T he Stavka functioned as the highest organ o f strategic and military command. W hile the w ork o f detailed planning, intelligence gathering and assessment, and briefing the Supreme Com m ander was carried out by the General Staff, all im portant decisions about the preparation and conduct o f operations w ere taken by the Stavka. A continuous stream o f orders flowed from Stalin’s office, the centre o f its activity. Al­ though its members, w ith the exception o f Stalin and M olotov, were senior military personnel, the principle o f political control over the arm ed forces, w hich had been laid dow n by Lenin at the start o f the Civil W ar, was applied from beginning to end o f W orld W ar II. Stalin’s chairmanship o f the G K O and Stavka, the presence o f GK O members at Stavka m eetings, the vesting o f authority at the front in M ilitary Soviets, headed by marshals but also including Politburo members — all were designed to ensure a unified and politically obe­ dient high com m and. A nd to reinforce governm ent control at all levels o f the military heirarchy, political commissars w ere reintroduced into the armed forces in July 1941. T he military commanders were not, how ever, merely the executors o f the political leadership’s will. As the w ar turned in the Soviet U nion’s favour, their prestige and confidence grew. W ith millions o f civilians and servicemen, as well as large areas o f liberated territory, under their control, w ith first claim on econom ic resources and pro­ duction, and w ith direct involvem ent in both industry and agriculture, they were in a position to exert substantial influence on the political leadership. T he abolition o f political commissars in O ctober 1942, together w ith the réintroduction o f ranks and the creation o f new m ilitary orders for officers in 1942—3, clearly reflected their enhanced status. T he battle o f Stalingrad, m oreover, m arked a turning point in Stalin’s willingness to listen to expert military opinion. Increasingly, senior military figures such as A ntonov, Shaposhnikov, Vasilevskii and Z hukov made Stavka a collective organ o f strategic leadership. For all this, ultim ate authority in military affairs rem ained w ith the political leadership right up to the end o f the war. Despite the objections o f some in the high comm and, Berlin was taken by storm w ith heavy losses, Stalin successfully exploiting in the process K onev’s and Z hu­ kov’s rivalry to be the first to reach the German capital.

T H E S E C U R IT Y O R G A N S Although the war years saw no repetition o f the mass terror o f the late 51

The Soviet Home Front, Î 9 4 İ —İ 9 4 5

1930s, the secret police rem ained as im portant an institution, and re­ pression as basic an instrum ent o f governm ent, as before.12 Given the problems o f m aintaining social order against the background o f the traum atic defeats in the first year o f the war and the hardships inflicted on the population, this was not surprising. T he w ar created new threats, real or imaginary, to state security. From the outset, the NKVD was engaged in arresting all those suspected o f disloyalty or indiscipline, at the front or in the rear. It was also the agent o f retribu­ tion for failure. W hile for m ost o f the war the Party and state appara­ tus was not subjected to widespread purging, the threat o f punishm ent was ever-present: ‘repression, unjustified expulsion from the Party and punishm ent for not fulfilling various, sometimes impossible tasks, con­ tinued.’1314And in the latter stages o f the war, several people’s commis­ sariats were purged, notably the Commissariat o f Com m unications in M arch 1944. 4 As tim e w ent on, the NK VD’s activity increasingly focused on Sov­ iet citizens w ho had been in German hands and were suspected o f treason. Civilians w ho had lived in the occupied territories, prisoners o f w ar w ho returned, even soldiers w ho had been tem porarily cut off from their units, were automatically investigated and in many cases arrested. T he largest category o f repressions consisted o f the national m inorities deported to Central Asia or Siberia, supposedly to prevent or punish collaboration w ith the enemy: Soviet Germans at the begin­ ning o f the war, and from 1943 onwards, Crim ean Tartars and small nationalities from the Caucasus. Am ong others w ho attracted consider­ able attention from the security organs were the foreign nationals trapped in the U SSR by the war, particularly the Poles. C oercion, repression and control, how ever, w ere not the only im ­ portant functions o f the NKVD. It also played a key role in the econ­ omy, supplying huge quantities o f forced labour to industry and agriculture, and managing high-priority and high-security branches o f industry; it had a m ajor part in operations such as the evacuation o f industry; and it was involved in many aspects o f military organisation, including the partisans, the people’s volunteers, and the penal batta­ lions.

12 W hile the NKVD (People’s Commissariat o f Internal Af&irs) headed by Beriya was the prime organ o f political repression throughout the war, in the first m onth and from April 1943 onwards, some o f its functions were shared w ith the NKGB (People’s Commissariat o f State Security) under M erkulov. 13 Mitrofanova 1989: 231. 14 Medvedev 1989: 778.


The State in Wartime

A ltogether the NK V D ’s role in governm ent, far from declining, may well have been enhanced by the war. It was not accidental that, although only a non-voting m em ber o f the Politburo, Beriya was on the G K O from the beginning. N o r is it surprising that the bulk o f Stalin’s tim e during the war, according to his Soviet biographer, was devoted to NKVD and military affairs, or that reports from Beriya and other security chiefs and m em oranda to them comprised the largest part o f his correspondence.15

S T A L IN A N D T H E S O V IE T L E A D E R S H IP In the first few days o f the war, Stalin’s position as Soviet leader was potentially highly vulnerable. His foreign policy had collapsed, and the disastrous consequences o f the Soviet U nion’s lack o f military pre­ paredness w ere clearly visible. Such was his authority, how ever, that even now there was no challenge from the other members o f the Politburo. From the m om ent he resumed active leadership, Stalin exercised greater control over his country’s war effort than any other national leader in W orld W ar II, including H ider. H e occupied all the key posts in the civilian and military comm and structure: Chairm an o f the GKO and the Stavka, Commissar o f Defence and Supreme C om ­ mander, General Secretary o f the Com m unist Party and Prim e M inis­ ter (Chairman o f Sovnarkom). All lines o f inform ation and comm and ran direcdy to him . His involvem ent in the detailed planning, m oni­ toring and direction o f m ilitary operations, as well as in the running o f the econom y and the conduct o f diplomacy, was continuous and de­ cisive. As w ar leader, Stalin displayed to the full the determ ination to achieve his objectives at all costs w hich had m arked his policies and his consolidation o f pow er in the 1920s and 1930s. His expenditure o f military and civilian lives in pursuit o f victory was, from beginning to end, profligate, and was one o f the main reasons for the enorm ous Soviet losses. His treatm ent o f failure was brutal. T he execution in July 1941 o f General Pavlov and others blamed for the initial disasters showed senior Soviet officers w hat they could expect in defeat; while his refusal to countenance surrender under any circumstances or to allow the International R ed Cross to make contact w ith Soviet prison15 Volkogonov vol 2(ii) 1989: 130.


The Soviet Home Front, 1 9 4 1 -1 9 4 5

ers o f w ar left the latter w ithout any defence against their savage treat­ m ent in German camps. Stalin repeatedly used his position as head o f the GKO and Stavka to impose his ow n views regardless o f the opinions o f colleagues and advisers, General Staff or commanders in the field, although his judge­ m ent on military matters was far from infallible. He had been involved in m ajor campaigns during the Civil W ar as a Politburo representative at the front, but he was essentially an am ateur in strategic and oper­ ational matters— though one whose intervention could have dire con­ sequences. Besides the catastrophic results o f his miscalculation o f H itler’s intentions in the m onths preceding the invasion, there was also the huge cost o f his mistakes after the outbreak o f war —his obsession w ith counterattacking at the earliest opportunity, his slowness in adopting a strategy o f defence in depth, his extrem e reluctance to allow Soviet troops to retreat, how ever hopeless their position, his support for military formations o f highly questionable value, such as light cavalry divisions, as well as his constant interference in the detail o f military operations. T he Soviet U nion’s defeats cannot, o f course, be blamed simply on its leader’s errors. In Germany, it freed a highly efficient and ruthless enemy. For all this, Stalin’s decisions, often made against the best military advice, were direedy responsible for some o f the worst disasters o f 1941—2: including the loss o f huge num bers o f troops at Kiev in Septem ber 1941 and in the Vyazma region in O ct­ ober, the encirclem ent o f Leningrad and the near capture o f M oscow, the failure o f the Soviet counteroffensive in early sum m er 1942 (result­ ing in the loss o f K harkov, the Kerch peninsular and R ostov-onD on), and the German advance to the Volga and almost to the Caspian. B ut for Stalin, it may well be argued, the Germans w ould never have reached M oscow or Leningrad, the Caucasus or Stalingrad. W hile he frequently accused others o f cowardice or treason, Stalin himself, according to recent accounts by Soviet historians, may well have attem pted to take the ultim ate step o f capitulation to the enemy. In O ctober 1941, he is said to have offered Germany the~Baltic repub­ lics, Moldavia and a significant part o f Belorussia and the Ukraine in exchange for peace. H itler, confident o f total victory, supposedly showed no interest in the proposal. It may, in any case, only have been a m anoeuvre to buy tim e (as suggested by M olotov’s description o f it as a ‘second Brest’, recalling Lenin’s decision to make peace w ith


The State in Wartime

Germany on hum iliating terms in M arch 1918).16 But at the very least, this episode indicates that behind Stalin’s image o f implacable hostility to the invaders and iron determ ination to defend the Soviet m otherland lay m ore complicated motives and intentions. Y et some credit for the Soviet U nion’s ultim ate victory undoubted­ ly belongs to Stalin. H e learnt from his mistakes, particularly after the disasters o f 1942. H e dem oted, if belatedly, incom petent cronies from the Civil W ar period like Marshals Budennyi and Voroshilov, as well as ruthless political appointees in the R ed Army such as Kulik and M ekhlis. H e gradually mastered com plex areas o f strategy and logistics. (After m eeting him in O ctober 1944 General Sir Alan Brooke, the ablest British strategist o f W orld W ar II, came away ‘m ore than ever impressed by the dictator’s military ability.’) 17 At critical m om ents, the speeches, proclamations, orders o f the day - such as the broadcast o f 3 July 1941, the speech in R ed Square on 7 N ovem ber 1941 and the O rder N o 227 (‘N ot a step back’) o f 28 July 1942 to the R ed Army — inspired millions o f Soviet combatants and civilians to fight on. W hat­ ever the means employed, he ensured the unity o f the Soviet govern­ m ent and its total com m itm ent to defeating Nazism. Stalin’s contribution to Soviet victory may have been less than his propagan­ dists claimed, but it was substantial none the less. At the same tim e, others in the Soviet leadership also played m ajor roles. M olotov, D eputy Chairm an o f the GKO and Commissar o f Foreign Affairs, was primarily responsible for the conduct o f diplo­ macy. Voznesenskii was effectively in charge o f econom ic planning throughout the war, from D ecem ber 1942 as head o f Gosplan; he was also, as head o f Sovnarkom in Kuibyshev, responsible for m uch o f the governm ent apparatus following its evacuation in O ctober 1941. Zhdanov and Khrushchev, as the senior political figures on the M ili­ tary Soviets o f the northern and south-w estern fronts respectively, were heavily involved in the conduct o f the war. W ith m uch o f Stalin’s tim e devoted to GKO and Stavka business, supervision o f gov­ ernm ental adm inistration was largely left to the D eputy Chairm en o f 16 Pavlenko 1989: 9. Volkogonov vol 2(i) 1989: 172-3 also describes Stalin, M olo­ tov and Beriya making the Soviet peace offer, but improbably gives its date as the end o f the first week o f the war. The main evidence that Stalin in effect proposed surrender comes from Beriya’s interrogation after his arrest in June 1953, or rather from the recollections o f one o f his interrogators. This is obviously not the most reliable o f sources. O n the other hand, it would not be surprising if the Soviet governm ent had explored the possibility o f making peace with Nazi Germany in O ctober 1941. In similarly dire circumstances following the collapse o f France in May 1940, the British cabinet discussed coming to an agreement with Hider. 17 Seaton 1975: 232-3.


The Soviet H ome Front, 194 Î - 1945

Sovnarkom, particularly Andreev, Kosygin, M ikoyan and Voznesenskii. M ikoyan played a key role in organising the supply o f food, goods and raw materials, as did Kaganovich in transport adm inistration. T he Central C om m ittee Secretariat, the linchpin o f the Party appara­ tus, was run by M alenkov, and the ubiquitous NKVD by Beriya.1 O ne effect o f the war was to accelerate change in the leadership's com position. T he G K O ’s initial membership was notable for the fact that, besides Stalin and tw o o f his oldest allies, M olotov and Voroshi­ lov, it included tw o younger, recendy appointed candidate members o f the Politburo, M alenkov and Beriya, w ho were prom oted over sev­ eral foil members. Although tw o o f the latter, Kaganovich and M ikoy­ an, were coopted in February 1942, so also was Voznesenskii, another younger candidate m em ber, while in 1944 Voroshilov was replaced by Bulganin, not a Politburo m em ber at all. N one o f this dim inished Stalin’s influence, however; on the con­ trary, his accum ulation o f m ajor responsibilities, together w ith the enorm ous prestige w hich the R ed Army’s victories in tim e brought him , made his predom inance even greater during the w ar than before it.

18 Accounts o f the wartime roles o f Beriya, Kaganovich, Khrushchev, Malenkov, M ikoyan, M olotov and Voroshilov, are given in M edvedev 1983 and Volkogonov vol 2(i) 1989. Voznesenskii's role is described in Harrison 1985. For contrasting descriptions o f Kosygin, see Granin 1988 and Kravchenko 1947.



Soviet Society at W ar


M obilisation

‘ALL F O R T H E F R O N T !’ Despite the shock o f an invasion that its governm ent had declared impossible up to the last m om ent, and despite Nazi Germany’s record o f military trium phs in western and central Europe, the Soviet popula­ tion initially reacted to the outbreak o f war w ith calmness and con­ fidence. Inevitably there w ere exceptions. At the front, as the German forces poured across the frontier, although some units fought heroic­ ally, confusion and panic gripped many soldiers and civilians. In pol­ icy-m aking circles, officials w ho had vainly warned o f Germany’s preparations for an all-out attack on the USSR now w atched in dis­ may as their worst fears were realised. R eports from regional Party com m ittees to the Central Com m ittee about the population’s respon­ ses to the war m entioned cases o f anti-Soviet statements, drunkenness and arson.1 B ut am ong the population as a w hole, most people be­ lieved w hat governm ent propaganda for years had taught them to ac­ cept unquestioningly: that in the event o f enem y attack, the superiority o f socialism and the invincibility o f the R ed Army guaran­ teed a speedy Soviet victory. T he question in many people’s minds was not w hether the USSR w ould w in, but how soon; not how far the R ed Army w ould retreat, but how far it w ould carry the w ar into enem y territory. ‘W ho do they think they are attacking? Have they gone out o f their minds?’ . . . ‘O f course, the German workers will support us, and all 1 For reports from the front to Stalin and the high command in the first days o f the war, see Nachalo voiny 1990: 196 ff.


The Soviet Home Front, i 9 4 1 -1 9 4 5 other peoples will rise up* . . . ‘O ur men will hit them so hard, it will all be over in a week’, said one worker. ‘Well, it w on’t necessarily be finished in one week’, answered another. ‘They’ve got to get to Beilin . . . . It will take three or four weeks.’2

Official statements at first reinforced this optimism. In his broadcast to the population on 22 June, M olotov confined him self to expressing the governm ent’s outrage at Germany’s perfidious attack and its cer­ tainty o f victory. ‘O u r cause is just. T he enem y will be beaten. W e shall trium ph.’ Stalin him self initially believed that H itler had com­ m itted an incredible blunder.3 For several days bulletins from the front reported only that the R ed Army was inflicting heavy casualties on the enemy, giving no indication o f the disasters overw helm ing Soviet forces. O rdinary people m eanwhile rallied to their country’s defence w ith a rapidity w hich showed that years o f Stalinist controls had not de­ stroyed their capacity for independent action. A lthough 22 June was a Sunday and the m ajority were not w orking, many people sponta­ neously w ent to their factory or office after hearing M olotov’s broad­ cast. T here they held meetings, pledged their loyalty to the m otherland, the Soviet U nion and Stalin, and in many cases w orked an extra shift. W ithout w aiting to be called up, large num bers o f reser­ vists immediately reported for military service. M any others whose age, profession or gender exem pted them from conscription volun­ teered to go to the front none the less: 100,000 in Leningrad alone by the afternoon o f 23 June, and 212,000 by the end o f the first w eek.4 In the tow n o f Krasnoyarsk, 2,632 volunteered on 26 June, including 1,162 w om en.5 Despite its slowness to grasp the scale o f the conflict now unfold­ ing, the country’s leadership lost no tim e in introducing emergency measures o f mobilisation. O n 22 June, a decree o f the Supreme Soviet called up all reservists bom betw een 1905 and 1918, except those from Central Asia, Transbaikal and the Far East (the 1919—22 cohort was already in the arm ed forces). O n the same day, martial law was de­ clared in regions close to the front line; tw o days later it was extended to the entire European part o f the USSR. An emergency labour draft was also decreed on 22 June. All able-bodied m en aged betw een 18 and 45 and w om en aged betw een 18 and 40 w ho were not already employed were ordered to w ork eight hours a day on defence con2 3 4 5


Kulagin 1978: 17, cited in Kozlov VA 1989: 128. Volkogonov vol 2(i) 1989: 154 ff. Bidlack 1987: 50. Nachalo voiny 1990: 210.


sanction.6 A t the same tim e, governm ent bodies were given the pow er to transfer employees to w ork in war industry. O n 26 June, the length o f w orking tim e was significantly increased. O vertim e o f up to three hours a day (or tw o hours for juveniles aged betw een 12 and 16) was made m andatory if required by m anagem ent, and leave and holi­ day entitlem ent w ere cancelled.7 These were serious measures; but their initial im plem entation was piecemeal, as managers and workers attem pted to come to terms w ith the new situation. In some factories, workers stood idle, w aiting for new assignments. As news o f the R ed Army’s retreat trickled back fiom the front, how ever, optim ism changed to alarm and the sense o f crisis deepened. O n 29 June a jo in t resolution o f the Sovnarkom and Central C om m ittee signalled a clear change in the official line on the war. Attacking complacency, it called for the total m obilisation o f the country’s resources, a scorched earth policy and partisan warfare in the enem y’s rear. B ut for most people, Stalin’s broadcast on 3 July was the first public confirm ation o f the gravity o f the crisis. It was not merely by addressing his listeners as ‘brothers and sisters’ as well as ‘comrades and citizens’ that Stalin broke w ith the past; m ore im portant, it was by confronting the population w ith the stark reality o f the situation. the enemy continues to push forward . . . A grave danger hangs over our country . . . It is essential that our people . . . should appreciate the full immensity o f the danger that threatens our country . . . The issue is one o f life and death for the Soviet state, for the peoples o f the USSR; the issue is whether the peoples o f the Soviet U nion shall remain free or fill into slavery ... All our work must be immediately reconstructed on a war footing, everything must be subordinated to the interests o f the front and the task o f organizing the demolition o f the enemy.8

T he broadcast was undoubtedly a turning point. Although it de­ m anded heavy sacrifices from the population, it had a vital rallying effect: ‘it raised the morale o f a w hole country.’9 It unified the gov­ ernm ent’s and the public’s perceptions o f the war. ‘T he truth he ut­ tered was a bitter truth, but at last it was uttered, and people felt they stood m ore firmly on the ground.’10 From now on, the principle o f ‘all for the front’ determ ined the lives o f all members o f Soviet society. T he mobilisation decrees o f the first days o f the w ar were urgently im plem ented. M illions o f people 6 7 8 9 10

Mitrofanova 1984: 167. Resheniya vol 3 1968: 37-8. Stalin 1945: 9-14. Karol 1986: 76. Konstantin Simonov, cited in W eith 1964: 166.


The Soviet Home Front, 1941—1945

were conscripted into the armed forces, or enrolled in para-m ilitary units, or drafted into defence industry, or sent into the countryside in a desperate attem pt to bring in the harvest before the Germans arrived. O ne o f the most striking forms o f civilian mobilisation in the sum­ m er and autum n o f 1941 was the mass em ploym ent o f labour con­ scripts in building defence fortifications. Hundreds o f thousands o f inhabitants o f cities in danger o f being taken by the Germans were dispatched to nearby areas to dig trenches, bunkers, tank-traps, or erect pill-boxes, fire-points, observation points, barricades. From the end o f July to the end o f August, up to 1 m illion Leningraders, at least onethird o f its working-age population, were employed on defence con­ struction, mainly along the Luga Line.11 In Belorussia, at the beginning o f Septem ber there were said to be over 2 m illion people engaged in such w ork, though w ithout any engineers to help them .1112 Similar large-scale efforts occurred at Kiev, M oscow and other m ajor cities. Some o f those involved were workers released from their fac­ tories for this high-priority work; but many, probably most, were housewives or young people still at school or college. Drafted at a day or tw o’s notice, provided w ith minimal food or shelter, and illequipped, they w orked, often round the clock, for days or weeks on end until their assignments were com pleted. Sometimes close to the front line, always in danger o f being bom bed or strafed by enem y planes, they suffered casualties as well as hardships.1314In the event, their efforts often failed to stop the enemy; but at least they bought valuable tim e by slowing the pace o f its advance and exacting a higher price for it. Despite the substantial m obilisation o f the w ork-force in the first m onths o f the war, the deterioration o f the econom ic situation by the end o f 1941 forced the governm ent to take on still greater powers to cope w ith the high labour turnover and m anpow er shortage. T o the right to direct labour w here most needed was now added the ability to keep it there. A decree o f 26 Decem ber declared all employees in the defence industry, and in enterprises supplying it, m obilised for the dur­ ation o f the war. They were now explicidy ‘tied to the enterprises em ploying them ’. Leaving em ploym ent w ithout permission was pun­ ishable by im prisonm ent for five to eight years. Seven weeks later, the labour draft was w idened still further. A decree o f 13 February mobilised all able-bodied m en aged betw een 16 and 55 and w om en 11 12 13 14


Bidlack 1987: 107.

Izvestiya TsK KPSS (10) 1990: 210. See for example W erth 1964: 241. Kozlov VA 1989: 134.


aged betw een 16 and 45 (later changed to 16-50) not already w orking in state enterprises or establishments for w ork in industry or construc­ tio n .15 O nly 16-18 year olds receiving vocational training, students in higher or secondary education, and m others w ith several children were exem pted. Avoidance o f the labour draft was now a criminal offence. T he m obilisation o f the urban population for agricultural labour was also extended in spring 1942. Local authorities were given powers ‘at the tim e o f m ost intensive agricultural w ork’ to mobilise ‘all categories o f the population whose absence w ould not negatively affect industrial production.’16 By Septem ber 1942, how ever, even these measures w ould seem in­ adequate to a governm ent facing the prospect o f defeat. W ith the Ger­ mans at Stalingrad and in the Caucasus, a decree was issued which parallelled on the hom e front the draconian O rder N o 227 o f 28 July to the R ed Army. Employees in all state enterprises and establishments ‘located close to the front’ w ho left their jobs w ithout permission were now declared ‘deserters’, to be tried by military tribunal. In April 1943, the w ork-force on the railways was also placed under martial law, as was later that on river and marine transport.17 Thus was the labour draft reinforced by the threat o f summary jus­ tice and the Gulag. Such was the legal fram ework w ithin w hich the Soviet population was mobilised for the war effort.

D IS C IP L IN E An essential precondition o f successful m obilisation was political and social stability; but in the first year o f the war this was put in serious jeopardy by military defeat and by the steep decline in the living con­ ditions o f the population. T here was a real danger o f the state’s auth­ ority collapsing and society descending into chaos. T he German invasion had created a m ajor crisis o f legitimacy for the governm ent. W hy should people obey rulers w ho had proved incapable o f protect­ ing them from the ravages o f war? W hy should they continue to fol­ low leaders whose ability to carry the w ar to a victorious conclusion was so m uch in doubt? T he disasters o f 1941 and 1942 provided fertile soil for the grow th o f defeatist attitudes. W ith German military supe­ 15 Kozlov VA 1988: 147. 16 Kozlov VA 1989: 147, 291 n.z. 17 Conquest 1967: 106.


The Soviet H ome Front, 1 9 4 1 -1 9 4 5

riority apparently so obvious, resistance could easily seem poindess. A letter to the Soviet president, M ikhail Kalinin, from a wom an teacher in sum m er 1941 reflected the confusion and despair w hich w ere then widespread. Thousands o f mobilised men from various places which have already been captured and from near the frontline zone go from place to place. They lack any purpose, any sense o f order. They have no uniforms, twenty per cent are barefoot . . . Some say ‘we have no arms or equipment, German technology is invincible. Share out the grain, it will be wasted otherwise, share out the catde.’ People are extremely worried. The leaders are leaving . . . and they are abandoning us to ruin.18

T he ultim ate effect o f such attitudes, as the authorities w ere well aware, could be not simply a w eakening o f people’s willingness to w ork and fight for victory, but the com plete breakdow n o f law and order. N ow here was this danger m ore clearly shown than in M oscow in the middle o f O ctober 1941. As the Germans approached the capi­ tal, m ost governm ent and Party organisations hurriedly began to evacuate their personnel. W ith officials and their families leaving Mos­ cow in droves, looting and food riots broke out, and a spontaneous exodus took place. For three or four days, M oscow was in the grip o f mass panic verging on anarchy. At its root was the fear that the gov­ ernment had abandoned the population to its fate - which was not far from the truth. T he situation at the headquarters o f the Soviet governm ent on 16 O ctober was described many years later in the reminiscences o f Alexei Kosygin, in wartim e a D eputy Chairm an o f Sovnarkom. The Sovnarkom building was empty - the doors o f offices swung open, papers blew around and rusded underfoot, everywhere telephones rang. Kosygin ran from room to room, answering the phone. N o-one spoke at the other end. Silence. He understood: they were checking whether there was anyone in the Kremlin . . . O ne o f those who rang identified himself. It was a well-known person. In a businesslike way, he enquired, ‘Well then, are we going to surrender Moscow?’19

Eventually the situation was brought under control by the heroism o f the R ed Army and people’s m ilitia divisions defending M oscow and by the ruthless punishm ent o f looters. B ut the panic in M oscow was not a unique phenom enon; it w ould be repeated elsewhere, now here m ore dramatically than in R ostov-on-D on on the eve o f its capture by the Germans in July 1942. T he governm ent fought the danger o f a collapse o f morale and 18 Cited in Volkogonov vol 2(i) 1989: 215. 19 Granin 1988: 122.



authority w ith weapons well tested in the prew ar years: tight control over inform ation and severe repression o f any suspected threat to pub­ lic order. From the outset it established a m onopoly over the public dissemination o f news, and used it to w ithhold any inform ation w hich m ight damage morale. An order was immediately issued for all private radios to be handed in to the local authorities. T he only regular source o f inform ation about the war was Sovinform buro (the Soviet Informa­ tion Bureau), whose main function was to relay comm uniqués from the Stavka. Like any governm ent-run news agency in w artim e, it con­ sistently minimised defeats and exaggerated successes; but it did so to an extent that often completely concealed the true state o f affairs. M ajor disasters w ere glossed over or even portrayed as Soviet successes. R eports that fighting was taking place ‘in the direction* o f a particular city in 1941 and 1942 frequently m eant that the latter had already fidlen to the enemy. A nd official estimates o f Soviet and German cas­ ualties bore little relation to reality, such as the claim in June 1942 that the Germans had lost 10 m illion killed o r w ounded over the previous year, com pared w ith Soviet losses o f 4.5 m illion.20 At no tim e during the war was the public given an indication o f the real losses suffered by the R ed Army or the scale o f civilian suffering and deaths. News about conditions jin besieged Leningrad, for instance, w here hundreds o f thousands o f people starved to death in the w inter o f 1941—2, was totally suppressed until the following spring, and even then the tragedy was only hinted at. T he titanic battle at Stalingrad was reported in minimal detail until the late stages w hen Soviet victory was assured. Foreign reporters w ere able to give their readers and listeners a m uch fuller picture o f events at the front than the Soviet population was allowed. Attem pts to prevent bad news reaching the public had lim ited suc­ cess. A lthough the private circulation o f news was also restricted personal correspondence was censored, private telephones w ere discon­ nected, and anyone m aking unguarded remarks ran the risk o f denun­ ciation for anti-Soviet propaganda under Article 58 o f the R SFSR Crim inal Code —it was impossible to prevent news spreading by w ord o f m outh. Refugees from the occupied areas w ere inevitably bearers o f inform ation about Soviet defeats, w hich was one reason w hy they were banned from entering M oscow and Leningrad in 1941. W ounded soldiers convalescing in the rear w ere well able to contradict official com m uniqués about Soviet successes.21 A lthough it m ight take 20 W eith 1964: 401-2. 21 Karol 1986: 131.


The Soviet H ome Front, 1 9 4 1 -1 9 4 5

some tim e for news to reach the provinces - it w ould be tw o m onths before people in Kislovodsk in southern Russia heard about the Mos­ cow panic, for example —it usually got there in the end.22 The price o f tight censorship was public scepticism about official com m uniqués and the spread o f rum ours w hich could be even m ore threatening to morale than the truth w ould have been. T he panic in M oscow was fuelled by w ild reports that there had been a coup, Stalin had been arrested, German parachutists had landed in R ed Square, and German troops were in M oscow wearing R ed Army uniforms.23 C on­ cealing the real state o f affairs at the front from the public could also have dire consequences for people living in areas close to the front line. Unaware o f the closeness o f the German army, many lost the opportunity to escape, and were condem ned to live (and die) under German occupation. In the case o f Leningrad, the governm ent delayed recognising the seriousness o f the threat to the city until it was far too late to save its inhabitants or to let them save themselves. T he order to begin evacuating w om en and children was given on 29 August 1941, the day before the rail link w ith the rest o f the country was cut and only a w eek before the city was completely encircled.24 Fear o f a fifth colum n and apprehension about a general breakdown o f discipline resulted in the imm ediate repression o f anyone suspected o f endangering public order. In his speech o f 3 July 1941, Stalin de­ m anded a ruthless fight against ‘all disorganizers o f the rear, deserters, panic-m ongers, rum or-m ongers’. H e declared that ‘all w ho by their panic-m ongering and cowardice hinder the w ork o f defense, no mat­ ter w ho they may be, must be immediately hauled before the military tribunal.’25 This was no empty threat. Even before Stalin’s speech, the NKVD had rounded up people w ith a record o f political opposition.26 The first execution for spreading rum ours was reported in Leningrad at the beginning o f July.2 According to one source, thousands were shot in M oscow alone during the first six m onths o f the war.28 This is not impossible: confronted w ith the crisis in the capital in m id-O ctober 1941, the governm ent resorted to extrem e measures. A state o f siege was declared, while a decree issued on 19 O ctober stated that all 22 23 24 25 26 27 28


Karol 1986: 100. Kravchenko 1947: 375. lzvestiya TsK KPSS (9) 1990: 211. Stalin 1945: 14-15. Beginning on 22 June itself, according to Kravchenko 1947: 355. Bidlack 1987: 69. Kravchenko 1947: 356.


breaches o f law and order w ere to be dealt w ith by emergency tribu­ nals, and that ‘all provocateurs, spies and other agents o f the enem y are to be shot on the spot.’ W ith the NKVD given the leading role in im plem enting the decree, it is likely to have been carried out to the letter.29 Ruthless as this was, it was in line w ith the general policy o f severe retribution for any behaviour, whatever its m otive, w hich in any way m ight help the enemy. In this respect, civilians and soldiers were treated alike. Just as surrender was regarded as a betrayal o f the m otherland, ju st as ‘special sections’ were stationed behind troops to arrest or shoot any w ho retreated w ithout permission, ju st as officers w ho retreated w ithout permission w ere handed over to military tribu­ nals for punishm ent,30 so civilians whose actions weakened the collec­ tive will to destroy the enem y were also liable to extrem e penalties. A typical example o f this attitude can be seen in Stalin’s order o f 21 Septem ber 1941 to the Leningrad command. H e denounced as ‘m ore dangerous than German fascists’ those w ho declined to open fire on captured Soviet civilians w ho were being forced to plead for peace. It is said that the German scoundrels approaching Leningrad are sending ahead o f their troops old men and old women, women and children, delegates from areas occupied by them to ask the Bolsheviks to surrender Leningrad and make peace. My advice is: don’t be sentimental, but hit the enemy and his auxiliaries, willing or unwilling, in the teeth. W ar is merciless, and it will bring defeat in the first instance to him who shows weakness and vacillation . . . N o mercy to the Germans and their delegates, whoever they may be.31

W hatever their drawbacks, the controls imposed on the civilian population helped to prevent the breakdown o f morale and public order in the m ost critical periods o f the war —although less by crush­ ing die panic-m ongers depicted in propaganda than by dem onstrating to the population the leadership’s determ ination to achieve victory w hatever the cost. This may well have also had a positive effect on popular attitudes to the country’s leaders. Ultim ately, how ever, it w ould be the hard-w on victories o f the R ed Army and the productive achievements o f the hom e front w hich w ould preserve both national unity and the legitimacy o f the governm ent.

29 Kravchenko 1947: 377, W erth 1964: 241. 30 See Stalin’s O rder N o 270 o f 12 August 1941, in Izvestiya TsK KPSS (9) 1990:

202. 31 Volkogonov vol 2(i) 1989: 64.


The Soviet Home Front, İ 9 4 Î - İ 9 4 5 PR O PA G A N D A T he powers o f control and coercion at the disposal o f the authorities only partly explain the successful m obilisation o f the Soviet population in wartim e. People’s contribution to their country’s struggle for survi­ val w ent far beyond w hat they were obliged by law to do. M uch m ore than fear o f punishm ent caused millions to make great sacrifices, endure terrible hardships, w ork to the point o f exhaustion, fight on despite the hopelessness o f the situation. M otives w ere many, includ­ ing patriotism , political conviction, kinship, determ ination to liberate their native region, hatred o f the enem y, desire for revenge - and simply the wish to survive. In essence, these were spontaneous reac­ tions to war. B ut they were also strongly affected by the governm ent’s efforts to influence people’s perception o f the war, o f w hat was at stake in it, so as to achieve maximum popular participation in the war effort. From their earliest days, Bolsheviks had stressed the im portance o f propaganda in developing the consciousness o f the masses and after the R evolution had created a wide variety o f mechanisms to assure their ideological hegem ony. By 1941 the governm ent had at its disposal many effective means o f com m unicating its policies to the public. T he m ost im portant was the agitation and propaganda apparatus o f the Com m unist Party. As one o f the main functions o f the Party, agitprop was provided w ith personnel at every level o f its organisation: activists w ith special responsibilities at the grass-roots level o f the Party cell, and departm ents, secretaries, officials, full-tim e agitators and propagan­ dists at the higher levels. W ith Party cells in virtually every factory, farm, office and institute organising meetings and lectures, w ith ’R ed C om ers’ providing literature and visual materials, and w ith regular vi­ sits by m obile agitprop brigades, Soviet citizens were exposed to a continual stream o f Party propaganda. And this was not all. O ther organisations, notably the trade unions and the Komsomol, were equally active at the w ork-place; while the press, radio and cinema, all subject to close governm ent control and censorship, occupied a sub­ stantial proportion o f most people’s leisure time. From the very beginning o f the war, the central them e o f Soviet propaganda was defence o f the m otherland. This immediately took precedence over all other subjects w hich had earlier predom inated socialism , M arxism -L eninism , th e Party, internationalism , an ti­ imperialism, even anti-fascism (the latter in any case had been dropped after the signing o f the Nazi—Soviet Pact in August 1939). In the first


issue o f Pravda following the German attack, the term ‘patriotic war* (otechestvennaya voina) was used in several articles. O ne by Em el’yan Yaroslavskii, a leading Party propagandist, was actually entitled ‘the G reat Patriotic W ar o f the Soviet People’, the name by w hich the war w ould eventually come to be officially know n.32 This suggests that w hatever illusions may have briefly lingered in Stalin’s m ind, it was quickly apparent to those responsible for gauging and influencing pub­ lic opinion that the w ar was going to be fought on Soviet territory, at least for the foreseeable future. In this situation, appealing to the popu­ lation to resist the alien occupation o f its native land was likely to generate greater support than repeating conventional political slogans. Patriotic them es had been conspicuous in ideology and propaganda from the m id-1920s onwards. Stalin’s policy o f ‘Socialism in O ne C ountry’ had given Bolshevism a markedly nationalist content, w hile in the years imm ediately preceding the war, the terms rodina (m other­ land) and otechestvo (fatherland) had come back into official usage. N one the less, the impassioned reiteration o f the patriotic them e after 22 June 1941 was unprecedented. Calls to ‘rise to the defence o f the m otherland’ echoed through every speech, m eeting, broadcast and ar­ ticle. ‘T he m otherland summons!’ (rodina-mat’ zovyot!) ran the slogan o f the m ost famous Soviet recruiting poster o f the war, designed by I M T oidzein 1941.33 From the German invasion until the victory at Stalingrad, ‘the m otherland in danger’ was the m ain focus o f Soviet propaganda. Com m unism , by contrast, featured minimally in official exhortations.34 T he exact character o f the patriotism to w hich propaganda appealed varied, from ‘Soviet patriotism ’, loyalty to the U SSR, com m itm ent to defending its territory, population and way o f life, to a local patriotism focusing on people’s native district, city o r region. B ut by far the grea­ test emphasis was on the Russian m otherland. W ith Russians compris­ ing a substantial m ajority o f the population engaged in the Soviet w ar effort, particularly after the German occupation o f Belorussia, the U kraine and the Baltic republics, this was natural, how ever m uch it m ight diverge from M arxist-Leninist doctrine. In private, Stalin was typically forthright on the subject. T he Russian people, he told Averell 32 Pravda 23 June 1941. 33 W hite 1988: 123. 34 An analysis o f agitation and propaganda speeches, brochures and articles in a Leningrad newspaper betw een December 1941 and January 1943 shows that the Party and Communism constituted only 13 out o f the 328 topics covered. M uch m ore com­ m on were such topics as the city’s heroic traditions, great figures o f the past, the exploits o f the R ed Army and German atrocities. Bidlack 1987: 231.


The Soviet Home Front, 1941—1945

Harrim an in Septem ber 1941, ‘were fighting as they had "for their hom eland, not for us", m eaning the Com m unist P arty /35 T he result was a conscious return to the Russian past for patriotic inspiration. Heroes o f epic victories over foreign invadors from D m itrii Donskoi and Alexander Nevsky onwards were presented as models for em ulation. W hen new orders to mark military distinction were created in July 1942, they were named after great Russian commanders o f the Tsarist period, M ikhail K utuzov, P eter N akhim ov and A lexander Suvorov. T he achievements o f Russian culture were endlessly evoked as evidence o f national greatness. M ost striking o f all in its break w ith form er policy was the rehabilitation o f the O rthodox C hurch. Stalin’s reception o f its head, M etropolitan Sergei, in the Kremlin in Septem­ ber 1943 and his approval o f the revival o f the Synod m arked official recognition o f the C hurch’s im portance as a symbol o f continuity w ith Russian tradition, and o f its substantial contribution to mobilising pa­ triotic support for the w ar effort. Contem porary them es also featured prom inently in Soviet propa­ ganda. T he heroic feats o f the R ed Army and the partisans, together w ith the production achievements o f workers and peasants, were given huge publicity; and the contribution o f the Soviet U nion’s allies was periodically highlighted. T he evil enem y inevitably provided one o f the main subjects o f propaganda. For a b rief period a distinction was drawn betw een the Nazi regime and the German people. As evidence m ounted, how ever, o f the w anton destructiveness and brutality o f the German army, especially w ith the R ed Arm y’s recapture o f Soviet territory during the battle o f M oscow, this gave way to hatred o f Germans and a call for vengeance - for, in the words o f the poet, Alexander Tvardovsky, ‘death for death! blood for blood! grief for grief!’36 B ut one subject was continually to the fore. Just as in the 1930s, Stalin had been presented as the personification o f Soviet socialism, so during the war he was made the symbol o f the patriotic cause. Even in the first days o f the war, w hen he made no public statem ent, let alone appearance, his name was invoked as the prim e source o f reassurance and inspiration. ‘W ith Stalin’s name we have trium phed, w ith Stalin’s name we will trium ph’, was a typical headline. T he public was ex­ horted to follow the example o f ‘our great leader, comrade Stalin’, not least in being ready to confront the enemy: ‘the great Stalin has con­ tinually taught our people m obilisation preparedness’. As early as 24 June, a report from the front quoted the battle cry w hich w ould be 35 Cited in McNeal 1988: 241. 36 Q uoted in Piper 1984: 148.



lout the w ar — His broadcast o f 3 July was given m uch publicity; but this was exceeded by the paeons o f praise w ith w hich the press greeted his appointm ent as People’s Commissar o f Defence on 19 Jûly. ‘T he genius organiser o f our victories’, ‘the great captain o f the Soviet people’ was now hailed as the ‘symbol o f great victories, symbol o f the unity o f the Soviet people.’3 It was as leader o f the country, o f the people as a w hole, rather than as Party leader that Stalin appeared before the Soviet population during the war. A ttention was focused on him far m ore as Chairm an o f the GKO, Chairm an o f Sovnarkom, Commissar o f Defence and Supreme Com m ander in C h ief than as General Secretary o f the Party. T he am ount o f publicity devoted to Stalin varied according to the progress o f the war. W hile his image never disappeared from the press, it was less conspicuous w hen the R ed Army was in retreat in summer and autum n 1941, and again in summer 1942, than w hen its fortunes w ere rising in the winters o f 1941—2 and 1942—3, and thereafter. Stalin was careful to be identified w ith victory, not defeat. And at all times he w ent out o f his way to associate him self w ith patriotic themes. In his 3 July broadcast he spoke o f the ‘patriotic war’ and recalled R us­ sian victories over the armies o f N apoleon and W ilhelm II. In his speeches o f 6 and 7 N ovem ber to m ark the anniversary o f the R evol­ ution, he w ent further, referring to ‘the great Russian nation’ and to ‘our great ancestors — Alexander Nevsky, D m itrii D onskoi, Kusma M inin, D m itri Pozharsky, Alexander Suvorov, M ikhail K utuzov.’373839 And after the victory at Stalingrad, he increasingly identified him self w ith the country’s military achievements. U ntil this point references to the fact that Stalin was Supreme C om m ander-in-C hief had been few, and orders o f the day, though composed by him , had often been signed by senior military figures. N ow references to ‘Stalinist strategy’ and ‘the Stalinist school o f military doctrine’ became com m on. H e took the tide o f Marshal o f the Soviet U nion, and henceforth mainly appeared in public in military uniform . W ith its string o f m ajor Soviet victories, 1944 w ould be called the year o f ‘the ten Stalinist blows’. And at the end o f the w ar Stalin’s identification w ith the military reached its apogee w ith his assumption o f the tide previously awarded 37 Pravda 24, 27 June 1941. For an emphatic denial by the doyen o f Soviet histo­ rians o f W orld W ar II that Soviet troops did in fact charge into batde shouting this slogan, see Samsonov 1988: 142. 38 Pravda 20 July 1941. 39 Stalin 1945: 38.


The Soviet Home Front, İ 9 4 İ - Î 9 4 5

only to the greatest Tsarist commanders, ‘Generalissimus’. T he propaganda treatm ent o f Stalin's image in wartim e had m uch in com m on w ith that in the prew ar period. In both cases the aim was to create w hat w ould later be called the ‘cult o f the personality’. T here was, how ever, an im portant difference. D uring the w ar Stalin was identified w ith a cause com m anding nearly universal support, and for the first tim e he gained real and widespread popularity. H e became a focus for popular patriotism and a means o f unifying the population. T here were undoubtedly still many people w ho were hostile or in d if­ ferent to Stalin; and whatever positive effects his image may have had, it did not prevent people panicking or troops surrendering. Y et his image o f strength and will projected through propaganda, as well as his specific actions, clearly had a great im pact on m orale at crucial m o­ ments. T he significance o f his O rder N o 227 in July 1942, at one o f the worst m om ents o f the w ar for the U SSR, for example, is acknow­ ledged even by a harsh critic o f Stalin’s wartim e leadership. ‘The O rder was o f course extremely severe, but necessary at that terrible m om ent. And the people themselves saw precisely the necessity and not the cruelty. For the first tim e for many years, people heard the tru th .’ And this historian quotes a soldier’s account o f his ow n reac­ tion: AU my life I wiU remember what Stalin’s Order meant . . . N o t the letter, but the spirit and the content o f this document made possible the moral and psychological break-through in the hearts and minds o f aU to whom it was read . . . the chief thing was the courage to teU people the whole terrible and bitter truth about the abyss to whose edge we were then sliding.40

Stalin’s effect on Soviet people’s morale in 1941—2 was not unlike that o f C hurchill on the British population in 1940. H e represented tough­ ness, will and hope - hope o f survival, hope o f victory, hope against hope that the fate o f millions o f ordinary people m attered to those in pow er. Ilya Ehrenburg later recalled his ow n state o f m ind in July 1941. ‘I believed in victory . . . because I needed to believe.’41 For the same reason, people believed in Stalin —a feeling poignantly cap­ tured in Konstantin Sim onov’s poem ‘Bleak anniversary’, w ritten at the beginning o f N ovem ber 1941. ‘Com rade Stalin, do you hear us? You m ust hear us, we know this.’42 W hatever the gap betw een image and reality in Stalin’s role as w ar leader, his im pact on people’s beliefs 40 Cited by A M Samsonov in Istoriki 1988: 327. 41 Ehrenburg 1964: 11. 42 Simonov 1990: 316.



and attitudes, on their psychological m obilisation, was undeniably sub­ stantial.

T H E P E O P L E ’S M IL IT IA Although separate processes, civilian and military m obilisation in prac­ tice overlapped in several areas, and now here m ore so than in the people’s militia. Before the war, the idea o f recruiting civilian volun­ teers into locally based military units (opolchenie) intended to provide the R ed Army w ith support had played no part m ilitary planning. W hile civil defence w ould be organised locally, it was assumed that all military activities w ould come under the aegis o f the Commissariat o f Defence and the NK VD, and that all fighting w ould be done by the arm ed forces. T he idea o f volunteer military units was condem ned as totally ineffective, as betraying a lack o f confidence in the R ed Army. In Septem ber 1939, Marshall Voroshilov recalled the fate o f the ‘weak and utterly untrained’ Civilian V olunteer Army in W orld W ar I: ‘it showed that hasty preparation in tim e o f w ar was not very effective. Com pletely untrained people were sent to the front, and all o f you know how it ended.’43 In the event, such units came into existence almost immediately following the German invasion. Huge num bers o f civilians volunteered for military service, and responsibility for their recruitm ent, organisation and equipm ent was assumed by local Party and soviet officials. In the first instance, the form ation o f the m ilitia was the result o f popular patriotism and local initiative. Leningrad led the way. T hou­ sands o f the city’s inhabitants volunteered to fight in the first days o f the war, and on 27 June the local authorities took the decision to set up a volunteer army. W ithin three days, its com m anding staff had been appointed, the selection o f recruits from the masses o f volunteers was under way, and the first units w ere being created.44 By 8 July over 100,000 people had been enrolled in the militia, and by 10 July the first three volunteer divisions, w ith a fighting strength o f over 30,000, were in existence.45 T he idea was soon taken up in the capital, w here the realisation that the w ar w ould stretch the R ed Army’s reserves to the lim it was 43 Cited in Kravchenko 1947: 360-1. 44 Kolesnik 1988: 14. 45 Kolesnik 1988: 17.


The Soviet Home Front, İ 9 4 İ —Î 9 4 5

rapidly dawning. In M oscow, the first formal steps to organise a local militia began on 2 July. T he following day, in his broadcast to the nation, Stalin made the establishment o f the militia official policy. Side by side with the R ed Army, many thousands o f workers, collective farmers, intellectuals are rising to fight the enemy aggressor. The masses o f our people will rise up in their millions. The working people o f Moscow and Leningrad have already commenced to form vast popular levies in support o f the R ed Army. Such popular levies must be raised in every city which is in danger o f enemy invasion.46

O ver the following weeks, the mass recruitm ent o f volunteers and the organisation o f militia units w ent ahead in every city in the European part o f the USSR. From M urmansk to Krasnodar, from Smolensk to Stalingrad, hundreds o f thousands o f civilians were enlisted. (Eventually the militia w ould be raised everywhere except Central Asia, Kazakh­ stan and the Far East.) M anual workers provided the m ajority o f vol­ unteers —whole regiments being form ed at m ajor factories, such as the Kirov plant in Leningrad - but large contingents o f w hite-collar w or­ kers, professional people, intellectuals and students were also recruited. T he numbers involved were huge: by autum n 1941, there are said to have been over 4 million opolchentsy, on paper at least. W om en as well as m en volunteered: in G or'kii, for example, the 60,000 volunteers by the end o f the second week o f the w ar included 16,500 wom en. In practice, there were neither fitness requirem ents nor official age limits on eligibility (in M oscow and Leningrad, limits o f 17 to 50 and 18 to 55 were applied, but these were hardly restrictive). Previous military experience or training were certainly not conditions o f entry: in Len­ ingrad, virtually none o f the recruits had served in the R ed Army, and only half had even had elementary military training before enlisting.47 It is highly unlikely that all the Volunteers’ joined voluntarily. W hile the early ones almost certainly did, the situation changed once the establishment o f the militia became official policy. Local Party or­ ganisations came under pressure to form militia units, and they corres­ pondingly put pressure on potential recruits, particularly members o f the Party or Komsomol, even w hen they were skilled workers specifi­ cally exem pted from military service because o f the econom ic im port­ ance o f their work. R ecruitm ent often took place at open meetings in factories, w here the collective’s influence on the individual could be decisive. B ut the pressure was far from all one way. O n one hand, JQ

46 Stalin 1945: 16. 47 Kolesnik 1988: 10-11, 28, 51.



many civilians continued to be strongly m otivated to volunteer for the militia. O n the other hand, local Party officials, w ho were also respon­ sible for seeing that production targets were m et, could well under­ stand that the loss o f skilled personnel w ould damage plan fidfilment. Army recruitm ent desks at factories were said to be beseiged by w or­ kers insisting on joining up, despite the pleas o f their managers and Party officials. Sometimes workers had to be literally dragged off trains taking them to the front.4849 Few o f the initial volunteers could have anticipated being involved in military action, at least in the immediate future. Anyone w ho vol­ unteered in areas close to the front line, such as Smolensk in early July 1941, must have expected to see active service; but in the rear, volun­ teers w ould probably have envisaged themselves joining a hom e guard, w hich w ould be used in com bat only as a last resort, in the unlikely event that the enem y had penetrated deep into Soviet territory. The opolchenie was indeed primarily intended to have an auxiliary role, training future R ed Army conscripts, or providing the ‘destruction battalions’ (istrebitel’nye bataVony) to defend factories, military installa­ tions and administrative centres from surprise attack by enem y sabo­ teurs and parachute troops. In the event, many volunteers found themselves sent to the front line w ithin a few weeks or even days o f enlisting. The first three Leningrad opokhenie divisions were almost immediately throw n into the batde along the ‘Luga line’ some sixty miles from Leningrad. T he first division was sent to the front six days after being form ed, the second tw o days, the third on the same day. A ltogether they com ­ prised roughly half the Soviet forces engaged in the desperate attem pt to halt the German advance.50 T heir training had been minimal; six­ teen hours was the norm , and this involved only basic tactics.51 T he first ‘training’ most volunteers received on a regimental or divisional scale was in batde itself. Officers and N C O s had litde m ore experience than the rank and file; only a small proportion had served in the R ed Army. There was also a serious lack o f equipm ent. As locally raised units, the militia were supposed to be supplied from local resources, but these were rarely adequate. Automatic weapons and artillery were in particularly short supply. Early in July 1941, Khrushchev reported to Stalin from the Ukraine that while large numbers o f volunteers had 48 For a description o f a factory meeting to mobilise volunteers for the militia, see Kravchenko 1947: 361. 49 Kozlov 1988: 133-4. 50 Bidlack 1987: 56. 51 Kolesnik 1988: 51. For later units the norm was 60 hours.


The Soviet Home Front, İ 9 4 İ —İ 9 4 5 52

been mobilised, they had no weapons. W hile the deficiencies were sometimes made good from R ed Army supplies, the opokhentsy often had to go into batde unable to defend themselves against enem y tanks or planes, or the crack W ehrm acht divisions confronting them . T he results were heroic but tragic. At Leningrad, the first three militia divisions were w iped out, as was a fourth soon afterwards.5253 In the desperate conditions o f sum m er and autum n 1941, how ever, this did not prevent further opokhenie divisions being throw n into the bat­ tles to defend the approaches to M oscow, Leningrad and Kiev. T heir fate in the batde o f M oscow is laconically described by a Soviet histo­ rian. O ne division ‘broke out o f the encirclem ent, but its losses were so heavy that it had practically ceased to exist’; another was cut off and ‘only a few managed to break o u t’; in the case o f a third, ‘its losses were so great that only small fractions rem ained o f its regim ents.’54 W hether the opokhenie achieved m uch o f military value is doubtful. They marginally added to the obstacles facing the Germans, but it is highly unlikely that their contribution was in any way decisive. W hat is certain is that their heavy casualties m eant the loss o f m uch skilled labour w hich was urgendy needed and hard to replace. T he lesson was not lost on the governm ent. After 1941, workers in reserved profes­ sions were m ore stricdy excluded from military service, while the mili­ tia was m ore selectively employed. Sixty divisions altogether were form ed during the war, o f w hich thirty-six took part in fighting; al­ together some 2 m illion civilian volunteers are said to have seen acdve military service.55 But never again w ould their lives be squandered on the scale that they w ere in 1941. The opokhentsy o f the early m onths o f the w ar reflected the best and the worst features o f Soviet society’s wartim e mobilisation. Patriotic enthusiasm and local initiative were com bined w ith central direction and administrative pressure to produce, w ith amazing speed, a mass organisation not even envisaged before the outbreak o f war. It was employed at first w ith a profligacy and lack o f rational calculation w hich was no less astonishing. Yet it survived, even if many individ­ uals in its ranks did not, to make a significant contribution to mobilis­ ing the Soviet population for the task o f w inning the war.

52 53 54 55


Izvestiya TsKKPSS (7) 1990: 198. Erickson 1975: 149. Kolesnik 1988: 124-5, 130. Kir’yan 1988: 303.


Subsistence and survivat

S U P P L Y IN G T H E P O P U L A T IO N T he population o f the Soviet U nion was probably better prepared by its past than that o f any other belligerent country in W orld W ar II to endure the material hardships o f war. Soviet citizens w ere no strangers to hard times. In 1941 the m ajority could recall the chronic shortages o f W orld W ar I and the struggle for survival during the Civil W ar. Still m ore vivid were their memories o f the industrialisation drive and the collectivisation o f agriculture, w hen workers’ real wages had plum m etted and millions o f peasants had died o f famine. Food rationing, introduced in the cities in 1929, had ended only in 1935. Although there had been a significant im provem ent in the standard o f living from 1932—3 onwards, the recovery had ended after 1937; and even by then it had not regained the 1928 level. Betw een 1937 and 1940, largely under the pressure o f rearm am ent, living standards had de­ clined, per capita household consum ption falling by betw een 4 and 8 per cent.12 T he Soviet population was thus familiar w ith shortages and experi­ enced at coping w ith the effects o f econom ic crisis. The severity o f W orld W ar IFs impact on living standards, however, was unparallelled 1 Standard Soviet works o f reference, but lim ited mainly to the supply o f the urban population, are Chemyavskii 1964 and Lyubimov 1968 (Lyubimov was wartime Com ­ missar for Trade, responsible for food rationing). Valuable microstudies o f blockaded Leningrad are Pavlov 1965 (Pavlov was in charge o f food rationing in Leningrad) and Salisbury 1971. An excellent, new and original account o f the whole subject is to be found in English in M oskoff 1990. The authors are grateful to W illiam M oskoff for permission to make use o f his book while still in typescript before publication. 2 Bergson 1961: 252.


The Soviet Home Front, 1941—1945

even in Soviet history, and it far exceeded that felt in the other m ajor countries involved. It was not simply that war m eant a massive transfer o f resources from consum ption to production, from the civilian to the military sector o f the economy; not simply that the R ed Army’s vast requirem ents necessarily deprived individual consumers o f everything from food and fuel to transport and medical services. W hat made the Soviet U nion’s experience uniquely traum atic was that it had to wage total w ar largely on its own territory, w ith all the devastation that implied; and w ith substantially diminished industrial and agricultural capacity, due to enemy occupation o f the western part o f the country. Inevitably, the consequences for Soviet living standards were severe in the extrem e. And this in turn had potentially grave consequences for the Soviet w ar effort. H unger, cold, m alnutrition and disease were almost as great threats to the survival o f the U SSR as German military power. T he wartim e crisis in living standards may be illustrated by the cost o f bread. This was by far the most im portant part o f the urban popula­ tion’s diet, the main source o f calories. It was literally ’the staff o f life’. W ith it life could go on, w ithout it life faded away. People w orked and struggled, fought and stole for it. For most o f 1942—3, the stan­ dard daily bread ration for the Soviet industrial w orker was 600 grams - a loaf o f bread. In Leningrad in spring 1942, the price o f bread on the black m arket reached 60 roubles for 100 grams — equivalent to nearly five days’ pay for an industrial w orker in 1940. The latter’s monthly wage w ould hardly have been sufficient to buy the daily ration o f bread then being received by workers in other Soviet cities. T he decline in living standards was rapid and steep, soon reducing m uch o f the population to a level barely above subsistence. Betw een 1940 and 1942, the population under Soviet control fell by one-third. But the output o f fight industry (mainly clothing) fell by one-half, while that o f agriculture and food processing fell by three-fifths. In 1942, as Table 1 (p. 213) shows, Soviet citizens received one-third less household durables than in 1940 and two-fifths less food. The per capita supply o f basic goods —such as cotton and w oollen cloth, grain and potatoes — was halved. Access to education, health care, housing and other services suffered a similar squeeze. In 1943, the output o f civilian industry increased, but so too did the population under Soviet control. In some respects supplies got even worse. There were 25 m illion homeless people to be fed and housed. T he inhabitants o f the liberated territories, m oreover, represented urgent demands for goods and services, w hich had to be diverted away from consumers in the interior. In 1944, the situation marginally improved. Daily energy 78

Subsistence and survival

consum ption o f the urban population, having fallen from an average o f 3,370 calories per head in 1940 to 2,555 calories in 1942, reached 2,751 calories in 1943 and 2,810 calories in 1944.3 B ut up to and beyond the end o f the war, living standards rem ained well below the prew ar level. Per capita figures are misleading, for in wartim e as in peacetime not everyone got the same. In conditions o f extrem e shortage, harsh choices had to be made. Given the overriding im portance o f defeating the enem y, soldiers and workers in w ar industry were given the high­ est priority. T heir living standards were protected at the expense o f others — manual workers in civilian industry, w hite-collar workers, peasants, old age pensioners and children. (Members o f the political and military elite, it is true, did not generally suffer material depriva­ tion, although in many cases the pressures on them took a heavy physical toll.) Am ong the less privileged, there were also degrees o f econom ic status. It was better to live in the interior than near the front line, better to be in the prim e o f life than to be very young or very old. For a tw elve-year-old, to be dependent on official rations in Leningrad in the w inter o f 1941—2 m eant certain death. W hat determ ined individuals’ access to food and consum er goods? T he key factor was w hether or not they were supplied from official governm ent stocks. M ost workers in state enterprises and estab­ lishments (which m eant most o f the adult urban population) were; most o f the rural population were not. T he form er were guaranteed basic rations, although these were often insufficient to keep them alive. The latter had to rely on unofficial sources o f supply. O n the oper­ ation and interraction o f these tw o systems o f distribution depended the survival o f the population.

R A T IO N IN G T he severe reduction in the supply o f basic necessities, above all food, made some form o f rationing inevitable. In theory, the Soviet govern­ m ent could have continued the prew ar practice o f regulating the dis­ tribution o f goods by a system o f ‘first come, first served’, by means o f queuing - but besides the huge waste o f tim e this involved, it poten­ tially constituted a serious threat to public order. As Bolsheviks, the Soviet leaders were unlikely to forget that the 1917 R evolution had 3 Chemyavskii 1964: 179.


The Soviet Home Front, İ 9 4 İ - İ 9 4 5

begun w ith bread queues in wartim e Petrograd turning into anti-gov­ ernm ent demonstrations and riots. T he governm ent could also have brought demand into line w ith supply by increasing prices or reducing wages. B ut this w ould have m eant substantial inequality in the provi­ sion o f goods and great suffering for the poorest section o f the popula­ tion. T he damage to civilian morale and national unity likely to result was so obvious that for the greater part o f the w ar official prices for essential goods rose little if at all.4 T he only significant price increases w ere for alcoholic drinks; and even taking into account a six-fold rise in the price o f beer, wine and spirits, official retail prices in state and cooperative stores in M oscow in 1942-3 were altogether only 80-90 per cent above the July 1940 level.5 Like other countries in W orld W ar II, therefore, and w ith the same aims o f establishing equality o f sacrifice, achieving national priorities, and m aintaining m orale, the Soviet U nion introduced a rationing sys­ tem . It emerged in stages betw een July and N ovem ber 1941. A Sovnarkom resolution o f 18 July ordered rationing to be im plem ented in M oscow, Leningrad and towns in the surrounding districts. It covered bread, flour, cereals, pasta, butter, margarine, vegetable oil, m eat and fish, sugar and confectionery. O n 20 August, bread, sugar and confec­ tionery rationing was extended to 200 towns and industrial settlements o f central Russia and the Urals. In N ovem ber, the rationing o f these products was extended to all urban areas; and cereals, pasta, fats, m eat and fish began to be rationed in forty-three o f the largest industrial cities in addition to those in the M oscow and Leningrad districts.6 R ationing now covered most o f the urban population, though only a m inority o f the rural population. W orkers on state forms and m otortractor stations, and other non-agricultural workers living in the countryside, were included in the rationing system, but collective for­ mers were not. In 1942, about 62 m illion people received rationed bread, approximately tw o-thirds o f them urban inhabitants; by 1945, w ith the liberation o f formerly occupied territory, this num ber had risen to over 80 m illion.7 For people on rations, the system was both simple and complex. T he simple foct was that bread was all-im portant. As Table 2 shows, bread provided all categories o f consumers w ith not less than four4 M eanwhile the wage o f the average public sector employee rose from 330 to 435 roubles per m onth between 1940 and 1945 (Mitrofanova 1971: 498). In key industries, the increase was considerably greater. The wages o f coal-miners in the Kuzbass, for example, rose from 363 to 797 roubles per m onth (Bukin 1985: 28). 5 Zaleski 1980: 452. 6 Chemyavskii 1964: 70-1. 7 M oskoff 1990: 137-8.


Subsistence and sunnval

fifths o f the calories and proteins they received from rations. W hereas other foodstuffs were issued three times a m onth, bread was distributed on a daily basis. W hereas the full norms for other foodstuffs were often not honoured, the bread ration was distributed in all but the most desperate circumstances. Every breach in the supply o f bread rations was subject to immediate police investigation.8 T he main com plicating factor was the differentiation betw een dif­ ferent groups o f the population, w hich increased as tim e w ent on. Initially, there were four categories — manual workers, w hite-collar workers, dependants, and children o f 12 years or under - to w hich a new first category, consisting o f people employed in im portant war industries, together w ith scientists and technicians, was added on 1 February 1942. (Able-bodied adults w ho were unem ployed received no rations.) B ut these categories soon acquired many internal grada­ tions. Some reflected obvious needs. Babies, for example, w ere entitled to m ore m ilk in place o f solid food. People living in the far north, w here alternative sources o f food supply were extremely lim ited, re­ ceived higher rations than those elsewhere. O ther differences served as incentives to stimulate high output or attract labour into particularly im portant occupations or encourage volunteers for vital activities. Those w orking in particularly hard or dangerous conditions (such as m iners, steel workers, oil industry workers) received supplementary ra­ tions and free meals at w ork, as did shock-workers and Stakhanovites.9 Blood donors were given a w orker’s ration card in addition to their ow n card, as well as various supplementary coupons.10 Official ration norms rem ained largely stable. Those for sugar and confectionery were cut on 1 April 1942 and the bread ration was reduced on 21 November^ 1943; otherwise norms were unchanged througout the war. Table 2 shows those w hich applied in the interior o f the country from N ovem ber 1943 to early 1945. (In the tw o pre­ vious years, bread rations had been 100-200 grams m ore than that shown.) T he extent o f differentiation was such that the most privi­ leged received four or five times as many calories and grams o f protein as the least privileged. Official norms, how ever, did not necessarily bear a close resemblance to w hat was actually distributed. Sugar, meat and butter were often unobtainable, and though substitutes m ight be 8 Chemyavskii 1964: 70-1. 9 Coal-miners in the Kuzbass who fulfilled their norms, for example, from June 1943 received breakfasts o f 100-200 grams o f bread, 30-50 grams o f fit, and 10 grams o f sugar, and hot meals consisting o f 60 grams o f meat, 10 grams o f fits and 10 grams o f groats. Bukin 1985: 29. 10 M oskoff 1990: 149-50.


The Soviet Home Front, 1941—1945

provided (such as jam or cake for sugar, salted fish o r powdered eggs for meat, vegetable oil for butter), these were frequently inferior both in volume and nutritional value.1 Rations played a vital part in helping to keep millions o f Soviet people alive during the war. But they could not guarantee survival. T he governm ent did not have enough food at its disposal to feed adequately even the m inority o f the population entided to radons. O nly combat soldiers and manual workers in the most difficult and hazardous occupadons received sufficient radons to maintain health. Table 2 shows that most people’s rations fell well short o f m inim um nutridonal levels. T he shortfall was pardcularly marked for w hite-collar workers and for dependants, pardcularly children over 12 years old.1112 In deciding w ho was to get what, the rationing authorities were faced w ith hard, sometimes tragic choices. In an extrem e case such as Leningrad during the blockade, they were in effect exercising powers o f life and death. There the lowest point was reached in the m onth from 20 N ovem ber to 23 Decem ber 1941, w hen workers’ daily bread rations were cut to 250 grams and even front-line soldiers were al­ lotted no m ore than 500 grams; for everyone else, the ration was fixed at 125 grams. These were starvation levels. Although rations in Len­ ingrad were marginally increased thereafter, their very low level com ­ bined w ith the low ered resistance o f the population spelt death for hundreds o f thousands o f people. T he rationing system in the USSR during W orld W ar II was thus not simply a m atter, as elsewhere, o f distributing the available food in such a way as to achieve a balance o f econom ic efficiency and social fairness. It also m eant the authorities being forced to take decisions about w hom to preserve and w hom to abandon o f a kind comparable only w ith those familiar to food relief workers in the midst o f m ajor famines today.

LOCAL R E SO U R C E S Since rations supplied by the state were insufficient to sustain the lives o f all but a m inority o f those entitled to them , and since over half the population did not receive rations at all, almost everyone had to resort 11 M oskoff 1990: 143. 12 As a result, many children over the age o f 12 chose to work, illegally, thus qualifying for larger rations.


Subsistence and sunnval

to local and unofficial sources o f supply. In this respect, food supply in wartim e reflected a basic feature o f the Stalinist econom ic system in general. Although decision-m aking was highly centralised, local auth­ orities were often left to their ow n devices w hen it came to obtaining the means to im plem ent the governm ent’s decisions. Since centrally allocated resources were inadequate to m eet all the claims upon them , high-priority sectors such as heavy industry and defence w ould have their needs for steel, pow er, com ponents, and foodstuffs m et, while others w ould be given advice instead o f supplies. Managers, workers and consumers w ould be urged by the centre to look to ‘local resour­ ces’. W here food supply was concerned, this m eant produce from side­ line farms belonging to factories and institutions, from the allotments o f urban residents, and from the collective formers’ private plots. Al­ ready before the war, these had been seen as playing an im portant role in protecting living standards from the pressures o f rearm am ent.13 D uring the war, they w ould play a vital part in the survival o f the m ajority o f the population. T he im portance o f such resources even for people receiving rations was substantial. They could make the difference betw een starvation and survival. Table 2 showed that in 1944 rations for most employed adults provided betw een 1,000 and 2,000 calories a day. B ut in 1944 the average daily intake o f an urban adult was 2,810 calories. O f this, 69 per cent came from central or local governm ent stocks. T he re­ m aining 31 per cent came from local resources, in the following pro­ portions:14 Auxiliary forms o f enterprises and institutions Private allotments Collective form market purchases

Per cent 4.5 12.4 14.5

W hat did these local supplies consist of? First, nearly all enterprises and many other institutions developed their ow n sources o f auxiliary food production. Through their ‘departments o f w orker supply’ (ORSy), they organised forms on local wasteland, usually specialising in relative­ ly labour-intensive activities - cultivating potatoes and vegetables, rear­ ing pigs and poultry. In 1944, auxiliary farms in the most im portant branches o f industry yielded m ore than 2.6 m illion tons o f potatoes 13 See, for example, the governm ent decree o f 7 January 1941 calling on local authorities to supplement consumer supplies from local resources. Rcshcniya vol 3 1968: 5-14. 14 Chemyavskii 1964: 179, 186.


The Soviet Home Front, İ 9 4 Î - İ 9 4 5

and vegetables, equivalent to roughly 250 calories per w orker per day.15 Second, individual workers were encouraged to produce food on private allotments. In wartim e, the governm ent specifically extended the right to have an allotm ent from the rural population to the whole population. U rban allotments became an even larger source o f supply than auxiliary farming. By 1944, some 16.5 m illion workers w ere pro­ ducing m ore than 9 million tons o f potatoes and vegetables. This rep­ resented m ore than 200 calories o f daily energy intake per m em ber o f the family w ith an allotm ent.16 T hird, collective farmers brought their private produce to m arket for sale at unregulated prices. T he collective farm m arket was the most im portant unofficial source o f food for the urban population throughout the war, providing up to one-seventh o f the energy con­ tent o f the average diet.17 The collective farm markets’ share in all food sales by value rose from 20 per cent in 1940 to 51 per cent in 1945.18 Unofficial did not mean illegal; the collective farm m arket had been introduced by the governm ent in the mid-1930s as a concession to the peasants and as a means o f alleviating food shortages. It m eant that prices there were unregulated and, since demand vastly exceeded supply, far greater than official prices. A year after the beginning o f the war, the overall index o f collective farm m arket prices had risen eight and a half times, and by m id-1943 it was nearly nineteen times the July 1941 level. For the tw o main items in the population’s diet, pota­ toes and bread, prices rose respectively twenty-six times and tw entythree tim es.19 Although prices declined slightly thereafter, it was not until the second half o f 1944 that increased food production, together w ith the governm ent’s introduction o f special ‘comm ercial’ shops sell­ ing goods at prices close to free m arket rates, brought about a substan­ tial fall in collective form m arket prices. By 1945 they were five to six times the prew ar level. The high prices at the collective farm m arket gready restricted the 15 For total output o f auxiliary farms, and for supplies per workers in nine branches o f munitions and heavy industries, see Lyubimov 1968: 150-1. Calories per worker are calculated from the unweighted average o f the nine branches, assuming 0.75 cals per gram. 16 Mitrofanova 1971: 510. According to M itrofanova, this represented some 544 kg o f potatoes and vegetables per family annually. W e assume 0.75 cals per gram and up to five family members. 17 Chemyavskii 1964: 186. 18 M oskoff 1990: 153. 19 M oskoff 1990: 154. According to Voznesensky 1948: 102, however, collective farm market prices peaked in 1943 at twelve to thirteen times the 1940 level.


Subsistence and survival

ability o f most ordinary people to supplement their diets by purchases at the m arket. W hile they had to spend m uch o f their incom e on food, it w ould not have bought a great deal. In R ostov-on-D on, ac­ cording to K S Karol, his friend’s salary o f 300 roubles a m onth en­ abled her to buy no m ore than three extra kilos o f bread.20 The collective farm m arket may have made a crucial difference to many people’s chances o f survival, but only for the best-paid workers and employees can it have added substantially to official rations. N o one was m ore dependent on local resources than the peasant. O ver half the population had to survive w ithout any rations. H ow they did so is one o f the least investigated aspects o f the history o f Soviet society in wartim e. T he problem was not ju st that food supplies per head o f the population had fallen disastrously. Food output per collective farmer had also fallen seriously, while the share o f total grain and m eat output taken by the governm ent had risen.21 Collective far­ mers were thus left w ith a reduced share in a m uch smaller total than before the war. Even before the war, the attitude o f the procurem ent authorities to the needs o f the farm population had been harsh and arbitrary. Com ­ pulsory purchases from the collective farms had been based on official assessments o f potential form capacity, not real farm output. Payment o f grain by collective farms to the state-ow ned m achine-tractor stations in return for their services had been calculated as a percentage o f the crop before harvesting, not after it had been gathered and stored in bams.22 In wartim e, arbitrary confiscation o f food from farm stocks was intensified. R ight up to 1944, procurem ent campaigns were waged in w hat Soviet sources refer to as a ‘battlefront atmosphere*.23 W hile peasants may have accepted the need for sacrifices in order to feed the non-firm ing population, including their ow n relatives w ho had left to fight at the front or to w ork in towns, the state’s extraction o f their produce was sometimes accompanied by conflict and violence. D uring the war, the main source o f food for the peasants became their private plots, and the main crop they cultivated became potatoes. W hat bread was to the urban w orker, the potato was to the peasant. Per head o f the peasant population, the consum ption o f potatoes m ore than doubled, rising to 800-50 grams (600 calories) daily. M eanwhile, bread consum ption fell to no m ore than 300 grams (650 calories) per head per day. ‘They ate potatoes for breakfast, for lunch and for tea; 20 21 22 23

Karol 1986: 251. Harrison 1990b: 84n. Arutyunyan 1970: 196-7. IVOVSS vol 3 1961: 187-90, vol 4 1962: 602-3; IVMV vol 7 1976: 51.


The Soviet Home Front, 1941—1945

they ate them all ways - baked, hied, in potato cakes, in soup, but most often simply boiled, w ith a salted cucum ber or pickled cabbage.’ Everything else o f im portance came from milk - proteins, fats and vitamins. And if there was no bread, milk or potatoes, peasants ate netdes, grass and acorns.24 Those whose plots yielded a surplus, how ever small, sold it at the collective farm m arket to supplement their meagre diets, buying food unavailable on their farms, including bread. M any also disposed o f their produce on the thriving black m arket, bartering it for other foodstuffs, or for jew ellery, clothing and m anufactured goods offered by tow n dwellers desperate for food. T he resulting flow o f assets from the urban to the rural population partially compensated for the state’s ruthless extraction o f resources from the countryside. Some peasants acquired substantial wealth in the process, and there were even rouble millionaires (although the value o f their cash hoards w ould be wiped out by a currency reform tw o years after the end o f the war). But these w ere rare exceptions; for the overwhelm ing m ajority, the war m eant grinding poverty and a continuous struggle to survive.

HUNGER O f all the wartime hardships suffered by the Soviet population, malnu­ trition stands out as the most pervasive. W hile many people experi­ enced violence, injury, bereavem ent and homelessness, all but a small m inority w ent hungry for m uch o f the tim e. They lost w eight, grew weaker and m ore tired, and became vulnerable to illnesses o f all kinds. Productivity as well as health inevitably suffered. That even so the Soviet w ork-force was capable o f the productive effort achieved re­ flects both the effectiveness o f its mobilisation and its com m itm ent to the com m on cause. At its most extrem e, m alnutrition culm inated in death by starvation. Loss o f w eight and metabolic decline were followed by the fall o f blood pressure and pulse rate, the wastage o f the heart muscle and the atrophy o f internal organs. Past a certain point, the effects were irre­ versible. Many victims o f starvation w ould Unger, only to die m onths after the arrival o f food reUef and medical help. In the final stages o f starvation, despite retaining their intellectual faculties, people’s person­ 24 Arotyunyan 1970: 361. We assume 2.15 cals per gram for bread and 0.75 cals per gram for potatoes.


Subsistence and sunnval

alities w ere liable to disintegrate. Losing all awareness o f the plight o f others, they w ould steal even from their closest relatives.25 yThe largest concentration o f deaths from starvation was in Leningrad, where around 1 m illion people, approximately 40 per cent o f the prewar population, died o f hunger and hunger-related causes during the bloc­ kade, the m ajority in the w inter o f 1941—2;26 but deaths from starva­ tion also occurred in the interior o f the country. In 1942, according to V ictor Kravchenko, ‘the sight o f m en and w om en falling dead o f star­ vation on M oscow streets became too commonplace to attract crowds.’27 Conditions during the w ar were highly conducive to the spread o f disease am ong the civilian population. R educed nutritional standards low ered people’s resistance to illness. T he high level o f m obility o f the population, involving millions o f troops, evacuees and refugees, facili­ tated the spread o f disease from one area to another. T he death and destruction resulting from military com bat and enem y occupation was also a potential source o f epidemics. In Kalinin region, for example, the incidence o f typhus was eighty-eight times higher in 1942 than in 1940, and affected 7 per cent o f the population.28 O ver the country as a w hole, the incidence o f typhus, typhoid fever and tuberculosis rose sharply in 1942.29301The ability o f the Soviet health system to respond to the extra demands on it from civilians, m eanwhile, was reduced by the draft o f medical personnel into the R ed Army. In 1943 hospitals in industrial cities were 20 per cent understaffed for doctors and 27 per cent for surgeons. T he threat posed by disease to the war effort was taken extremely seriously by the governm ent. The GKO assumed direct responsibility for all w ork to prevent epidemics, and G A M iterev, People’s Com ­ missar o f H ealth, was made a GKO plenipotentiary, w ith wide powers to take necessary measures.51 Strenuous efforts were made to combat the spread o f disease. Individuals were subject to regular medical examinations, and their living quarters to regular hygiene inspections. T he num ber o f ‘disinfection points’ to treat accom m odation, clothes and people doubled in the RSFSR during the war. There was an 88 25 For a description o f the clinical features o f undernourishm ent, see Davidson et al 1979: 240-1. For an account o f the physiological and psychological decline o f Lening­ rad’s population in the w inter o f 1941-2, see Salisbury 1971: 434-51. 26 Salisbury 1971: 610-12. 27 Kravchenko 1947: 413. 28 Alekseev, Isupov 1986: 133. 29 Arutyunyan 1970: 363-4. 30 Alekseev, Isupov 1986: 127. 31 Alekseev, Isupov 1986: 133.


The Soviet Home Front, Î 9 4 Î - Î 9 4 5

per cent increase in the num ber o f epidemiological stations; the net­ works o f malaria stations and centres to treat tuberculosis also ex­ panded. Sanitation control points w ere set up at 275 m ajor stations on the railway netw ork to check passengers and carriages for signs o f dis­ ease. A large-scale imm unisation programme was put into effect, w ith 250 m illion innoculations betw een 1941 and 1943. Altogether, the budget for health care was increased in cash terms from 9 billion to 10.2 billion roubles betw een 1940 and 1944,32 although this probably represented a cutback after taking inflation into account. Thanks to these efforts, there appear to have been no m ajor epide­ mics during the war, except in occupied territories. W hile the in­ cidence o f infectious disease rose in the first tw o years o f the war, the battle to contain it seems to have been largely w on by the end o f 1943. Official statistics show that in that year the incidence o f diphthe­ ria was reduced by one-quarter, typhus and scarlet fever by half, meas­ les by tw o-thirds33 - no small achievem ent, given that nutritional standards were then at their lowest. M ortality also rose in the first tw o years o f the war, although the available data provides a far from complete picture o f the w ar’s im pact on the civilian population. Overall, the death-rate is reported to have risen from eighteen per thousand o f the population in 1940 to tw entyone per thousand in 1941, and tw enty-four per thousand in 1942, before foiling to nine per thousand in 1945.34 These figures, how ever, are said to relate to the population as a w hole, including the armed forces. Somewhat m ore informative are the following statistics for re­ ported deaths per thousand o f the population in Siberia, 1941—5.35

1941 1942 1943 1944 1945



24.1 29.6 27.2 17.3 12.2

19.7 21.3 13.6 10.6 7.4

These also show that the death-rate peaked in 1942. T he absence o f data for the last full year o f peacetime makes it difficult to estimate the w hole impact o f the war, although the m ortality level in Siberia in 32 Alekseev, Isupov 1986: 126, 132-7. 33 Alekseev, Isupov 1986: 137. The statistics do not, unfortunately, show what level had been reached during the first two years o f the war. 34 Narkhoz 1960: 45; Alekseev, Isupov 1986: 114. 35 Alekseev, Isupov 1986: 117.


Subsistence and survival

1940 is unlikely to have been substantially different from that in the country as a whole. (Infant m ortality is said to have doubled betw een the end o f 1940 and the end o f 1941, and to have declined from 1943 36 onwards, reaching a level in 1945 30 per cent low er than in 1940.) T he m arked discrepancy betw een urban and rural m ortality levels pres­ umably reflects worse hygienic and nutritional conditions in the towns. It is doubtful, how ever, w hether the decline in m ortality in the last tw o years o f the w ar can be attributed to im proved health care. It is m ore probable that many vulnerable members o f society (old people, children, the sick and injured) had perished in 1941-3, and that those w ho rem ained w ere stronger and m ore likely to survive. N o t surprisingly, the chronic shortage o f food drove people to crim e — and created many opportunities for some to exploit the des­ perate needs o f others. As in all countries w here there was wartim e rationing, the system was open to abuse. T he rationing authorities themselves were liable to corruption. R ation cards were sold illegally, inferior items w ere substituted for scarce foodstuffs w hich were then sold on the black m arket, shop assistants pilfered food from stocks or gave short w eight to customers. Consumers also took advantage o f the system’s defects, using dead people’s cards or registering under false names at m ore than one address. R ation cards w ere forged, stolen, bought and sold on the black m arket. Abuse o f the system were not so widespread, how ever, as to pre­ vent it from working. This was at least in part because the consequen­ ces could be very severe, for victims and perpetrators alike. In besieged Leningrad, for example, lost m onthly ration cards were generally not replaced, in order to prevent false reports o f losses. T o lose cards or have them stolen m ore than a day or tw o before the end o f the m onth could easily doom those concerned, already weakened by m onths o f privation, to death. In this situation, their only recourse was to the mercy and generosity o f equally undernourished friends. The extrem e gravity o f the situation was reflected in the fret that people found guilty o f ‘food crimes’ in Leningrad were shot.3637 T hroughout the country, how ever, crime increased as food supply diminished. Food was stolen from public and private sources - from factories, farms and shops, from gardens, plots and homes — as were items w hich could be exchanged for food. Survival rather than per­ sonal gain was often the m otive o f those w ho stole, and to many stealing must have seemed necessary and justified. By 1943, it had 36 Alekseev, Isupov 1986: 119. 37 Salisbury 1971: 533.

The Soviet Home Front, Î 9 4 İ —1945

reached a scale w hich to the authorities clearly threatened the whole system o f food distribution, and w ith it social order. In January, the GKO called for action by the Commissariat for Trade to stop abuses o f the rationing system and the stealing o f food. In February, the leadership o f the trade union m ovem ent set up a netw ork o f some 600,000 volunteers at canteens, shops, storage bases and auxiliary farms to prevent food theft. And in June, a decree on preparations for the harvest declared that anyone stealing grain and other products w ould be subject to the law o f 7 August 1932 on the theft o f public property. This draconian law, introduced at the height o f the crisis following the collectivisation o f agriculture, had made stealing from state and collective firm s punishable by death (or in extenuating cir­ cumstances, ten years in prison). That it was revived by the govern­ m ent in sum m er 1943 indicates the seriousness o f the problem . As a sign o f the breakdown o f conventional norms o f social beha­ viour, however, the theft o f food pales into insignificance besides the cannibalism reported from Leningrad. Corpses assembled for mass bu­ rials were commonly found w ith the fleshy parts rem oved; m urderers butchered their victims and sold their flesh, disguised in various pro­ ducts, on the black market; crazed w ith hunger, people ate the bodies o f their nearest relatives.3839 Given that starvation conditions existed elsewhere, albeit on a smaller scale, cannibalism may not have been confined to Leningrad.

T H E FA M ILY Personal relations were no less profoundly affected by the w ar than material conditions o f life. For the great m ajority o f people, war brought prolonged separation from their closest friends and relatives. M illions o f m en were conscripted for military service, and departed from their towns and villages, many never to return. M illions o f m en and w om en were drafted, for periods ranging from a few days to m onths, into w ork w hich took them far from their homes. M illions o f youths aged 14 and upwards were mobilised into the State Labour Reserves, taken from their families and sent to live in factory barracks

38 M oskoff 1990: 176. 39 Salisbury 1971: 550-3.


Subsistence and sunnval

under conditions o f strict discipline.40 In the chaos w hich accompa­ nied evacuation or flight from areas threatened by the German ad­ vance, countless families were split up. Some o f their members rem ained in occupied territory, while others were dispersed to the interior o f the country. For weeks, m onths, even years, millions o f parents lost contact w ith their children (many o f w hom were on holi­ day in Pioneer camps, sometimes hundreds o f miles away, w hen war began). Decades later, people w ould still be searching for (and dis­ covering) relatives lost in the war, through social organisations, news­ paper bulletins and radio programmes.41 Separation and, still m ore, bereavem ent inevitably inflicted heavy psychological strain. And to this was often added the material hardship caused by the loss o f a m ajor part o f the family incom e. Particularly at risk were the families o f m en serving in the R ed Army. W hile they received state allowances and other forms o f assistance from local auth­ orities, these were not automatically granted. T o reinforce soldiers* m otivation to fight, a Stavka decree o f 16 August 1941 made the w ell-being o f their families dependent on their ow n fate. The families o f those captured, and thus assumed to have betrayed their country, it was ordered, lost any entidem ent to allowances.42 T he war not only imposed great strains on individual families, but also weakened the family as an institution, albeit temporarily. After a surge o f weddings in June and July 1941, as couples about to be parted by the w ar clutched at the symbol o f personal security, the num ber o f marriages declined steeply. In Siberia, it fell from 4.7 per thousand o f population in 1941 to 2.7 in 1942 and 2.3 in 1943.43 W ith fewer young m en and w om en marrying, the average age at marriage rose sharply. T he divorce rate rem ained unchanged, although the propor­ tion o f divorces consisting o f marriages ending w ithin a year o f taking place rose,44 a sign o f the effect o f separation on wartim e marriages: T he decline in registered marriages may have been associated w ith an increase in the informal, tem porary relationships typical o f a m ore mobile wartim e population. Its prim e cause, however, must have been 40 For a vivid account o f their conditions, see Kravchenko 1947: 406. It may be exaggerated; but the author was direcdy involved in the supply o f labour to industry. 41 For examples, see Maksimova 1988: 235-308. 42 M itrofanova 1989: 337. 43 Alekseev, Isupov 1986: 101-2. Among the urban populadon o f Omsk region, the marriage rate rose from 8.4 per thousand in May 1941 to 15.3 per thousand in June, before declining to 11.3 per thousand in July and 8.8 per thousand in August. Among the rural population, however, the temporary increase was only slight. 44 In Novosibirsk region it rose from 16.5 per cent in 1942 to 22.8 per cent in 1945. Alekseev, Isupov 1986: 105.


The Soviet Home Front, 1941—1945

the sudden reduction in the num ber o f m en o f marriageable age in civilian society. Conversely, demobilisation at the end o f the war w ould be accompanied by a sharp rise in the marriage rate; in Siberia, from 3.6 in 1944 to 6.4 per thousand in 1945. T he decline in births per thousand o f the population was even m ore drastic, as the following figures show:45 Moscow


22.2 17.7 8.5

33.2 21.5 12.5 12.2 15.6

1941 1942 1943 1944 1945

— —

In sharp contrast to peacetim e, the birth-rate was consistently higher in the towns than in the countryside during the war (and higher in larger towns than smaller ones). T he averages conceal some very large de­ creases indeed. Am ong the rural population o f the Omsk region, for example, the birth-rate fell from 38.8 per thousand in O ctober 1941 to 6.9 per thousand in Decem ber 1943.46 A ltogether, the children bom during the war am ounted to only half the num ber w hich w ould have been expected in normal conditions - a significant part o f the demographic damage caused by the war. Several factors contributed to this decline. Poor nutrition reduced w om en’s fertility: an extrem e example was Leningrad, w here the; birth-rate in 1943 was zero. T he substantial increase in the num ber o f employed w om en and their heavy w ork-load also reduced the incen­ tive and opportunity for w om en to have children. So did the reduced ability o f other members o f the family to contribute to child-care. Illhealth may have resulted in m ore miscarriages, and the difficulties o f raising children in wartim e, particularly for single w om en, may have led to an increase in abortions (although this is not very likely, given that the harsh anti-abortion law o f 1936 was still in effect). B ut the prim e reason for the low er birth-rate was the relative ab­ sence o f m en. This was clearly reflected in the abrupt decline in the birth-rate w ithin a year o f the beginning o f the war. Am ong the urban population o f the Novosibirsk region, it fell steadily from 38.4 in January 1942 to 27.7 in April and 19.2 in June. T he lowest levels were reached approximately ten m onths after the battles o f Stalingrad 45 Alekseev, Isupov 1986: 88. 46 Alekseev, Isupov 1986: 90-1.


Subsistence and survival

and Kursk, for w hich heavy additional mobilisation for the R ed Army had occurred.47 T he upturn in the birth-rate at the end o f 1944 and beginning o f 1945, well before the effects o f demobilisation could be felt, showed the influence o f im proved conditions from spring 1944 onwards; but not until 1946 w ould a substantial increase occur, though the prew ar level w ould never again be attained. Eventually the drastic impact o f the w ar on the family prom pted governm ent intervention to reverse some o f its effects. A Supreme Soviet decree o f 8 July 1944 introduced several measures designed to increase the birth-rate. N ew orders o f ‘heroine-m other’ (for m others o f ten children or m ore) and ‘m otherhood glory’ (for seven to nine children) were created, together w ith the ‘m otherhood medal’ (for five or six children). A progressive scale o f grants to m others was intro­ duced for the birth o f the third child onwards, ranging from 400 rou­ bles at the birth o f the third child to 1,300 for the fourth child and up to 5,000 roubles for the tenth. Grants were also introduced for single m others, and they were given the option o f putting their children into state-run children's homes, w ith the right to reclaim them at any tim e —a reflection o f the rise in illegitimate births in wartim e, as well as o f the state's desire to encourage a higher birth-rate. Conversely, a tax was imposed on couples w ith fewer than three children.48 At the same tim e, the decree included a num ber o f measures apparendy intended to strengthen marriage as an institution. Unregistered marriages ceased to be legally valid, divorce was made m uch m ore difficult and expensive, and a heavy tax was imposed on bachelors over the age o f 25. T he potential effect o f these measures, however, was largely underm ined by the provision that only married fathers were to be legally responsible for the m aintenance o f their offipring. Allow­ ing m en to have families while avoiding material responsibility for them may have been a retreat from conventional m orality, but it was a recognition o f demographic realities in a situation w here young w om en gready outnum bered young m en. For a governm ent acutely aware o f the massive losses caused by the war, long-term population grow th was the top priority.

47 Alekseev, Isupov 1986: 92. 48 W erth 1964: 935-6.



The social order

D uring the war, for the third tim e in a quarter o f a century, Soviet society was convulsed by massive population m ovem ent and social m obility. As in the tw o earlier periods —first, W orld W ar I, the R ev­ olution and Civil W ar, then the collectivisation and industrialisation drives —huge numbers o f people were on the move from one end o f the country to another, and from one social group to another.1 Millions o f people were evacuated to the east, or simply fled as refugees. M illions o f conscripted workers and peasants travelled in the opposite direction, leaving their towns and villages to serve in the R ed Army (the results are shown in Table 3, p. 213). The boundaries be­ tw een urban and rural society were endlessly crossed, as tow n dwellers travelled to the countryside in search o f food, or were sent to rein­ force the depleted work-force on the farms; as peasants were mobilised to w ork in factories and on building sites; as prisoners were dispatched to industry and agriculture, as well as to the front. Although the auth­ orities were able to maintain m ore control over this mass m ovem ent o f people than on previous occasions, it again placed enorm ous strains on the social and administrative structures, while its impact on both classes and individuals was deep and lasting.

W ORKERS The W ar saw the Soviet w orking class transformed for the second 1 For a vivid description o f Soviet society ‘in flux’ in the late 1920s and early 1930s, see Lewin 1985: 209-40.


The sodal order

tim e in little over a decade. D uring the 1930s, a new w orking class had been created. W hile many experienced ’cadre’ workers had been prom oted into m anagement, millions o f recruits, particularly from the countryside, had flooded into the factories and mines, into transport and construction. By the mid-1930s those w ho had begun w ork be­ fore the beginning o f the industrialisation drive were only a small mi­ nority o f the labour force. B ut the speed o f this transform ation w ould be dwarfed by the dramatic pace o f change in the com position o f the w orking class under the impact o f war. W ithin a year or tw o o f the outbreak o f war, new recruits again comprised the m ajority o f Soviet workers. The main causes o f change were the loss o f territory w here a sub­ stantial part o f Soviet industry and its w ork-force was based, and the conscription o f millions o f workers into the arm ed forces. M any others were killed by enemy action o r died from the privations o f wartim e. T he result was a large reduction in the num ber o f workers employed in the econom y in the first year and a half o f the war. This was partly m itigated by the evacuation o f workers from the occupied areas to the rear and by the recruitm ent o f new workers, w hich together w ith the gradual liberation o f occupied territory resulted in a steady increase in the num ber o f workers from 1943 onwards. Even so, the immense scale o f Soviet military and civilian losses, and the large-scale destruc­ tion o f industrial plant as the Germans retreated, m eant that at the end o f the war there were still fewer Soviet workers than there had been on its eve. The num ber o f workers employed in large-scale industry in war­ tim e as shown in Table 4 (p. 216) varied as follows (in millions): 1940 8.3

1941 7.8

1942 5.5

1943 5.7

1944 6.4

1945 7.2

These figures conceal the scale o f the precipitous change in the num ­ ber o f workers in some branches o f industry in the first part o f the war. In the crucial iron and steel industry, for example, the num ber in June 1942 was only half w hat it had been a year earlier.2 T he num ber o f workers employed in the defence industry, on the other hand, rose immediately - partly through the redistribution o f labour from non­ defence sectors, pardy through the recruitm ent o f new workers, pardy through the transfer o f whole factories from civilian to war producrion. As a w hole, the num ber o f workers in heavy industry fell less 2 Mitrofanova 1984: 361.


The Soviet Home Front, Î 9 4 İ - İ 9 4 5

than that in light industry, reflecting the econom ic priorities o f the w ar effort. R ecruits to the w ork-force came from a variety o f sources. Many came from the families o f workers mobilised to fight: partly out o f a desire to identify w ith the husbands, fathers or sons at the front, pardy to provide m uch needed incom e for the rem aining family, partly be­ cause o f legal and moral pressures to w ork. There were continuous campaigns to attract housewives, pensioners and adolescents into the w ork-force. W hite-collar workers and people in service industry were drafted into production. T he Commissariat o f Defence sent conscripts unfit for military service to w ork in factories, on building sites, o r on transport, and often reallocated w ounded servicemen to production after recovery. In the last year and a half o f the war, skilled workers and engineers w ere released from the armed forces to return to w ork, particularly in the newly liberated regions. But as in the early 1930s the countryside increasingly became the main source o f new workers during the war. W hile millions o f its inhabitants were drafted into the arm ed forces, millions o f others — kolkhoz and individual peasants, artisans, young people —became w or­ kers. Betw een 1942 and 1944, a wartim e Com m ittee for Registration and Allocation o f Labour Pow er (hereafter Labour Com m ittee) m o­ bilised 3 m illion people for perm anent w ork in industry, building and transport, o f w hom 49.6 per cent were from urban and 50.4 per cent from rural backgrounds. As tim e w ent on, the countryside became ever m ore im portant as the source o f new workers, accounting in 1942 for 23 per cent o f the total, in 1943 for 59 per cent, and in 1944 for 62 per cent. M uch o f this increase came from the population o f the liberated regions. 3 T he state o f flux in the w orking class was not confined to the m ovem ent o f millions o f people in and out o f the industrial w ork­ force. M any others changed their position w ithin it, either geographi­ cally or professionally or both. In the early stages o f the war, hundreds o f thousands o f workers m oved eastwards from the w ar zones to the rear. W hereas in 1940 the eastern areas o f the country had accounted for 37 per cent o f workers and employees, in 1942 this figure had risen to 70 per cent.4 Skilled workers in particular were evacuated w ith their factories to the Urals, Siberia or the Far East. M any m ore made their ow n way to the rear as refugees. Later there w ould be large-scale m ovem ent in the opposite direction, as workers were sent 3 Mitrofanova 1984: 353—4. 4 M itrofanova 1984: 365.


The social order

into the liberated territories to rebuild w hat had been destroyed and to get factories w orking again. The most conspicuous features o f Soviet workers in wartim e were their youth, their inexperience and the great preponderance o f wom en. In many factories the m ajority o f workers were under 25;5 in the newly built or restored engineering factories by the end o f the war, they comprised up to three-quarters. In Leningrad, according to one report, by June 1943, 80 per cent o f all factory workers w ere 23 years o r under.6 T he proportion o f juveniles under 18 in the w ork­ force rose substantially, from 6 per cent o f workers and employees in industry in 1940 to 15 per cent in 1942. M any workers w ere very young. O f 2,460,000 workers under 18 in 1944, 712,000 were only 14 or 15 years old.7 Official figures do not reveal the num ber w ho w ere younger still, but there were certainly many. At the age o f 12 a child became a ‘dependant* and his or her food ration was reduced accordingly. W here food was scarce, sheer hunger, or the need to provide for other members o f the family, thus forced children to seek work; and though it was illegal for an employer to hire anyone under the age o f 14, children often found w ork. T he influx o f new workers into the labour force produced a corre­ sponding fell in its average stazh (length o f employm ent). This was particularly true o f the priority sectors, such as defence industry and engineering, w here expansion was greatest. In Leningrad, three-quar­ ters o f the workers in defence industry at the end o f 1942 had begun w ork since the beginning o f that year.8 By the beginning o f 1943, 60-70 per cent o f all Leningrad workers had a stazh o f betw een six m onths and tw o years. By the end o f the war, m ost had not m ore than three years, and many had only one year. T here was still a nu­ cleus o f older workers, but it had shrunk enormously. A t the Kirov works in Leningrad at the beginning o f 1943, 18 per cent o f workers had a stazh o f ten years or m ore. In 1945 only 25 per cent o f Kuzbass miners and 16 per cent o f Karaganda miners had been em ployed since before the war.9 Inevitably the reduced length o f w ork experience, com bined w ith the m uch shorter am ount o f tim e devoted to training, resulted in low er skill levels. W om en’s participation in the w ork-force had been a conspicuous feature o f the industrialisation drive o f the 1930s, as it had also been o f 5 6 7 8 9

Mitrofanova 1984: 373. Bidlack 1987: 249. M itrofanova 1984: 373. Bidlack 1987: 222, 239. M itrofanova 1984: 381.


The Soviet Home Front, İ 9 4 İ —Î9 4 5

Russian industry during W orld W ar I. B ut in W orld W ar II it rose to new heights (Table 5, p. 216). ‘M en to the front, w om en to the factories!’ was a familiar slogan in the early part o f the war; the appeal to w om en to replace the conscripted male members o f their families, together w ith the mobilisation o f w om en for w ork w hich allowed few exem ptions, produced an influx o f w om en into the w ork-force. If they had comprised 41 per cent o f workers and employees in 1940, they were 52 per cent in 1942 and 53 per cent in 1943—4, declining slightly to 51 per cent in 1945. In many factories wom en soon com­ prised the m ajority, and sometimes the overw helm ing m ajority, o f workers. In light industry, w here they had always predom inated, 8 0 90 per cent o f the w ork-force were generally wom en. B ut their pro­ portion in heavy industry rose very sharply. In 1942 over half o f all turbine operators in pow er stations were w om en, and over a quarter o f all workers in coal-m ining. By the end o f 1944, they comprised 41.5 per cent o f workers in the restored Donbass m ines.101 Close to the front Üne, the female proportion o f the w ork-force was even greater. In Leningrad, merely betw een July and O ctober 1941 in tw o m ajor engineering factories, it rose from approximately one-quarter to three-quarters. At the giant Kirov works, tw o-thirds o f workers by January 1943 were wom en. By the end o f 1942, 80 per cent o f all Leningrad industrial workers were w om en, and by February 1943, 84 per cent.11 Like all Soviet citizens, workers saw their conditions deteriorate sharply during the war. At w ork they faced a longer w orking day and compulsory overtim e, the end o f leave entitlem ent, continual pressure to m eet higher production targets, obligatory military training o r civil defence duties, the virtual suspension o f labour safety regulations, and a lack o f adequate heating, lighting and ventilation. At hom e, the scarc­ ity o f food and other basic necessities was a continuous and often extrem e feature o f their lives. W orst off were workers in cities close to the front line (and above all Leningrad), to whose hardships was added the threat o f death from enemy action, and evacuated workers, provi­ sion for w hom tended to be minimal. Y et workers were also to some extent cushioned against the worst effects o f the war. T heir rations were higher than non-m anual em ­ ployees, let alone adult dependants, while peasants on collective forms received no rations at all. Factory canteens, shops and allotments were also a vital source o f food. T he support available at the w ork-place, 10 Mitrofanova 1984: 376-7. 11 Bidlack 1987: 119, 223.


The social order

how ever, w ent well beyond this. M any workers and their families lived in factory barracks, or even in the factories themselves; cramped though conditions w ere, at least heating and lighting were m ore likely to be available there. Factories also provided clinics, nurseries, buan­ deries, baths, libraries, reading rooms and other amenities. In Lening­ rad, brigades o f young workers organised at factories by the Komsomol took responsibility for taking food and fuel to sick people, cleaning apartments, and even burying the dead. W orking-class soli­ darity and m utual aid, empty phrases for many years, took on new m eaning in wartim e.

PEASANTS Despite the large increase in the urban population during the 1930s, the m ajority o f Soviet citizens in 1941 still lived in the countryside and w orked on the land. Peasants, mostly consisting o f collective far­ mers, but including a small proportion o f individual formers, together w ith manual and w hite-collar workers on state forms and m otor-trac12 to r stations, comprised 60 per cent o f the population. Collectivisation o f agriculture had given the state decisive influence over the organisation o f production, allocation o f labour and distribu­ tion o f produce — and it w ould use these powers to great effect in harnessing the resources o f rural society to the w ar effort. B ut the new order was for from firmly rooted in the countryside by the tim e o f the German invasion. M uch o f the peasantry was em bittered and alienated, while many officials in positions o f responsibility were inexperienced and insecure. T he countryside, m oreover, rem ained to a large extent a w orld apart. Collectivisation had not abolished the large cultural and material differences betw een tow n and country, any m ore than it had ended the isolation and remoteness o f rural society from the urban centres o f political, econom ic and cultural life. If any class constituted the weak link in the Soviet war effort, it was the peasantry; although in foct its contribution was to be substantial. At the same tim e, it w ould be m ore damaged by the war than any other section o f society. T he war saw a mass exodus from the countryside, above all o f young able-bodied m en. M ore than 60 per cent o f the Soviet armed forces in W orld W ar II came from the countryside.1213 In absolute 12 Narkhoz 1960: 10. 13 Nove 1985: 78.


The Soviet Home Front, 1 9 4 1 -1 9 4 5

term s, the latter’s population bore the brunt o f the fighting and casual­ ties. Large num bers were also drafted into w ar industry, transport and building. Agriculture thus lost the youngest and fittest part o f its w ork­ force, at the very least for the duration o f the war, and in millions o f cases perm anently. Those w ho left also included many o f the most technically qualified cadres, m uch sought after by the armed forces and industry alike. Even highly valued personnel such as tractor and com­ bine harvester drivers were fiable to military call-up or the labour draft; there w ere no ‘reserved professions' in agriculture until 1944. As a result o f this exodus, the num ber o f able-bodied collective farmers fell by 19 m illion (over 50 per cent) betw een 1941 and 1944 (see Table 6). Replacem ents for those w ho left came from a variety o f sources. W om en w ho had previously w orked part-tim e or not at all w ere pressed into service. So were disabled ex-servicem en, pensioners, juveniles and even children, as is shown in Table 5. M any evacuees were resetded on collective farms. And for sowing and harvesting, large num bers o f urban residents were tem porarily drafted into the countryside. T he extent o f the labour shortage in the countryside is shown by the fact that at such times on some collective farms they constituted up to 80 per cent o f the w ork-force.14 T he task feeing this depleted and weakened class was daunting in the extreme: to feed the vastly expanded armed forces, as well as the urban and rural populadons. It is true that the number, o f people w ho needed feeding had feilen betw een 1940 and 1942 by one-third, be­ cause o f German occupadon o f m uch o f the European part o f the USSR. O n the other hand, the lost territory included some o f the best agricultural land in the U SSR, as well as a significant secrion o f the w ork-force. The result was that the gross output o f agriculture and food processing fell by three-fifths. T he condidons in w hich the rural population lived and w orked rapidly deteriorated. Literally vital though supplying food to the popu­ lation was, the needs o f agriculture were a lesser priority for the gov­ ernm ent than those o f the arm ed forces and w ar industry. Agriculture was thus starved o f investm ent. O ne effect was that mechanisation, w hich had been one o f the few positive features o f Soviet agriculture in the 1930s, was halted, indeed reversed. Tractor factories w ere con­ verted to tank production, and the supply o f agricultural m achinery to the countryside abrupdy ceased, to resume only in 1944 - and even then mostly to the devastated liberated areas. Tractors, lorries and cars 14 Aniskov 1966: 142.


The sodal order

w ere widely com m andeered by the R ed Army; and those w hich re­ m ained were often immobilised by the dire shortage o f spare parts, the lack o f technicians in the M TSs, and the shortage o f fuel. Agriculture once again became an overwhelm ingly manual occupation. In 1942 only one-fifth o f the grain was harvested w ith the help o f m achinery; m ost was brought in by manual labour and horse pow er.1516B ut horses w ere also taken by the R ed Army on a large scale, their draught pow er being replaced by that o f catde or hum an beings. A decline in labour productivity and output was the inevitable con­ sequence o f these developments. In 1943, the worst year o f the war for agriculture, total output fell to a m ere 38 per cent o f the 1940 level. T he authorities tried to reverse this trend by various adminis­ trative means, including the réintroduction o f the political departm ents o f m otor-tractor stations and state farms in N ovem ber 1941. T he poli­ tetdely, whose predecessors had been instrum ental in pushing through the policy o f collectivisation a decade earlier, comprised a vanguard o f 7,200 organisations w hich, until their abolition in May 1943, played a key role in im plem enting official policies in the countryside.17 Some policies, how ever, only exacerbated the situation. Drives to expand the sown area, launched w ith all the publicity and contrived enthusiasm o f socialist com petition campaigns, resulted in low er yields, given the lack o f sufficient labour to ensure proper cultivation. Farms w hich boosted grain collections at the expense o f keeping sufficient seed paid the inevitable price the following season. An early casualty o f excessive state procurem ents was livestock. Shortages o f feed resulted in increased slaughtering; as did the pressure put on peasants during the first year o f the w ar to sell their private livestock to the collective. Peasants also came under direct pressure to w ork harder. In April 1942 their compulsory w ork norms were increased. Failure to achieve the set num ber o f tmdodny (workpoints) rendered culprits liable to punish­ ments ranging from compulsory labour w ith deduction o f earnings to loss o f private plots. It may be true, as some Soviet historians argue, that m ost peasants were already overfulfilling their norms, and that this measure was directed only against the most indolent among them , or m ore likely against those w ho were devoting themselves too m uch to their private plots and too little to w ork on the collective. It appears that sanctions were rarely applied even w hen norms were not fulfilled. B ut the mere threat that they m ight be probably provided sufficient incentive for almost all to comply. 15 Novc 1985: 82. 16 IVOVSS vol 6 1965: 45. 17 Savel’ev, Saw in 1974: 39.


The Soviet Home Front, Î 9 4 Î —İ9 4 5

A different kind o f pressure was reflected in the econom ic relation­ ship betw een the state, the collective farms and the peasants. The prices paid by the form er for the latter’s produce was purely nominal. This had already been the situation before the war. W hat changed in wartim e was that quotas for obligatory deliveries by the collective farms o f key crops such as grain and potatoes were increased, leaving them w ith less to distribute to their members in payment for w orkpoints. Some distributed nothing at all. Since the state took no respon­ sibility for feeding the rural population, w hich was not covered by the rationing system in force in the towns, but in effect left it to its ow n devices w here food was concerned, the peasantry’s situation was ex­ trem ely precarious. W hat averted disaster was that during the war the governm ent put the imperatives o f survival before the dictates o f ideo­ logy in its policy towards the peasants. It suspended its hostility to private production and the m arket, turned a blind eye to the peasants’ informal and theoretically illegal econom ic activity, and so enabled most o f them to stay, how ever precariously, above subsistence level. T he key to survival on the collective farm during W orld W ar II was the private plot. Small though it was (on average, little over a quarter o f a hectare),18 it provided, either directly or indirectly, the m ajority o f the peasants’ food. For most peasants it was not, as offi­ cially described, their ’subsidiary holding’, but their main source o f subsistence. Even for hard-w orking collective farmers earning over twice the obligatory norm o f w orkpoints on the collective form, it accounted for tw o-thirds o f their incom e.1920And this despite the fact that the private plot was offen cultivated by older members o f the family. From it, peasants obtained potatoes and cabbages (for most, the main elements o f their diet), as well as other vegetables, eggs, milk and meat. The larger part o f the produce o f their plots they consumed themselves themselves; but the shortage o f basic necessities forced them also to produce for the local m arket. There they traded their surplus, either for cash or, by barter, for bread, salt, fuel and the many other items essential for daily life and w ork, from tar to axle grease, unob­ tainable from the state. W ith the tem porary revival o f the m arket, private trade revived for the first tim e since the end o f NEP. Besides allowing peasants to ac­ quire basic necessities, it also served the function o f partially com pen­ sating them for the state’s extraction o f their surplus for the benefit o f the armed forces and the urban population. Tow n inhabitants regularly 18 Arutyunyan 1970: 352. 19 Arutyunyan 1970: 350. 20 Arutyunyan 1970: 334, 353.


The social order

travelled to the countryside in search o f food, or bought it at markets in or on the edge o f towns, paying high prices in cash, clothes and valuables o f every kind. In this way, substantial amounts o f cash and assets were transferred from tow n to country. In the process, individual peasants acquired considerable wealth. O ne indication is the size o f purchases o f bonds for the R ed Army Fund o r the Victory Fund. Hundreds o f peasants bought bonds for stuns ranging from 30,000 to 100,000 roubles; the maximum recorded was 400,000 roubles.21 H ow voluntary such purchases were is hard to say. W hile they may have been m otivated by patriotism or by identifi­ cation w ith relatives and friends at the front, pressure may also have been put on people (as it was on workers to subscribe to industrialisa­ tion ‘loans’ during the first Five Year Plan) to pay w hat was in effect an additional tax. T he im portant point is that some peasants were in a position to hand over very large sums o f m oney to the state. Its origin, in any case, was probably often dubious from an official point o f view. T he remoteness o f many collective farms made close supervision o f their activities by the authorities difficult, and this gave considerable scope for corruption. Goods could be distributed to members, for example, not only on the basis o f labour points earned, but also on the order o f the kolkhoz chairman. T he same person could allow the rent or even sale o f collective farm land to individuals.22 W hether by legal or illegal means, even during the war, some people in the countryside prospered. B ut they were very m uch the exception. For the vast m ajority o f peasants, w ho had neither the entrepreneurial talent, nor the fertile land, valuable produce or advantageous geographical location o f these fortunate individuals, fife in wartim e was hard. O n average, they ate even less than their urban counterparts, w ith hunger, m alnutrition, dis­ ease and prem ature death the inevitable consequences. The Soviet state’s treatm ent o f the peasantry in W orld W ar II, measured by its extraction o f food from the countryside, was certainly harsher than its Tsarist predecessor’s in W orld W ar I (which had helped to precipitate a revolution), and probably even m ore ruthless than its ow n policy o f requisitioning during the Civil W ar (which had ended w ith the peasantry in virtual revolt and the Soviet governm ent forced into the retreat o f the N ew Econom ic Policy). So why did Soviet peasants not react against the hardships imposed on them in W orld W ar II?

21 Aniskov 1966: 337. 22 Arutyunyan 1970: 348.


The Soviet Home Front, İ 9 4 İ - İ 9 4 5

T he explanation given by some Soviet historians, that the peasantry was already strongly com m itted to the Soviet order and above all to the collective farm system, is very dubious. T here is abundant evi­ dence that many peasants hoped the war w ould result in decollectivisa­ tion, and for this reason welcom ed or looked forward to the Germans’ arrival. From the western border to the Volga, peasants are said to have planned the redistribution o f land once the collective farms were dissolved. Soviet historians themselves allude to this, noting the grow th o f ‘petit-bourgeois individualistic attitudes’ am ong peasants during the war.23 There seems litde reason to doubt that the peasants’ loyalty to Soviet pow er w ould have been severely shaken had the Germans re­ turned the land to them . B ut the collective farm system was retained in the occupied areas, w hich, together w ith the Germans’ barbaric treatm ent o f the Soviet population, destroyed any illusion peasants m ight have entertained about their conquerers’ intentions. Patriotic resistance to the invader rem ained their only realistic option. M oreover, by 1941 the Soviet state’s capacity for com batting internal and external threats to its auth­ ority was far m ore formidable than tw o decades earlier. Ultim ately, how ever, the main factor w hich preserved the peasants’ loyalty to the Soviet state was the latter’s perceived ability to m aintain order in the rear and to lead resistance to the foreign invaders at the front. It de­ m anded heavy sacrifices o f them , and at the same tim e it offered them the prospect that their patriotism w ould not be in vain. T he war not only imposed great burdens on peasants as individuals, but also contributed to their decline as a class. M any millions o f young males died or were crippled; many others, both male and female, never returned to the countryside, choosing, after demobilisation from the armed forces or after the end o f their drafted em ploym ent in w ar industry, to settle in towns. T he war thus accelerated the shift o f population from the countryside to the tow n, at the same tim e setting the condition o f Soviet agriculture back several years and w idening the gap betw een agriculture and industry.

IN T E L L E C T U A L S Unlike the w orking class and the peasantry, the smallest o f the three social groups included in the official description o f Soviet society’s class 23 Aniskov 1966: 303.


The social order

structure saw its position im prove during the war. W hile as individuals the highly qualified, professional specialists in various cultural, scientific and technical fields w ho comprised the intelligentsia often suffered hardships similar to those experienced by workers and peasants, as a group their role and status was significantly enhanced by die war.24 T he contrast w ith the prew ar period was striking. In the 1930s the size o f the intelligentsia had grown substantially, and econom ic grow th had opened up new professional and material opportunities. B ut the price had been a heavy one. T he intelligentsia was heavily purged in the late 1930s, and the context w ithin w hich its members had to w ork was ever m ore restrictive, w ith a party line laid down in every sphere o f science and culture. N o r had repression ceased w ith the end o f the Ezhov purges. W hile the num ber o f arrests fell sharply after 1938, and while some people were freed, others continued to suffer. The great aircraft designer, A N Tupolev, for example, was arrested on the eve o f the war, as were several other leading specialists, and forced to continue research in captivity. T he w ar changed this situation radically. Pasternak’s rem ark that, compared w ith the 1930s, ’the war came as a breath o f fresh air, an om en o f deliverance, a purifying storm ’,25 ap­ plied to no group so m uch as the intelligentsia. For a tim e at least, its interests coincided w ith the regim e’s. T hat the leadership’s basic dis­ trust o f the intelligentsia had altered little was reflected in Stalin’s char­ acteristic jibe, in his R ed Square speech o f 7 N ovem ber 1941, that ’T he enem y is not as strong as some terror-stricken w ould-be intellec­ tuals picture him .’26 B ut the need for the intelligentsia’s expertise was urgent as never before; and there were obvious limits to the efficacy o f coercion in gaining its cooperation. W ithout abandoning the controls established over the preceding years, the regime had to apply them m ore selectively, and give intellectuals greater scope to contribute to the war effort. N o t that they lacked incentives to do so. W hile their responses to war were determ ined by the same range o f motives, from patriotism to self-preservation, as those o f others, they were well placed to grasp the full extent o f the threat posed by the German invasion to national independence, to Russia’s cultural heritage, and to the social and econom ic gains o f the R evolution. They were also prepared, organisa­ tionally and psychologically, by developments over the previous de24 For an analysis o f the composition and role o f the intelligentsia in Soviet society, see Churchward 1973: 1-15. 25 Pasternak B 1985 Doctor Zhivago, translated by Hayward M and Harari M, Lon­ don. C ited by Piper 1984: 131. 26 Stalin 1945: 37.


The Soviet Home Front, i 941—i 945

cade to m eet the demands now placed on them . W hatever the damage inflicted by the purges, and whatever the intellectual drawbacks o f centralised organisation, the creation o f large networks o f scientific re­ search institutes and powerful unions in virtually every branch o f cul­ tural life over the past decade undoubtedly facilitated collective action on the intelligentsia’s part. And the regim e’s continual demand that theory be finked w ith practice, that intellectual w ork be relevant to the needs o f society, had tended to inculcate the value o f a practical orientation for science and culture. T he difference now was that the intelligentsia could have no doubt about the legitimacy or the necessity o f the cause it was called on to serve. Soviet intellectuals’ participation in the war effort involved a great range o f activities. For scientists and technical specialists, these included the developm ent o f weapons and comm unications systems, the provi­ sion o f medical services for the arm ed forces, the fight against epide­ mics at the front and in the rear, the evacuation and reorganisation o f industry, the struggle to feed the population. M uch o f this activity was channelled through bodies designed to fink the academic w orld w ith production. In many cities ‘comm ittees o f scholars’ w ere set up which brought scientists, engineers and ‘practical’ specialists together to w ork on concrete tasks, such as saving materials, energy and fuel, and im ­ proving production technology. A nother vehicle for applying science to the needs o f industry was the ‘factory laboratories’, some o f w hich 27 evolved into large, factory-based research centres. M embers o f the ‘creative intelligentsia’, engaged in art, culture and the hum anities, were no less involved in the war effort. T heir main contribution was in focusing the public’s attention on the nature and aims o f the war, and in m aintaining popular morale. Historians w rote on military and patriotic them es and stressing continuity betw een the Russian past and the Soviet present (for example the works o f £ V Tarie and R Vipper, and the histories o f the Russian Army and Navy published by the Academy o f Sciences Institute o f History). Com po­ sers depicted the people’s heroism (as in Shostakovich’s ‘Leningrad’ symphony, Prokofiev’s opera War and Peace, Kabalevskii’s suite ‘The avenging people’). Film-makers produced dozens o f w ar epics, includ­ ing The German Soldiers’ Defeat at Moscow, The Battle for Sevastopol, She Defends the Motherland, Stalingrad and Berlin. M ost influential o f all were writers. Some gained enorm ous popu­ larity for their expression o f intense feeling? o f pain, patriotism , forti­ tude, hatred and revenge. At the front, in factories, in beseiged 27 Savel’ev, Saw in 1974: 78-9.


The social order

Leningrad, poets read their w ork to huge audiences. Prom inent writers became war correspondents, and the reports, pamphlets and fictional works o f the best know n o f these, such as Il’ya Ehrenburg, Vasilii Grossman and Konstantin Sim onov, had a massive circulation. The m ain them es o f wartim e literature were predictable, but no less effec­ tive for that - revenge, as in Ehrenburg’s article ‘T he justification o f hatred’ or Sim onov’s poem ‘Kill him !’; heroism, as in Margarita Aliger’s ‘Zoya’, about a young partisan executed by the Germans; defi­ ance in adversity, as in Olga Berggolts’s ‘February diary’, describing Leningrad in the blockade; and the resourcefulness o f ordinary R us­ sians, as in Alexander Tvardovskii’s immensely popular poem ‘Vasilii Tyorkin’. T he intelligentsia’s wartim e activity also brought about its greater involvem ent in decision-making, as well as greater official recognition. Leading scientists were appointed to governm ent posts. Academicians I P Bardin and B E Vedenev were D eputy People’s Commissars for the Iron and Steel Industry and Electrical Pow er Industry respectively, while academician S I Vavilov served as a GKO plenipotentiary. Several other academicians, including P L Kapitsa, A F Fersman, A F Ioffe and A N Bakh, had key assignments from the G K O , Gosplan or specific commissariats.28 GKO and Sovnarkom meetings were frequendy at­ tended by academic experts. And far from scientific activity declining, new institutions were created during the war. These included the Academy o f M edical Sciences and the Academy o f Pedagogical Scien­ ces, the Azerbaijan, Armenian, Kazakh and U zbek Academies o f Science, and the western Siberian and Kirgizia branches o f the AllU nion Academy o f Sciences.29 In practice, these w ere mainly up­ graded versions o f previously existing institutions, w hich w ould not have involved a substantial com m itm ent o f resources. Even so, they reflected the im portance accorded to science by the governm ent dur­ ing the war. N one o f this prevented a worsening o f the physical conditions in w hich many intellectuals lived and worked. Like others, they were called on to dig trenches or bring in the harvest or volunteer for the narodnoe opolchenie. Like others, they were exposed to danger, even death: 417 writers alone were killed at the front.30 M any academic and cultural institutions were evacuated to distant locations, w here their personnel suffered the same cramped conditions and material shortages 28 Savel’ev, Saw in 1974: 64. 29 Savel’ev, Saw in 1974: 95. 30 Brown 1985: 243.


The Soviet Home Front, Î 9 4 Î - İ 9 4 5

as other evacuees. Some, however, saw an im provem ent in their relative situation w here food was concerned. Initially the rationing sys­ tem had four categories, w ith intellectuals, classified as w hite-collar workers, placed in the second category. In February 1942, a new first category was introduced for people w orking in w ar industry and for scientific and technical personnel. At least this section o f the intelli­ gentsia was considered sufficiendy im portant to be given the highest rations.31 B ut m ore significant was the general intellectual atmosphere w hich prevailed during the war. W hile the authorities continued to issue di­ rectives and criticisms, and while censorship continued, the extent o f official interference was substantially reduced and the scope for creativ­ ity and self-expression considerably widened. Conform ity w ith doc­ trine was less im portant a criterion o f intellectual w ork than its potential contribution to the war effort. In both the academic and cultural spheres there was a greater degree o f freedom than at any tim e since the 1920s. Towards the end o f the war, ideological orthodoxy began to be reimposed. Even so, it was possible, as the war ended, for theoreticians to advance diverging views on the role o f the Party and state, the organisation o f the econom y, the treatm ent o f the peasantry and Soviet foreign policy.32 And many people, particularly am ong the intelligentsia, looked forward w ith optimism to a postwar society w hich w ould be very different from the Soviet U nion o f the 1930s. U topian as such hopes m ight later seem in retrospect, they were a projection o f real trends in Soviet intellectual life in wartim e.

O F FIC IA L S O f all groups in Soviet society, the one w ith the greatest immediate stake in defeating the Germans was the political and administrative elite, the nomenklatura. For the officials o f the Party and state apparatus, the senior personnel o f all econom ic, social, military and scientific in­ stitutions, the ‘leading cadres’ w ho ran the ‘administrative-com m and system*, the w ar was literally a struggle for survival. It was not only their powers and privileges w hich could depend on the outcom e. So also could their lives —as the Germans’ merciless treatm ent o f captured Soviet officials indicated. This, as well as traditional Bolshevik disci31 M oskoff 1990: 138. 32 Hough 1985: 253-81.


The social order

pline and fear o f retribution for disloyalty, helps explain their unity in the face o f disaster. T hough the succession o f calamities w hich fol­ low ed the surprise attack on 22 June 1941 must have destroyed many illusions w ithin the elite about the leadership’s infallibility, there was no indication o f a split in official ranks, still less o f a fifth colum n or a peace party. Officials w ere no m ore im m une from panic than ordinary citizens, as the behaviour o f many o f them showed w hen M oscow seemed about to be captured in O ctober 1941, showed. B ut even am ong those members o f the Soviet elite captured by the Germans only a small m inority attem pted to organise opposition to Stalin’s gov­ ernm ent, in the form o f General Vlasov’s ’Russian Liberation M ove­ m ent’; and its appeal for support evoked no response w ithin the Soviet establishment. Like other groups, the size and com position o f the nomenklatura was radically affected by the war. A large num ber o f Party and governm ent cadres were immediately drafted into the armed forces to fight or serve as political commissars, or administer the vast logistical operation o f keeping a m odem army in the field. In Leningrad, for example, 96 per cent o f Party branch secretaries left for the front in the first weeks o f the war.33 Local governm ent was also hard hit. In Perm ' region, 80 per cent o f the chairmen o f rural soviets had resigned by M arch 1942.34 A ltogether, 70 per cent o f local soviet officials left to serve in the armed forces.35 At foe centre, vacancies were fille relatively quick­ ly, but at the local level there was a m ajor reduction in administrative personnel. In many departments and enterprises it fell by one-third or one-half.36 This did not always have negative results, given the swollen size o f the bureaucracy in many organisations. Sometimes it may even have increased efficiency by forcing unnecessary procedures to be dropped. At the giant M agnitogorsk metallurgical plant, for example, m ore than 600 types o f w ritten report had been elim inated by M arch 1942.37 But inevitably the inexperience o f many o f the replacements o f those who had left for the front adversely affected the quality o f adm inistration.38 Particularly in the first year and a half o f the war, the pressures on officials w ere enorm ous. In a situation w here the territory and resour­ ces under Soviet control w ere substantially dim inishing and the enemy 33 34 35 36 37 38

Bidlack 1987: 62. Kumanev 1988: 111. Mitrofanova 1989: 247. Kozlov V A 1988: 132. TtuJ 10 March 1942, cited in Kozlov V A 1988: 132. Mitrofanova 1989: 247.


The Soviet Home Front, 1941—1945

was inflicting heavy losses on Soviet forces, the organisational tasks o f supplying the front w ith sufficient material and m anpower, o f extrac­ ting maximum output from industry and agriculture, o f m aintaining an overloaded transport system, and simply keeping order in the civilian population, were massive. In addition there was the political leadership’s relendess demand for action and results, com bined w ith the threat o f dire punishm ent for failure. T he nomenklatura had had over a decade to becom e accus­ tom ed to a ’voluntaristic’ style o f governm ent, to orders being issued regardless o f the objective possibilities o f achieving them . But the early period o f the war in particular produced ultra-voluntarism in the leadership, w ith the desperate situation investing all orders w ith abso­ lute force. Voznesenskii’s reply to a group o f experts from the People’s Commissariat o f Armament in July 1941, w ho were trying to con­ vince him o f the impossibility o f increasing the output o f 37m m guns sixfold in a week, is typical: ‘The fascist horde has swooped dow n on us; to discuss a lesser plan is impermissible. Propose any measures, and the governm ent will endorse them , but we will not reduce the plan by one item .’39 In this sense, the command character o f the system was streng­ thened in the war. Values o f discipline and obedience, already prom i­ nent, became even m ore pronounced, and the hierarchy even m ore explicitly militarised. In transport, military officers were actually put in charge. Kaganovich was replaced as Transport Commissar first by General A V Khrulev, then later again by General I V Kovalev. M ore generally, as a corollary o f the militarisation o f labour introduced in 1941—2, factory directors w ere often given military ranks to emphasise their authority. At the same tim e, the nomenklatura was granted m ore autonom y in carrying out orders during the war than before it. In the interests o f speed and efficiency, the governm ent gave its officials greater scope for using their initiative. In some cases this was specifically reflected in their increased status. Leading designers and directors o f m ajor plants were made deputy people’s commissars, w ith substantial powers over the distribution o f labour and material resources. M any officials were appointed plenipotentiaries o f the centre, exercising substantial auth­ ority on behalf o f governm ent or Party organisations. B ut m ore gener­ ally the need for effective action and the inability o f central governm ent to provide detailed instructions resulted in greater free­ dom for officials to take decisions themselves. At the same tim e there 39 Cited in Kozlov V A 1988: 130-1.


The social order

was a m arked reduction in the use o f punitive sanctions. W hile offi­ cials were still criticised and dismissed, there was less tendency to in­ terpret failure or mistakes as sabotage. Com pared w ith w hat had preceded and w hat w ould follow the war, it was a period w hen offi­ cials were relatively im m une from terror. In material respects, too, the nomenklatura cannot be said to have suffered unduly, though its standard o f living was certainly affected by the war. A m iddle-ranking Soviet diplom at, Nikolai N ovikov, was one o f many officials evacuated to Kuibyshev. The food ration for the family was so meagre that it wasn’t even enough to feed the children enough, let alone the adults. W e had to exchange all the things from our wardrobe which had any value, one after the other, at the market for butter, meat and milk.

Fortunately, ‘catastrophe’ was avoided, thanks to the ‘supplementary feeding’ he received now and then at diplomatic banquets.40 In general, those responsible for running the system managed to look after themselves and their ow n. Even during the starvation w inter o f 1941-2 in Leningrad, special ‘directors’ cafeterias’ were provided for senior factory personnel, while at Party headquarters in the Smolny, officials ate well throughout the siege.41 V ictor Kravchenko, head o f a departm ent at the R SFSR Sovnarkom in M oscow, soon discovered the difference betw een the conditions o f the elite and those o f its subordinates. After his breakfast (‘tw o eggs, some stewed meat, w hite bread, butter, a glass o f hot tea, several lumps o f sugar, a few cookies’), w hat was left every day fed his secretary, his waitress and her tw o children; its m arket value was tw o-thirds o f his secretary’s m onthly wage.42 Inevitably, the behaviour o f the regim e’s representatives varied greatly. Self-sacrifice coexisted w ith self-interest, probity w ith corrup­ tion. M any displayed extrem e courage and com m itm ent to the com­ m on cause at moments o f danger. O thers showed great devotion to saving their own skin. In the panic w hich accompanied the evacuation o f m uch o f the Party and state apparatus from M oscow in m id-O ct­ ober 1941, members o f the elite were to the fore; Small, medium and even high Party or non-Party officials who felt that Moscow had become a job for the Army, and that there was not much

40 Novikov 1989: 118. 41 Bidlack 1987: 164, 209. 42 Kravchenko 1947: 396-7.

I ll

The Soviet Home Front, İ 9 4 Î - İ 9 4 5 that civilians could do . . . with regular passes, or with passes o f sorts they had somehow wangled - or sometimes with no passes at a ll. . . fled to the east.43

N epotism and political influence, according to Kravchenko, decided w ho got permission to leave. For the first time in twenty years . . . I heard open cursing o f officialdom . . . as if to taunt the miserable mobs, comfortable caravans o f official motorcars streamed out o f Moscow, loaded with the families and household goods o f the elite.44

For all this, the fact remains that it was the nomenklatura w hich or­ ganised the war effort, w hich provided the coordination and leadership on w hich victory depended. It was responsible for the system’s success in defeating the enemy, for w hat was arguably its finest hour. A nd it did not go unrewarded. For years, even decades after the war, the generation o f officials w hich had governed Soviet society in wartim e w ould rem ain in pow er enjoying the fruits o f victory.

N A T IO N A L IT IE S W hen Nazi Germany invaded the U SSR, it w ent to war w ith the most ethnically diverse country in the w orld. W hile Russians ac­ counted for over half the population, and Slavs (Russians, Ukrainians and Belorussians) three-quarters, the rem aining quarter was composed o f m ore than a hundred distinct nationalities. In theory, Soviet citizen­ ship and a com m on sense o f Soviet patriotism united all the peoples o f the USSR. In practice, feelings o f ethnic identity had a strong in­ fluence on their attitudes and behaviour. T he consequences for the Soviet war effort were serious. Some were positive. For many Russians, as already m entioned, traditional patriotism played a m ajor role in mobilising resistance to the invader. And members o f all the non-Russian nationalities participated, some on a large scale, in the struggle to defeat Nazi Germany. Some indication o f the level o f involvem ent is indicated by the death rate among young males. Among nationalities w ith their own all- U nion republics, it was highest am ong Russians, followed by Ukrainians and Belorussians. It was higher still, how ever, among Tartars, Bashkirs, 43 W erth 1964: 237. 44 Kravchenko 1947: 373-4.


The social order

Chuvash, M ordvinians and other nationalities w ithin the RSFSR .45 In the occupied areas, particularly Belorussia and the U kraine, over 1 m illion partisans inflicted substantial damage on the enemy. M ore than 25 m illion people, many from the non-Russian republics, w ere evacu­ ated eastwards, to continue w orking or fighting for the Soviet cause. And Central Asia, together w ith Siberia, played a crucial role in the Soviet w ar economy. B ut the U SSR’s m ultinational character was also a m ajor source o f weakness in wartim e. In many areas, a long history o f Russian dom i­ nation, together w ith tw o decades o f extrem e centralisation and ruth­ less suppression o f ’bourgeois nationalist deviations’, or annexation and Soviétisation in the case o f the territories incorporated in the USSR under the secret clauses o f the Nazi—Soviet Pact (Lithuania, Estonia, Latvia, the western regions o f Belorussia and the U kraine, and M olda­ via), had left a legacy o f strong anti-Russian and anti-Soviet feeling. W hen the Germans and their allies invaded, they were greeted by many non-Russians as liberators. In the western Ukrainian city o f L’vov, there was an anti-Soviet uprising even before the arrival o f German forces. From the western border o f die USSR to the Caucasus, nationalists saw the Germans as potential allies in their struggle for independence. T here is litde doubt that support for the Germans am ong the nonRussian nationalities was potentially very large, as some Nazis, partic­ ularly in the R eich M inistry for O ccupied Eastern Territories, recognised. W hat prevented it from becom ing a decisive factor in the w ar was the irreconcilable conflict betw een Nazi ideology and war aims on the one hand and the policies needed to gain widespread support on the other. According to Nazi racial theory, Slavs were sub-hum an (Untermenschen), Armenians biologically related to Jews, and Soviet Asians inferior ’mongols’. (Georgians and Estonians, on the other hand, were classified as Aryans, while Latvians and Lithuanians were regarded as fit for ‘Germanisation’.) This strongly conditioned German treatm ent o f the Soviet nationalities, and provided a rationale for the ruthless exploitation o f the population o f the occupied terri­ tories. B ut while it destroyed the possibility o f w inning mass support among the non-Russian nationalities, it did not prevent widespread collaboration w ith the Germans by Russians and non-Russians alike. 45 Anderson, Silver 1985: 212-13. Causes o f death were not lim ited to those invol­ ving resistance to the enemy. But in the age cohorts mainly conscripted for military service, these are likely to have predominated, particularly among the RSFSR nation­ alities, whose territory was not occupied by the Germans.


The Soviet Home Front, 1941—1945

This Cook both civilian and military forms. Throughout the occupied areas, German administration depended on local mayors, district chiefs and other officials, as well as on police and local security units re­ cruited from the native population to maintain order and defend mili­ tary installations and railways from the partisans. Hundreds o f thousands o f people, perhaps m ore, were involved. Many others par­ ticipated direcdy in the German war effort. By late autum n 1941, local volunteers w ere being recruited into the W ehrm acht as Helfswillige (or Hiwis, "little helpers’), and from the end o f 1941 national military units were created from released POW s and indigenous populations to fight alongside the W ehrm acht. These took a variety o f forms — in­ cluding Vlasov’s ‘Russian Liberation Army’, national ‘legions’ from the Baltic, Georgia, Armenia, Türkistan and the Moslem nationalities o f the N orth Caucasus, and the Baltic and Galician divisions o f the W af­ fen SS. U ncertainty surrounds the numbers involved; estimates in­ volved range from a quarter o f a million to over 1 m illion. It is quite possible that some nationalities were m ore strongly represented in the German army than in the R ed Army.46 Overall, the effects o f collaboration w ere lim ited, mainly because o f the hostility German policies provoked am ong the indigenous popula­ tion in the occupied areas. The example o f the nationalities o f the N orth Caucasus, how ever, shows w hat m ight have been, given differ­ ent policies. T he Germans reached the Caucasus in sum m er 1942 and were forced to retreat at the beginning o f 1943. D uring this short period, adm inistration rem ained in the hands o f the W ehrm acht; the SS and the German econom ic agencies responsible for the worst treat­ m ent o f civilians elsewhere played no role. In these few m onths, sub­ stantial decollectivisation occurred, a significant degree o f religious freedom and cultural autonom y were allowed, and minimal use was made o f forced labour. T he result was a higher level o f recruitm ent for military service w ith the Germans and a low er level o f partisan activity than in any other occupied area. In the Caucasus, as elsewhere (par­ ticularly in the Baltic republics and western Ukraine), local anti-Soviet units continued to fight the R ed Army even after the Germans had departed. R etribution was extreme. W ith the restoration o f Soviet rule, not only were know n collaborators shot or imprisoned. Although collabor­ ation had everywhere been a m inority activity, w hole nationalities were declared guilty by association and punished by deportation from their native area. In 1943-4 this was the fate o f the Crim ean Tartars 46 See Dallin A 1957; Alexiev 1985: 61-74.


The social order

and five Moslem or Turkic nationalities from the Caucasus (the Che­ chens, Ingushi, Karachai, Balkars and Kalmyks), 1 million people in all, w ho were deported, under abysmal conditions, to Kazakhstan and Central Asia. This was not the first mass deportation o f non-Russians during the war, nor the last. In autumn 1941 the German population o f the Volga region, 400,000 people in all, had been deported to Siberia and Central Asia, more than half to work in NKVD camps.47 In 1944—5 large number o f Balts, Georgians and Ukrainians were exiled, as were Armenians, Bulgars and Greeks from the Crimea. So too were the Meskhetian Turks from southern Georgia, even though, unlike other nationalities, their collaboration, not least for geographical reasons, had been non-existent. W ith the possible exception o f the Volga Germans (whose fate had certain parallels — in the arbitrary and paranoid exclusion o f a group from society purely on ethnic grounds, if not in the conditions experi­ enced - with the wholesale internment o f Germans in the UK and Japanese in the USA), the ruthless treatment o f the small non-Russian nationalities made little political or military sense. Local resistance to the Soviet authorities after liberation o f the occupied areas was small scale; in any case, those exiled were mainly old people, women and children. And at a time when the war with Germany was reaching its climax and the front’s demand for manpower was huge, large numbers o f troops had to be employed in the deportations — over 100,000 in the case o f the Chechens and Ingushi alone.48 The wartime deportations were essentially an application o f Stalinist policies and attitudes whose origins lay in the prewar period - the attribution o f guilt by association, as seen in the punishment o f the families o f kulaks and purge victims; the obsession with the threat to the unity o f the USSR posed by nationalist feeling among non-R us­ sians; and the all-pervasive fear o f treason. They must also be seen in the context o f the officially endorsed Russian nationalism, which grew steadily during the war, reaching a climax with victory. Nowhere was the supreme importance o f the Russian (and by clear inference the secondary significance o f the non-Russian) contribution to the Soviet war effort more frankly expressed than in Stalin’s celebrated toast at the banquet for R ed Army commanders in May 1945. The Russian people, he said, was ’the leading nation o f all the nations belonging to the Soviet U nion.’ It had earned in the war ‘general recognition as the 47 Litovkin 1990: 17. 48 Volkogonov vol 2(i) 1989: 257-8.


The Soviet Home Front, Î 9 4 İ - Î 9 4 5

guiding force o f the Soviet U nion.’49 The implications for the nonRussian peoples were ominous.

P R IS O N E R S N o account o f Soviet society during the war would be complete with­ out mention o f those at the very bottom o f the social pyramid — the population o f the camps and prisons. Less is known about this group than any other. Until recently, it figured in no Soviet statistics or histories o f war; even now evidence o f its size, composition and con­ ditions is fragmentary. W hat is clear, however, is that the number o f prisoners was substantial and that their already wretched conditions worsened considerably with the outbreak o f war. Estimates o f the total number o f Soviet citizens engaged in forced labour during the war range from 5 million to over 20 million.50 This divergence reflects both the lack o f firm data and the inclusion o f different categories o f people. Besides the inmates o f prison and labour camps, the figures may, for example, include members o f national mi­ norities deported to remote areas as 'special migrants* (spetsposelentsy); or people sentenced to compulsory work at their place o f employment for breaches o f labour discipline. All had their freedom seriously limited in one way or another. But those sentenced to penal servitude were in a category o f their own, and deserve discussing as such. Unlike the others, they had no control over where they lived, or what work they did, or how much. Their freedom was not only restricted; it was in all important respects extinguished. A small proportion served their sentences in prison; but the great majority were in labour camps or labour colonies run by the NK VD’s C hief Administration o f Camps (Gulag). M uch is still un­ known about their number and conditions, but statistics recently pub­ lished in the USSR provide considerably more data than previously available (Table 7). Although they may still be incomplete, they prob­ ably indicate the main trends. Having risen in 1940 (largely because o f arrests in the territories newly incorporated in the USSR), the number o f Gulag prisoners de­ clined steadily between 1941 and 1944. By the beginning o f 1944, it 49 Pravda 25 May 1945. 50 See Dallin D J t Nikolaevsky 1947: 84-6. Dallin’s own estimate was between 7 million and 12 million.


The social order

was reportedly down to three-fifths o f the level o f three years earlier; although over the following year it appears to have risen sharply again. There appear to have been two main reasons for the decline. First, releases from the camps ran at a high level in 1941—3. At over 40 per cent o f the average annual number o f prisoners, this was nearly double the rate in the last year o f peace. T he first release o f prisoners was decreed on 12 July 1941; it applied to those in areas near the war zone w ho had been convicted for relatively m inor crimes. The scope o f this decree was extended on 24 November, and as a result some 420,000 men were dispatched to the front. Altogether, 1 million ex-prisoners fought during the war, mainly in the ‘penal battalions’ (shtrafnye batafOMy).51 Used for the most dangerous operations (clearing minefields, storming well-fortified positions), their casualty rate was the highest in the R ed Army. In many cases, perhaps most, release from the camps during the war meant a speedy release from the misery o f this world. Even so, many prisoners volunteered for military service, preferring to die on the battlefield rather than in the camps, or clutching at the hope o f distinguishing themselves and winning rehabilitation, as some did. Second, the death-rate in the camps soared during the war. Accord­ ing to Table 7, it rose seven-fold between 1940 and 1942. O ne in five o f the camp population died in 1942 and 1943. The reasons are simple: ‘more work and less food and less heat and worse clothes and ferocious discipline and more severe punishment.’52 In a situation o f scarcity, prisoners were the lowest priority, and their rations were re­ duced accordingly. At the same time, like all civilians they were under great pressure to increase output. Despite their conditions, productivity in the camps increased by 80 per cent between 1941 and 1943.53 Cold and hunger, malnutrition and exhaustion took their inevitable toll. So bad were the conditions that the Soviet procuracy is said to have made representations about them to Beriya.54 Solzhenitsyn claims that in the wartime camps during winter ‘a death rate o f one per cent per day was commonplace and common knowledge.’ In some camps at least this may not have been an exaggeration.55 O ne other factor may have contributed to the decline in the size o f the camp population in 1941 and 1942, namely the loss o f territory, 51 Utovkin 1990: 17. 52 Dallin D J . Nikolaevsky 1947: 119. 53 Litovkin 1990: 17. 54 Litovkin 1990: 17. 55 Solzhenitsyn vol 2 1976: 90. O n the other hand, his assertion that ‘during the war they buried no fewer dead in the camps than at the front1 is highly dubious, unless the highest estimates of the camp population are in fact accurate.


The Soviet Home Front, Î 9 4 İ —1945

and with it the loss o f prisoners. At the outbreak o f war, the NKVD decided to evacuate three-quarters o f a million prisoners from the western part o f the country eastwards. Lacking transport, many had to cover vast distances on foot. But the speed o f the German advance prevented this in some areas, particularly in Belorussia, the Ukraine and the Baltic republics. Some prisoners may have escaped, other may have been captured by the Germans. W hat is certain is that prisoners were often executed by their NKVD guards. The ‘LVov massacre’ on 29-30 June 1941 was the first o f many such cases.56 Despite the fall in the number o f prisoners, there was a constant stream o f new arrivals. Although it was at its height in the first year o f the war, the net inflow o f prisoners was never less than a quarter o f the average total, and it rose again as the end o f the war approached, probably as a result o f arrests in the newly liberated areas. This, plus a decline in the death-rate and, in 1944, in the number o f prisoners released, produced an increase o f nearly a quarter in the size o f the Gulag work-force between 1 January 1944 and 1 January 1945. O n the other hand, the number o f prisoners actually in the camps stayed relatively low; at the beginning o f 1945 it was less than half what it had been four years earlier. The reason for this was the steady shift o f prisoners from the camps to Gulag labour colonies attached to factories and construction sites. T o cope with the worsening man­ power shortage in industry, Gulag prisoners were increasingly used to supplement the free work-force. By 1945 there were more prisoners in the labour colonies than in the camps themselves. According to Victor Kravchenko, ‘few industrial enterprises were w ithout slave contingents . . . in dozens o f them coerced labor was the principal or sole re­ liance’,57 and this may well have been the case. The figures in Tables 3 and 7 suggest that prisoners could have constituted around one-tenth o f the industrial work-force by the end o f the war. They were em­ ployed in many areas o f industry and construction. The NKVD pro­ vided labour amounting to a quarter o f a million prisoners for 640 enterprises and building sites belonging to other commissariats. O ther prisoners worked for the NKVD itself, in its mines, metalworks, farms, even fisheries.58 N ot all prisoners were victims o f political repression. There were real criminals among them, guilty o f treason, collaboration, personal violence, speculation, theft and the whole range o f crimes known in 56 Erickson 1975: 166. According to a Soviet source, 3,000 prisoners were shot in L'vov prison alone: ‘Red Empire’, Channel 4 Television, 19 August 1990. 57 Kravchenko 1947: 405. 58 Litovkin 1990: 18.


The social order

every society. But there were also many who were punished on trumped-up charges o f desertion from the R ed Army, or for m inor infractions o f the draconian labour laws, or for spreading rumours, for making anti-Soviet statements or for the many other political offences which came under Article 58 o f the RSFSR Criminal Code. Guilty or innocent, whether working in factories, mines, forests, building sites, or fighting the enemy, they all contributed to Soviet victory. And they did so in conditions which were extreme even by the standards o f the Gulag. As Solzhenitsyn writes, ‘whoever didn’t serve time in wartime didn’t know what camp was really like.’59

59 Solzhenitsyn vol 2 1976: 119.



The Productive Effort


Fortresses o f the R ear

TH E NEEDS O F W A R W hat happened to the Soviet economy in wartime? The picture found in official statistics is summarised in Table 8. It shows realistically enough, at least in outline, what happened on the changing territory under Soviet jurisdiction — the initial collapse o f capital assets, o f the work-force, and o f production generally under the crushing weight o f the German invasion; the difficulty with which industrial production was maintained; the disaster which struck agriculture and consumer trade, and the long delay in recovery o f these sectors. At the same time, however, there was observed a rapidly rising graph o f war pro­ duction in the machine-building and metal-working sector, where munitions capacity was concentrated. Essential to Soviet victory over Germany in W orld W ar II was the latter achievement. O ne o f the most important reasons why the R ed Army was able to beat the W ehrmacht was that, in the interior o f the country in 1942—3, Soviet factories were pouring out aircraft, tanks,1 1 O n prewar investment policy, and the influence o f rearmament, see especially Cooper 1976, Tupper 1981, and a background summary in Harrison 1985: 45-63. For a first, brief official summary o f wartime trends we still rely heavily on Voznesensky 1948. Apart from the official histories, an important source on the evacuation o f indus­ try is Eshelony 1966 (a collection o f essays and memoirs by officials who for the most part were personally involved); also of value are writings of the railway historian Kumanev 1966, 1976, 1988, and a recent survey by Likhomanov et al 1985. The relocation process is discussed by Zinich 1971. The evacuation is discussed in English by Lieberman 1983 and Harrison 1985: 63-81. On wartime conversion, and investment policy in general, see Harrison 1985: 81-93, 133-7.


The Soviet Home Front, Î 9 4 1 - Î 9 4 5

guns and shells at a faster rate than German factories. These factories were the fortresses o f the Soviet rear. The basis o f the Soviet U nion’s wartime economic defences was laid down in the prewar years, during the Stalinist industrialisation drive. The principal objective o f this drive was the construction o f new capital assets. Soviet economic policy o f the 1930s was not di­ rected towards maximising consumer welfare, nor to maximising the rate o f growth o f national income or o f industrial production. Its chief aim was the most rapid possible structural change — the speedy re­ building o f the traditionally agrarian economy on industrial lines through public sector investment. W hat did public sector investment come to mean? It meant the initiation and multiplication, by the state, o f hundreds - eventually thousands —o f large-scale capital projects in heavy industry and trans­ port, new coalfields and oilfields, huge new blast furnaces and metal rolling mills, new chemical and engineering works, great new cities and hydroelectric power stations, new airfields and highways. The whole country was to become a gigantic building site. Success in this historic endeavour would be judged by the sheer volume o f activity, not by its quality or results. The investment policy o f the interwar years was responsive to So­ viet defence requirements, and influenced the country’s war-making capacities in several respects. First, the drive to build up heavy industries was itself o f prime im­ portance, because no country could produce its own m odem weapons w ithout steel, chemicals, engineering plant and electric power. Expan­ sion o f the heavy industries created a huge potential for domestic pro­ duction o f munitions in the long run. So did investment in scientific and technological research, and in human capital through general and specialised education. Second, to realise this potential in the form o f a ready supply o f m odem weapons for immediate combat required something more — the development o f industrial capacities specialised in the production o f components and their assembly into aircraft, armoured vehicles, ar­ tillery and shells. There also had to be created domestic resources and institutions for military research and development and its application to production; otherwise, as in the civilian field, the Soviet U nion would remain dependent upon foreign technologies and foreign designs, which tended to be already obsolete by the time they had been identi­ fied, imported and absorbed. This was also the focus o f major efforts in the prewar years. Third, peacetime investment in specialised defence capacity, even 124

Fortresses o f the Rear

on a substantial scale, would never generate the scale o f munitions output required in a real war —first, to replace heavy inidal equipment losses; then, to provide additional resources for rapid force expansion. Here prewar policy sought a solution through peacetime creation o f reserve capacities for war production which could be speedily m o­ bilised in the event o f war. The reserve capacities were o f two kinds: in some branches o f defence manufacture, for example armament and tank building, excess capacity was deliberately created. In others, for example the ammunition industry where specialised capacity was al­ ready at full stretch in the late 1930s, defence leaders tried to build up reserves by subcontracting the supply o f parts and assemblies to civilian factories which essentially became part-time defence producers, ac­ quired the equipment and knowledge necessary for defence production and were thereby familiarised with its needs. The prewar investment policy contained significant flaws which were perfectly visible at the time but which went uncorrected. First, the sheer scale o f the investment drive carried significant costs - con­ sumption losses which arose from the need to make weapons instead o f consumer goods and services and to invest in defence plant rather than the means for raising living standards. Second, the costs o f re­ armament were simply piled on top o f other investment priorities, rather than being met by scaling others down; in consequence, the economy as a whole was disrupted, and civilian consumption and mo­ rale suffered further. Both o f these were consequences o f urgency and pressure for quick results, as was a third defect: the need for dispersal o f defence plant and strategic industries away from vulnerable regions was ignored. T oo much o f the defence capacity created in the 1930s lay in western and southern regions close to Soviet borders; by 1942, they would be under enemy control. Undoubtedly, the dispersal o f industrial plant to remote regions o f the interior was costly in terms o f additional invest­ ment in duplicating sources o f supply and creating new transport and service infrastructures. But so, too, would be the consequences o f the Soviet defence industry’s acute vulnerability to invasion. Because the dispersal o f defence plant had not been undertaken in advance, it would have to be carried out in wartime, under far more difficult circumstances, when fighting had already broken out. Behind these defects lay the permanent pressure for quick results, which frequendy came into conflict with long-range considerations. As seen from the Kremlin, long-range considerations dictated a broad spectrum o f investments, spanning the full range o f basic and engineer­ ing industries and means o f transport as well as specialised defence 125

The Soviet Home Front, İ 9 4 İ - İ 9 4 5

plant. Long-range objectives also worked in favour o f a diffusion o f defence plant away from traditional centres o f industrialisation in the south and west towards the country’s main interior regions. Lower down the decision-making hierarchy, pressure for quick results meant that short-run priorities came into conflict with long-run goals, with uncertain results. Economic managers dared not cut back on civilian programmes in order to make way for accelerated rearmament, so that civilian sacrifice was achieved through intensified pressure o f work, queues and shortages rather than through markets which found an equilibrium. Leaders o f the strategic industries preferred to add to plant which could produce immediately at a high rate, but in the wrong place from the point o f view o f an immediate war, rather than to incur the extra cost o f building new plant in more remote industrial regions, which would add to immediate output only after a delay. Thus there was pressure for quick results, but the results did not add to the Soviet U nion’s ability to survive an immediate military struggle. There were results in terms o f the volume o f output o f steel and artillery, and the numbers o f aircraft and tanks available for de­ ployment on Soviet frontiers, but this represented the Soviet part in a ’numbers game’ aimed at deterring Germany and other potential ad­ versaries from initiating warfare; the numbers were only indirectly connected with the Soviet U nion’s ability to wage a real war, should war be imposed upon her. Soviet investment policy in the prewar years laid the foundations o f wartime economic resilience. However, just as foundations do not automatically result in a building, the capital construction programme o f the Stalinist industrialisation drive did not predetermine the fate o f Hitler’s adventure in the east. German plans underestimated Soviet war preparations, but aimed in any case to nullify them, no matter how extensive they had been, by seizing the advantages o f surprise and pre-emption. Soviet efforts to prepare the economic structure for war contained inherent flaws and, in the initial phase o f the war, these flaws might easily have brought the whole Soviet war effort to a standstill. Before the full range o f Soviet assets could be brought to bear upon the task o f Germany’s military defeat, they had first to be mobilised —some to be saved from capture and relocated, much to be converted to new production needs, and all to be brought into war­ time commission.


Fortresses o f the Rear

IN V A S IO N A N D E V A C U A T IO N In W orld W ar II both sides attempted by various means to disrupt the adversary’s economic effort - naval blockade, aerial bombing, sabotage o f production and finance. But the only method that was guaranteed any degree o f success was ‘the time-honoured strategic concept o f in­ vasion o f the enemy’s territory’.2 The Soviet industrial capacities created before the war were highly vulnerable to military occupation. This is shown by the record. O n the territory occupied by Germany up to November 1941 had lived two-fifths o f the Soviet U nion’s 1940 population: 78 million people. This was also one o f the country’s industrially most developed regions. O n it had been located more than 85 per cent o f prewar aircraft fac­ tories, 70 per cent or more o f capacity for coking coal and iron ore, 60 per cent or more o f capacity for pig iron, coal and aluminium and o f factories for making armament and explosive powder (also the country’s key plant for nitroglycerine), more than half steel-making and steel rolling capacity (including the country’s key rolling mill for armour steel), nine big tank factories, two-fifths o f the country’s ca­ pacity for electric power and for railway freight. The invasion also meant devastating agricultural disruption, since the occupied territories had accounted for nearly two-fifths o f prewar grain harvests and catde stocks, 60 per cent o f prewar pig herds and virtually all the country’s domestic sugar producing capacity.3 W ith the eastward retreat o f the R ed Army after 22 June 1941, many o f these capacities were simply lost. They could not be moved, or else there was no time to move them. The most that could be done in the short space o f time available was to fire crops, bum fuel, blow /up bridges and fixed installations (this was the fate, for example, o f the (famous hydroelectric dam across the Dnepr river), and try to deny to the Germans the assets which they had hoped to capture intact. In some places even the will to carry out such acts o f denial was lacking; at first, many Ukrainian and Baltic nationalists welcomed German rule in place o f Soviet power. Even where the will to resist was present, sometimes there was little to be done. Stocks o f metals and other raw materials were not only too difficult to destroy, but also too heavy and bulky to evacuate w ithout warning. Livestock and form equipment 2 Milward 1977: 298. 3 Voznesensky 1948: 36-7; Kravchenko 1970: 123-4; Cooper 1976: 10-11, 15, 18, 20.


The Soviet Home Front, 1941—1945

could be driven away but, without fuel and fodder, were soon aban­ doned or died on the road.4 T o try to save even a proportion o f the productive capacities threatened by occupation required both foresight and will-power. Foresight meant understanding that the Soviet resistance could be sus­ tained long enough for evacuated machinery and production com­ plexes to be re-established in the interior and set to work again and that, with this done, the German war strategy was vulnerable to a sustained productive effort. Will power meant the will to impose these ends, in face o f the demoralisation, isolation, deprivation, exhaustion and physical dangers faced by the populations o f the front-line regions under enemy fire. The 1941 evacuation began at the end o f June 1941 and continued until the end o f December. During the second half o f the year, a monthly average o f 165,000 railway truck loads o f industrial equip­ ment rolled eastwards. Superimposed on this pattern o f massive move­ ment were two main peaks o f activity — the first in July—August and the second, reflecting the German approach to the gates o f Moscow, in O ctober.5 In 1942 there was another, smaller wave o f evacuation in the southern sector as the Germans advanced on Stalingrad. The first steps towards a programme o f evacuation o f capital assets were taken in the first days o f the war. O n 23 June, Stalin ordered the Kirov tank factory in Leningrad to send a delegation to the Urals to find a new location for their factory.6 T he next day, in the name o f the Politburo, he ordered evacuation o f the M ariupol' tank armour rolling mill in the south.7 The same day a central Council for evacu­ ation was established, headed first by transport commissar and Stalin’s deputy L M Kaganovich, then (from mid-July) by the trade union leader N M Shvemik.8 Prompt action in setting up an administrative framework to coordinate and manage the evacuation process stands in marked contrast to virtually every other aspect o f the war in its first days, where central initiatives were either wrong headed and fraught with illusion, or entirely lacking. T o coordinate and manage the evacuation process — but not to implement a plan, for there were no plans. The need for an industrial

4 O n the farm evacuation see Arutyunyan 1970: 45-53. 5 Likhomanov et at 1985: 81. 6 Salisbury 1971: 176-7n. O n its return the delegation opposed immediate evacu­ ation, and Moscow acquiesced. 7 Chalmaev 1981: 151. 8 Nachalo voiny 1990: 201.


Fortresses o f the Rear

evacuation was entirely unforeseen in prewar consideration o f the con­ tingency o f war, at least after the R ed Army purges o f 1937. There was no plan for evacuation at a national level where it had been as­ sumed that, within days o f a German attack, Soviet forces would be occupying German territory. There were no plans, either, at the level o f the industrial branch, municipality or individual enterprise, where plans for wartime conversion were similarly reckoned on a short, o f­ fensive war. Thus the evacuation was bunched exclusively on a basis o f improvisation. In theory the evacuation was managed from above; the Council for evacuation was supposed to be notified o f the situation at the front, to decide priorities, to authorise the decommissioning and dismantling o f plant and to allocate freight capacities. T o enforce its authority it wielded not only a central apparatus and representation in important ministries and government committees, but also a burgeoning network o f local trouble shooters and inspectors with full powers to act on the spot. In practice, the work o f evacuation also depended heavily on initiative from below. The b tte r was most important in the evacuation o f farm stocks, but it also operated in the evacuation o f industry, the main result being to generate trainloads o f equipment w ithout do­ cumentation o f origin or destination, o f which nobody knew how to dispose. Some decisions were far-sighted - for example the evacuation o f the armour-rolling mill from Mariupol', authorised on the third day o f the war, and the decision o f 27 June ordering evacuation o f key air­ craft factories from Moscow and Leningrad. But many decisions were taken too bte, because the authorities wanted to maintain production for urgent defence requirements up to (sometimes beyond) the last minute. This applied, for example, to many metallurgical, engineering and defence factories which should have been evacuated from Lening­ rad and from the Donets basin - debyed, according to some, by bur­ eaucratic overcentralisation.9 Sometimes the dilemma was expressed in obviously contradictory instructions, as when aircraft industry commis­ sar A I Shakhurin was instructed (on 20 July) to evacuate threatened plant ‘w ithout viobtion o f the current production plan’ - yet by midOctober more than three-quarters o f the industry’s capacity was in transit.10 The operational problems o f the evacuation were huge and com­ plex. There was the problem o f correct timing. W hen evacuation was completed successfully, trainloads o f equipment and materials were 9 Likhomanov et al 1985: 80. 10 IVMV vol 4 1975: 137, 150.


The Soviet Home Front, 1941—1945

none the less intercepted by the enemy; or they were relocated too close to the rapidly moving front and had to be evacuated repeatedly, or were dispatched thousands o f kilometres to the Far East, or were dispatched round in circles by bewildered railways officials trying to clear lines for military traffic, or were dispersed to several different new locations. As the railways moved deeper into crisis, the turnaround o f evacu­ ation trucks slowed down, and this in turn intensified the shortage o f freight capacity and imposed additional delays on evacuation from the front. In the short term the only solution was often to dump evacu­ ation freights beside the lines in order to return empty trucks to the front, but a price was paid for this in terms o f delayed relocation, physical deterioration o f machinery left under the skies, and the need for repeated loading and trans-shipment. H ow much was actually evacuated? In the third quarter o f 1941 alone, according to official reports, 1,361 large-scale enterprises were shifted; the final total by the end o f the year had risen to 1,523. Being large in scale, their economic significance was out o f all proportion to their number. For example, included in the evacuation totals were more than 100 aircraft factories; the largest o f them, using floor space o f 150,000 to 200,000 square metres, meant 25,000 to 30,000 workers and 5,000 to 10,000 pieces o f equipment.11 They filled 1 million tenmetre trucks which, coupled end to end, would have formed a solid line along 10,000 kilometres o f track, from the Far East where Soviet territory is separated from Alaska by a few miles o f sea, to the Soviet U nion’s western border with prewar Poland. Nearly half the evacuated factories went to the Urals, the rest to the Volga region, western Sibe­ ria, Kazakhstan and Central Asia (a handful travelled still further to eastern Siberia). The whole process involved 8—10 per cent o f the country’s entire net capital stock (excluding livestock), or up to oneeighth o f Soviet industrial assets.1 112 Could more have been evacuated with better management, allow­ 11 Shakhurin 1975: 139. 12 According to Lipatov 1966: 187, the value o f assets put on wheels exceeded three years’ state investments under the first Five Year Plan (1928-32). According to official estimates, between 1929 and 1932 the fixed assets o f Soviet industry grew by 3.8 billion roubles annually, or 11.4 billion roubles in three years. This can be com­ pared with the value of all Soviet industrial assets, given as 92 billion roubles in 1941 in ISE vol. 5 1978: 52-3, yielding a proportion of evacuated assets o f one-eighth. The lower figure o f 8-10 per cent is the result o f comparing independent estimates o f annual net fixed and total investment (excluding livestock), 1928-32, with net fixed and total capital stock (excluding livestock) on 1 January 1941, whether in prices o f 1928 or those of 1937, from Moorsteen, Powell 1966: Tables T - l, T-8, T-24 to T-26.


Fortresses o f the Rear

ing reduced costs and sacrifices? The answer seems to be: probably not. It is easy to demonstrate that the real process o f Soviet industrial evacuation in face o f the enem y (and often under fire) was illprepared, chaotic and cosdy. It is more difficult to show that there was some smoother, more coordinated response available under these im-. mensely difficult conditions. A group o f Leningrad historians has argued recendy that control o f the evacuation process in 1941 was excessively centralised, resulting in bureaucratic delays and unnecessary losses to the enemy.13 It is clear that some decisions were taken too late, the main reason being the desire to maintain output up to the last minute. The other evidence is Moscow’s frequent failure to supply sufficient means o f transport for the evacuation o f key installations and complexes. However, the latter evidence can be interpreted just as easily as showing that the main constraint on timely evacuation was the overall shortage o f labour and transport capacities, which could not have been improved by prom pt administrative action. There was simply not enough labour, fuel and railway trucks in the country to evacuate everything, and less bureau­ cracy would probably have made no difference. The results o f the industrial evacuation were o f critical importance for success o f the Soviet war effort. It supplied the R ed Army with the essential means o f survival in the winter o f 1941, w ithout which nothing could have been done. This was understood not only later but also at the time; for example, in July 1941, construction industry com­ missar S Z Ginzburg found himself negotiating with R ed Army C hief o f Staff G K Zhukov, who wanted construction workers to help with building defensive fortifications around Moscow. But all Ginzburg’s reserves were already allocated to the evacuation and relocation o f in­ dustry. Zhukov said: W e’ll take not one more construction commissariat worker. W e’ll manage ourselves. W hat you have outlined for the construction commissariat is the most important thing for enabling us to fi ght . . . The construction workers . . . are smelting victory side by side with the soldiers at the front.14

And after the war Zhukov wrote: The heroic feat o f evacuation and restoration o f industrial capacities during the war . . . meant as much for the country’s destiny as the greatest battles o f the war.15 13 Likhomanov et al 1985: 79-80. 14 Ginzburg 1983: 223. 15 Zhukov 1971: 266.


The Soviet Home Front, İ 9 4 İ - 1 9 4 5

At the same time, the place o f the evacuation in the history o f the war has sometimes been overplayed. This is for two reasons - because it was such a good story, and because it was the only good story to have come out o f the first six months o f fighting on the eastern front, other major events consisting o f virtually unremitting retreat and defeat. (A very similar role in the British history o f W orld W ar II is played by Dunkirk, the evacuation o f the British Expeditionary Force from the Belgian coast after the fall o f France in 1940.) The fret is that the evacuation o f industry was an essential precon­ dition for eventual Soviet victory but, after its completion, the Soviet economy was if anything in a worse state than before. The reason is that, while Moscow’s attention was focused exclusively on saving and relocating the country’s key basic and military industrial plant, every­ thing else was going under — transport, coal and oil extraction, iron and steel, food supplies. By 1942 shortages in these sectors, not the shortage o f munitions capacity, had become the key factors constrain­ ing and undermining the country’s war effort. It was becoming im­ possible to fight the war with guns and bullets alone. The very success o f the evacuation, which made possible military survival at the front, made matters worse in the interior. Huge steel works, engineering factories, tank and aircraft assembly plants were being transported to remote regions o f the Urals, western Siberia and central Asia. In the space o f a few months, many small communities experienced a second or even a first industrial revolution. But as yet there were few or insufficient rail or road links, electric power lines or generating capacity, sources o f metals and components, financial and commercial services, homes and services for workers. The arrival o f evacuated plant put additional strain upon the established enterprises o f the interior, which now had not only to convert themselves to war production but also to service the new needs o f relocated enterprises for materials, components and power supplies. N ow the price was paid for the prior failure to secure industrial dispersal in the years o f peace, when there had still been time to do things properly and in a balanced way. Part o f the price was paid immediately, in wartime, in reduced output for increased effort; some o f the payment was postponed until it was realised, decades after the war, how the rush to industrialise these quiet backwaters o f the Urals and western Siberia had resulted in long-term disruption o f the natural environment. The economic crisis o f 1942 reached awesome dimensions before being resolved. The story o f its management and resolution is told in following chapters.


Fortresses o f the Rear

C O N V E R S IO N T O W A R P R O D U C T I O N T he evacuation o f the Soviet U nion’s vital defence plant was just one o f many streams o f economic activity which began with the outbreak o f war and converged upon a single goal: the most rapid possible in­ crease in the supply o f military goods for the R ed Army. N o matter how rapidly and efficiently the evacuation was carried out, there was bound to be a period o f months in which the burden o f military supply must be carried by the productive capacities o f the interior. Moreover, no matter how important were the country’s specialised defence industries (counting both the factories o f the interior and those evacuated there from the occupied regions) for immediate military supply, they still represented only a fraction o f the country’s total ca­ pacity for production. Therefore, side by side with the evacuation, there proceeded another essential process o f gearing up the economy for war: the conversion o f fixed capacities in the civilian sector to war production. And since the civilian sector deployed much the larger share o f prewar productive capacity, the potential for increased defence output was correspondingly great when compared with the potential o f the specialised defence industries already in existence, which was already under strain. Conversion to war production meant different things in different civilian sectors. For some sectors it meant doing the same things as in peacetime, but more intensively and with a somewhat different bal­ ance. The iron and steel industry continued to make iron and steel, but the production o f ordinary structural and sheet steel gave way to processes emphasising more the special alloy steels, high-grade and ar­ m our rolled steels and fine steel tubes required for the manufacture o f armaments. Coal-mines continued to extract coal, and oilfields still gave oil, but in subsequent processing the petrochemicals industry gave more emphasis to high-grade fuels such as aviation spirit. Chemicals plants still made chemicals, but the emphasis shifted to explosives o f all kinds. In the same way transport workers (and in the Soviet U nion this meant first o f all railway staff) went on transporting both people and goods about the country, but civilian passengers and goods gave way to military traffic and evacuation consignments; the predominant lines o f movement changed, too, reflecting the loss o f territory, the switch to new sources and lines o f supply, and the new requirements o f the front. Construction workers went on building, but instead o f building


The Soviet Home Front, 1 9 4 1 -1 9 4 5

new power stations, factories, towns and transport routes listed in Five Year Plans they switched to military construction, such as defensive fortifications and airfields, to the relocation o f evacuated factories, and to crash programmes for new railways and oil pipelines in the interior. In other sectors o f the economy, conversion to war needs meant carrying on much as before, but with still less support from the rest o f the economy than in peacetime. These were the low-priority branches - light industry, agriculture and household services, sectors which had traditionally suffered peacetime neglect under the Stalinist administra­ tive system. In wartime the neglect o f the prewar years was trans­ formed into a policy o f actively stripping away these sectors’ capacity for other purposes. Clothing, footwear, food and public services were still necessary, o f course, but were switched to the supply o f uniforms and woollen clothes for winter fighting, army boots, basic rations, care for the wounded, the orphaned and so on. The most complicated changes were in branches producing ma­ chinery and tools. M otor and tractor factories were converted to mak­ ing military trucks, artillery tractors and tanks. Plant for manufacturing vehicle and tractor parts and agricultural machinery went over to mak­ ing rifles, artillery and mortars. M ore generally, the engineering indus­ try was switched to making specialised machine tools for the defence sector, ammunition, equipment for military communications, military engineering equipment and so on. All o f these required each factory to adapt or replace its machinery, acquire new technological processes, stock new materials and organise its floor space and working time in new ways. In most manufacturing branches, conversion o f fixed capacities to war production was vitally conditioned by prewar preparation o f one kind or another. Conversion o f many factories was made easy by their experience o f the late 1930s. At this time, rearmament and the rapid expansion o f defence requirements had repeatedly overstretched the capacity o f the specialised defence industries, and the authorities had responded by opening up civilian factories to subcontracted defence orders. This had been particularly important for expanded production o f shells and bullets, and for tank building where not only components but even assembly o f finished products had taken place in civilian plant. This policy was implemented, not only in order to solve imme­ diate supply problems, but also to foster the ability o f the civilian economy to switch freely between peacetime and wartime specialisa­ tions. Another prewar activity which contributed greatly to the wartime convertibility o f civilian industries, and which was carried on side by 134

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side with the subcontracting o f defence orders, was that o f contin­ gency planning. The most important field for this was the factory; major works were all supposed to have plans for war mobilisation, which designated both the kind o f war goods the factory should begin to produce on the outbreak o f war, and were supposed to maintain special workshops where the necessary preparations could be carried out in peacetime —practising the necessary technological and manage­ ment skills, studying the necessary modification o f machinery, laying in reserves o f materials and components. Contingency plans were also drawn up, or coordinated, in the industrial ministries and munici­ palities, under unified control o f a subcommittee for the military in­ dustries under the government Defence Committee. From one point o f view the story o f industrial conversion in the war’s early months is another surprising and outstanding success. W hen war broke out the years o f preparation and contingency planning paid off. Typically, Soviet workers, managers and administrators did not do what the Germans counted on them to do, that is, lose the will to resist, slacken effort and adopt an attitude o f ‘wait and see’. Instead, at least in the big cities where the major factories were located, officials and managers swung into action and began to implement their contin­ gency plans for accelerated war production. This is what happened in Moscow: a children’s bicycle factory began making flame-throwers. A die-stamping works where teaspoons and paper clips were made switched to entrenching tools and parts for anti-tank grenades. A woodworking shop producing abacuses and screens changed over to making pistol cartridges. A furniture factory started turning out anti-tank mines, cartridge boxes and stretchers. A typewriter works began making automatic rifles and ammunition.16 In Leningrad, by early July, civilian factories were starting to manufacture tanks, artillery, mortars and flame-throwers. A toy factory and a stove works (among others) were producing grenades; anti-tank mines were being made in place o f musical instruments and perfumes.17 Speedy conversion could also be found on the railways where wartime run­ ning was introduced at 6 p.m. on the first day o f the war, with new priorities and timetables; ‘planned reserves’ were brought into oper­ ation, and on only one main line was the transition accompanied by any disruption.18 At the same time, behind this picture o f a smooth conversion o f industry to new priorities lay profound difficulties. The fact that there 16 Aleshchenko 1980: 29. 17 Salisbury 1971: 173. 18 Kumanev 1976: 73-4.


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was a ready response in the economy to the outbreak o f war was o f the utmost importance, psychologically as much as materially, because it meant for everyone, no matter how remote from western frontiers, the possibility o f fighting back and resisting the aggressor. However, the total o f responses at lower levels, when summed across the national economy, did not add up to a coordinated whole. This was for two reasons. First, the prewar plans for industry were drawn up on the basis o f a short, offensive war. This meant that beforehand the likely losses and demands o f warfare upon industrial capacity were greatly underesti­ mated; the possible need for air and ground defence o f installations, for their temporary decommissioning and evacuation was entirely ne­ glected. It also meant that the plans for different kinds o f military goods were unbalanced; for example, the likely rate o f expenditure o f ammunition was understated in comparison with the need for arma­ ment. Second, there was no ready understanding o f the demands that war production would place upon the civilian economy, and o f the inroads upon civilian production. According to reports, the first wartime na­ tional economic plan (this covered the third quarter o f 1941 and was adopted on 30 June) did not even m ention the need for further con­ version o f civilian capacities. Subsequently, when the true enormity o f the situation became apparent, conversion o f the civilian economy was carried far beyond anything imagined in the prewar period, and was eventually carried too far. This meant that, while attention was fixed exclusively on saving and converting capacities for making military goods, the availability o f steel, fuels, foodstuffs and transport services dwindled rapidly. W ithout these, the acceleration o f defence output could not be sustained. For a short time, arms production could be expanded on basis o f running down strategic stocks o f metals and other commodities, but these soon ran out.19 N ow attention had necessarily to be refocused on protecting and restoring the residual civilian economy. In the past, Soviet historians have been fond o f saying that the conversion o f industrial capacity to a war footing, together w ith the evacuation o f assets from the front-line regions, proceeded po edinomu plant* (‘according to a unified plan’).20 In fact there was, to begin with, no effective coordination o f the many different streams contributing to the Soviet war effort. And they were certainly not planned, even in 19 Morekhina 1974: 56-7. 20 This was first contended by a leading Gosplan official, Kosyachcnko 1944: 5-7.


Fortresses o f the Rear

the most elementary sense o f following a schedule laid down in ad­ vance. This came eventually, but only after another year o f hard struggle in 1942.

C A P IT A L C O N S T R U C T I O N IN W A R T IM E In W orld W ar II the availability o f Soviet capital assets went through a violent fluctuation. The official measure shows that at the end o f 1942 the stock o f fixed assets o f the economy’s ‘productive’ sector was re­ duced to only 68 per cent o f the end-1940 level. Even by the end o f 1945, when the war had been over for several months, productive fixed capacity was still 12 per cent less than in 1940.21 The changes in the country’s capital stock were due to three fac­ tors. Each can be roughly quantified on the basis o f official informa­ tion and a few assumptions. First and most important was the advance and retreat o f the invader. The eastward advance o f German troops in 1941—2 may at first have deprived the Soviet economy o f about 45 per cent o f its fixed capacities o f 1940 in rouble terms. W hen the Germans were expelled, little more than one-quarter o f these values was re­ covered. This implies the second factor - in the process o f German aggression and occupation the bulk o f the assets involved was perma­ nently lost or destroyed, resulting in a permanent loss o f about onethird o f the fixed capital stock o f 1940. In third place were the wartime efforts o f the Soviet investment and construction sectors, which offset the loss o f capital assets by building and commissioning new capacity; they contributed approximately one-quarter o f the 1940 fixed capital stock.22 At the same time, this certainly understates the importance o f capi­ tal construction for the Soviet war effort. In 1942, for example, almost 21 Narkhoz 1987: 43. 22 These corrected estimates are based on the methodology indicated in Harrison 1985: 158-9n. Official indices o f productive and non-productive fixed assets are com­ bined for an estimate o f total fixed assets. An official index o f investment activity is scaled by means o f an official estimate for the share o f investment in 1940 national income utilised (19 per cent) and an assumed capital-output ratio (3.0) to provide a measure o f the annual change in fixed capacities attributable to investment. (For this purpose, strictly speaking, the investment measure should be corrected by an index o f the share o f investment representing actually completed capital projects, but this is known only for 1940, 1942 and 1943 and, for our purposes, would not be especially critical.) The difference between this and the actual change in fixed capacities is at­ tributed to territorial changes resulting from movement o f the front line.


The Soviet Home Front, 1 9 4 Ηİ9 4 5

half the work o f capital installation in the first eighteen months o f the war was relocating, reconstructing and converting existing equipment for wartime operation, including the 1,500 or so big evacuated fac­ tories; this was in addition to the installation o f equipment newly pro­ duced for war purposes. And again, in 1944—5, two-fifths o f industrial investment was being devoted to restoration o f 7,500 recaptured largescale factories in the zones o f former German occupation. The 3,500 big new factories built from scratch during the war years were also a substantial achievement; they represented an annual rate o f 780 commissioned plants, only a little less than the 860 per year under the third Five Year Plan (1938-41) or the 900 per year o f the second (1933-7), and well above the 375 o f the first (1929-32).2324 Probably, however, the new large-scale factory o f the war years was smaller and more modest than the grandiose projects o f peacetime, and locked up substantially fewer investible roubles. The capital construction sector had faced the most demanding tasks and circumstances since the beginning o f the Stalinist industrialisation drive. W ar took both tasks and conditions to new extremes. These were seen at their most intense in the process o f relocating the evacu­ ated factories in the remote interior regions in 1941—2 and recom­ missioning them. The relocation o f evacuated plant was undertaken at a speed appro­ priate to its urgency. W here possible, factories would be moved to existing empty accommodation and space already under construction. Redesign and even rebuilding was usually cheaper than building en­ tirely new accommodation. But everywhere empty space was scarce, and evacuated plant usually had to be broken up into its component technological processes and redistributed among existing defence, en­ gineering and metallurgical enterprises o f the interior regions. Only a minority o f factories were simply reassembled intact in a new location. W hether this was a rational choice depends on whether the enhance­ m ent o f the technological capacities o f existing factories in the interior was sufficient to offset the lost technological coherence o f the evacu­ ated plant and the increased overcrowding o f floor space in recipient enterprises. W here big factories had to be set up in completely fresh locations, the keys to speed were standardisation and simplification o f design and building processes, lowered standards (the use o f structural steel for 23 Lerskii 1945: 17, D ’yakov 1978: 63. 24 Narkhoz v 1960 godu 1961: 603. For the breakdown into different categories see D ’yakov 1978: 63.


Fortresses o f the Rear

factory accommodation being prohibited except with express govern­ m ent permission), and long hours o f intense labour. Conditions on site could be frightful. For example, construction commissar S Z Ginzburg was personally in charge o f a project to recommission the big Zaporozhstal’ steel works from the Ukraine in ChebarkuT, near Che­ lyabinsk in the Urals - a job which, under prewar circumstances, might have taken years. They were given seventy-five days, from the end o f December 1941 to mid-March 1942. They had to re-establish seven main and eleven auxiliary production shops together with rail­ way lines, water supplies, air shafts; all this in 45 degrees o f frost, with the soil frozen to a depth o f two metres. They had to heat the ground, drill it and break it up with explosives, keep the concrete from freezing, working round the clock, often holding production conferences at 2 and 3 a.m. The job was finished ahead o f schedule, in six weeks.2526 It was claimed at the time that most evacuated plant had restarted production within six to eight weeks o f evacuation, but in retrospect this seems a minimum, not an average. The Khar'kov tractor factory, evacuated in m id-O ctober 1941, dispatched its first trainload o f T -34 tanks to the army on 8 December: ‘Front, accept a N ew Year gift! Motherland, accept the first tanks from the Urals!’ But relocation o f the armour rolling mill from M ariupol, the evacuation o f which had been ordered at the end o f June 1941, took four months. O f 94 iron and steel works evacuated in the second half o f 1941, 40 were still not back in commission by mid-1942. O f the 1,523 big evacuated fac­ tories, 55 were still idle at the end o f 1942 because a work-force could not be found to operate them. Beyond a point, the main constraint on recommissioning evacuated plant was not the efforts o f construction agencies, which usually suf­ ficed in the end, but the capacity o f the new environment for supply o f current inputs and labour to the relocated factory. The latter typi­ cally required not only ores, metals or components but also fuel and power, water, transport and communications, food and accommoda­ tion for the work-force, frequently a new work-force as well. The proportion o f its original work-force which the typical evacuated en­ terprise retained while in transit to the interior was traditionally given as 30—40 per cent,27 although a recent estimate is as low as 20 per cent; the failure to find a new work-force under conditions o f m ount­ 25 Ginzburg 1983: 228-31. 26 Ginzburg 1983: 234, D ’yakov 1978: 47, Kravchenko 1970: 115. 27 Tel’pukhovskii 1958: 32; IVOVSS vol 2 1961: 150.


The Soviet Home Front, 1 9 4 1 -1 9 4 5

ing labour shortage is offered as the main reason for delayed restora­ tion o f output.28 W hen we turn to survey the whole field o f wartime capital con­ struction we find big changes which in some ways reinforced the peacetime pattern, and in some ways reversed it. The pattem o f bias towards heavy industry was intensified. The defence industries, iron and steel, engineering, the fuel and power sector all received still higher priority in allocation o f investment funds. The defence and heavy industries together accounted for more than two-fifths o f all public sector investment in July 1941—5 compared with less than onethird in 1938-June 1941, and nearly 60 per cent in 1942 alone.29 O n average the new capacity commissioned annually in wartime in steel­ making, coal-mining and electricity supply substantially exceeded the prewar norm .30 Meanwhile, other sectors were starved o f resources. A second dramatic change was to be found in the regional pattem o f investment. The prewar pattern o f concentration o f new capacities in the traditional regions o f industrial development was suddenly dis­ rupted. In 1940, more than half o f public sector investment had gone to the main regions threatened by war. In 1942—3 their share would be reduced to one-fifth. In 1940, the Urals and western Siberia re­ ceived less than one-seventh (13 per cent) o f investment funds; in 1942-3 their share would rise to two-fifths (39-40 per cent). The south-eastern region, safe behind the Volga River, would also receive a bigger share together with Kazakhstan and Central Asia. At the other end o f the country, eastern Siberia and the Far Eastern region would receive still less.31 In a third respect, the prewar pattern would be reversed. This was the pattern o f investment project completion. In the Soviet economy, as everywhere, the volume o f investment activity rarely corresponded with the volume o f new capacity becoming available within a given period o f time. This was pardy inevitable, and it arose because projects took a long time — often years, not months — to carry through from first foundations to a finished factory able to receive workers and ma­ terials and to start work. But the period o f each project’s gestation was often lengthened by the fact that the economy as a whole was under strain, even excessively mobilised, and unable to supply every project simultaneously with power, machinery, building workers and food­ stuffs. W hen this happened, projects were temporarily frozen, and 28 29 30 31


Likhomanov et al 1985: 111. Harrison 1985: 136. Kapital’noe 1961: 136. Sokolov V 1946: 20.

Fortresses o f the Rear

construction agencies had to mark time until supplies could be secured again. Here was one o f the most important problems o f prewar capital construction. In the years o f greatest strain (1931-2), one-fifth or onequarter o f all investment activity simply added to unfinished projects, w ithout adding useful capacity to the economy’s assets. In the late 1930s, when overstrain was felt again, 13-15 per cent o f annual invest­ m ent was regularly reflected in accumulating stocks o f unfinished ca­ pacity. W hen war broke out, however, the volume o f investment was drastically cut back. The 5,700 capital projects envisaged in the third Five Year Plan (1938—42) were almost all cancelled immediately, only 614 still being allowed to go ahead. Available resources were con­ centrated, as we have seen, on defence and heavy industry objectives in the interior regions; within this restriction, available resources were committed primarily to the installation o f new equipment in pref­ erence to new construction; construction methods were simplified and speeded up, as we have seen. As a result, in 1942—3 the volume o f new capacities commissioned exceeded the volume o f investment activ­ ity, while the backlog o f unfinished capacity, representing ‘tens o f bil­ lions o f roubles’, was halved.3233 In 1943, with the recapture o f significant territory, the perspectives o f capital construction began to change. The recaptured territories rep­ resented new resources, but also new demands. Each region was popu­ lated by human beings and assets which had once formed an organic part o f the economy. But now everything was in ruins. Most enter­ prises were damaged or dismantled. The population itself was homeless and dispossessed, stripped o f its most productive members. In Belorussia, the Ukraine and the occupied part o f the Russian Federation, four in every five industrial enterprises had been put out o f commission, and five o f every six industrial workers dispersed.34 Even the fields were contaminated by the debris o f war. Thus the promise o f restora­ tion could not be realised w ithout new resources. The balance o f investment resources began to shift westward once more. In 1943 the commitment to reconstruction was still slight — only 16 per cent o f total investible resources. But in 1944—5 the pro­ portion rose to two-fifths o f the total, including two-thirds o f invest32 IVOVSS vo! 2 1961: 142. 33 Lerskii 1943: 40, Sokolov V 1946: 25-6. An estimate for the backlog o f unfin­ ished capacity of 31.5 billion roubles at historic cost on 1 January 1940 is available from Davies 1984: 178. By comparison, gross investment for 1937 (the last prewar year for which investment data are officially reported) is given as 32.5 billion roubles. 34 Tel’pukhovskii 1968: 31.


The Souiet Home Front, 1941—1945

ment in the basic industries (iron and steel, electricity supply, railway transport).35 Significant resources were also committed to the food and housing needs o f the liberated population. At this stage, however, with the war still in progress, the main priority was to restore the recap­ tured territories’ ability to supply the war effort with metals and muni­ tions, rather than to restore their civilian economy as such.

35 Prikhod’ko 1968: 16-18.



Labour: The ‘U ltim ate Bottleneck A

TH E DEGREE O F LA BO U R SH O RTA G E The capital assets with which the Soviet economy entered the war were only one o f the constraints limiting the Soviet war potential. Others included the availability o f strategic materials, especially highgrade fuels, steels and rare metals; the abilities and skills o f industrial organisers, engineers and skilled workers; food stocks, and many others. In the short run these factors were expressed in intense short­ ages o f food and fuel, metals and components, skilled engineering and munitions workers and machinery with which to employ them. All o f these factors, however, had one feature in common. Given time and effort, they could be added to and improved, even in the middle o f a bitter war. O ld factories could be converted and recon­ structed, and new factories built. N ew sources o f scarce materials could be developed, or substitutes found. N ew entrepreneurial talent could be encouraged and new skills formed through education and training. In the long run, therefore, each o f these limits on warmaking capacity could be relaxed —subject to one condition. This was the availability o f enough workers, regardless o f skill and qualification, to build and rebuild, to explore and develop, to leam as well as teach. The factor ultimately constraining the war potential o f the major economies on both sides in the long run proved to be the sheer num - 1 1 The chapter’s title, and much o f the analysis, belong to Kaldor 1946: 34. Mitrofa­ nova 1971 provides the standard work of reference on the subject o f this chapter.


The Soviet Home Front, 1941—1945

ber o f workers available. In W orld W ar II it was labour o f all kinds which proved the ‘ultimate bottleneck’ limiting the capacity to make war. As long as additional supplies o f labour were available, unskilled workers could be trained and promoted, construction workers could build new fixed capacity, scientific workers could develop new pro­ cesses and products. Once available supplies o f additional labour were exhausted, however, very hard choices would present themselves. The different great powers entered W orld W ar II in quite different states o f labour mobilisation. In Britain and the U nited States o f America there was still mass unemployment in the first year after entry into the war. In feet, with millions o f workers out o f work and idle factories everywhere, the first stages o f rearmament had been accompa­ nied by job creation and rising prosperity, and in the U nited States this would continue to be the case until 1944. In contrast both the German and Soviet economies were already fully employed in the peacetime sense, although in both countries this was consistent with a great deal o f normal slack and wastage. As addi­ tional military priorities arose, they could be met only at the cost o f reduced investment, public services, civilian consumption, or idle time on the jo b or at leisure. In the late 1930s, German living standards stagnated, while Soviet living standards fell. By 1942, the British and Soviet work-forces had reached a stage o f full war mobilisation. Wartime conversion was complete. N o further resources o f any kind were to be found for the war, and the ‘ultimate bottleneck’ had been encountered. Among civilian employments, only those essential to the war effort remained, and inessential ones had been eliminated. Each new military objective was met only by sacrific­ ing an existing one. Germany reached this stage only in 1944; so great was the wealth o f American resources that it is debatable whether the United States reached it at all. Under full war mobilisation, the biggest danger was one o f going too far. It turned out to be possible to put too many workers into the front line, as Germany would find out after June 1944. T oo many soldiers meant that, once existing stocks had been used up, the supply o f both guns and food would dry up. Everyone would fight to the last bullet and ration, after which resistance would cease. It was also possible to have too many soldiers and war workers combined, as the USSR would discover in 1942; at any moment, the war factories would be in danger o f grinding to a halt because o f shortages o f me­ tals, fuel, power, transport services and food rations. The work-force could be mobilised at this level only for a short period, unless external supplies o f industrial goods and foodstuff were brought to bear. 144

Labour: The Ultimate Bottleneck

A final qualification is that the labour bottleneck, although ‘ulti­ mate’, was not absolute. It reflected not just the physical number o f workers multiplied by the hours available in the working day, week and year, but also their morale and productiveness. The constraint could be relaxed to a limited extent if labour productivity could be lifted by longer hours and increased intensity o f effort, or by better organisation o f machinery and materials. Foreign supply would also prove to be an important mitigating factor.

W A R T IM E LO SSES A N D M O B IL IS A T IO N N E E D S The first impact o f the war was a radical change in Soviet priorities. Overnight, the economy was pitched from a state o f full peacetime employment to one o f intensive mobilisation for combat. There was an immediate requirement for millions o f soldiers. There were already 5 million soldiers in the R ed Army; 5 million more would be m o­ bilised from the civilian population in the first week o f the war.2 And this was just the first o f several multimillion draffs eventually required to replace wartime losses and to expand force levels. In the economy the production o f guns, bullets, shells, tanks and aircraft received the top priority, together with the provision o f other means o f military operations and construction — fuel, cement, machinery, transport and building services; in comparison, nothing else mattered. In employ­ m ent policy, therefore, the critical task became to mobilise further millions o f workers into the expanded production o f military goods. In the west, many still thought o f Russia as a country o f ‘inex­ haustible reserves’ - reserves o f human labour and energy as well as o f natural resources. Russia’s reserves existed, as the war would prove, but they were far from endless; on the contrary, they were completely inadequate to the needs o f the situation. T he main reserves were ‘disguised’ unem ploym ent am ong ablebodied adults, and those who in peacetime would be considered too young or too old to be employed - older school students and pensio­ ners. There was no ‘open’ unemployment o f men and wom en seeking jobs and unable to find them, and there had been none for more than a decade o f rapid industrial expansion and public sector jo b creation. Disguised unemployment fell under several different headings. Most widespread was underemployment o f the farm population, which still 2 IVMV vol 4 1975: 53.


The Soviet Home Front, 1 9 4 Î-1 9 4 5

made up half the total. For example, it was normal for the collective farm peasant to work a shortened working year o f 200 days or less, rather than the 250 days or more worked by city dwellers, because o f the shortage o f work in the countryside (especially in the winter months). O ther kinds o f disguised unemployment were to be found in the urban economy. Employees in factories and offices worked a longer, fuller year, but here too disguised unemployment could be found in the form o f idle time on the job. Factory work, in particular, often came in bursts. O n the surface this was partly because o f numer­ ous breaks, meetings and other excuses for not working; partly because o f poor organisation o f supplies; partly because the division o f working time into planning periods (ten days, a month, a quarter, a year) re­ sulted in periodic surges o f effort to overcome the results o f previous idleness and still meet the official target for output within the alloted span o f time. (Deeper underlying causes are surveyed in Chapter 9.) Another significant source o f disguised unemployment o f the urban population was the lag o f w om en’s participation in paid employment behind m en’s. In 1940 women still accounted for only two-fifths o f public sector employment — a higher proportion than in Germany, Great Britain or the United States, but still well below the 50 per cent which formed a notional target and which would actually be achieved in the postwar years. These reserves, with the reserves o f school students and pensioners, shared one important feature. They could not be drawn upon freely and unconditionally. T o bring them into employment required break­ ing down one kind or another o f social restraint. T o turn agrarian underemployment into hands freed from agricultural tasks and ready for combat or war work meant that those remaining in the village must be prepared to work much harder at ploughing, sowing and harvesting in the months o f peak effort; at this time their leisure would entirely disappear. T o mobilise reserves o f underemployment in the factory and office meant that workers and managers must go over to working at maximum pace, regardless o f traditional breaks, working practices or safety regulations. For women to leave the domestic sphere and take the place o f men sent to the front from the office and factory bench meant either that they would bear an intensified ’double shift’ o f paid work coupled with unpaid house-work and child-care, or that society must take on more responsibility for family meals and looking after children. For the sake o f a national cause the whole o f society must stand ready to give up precious rights, if workers were to give up leisure, if children were to give up their education and if old people were to give up a peaceful retirement on pension. 146

Labour: The Ultimate Bottleneck

Soviet labour reserves were already lim ited on the outbreak o f war, but now som ething else made matters far, far worse. This was the catastrophic loss o f population and other assets on the territory occu­ pied by the invading forces. T he military disasters o f 1941-2 cut the w orking population from 85 m illion to 53 m illion (Table 9). A t the same tim e the additional requirem ents o f wartim e mobilisation w ould reach 12 m illion to 13 m illion. Proportionally, losses had been heaviest in the armed forces, the war effort’s cutting edge. The Soviet defence commissariat w ould have not only to replace early losses but also to find, in addition, 6 m illion to 7 m illion m ore m en and w om en to lift R ed Army numbers to the 11 m illion o f 1942. At the same tim e the defence industry commissariats were screaming for m ore workers. The num ber o f specialised m unitions workers w ould increase in 1940-2 by at least 1 m illion, but this was just the tip o f the iceberg as far as war w ork generally is concerned. The num ber o f other w ar workers sup­ plying the means o f m unitions production, military construction and military operations may have risen by 5 m illion. T he unsatisfied de­ m and for labour o f the main defence, engineering and metallurgical industries in early 1942 am ounted to nearly half a m illion workers. Soviet reserves o f unutilised labour w ould be mobilised to the full, but there was not the slightest possibility o f m eeting this demand out o f reserves alone. A huge blow w ould fall on existing em ploym ent in production o f civilian goods and services. T he num ber o f such jobs w ould fall from roughly 72 m illion in 1940 to perhaps 28 m illion in 1942. This was a shock o f unprecedented scale.

T H E M O B IL IS A T IO N P R O C E S S W here w ould the 13 million new soldiers and war workers come from? Initially reserves were mobilised from the urban population. Thus in the second half o f 1941 half a million unem ployed wom en volunteered for war w ork, together w ith 300,000 school children be­ tw een the ages o f 12 and 15, and thousands o f students and veterans. In 1942 m ore than half a m illion m ore were found for war w ork from the same groups.34 At the same tim e, the unem ployed reserves o f the urban econom y were slight by comparison w ith the huge requirem ents o f the war. 3 Kravchenko 1970: 109, Mitrofanova 1971: 189. 4 Mitrofanova 1971: 186, 190


The Soviet Home Front, Î 9 4 Î —Î9 4 5

T he main source o f additional w ar workers and soldiers was necessarily those already employed in the tow n and countryside. As far as recruitm ent to war w ork was concerned, m uch o f it did not require anyone to change their place o f w ork or residence; it took place automatically, as a result o f the conversion o f civilian enterprises to w ar production. Steel-workers w ent on m aking steel, but their steel w ent to arm our tanks rather than to plate road vehicles. Engineers continued to build machines, but the machines were for warlike not peaceful use. How ever, there was still a need to find many new w ork­ ers for such enterprises because established workers joined the armed forces or were prom oted to administrative grades. For this reason, and because o f the need to expand converted defence factories and create new ones, there was also significant recruitm ent into w ar w ork out o f light industry and services - 130,000 under the auspices o f the wartim e Labour Com m ittee just in the second half o f 1941.5 In subsequent years this channel w ould be gready enlarged; in 1942—5 the Labour Com m ittee directed nearly 12 million workers into w ar w ork or train­ ing, and half o f them came from the urban econom y.6 T he last m ajor source o f recruitm ent to the war was the rural population. Three-fifths o f the R ed Army’s wartim e strength (11.6 m illion at its peak) were o f rural origin. R ural conscripts judged unfit for com bat duty were directed by the defence commissariat into war w ork - 700,000 ju st in the second half o f 1941.78O f those mobilised in later years by the Labour Com m ittee, a grow ing proportion was o f rural origin; in 1943-4 three-fifths came from the countryside. These recruits helped to fill the places o f existing workers, mainly young m en, taken into the armed forces. T he result was m ajor change in the com position o f the Soviet w ork-force. T he share o f w om en in industrial employm ent, w hich stood at two-fifths in 1940, rose to over half during 1942 and nearly three-fifths in 1943. In beleaguered Len­ ingrad, w here virtually all male workers were enlisted in combat units, w om en’s share in the factory w ork-force rose to 80 per cent or m ore. Age was affected as m uch as gender. In the public sector as a w hole, the com bined employm ent share o f the very young (under 19 years) and the relatively m ature (over 50) rose from one-sixth in 1939 to m ore than one-quarter in 1942.9 It is hardly an exaggeration to picture 5 ISE vol 5 1978: 203. 6 The total is derived from Mitrofanova 1971: 193, 428, 433; for shares of the urban and rural populations in recruitment in each year, see ISE vol 5 1978: 203. 7 Kravchenko 1970: 110-11. 8 Rogachevskaya 1977: 183. 9 Voznesensky 1948: 90, IVMV vol 5 1975: 50, IVMV vol 7 1976: 43.


Labour: The Ultimate Bottleneck

the typical Soviet work-place collective in wartim e as schoolchildren, grandparents, m others and aunts. T he impact on rural em ploym ent was also predictable. Y oung m en vanished from the countryside. T he total rural w ork-force on Sovietcontrolled territory foil disastrously, and not just because o f the loss o f huge territories behind German lines. In the Soviet rear, in regions untouched by occupation, villages were stripped o f w orking hands; there, the collective form w orking population fell by m ore than onethird - in the Ural region and Siberia, by 45 per cent. Agriculture became the preserve o f wom en, children, pensioners and evacuees.101 In the prew ar village, wom en already form ed a m ajority o f the collec­ tive form w ork-force (this is explained by the rapid prew ar recruitm ent o f young m en from the village to new jobs in industry and construc­ tion during rapid industrialisation). The w ar sharply intensified the trend. By 1944 able-bodied w om en outnum bered m en in the interior regions by almost four to one. T he destination o f those mobilised was either military service or service as a w ar w orker. O n the w hole, w ar w ork m eant one o f five different kinds o f employm ent. There w ere millions o f new jobs in defence plant making guns, shells, tanks and aircraft. W ar w ork could also mean em ploym ent in civilian heavy industry —in engineering fac­ tories, iron and steel works and chemicals plants, in coal-mines, oil­ fields and pow er stations, producing the essential inputs for the m anufacture and arming o f weapons. O ther branches o f war w ork included construction — w ork on defensive fortifications, as well as build­ ing or rebuilding factories, pow er stations and railway lines. Transport itself became a branch o f war w ork, w ith its immense significance for supply o f the front, as well as o f production. Lastly, there were times w hen even agriculture was given the status o f war w ork because, w ith­ out bread, meat and fots, soldiers could not fight and war workers could not go on working. Few o f these jobs were unskilled. At least half the unsatisfied labour requirem ents reported by the defence and heavy industry commissariats early in 1942 were for skilled workers, and in the aircraft and tank industries the proportion rose to tw o-thirds. At this early stage o f the war, the skill deficit probably seemed m uch m ore alarming than the short supply o f labour generally. T o assemble m odem aeroplanes and arm oured vehicles demanded the steady hand and stamina o f experi­ enced craft workers in the prim e o f life, rather than housewives in 10 Vinogradov 1976: 12, 86. 11 Uchastie 1962: 29.


The Soviet Home Front, 1941—1945

middle age w ho had never seen the inside o f a factory workshop, o r raw youths from rem ote villages. At the same tim e, the skills shortage was being aggravated by the uncoordinated mobilisation process w hich was stripping away the existing w ork-force from m unitions factories, especially those in the front-line regions. As long as m ore unskilled workers were available, however, the skill deficit could always be overcom e. T here were many traditional ways o f adapting skilled occupations and the industrial environm ent to the needs o f new unskilled war workers, for skilled labour had always been short in backward, agrarian Russia and this was no new problem . Ways o f coping ranged from breaking down skilled processes or ‘de­ skilling’ jobs to movements for ‘learning by doing’ or training on the job. At the same tim e, the principal reliance had to be placed on formal schemes for upgrading workers’ skills, and the war saw a huge expan­ sion o f vocational training. In 1940 a total o f 3.5 m illion manual w or­ kers in industry either underw ent some kind o f induction training on entering the w ork-force, or else trained for a higher level o f skill qualification (this was out o f a m id-year industrial w ork-fbrce o f 8.3 m illion). In 1942, when there were 2.8 million fewer industrial manual workers, the num ber undergoing training actually rose to 3.8 m illion. In addition, in 1942 some 600,000 school leavers entered full-tim e vocational training, compared to an insignificant num ber in 1940. In total, the num ber training for im proved skills during the year was equivalent to fully four-fifths o f the 1942 manual work-force in indus­ try, compared to less than half o f the w ork-force in 1940.12 Industrial training on this massive scale opened up new skilled trades to w om en.13 How ever, the new avenues for female advancement w ere restricted to the shop-floor; there does not seem to have been any wartim e increase in w om en’s share o f managerial or administrative posts. Taking the war years as a whole, therefore, the shortage o f skilled labour was acute but could not be decisive. Ultim ately, what con­ strained the Soviet productive effort was the shortage o f w orking hands. Allocating the w orking population correctly betw een alternative employments, w hether on the front line or in the rear, w ould help make the difference betw een defeat and victory. There was already an absolute shortage o f hands w hen war broke out. H ow ever, the civilian econom y contained substantial reserves, both o f ‘disguised’ unem ploym ent, and o f workers in occupations 12 Kravchenko 1970: 112. 13 Voznesensky 1948: 89.


Labour: The Ultimate Bottleneck

w hich w ould be graded inessential in wartim e. These reserves were quickly used up. T he drain o f workers out o f civilian em ploym ent into the Soviet Army and defence production was so rapid that soon nothing was left that did not carry the status o f war w ork — even in agriculture. Thus, in connection w ith the 1942 spring sowing cam­ paign, the Soviet head o f state M I Kalinin declared: If we evaluate the different kinds o f work in our country at present, in the ninth month o f the war, then we can rank spring sowing work as o f first importance. W ith it can be compared only the production o f ammunition and armament.14

N or was this rhetoric. A m onth later, a governm ent decree ordered a reverse mobilisation o f the non-em ployed back into farm w ork.15 This was ju st one symptom o f the general situation. T he reserves o f labour in inessential em ploym ent were running out; the rem aining kinds o f em ploym ent were all essential to the war effort, and all car­ ried the highest priority. Construction w ork m eant building war plant. Agricultural w ork m eant grow ing food for soldiers and war workers. W ork in transport m eant carrying weapons, rations and machinery and fuel for war production around the country. W ork in the clothing industry m eant making uniforms for soldiers and w ork clothes for war workers. T he relative priority o f these jobs became m ore and m ore finely graded and, at times, even outranked the priority o f military needs. Thus, in May 1942 the GKO halted the conscription o f railway workers and ordered the return to railway em ploym ent o f R ed Army personnel skilled in railway operations.16 Thus, during 1942 the Soviet econom y m oved from full employ­ m ent in the norm al, peacetime sense to full wartim e mobilisation. At the same tim e this was not a sm ooth, orderly transition. For a start, there was a great difference betw een the western regions and the inte­ rior. In the western regions w here the threat o f invasion and occupa­ tion was imm ediate, there was no question o f a sm ooth, controlled mobilisation o f the w ork-force for a prolonged war effort. Immedi­ ately, com bat took priority over production. In Leningrad, in Kiev and Odessa, in the Donbass, in M oscow and Tula, hom e defence militias were recruited from the factories. T heir form ation and training w ent on at work-places outside w orking hours.17 But w ith the enem y’s approach, the workers left the factories 14 15 16 17

Pravda, 1 March 1942. Kurskü 1975: 16. Istoriya KPSS, vol 5(i) 1970: 307. Belonosov 1970: 21-36.


The Soviet Home Front, İ 9 4 İ - Î 9 4 5

to collect spades and rifles, to dig defensive fortifications and to fight the invader. This applied ju st as m uch to m unitions workers as to teachers and pastry-cooks, and reflected the simple logic that there was no point carrying on w ar production if the factory could not be defended. (But none o f it applied in the Baltic republics and the for­ m er territory o f eastern Poland, w here the m ood o f the population was anti-Soviet and the fighting was over in days rather than weeks.) T he only activity w hich m ight be given still higher priority was to fulfil measures for the most desperate eventuality, that o f giving up the tow n. In this case movable assets and civilians must be evacuated, fixed installations and road and rail links m ined for destruction and papers burnt. Thus in the western regions the immediate response was to pitch the w ork-force into a state o f immediate combat mobilisation. This was a state o f utter imbalance, a running crisis w hich could be sus­ tained for m ore than a few days only by uninterrupted supply o f food and m unitions from the interior regions. W hen the enem y came the volunteer divisions, poorly led and virtually untrained, w ould suffer appalling losses. T he casualties w ould include many skilled m unitions, engineering and metal workers, w ho represented a severe loss to the war economy. In the interior the situation was better, and the transition to war­ tim e econom ic mobilisation was sm oother, but only by comparison. N ear the front line, the problem was that everyone was forced to becom e a soldier, leaving not enough workers to produce even the military goods, let alone to carry on civilian trades. In the interior, the problem was that, o f those not taken by the army, nearly everyone became a war w orker, leaving too few to carry on w ith producing food, fuel and basic materials. In the long run, this was just as threatening to continuity o f the war effort. T o correct it w ould take terrific restraint, and the task w ould occupy most o f 1942.

T H E C E N T R A L IS A T IO N O F W O R K -F O R C E CON TRO LS T o run the Soviet econom y successfully for an all-out war o f resources depended on tw o indispensable conditions. These were mobilisation and coordination. Mobilisation m eant that all the available resources would be brought to bear upon the enemy. Coordination m eant that


Labour: The Ultimate Bottleneck

they w ould be mobilised in the right proportions. W ith too many soldiers, there w ould be too few workers left to produce the soldiers’ m unitions and rations. T oo many m unitions workers w ould mean that there w ould be not enough workers left to make bread, fuel and steel w ith w hich to subsist, produce and fight. T o coordinate resources in the right proportions required, above all, centralisation. O nly a centralised system o f controls could evolve nation-w ide priorities, rank the different military and productive re­ quirem ents for resources, and ensure that everyone followed them consistendy. For example, w ithout restraint from central political auth­ ority, the claims o f the army on m anpow er w ould overw helm the needs o f the defence and heavy industries. Someone had to lim it the size o f the fighting forces, and the lim it could be set only at the level o f the w ar cabinet. Again, even given a lim it on military recruitm ent, priorities w ithin the econom y had to be graded nationally. O therw ise, priorities w ould still be evolved - but at low er levels, and different agencies w ould operate them inconsistendy w ith each other. For example, the man­ agem ent o f an artillery factory m ight allow its skilled workers to vol­ unteer or be conscripted for the army; at the same tim e, security police officers m ight hold on to their cafeteria staff and office boys by declaring them to be ‘essential w orkers'. Soviet labour administrators w ere quite unprepared for this task. This may seem surprising for a ‘centrally planned econom y’. H ow ever, the fact is that for most o f the prew ar period the labour m arket had been least centralised o f the various sectors subject to official regula­ tion. There were plenty o f controls, most o f them dating from 1938-40. T here was universal male liability to military service. School leavers w ent on to higher education, or else to semi-compulsory vocational training, although the latter was relatively new. T he route from in­ stitute or industrial school into em ploym ent was also controlled from above; once employed, the w orker could no longer freely change em ­ ploym ent. The route from the village to em ploym ent in large-scale industry and construction was also regulated by governm ent-controlled agencies o f ‘organised recruitm ent’ w hich negotiated fixed-term con­ tracts w ith collective farms for semi-compulsory mass hiring o f form workers for em ploym ent in the public sector. This was a highly restrictive system - in theory, at least. In reality, because labour was scarce and had a high value to employers, workers could exercise considerable discretion in negotiating w ith officialdom. Even if the theory had been stricdy applied, how ever, it still did not 153

The Soviet Home Front, 1941—1945

am ount to a centralised system. It was mainly regulation for regula­ tion’s sake, rather than for the purpose o f m eeting explicit national objectives. There were tw o main symptoms. O ne is that there was no system for ranking jobs by priority and directing workers from low er to higher ones (except for a few highly qualified specialist grades). N either was there any system for arbitrating betw een the claims o f the army and o f industry on m anpower, in the event o f com petition be­ tw een them . Although highly regulated, the prew ar labour m arket was still basically com petitive in the sense that a m ultitude o f regulatory agencies vied w ith each other to hire scarce workers, offering induce­ ments or applying moral or (in the case o f prison camp labour, admin­ istered by the security police) physical pressure to workers to accept em ploym ent and rem ain in it. The other symptom is that those outside the urban educational and industrial system could not be compelled into it. This applied equally to the non-em ployed strata o f the urban population, and to the m uch larger rural population. In theory the latter was liable to ‘organised recruitm ent’, but in reality the system for recruiting labour was a mess, completely unable to fulfil high-level plans. T he underlying reason is that collective farmers did not necessarily w ant to travel away to rem ote building sites on the terms offered, and were able to make their preference effective. T he creation o f a wartim e system for truly national coordination o f labour resources had therefore to be carried out largely from scratch. T he process took nearly eighteen m onths, and passed through several stages. T he first stage was establishment o f a national authority for mobilisation o f the w ork-force - the Labour C om m ittee, set up on 30 June 1941. Its chief was named as P G M oskatov, previously head o f the state vocational training system set up in O ctober 1940; other members included officials representing the ministerial apparatus, econ­ om ic planning and, significandy, the N K V D .18 But at first the policies form ed by the Labour Com m ittee were backed up neither by laws nor by administrative powers. In the first half year o f the war, the Labour Com m ittee simply placed its rubber stamp on mobilisations which w ould probably have taken place even w ithout it — the flows o f vol­ unteers from the urban population and o f ‘organised recruitm ent’ from the countryside. In the w inter o f 1941, tougher controls began to be enforced. In Decem ber 1941 a decree belatedly mobilised defence industry workers at their posts.19 This m eant that w ork on m unitions production w ould 18 Mitrofanova 1971: 187. 19 Mitrofanova 1971: 188.


Labour: The Ultimate Bottleneck

be treated as equivalent to military service; workers in defence factories were placed under military discipline, w ith unauthorised departure from w ork treated as desertion in face o f the enemy. Just as im portan­ tly, it m eant that the Army could no longer conscript them for fight­ ing. And a further decree o f February 1942 rendered the entire able-bodied population o f the towns not already employed, in training o r solely responsible for the care o f small children, liable to compul­ sory mobilisation into war w ork under the Labour C om m ittee.2021 Even now , im plem entation was characterised by long postpone­ ments and delays. T he decree o f February 1942 could not be im ­ plem ented w ithout local (regional and municipal) labour comm ittees to register and allocate those liable to compulsory mobilisation; these were form ed in following m onths. N or could it be im plem ented w ith­ out criteria laying dow n w hich categories o f people should be m o­ bilised first and w hat employments for them should be given first priority. This awaited a governm ent statute issued only in August 1942. T he protection o f essential workers from military conscription was also developed belatedly and pragmatically. National policy seems to have been restricted to blanket measures such as the m obilisation o f construction and m unitions workers at their posts. There was no na­ tional scheme for protecting the em ploym ent o f workers in other key sectors like the steel industry, engineering, chemicals, fuels and power. This was apparently the responsibility o f party leaders in ministries and factories w ho had to choose w hich categories o f w orker to exem pt from conscription or to be refused voluntary enlistm ent in the armed forces.22 They carried out this task in a decentralised way, often in the teeth o f military demands; for example, at one unnam ed artillery plant, several thousand workers, technicians and engineers were saved from immediate conscription only by the manager's appeal first to the re­ gional party secretary, then to Marshal K E Voroshilov personally.23 After August 1942, a nation-w ide policy w ith teeth under the gov­ ernm ent Labour Com m ittee began to be possible in theory, but still could not be im plem ented in practice. This is because the new agency had simply been superimposed on existing ones, w hich continued to operate independently. At least six kinds o f agency were still com pet­ ing in the labour m arket to determ ine priorities. At national level, in addition to the Labour Com m ittee (now responsible for mobilising the 20 21 22 23

Resheniya vol 3 1968: 64. Mitrofanova 1971: 189, 191. e g Kravchenko 1947: 360, 362. Olevsky 1983: 19.


The Soviet Home Front, İ 9 4 İ —1945

urban population into war work) there were tw o other ministries, the Defence Commissariat (responsible for military recruitm ent and the al­ location o f conscripts unfit for military service), and the NKVD (re­ sponsible for prison camp labour). Further, there w ere three different kinds o f local governm ent departm ent, responsible respectively for relocating evacuated workers, for ‘organised recruitm ent’ o f the rural population into industry, and for mobilisation o f the urban population into agriculture. T rue centralisation was secured only in N ovem ber 1942, w hen a governm ent statute resolved the com petition in favour o f the Labour Com m ittee. T he Labour Com m ittee w ould be responsible for coordi­ nating mobilisation into w ar w ork from the countryside as well as in the towns. M oskatov, its first chief was replaced by the politically sen­ ior N M Shvem ik, head o f the Soviet trade unions.24 O f course con­ flict betw een the priorities o f the military and the econom y, and also betw een those o f the Labour Com m ittee and the still powerful NKVD, rem ained possible. In such case, they were resolved by deci­ sions o f Stalin’s war cabinet, the G K O .25 O ne index o f change in the degree o f centralisation is to compare the changing roles o f the Labour Com m ittee and the Defence Com ­ missariat. In the second half o f 1941 the Labour Com m ittee drafted 120,000 workers into industry, transport and construction, but this num ber was dwarfed by the 700,000 ‘unfit’ conscripts mobilised into these branches by the Defence Commissariat. (Lack o f fitness was not ju st a medical condition, and covered many from the western terri­ tories absorbed in 1939-40 w ho had been judged politically unreliable en masse.) By 1943 the proportions were reversed; the Labour Com ­ m ittee mobilised nearly 900,000 workers into industry, construction and transport; all other channels o f labour mobilisation accounted for less than half this num ber.26 By N ovem ber 1942 the conditions for successful coordination o f wartim e labour mobilisation had been m et. There was universal service liability o f the population. A system for jo b reservation for essential w ar workers had been evolved,27 albeit in a pragmatic way. C en­ tralised coordination and arbitration betw een com peting priorities had also been established through the Labour Com m ittee and, if necessary, the GKO.

24 25 26 27


Mitrofanova 1971: 191, IVMV vol 5 1975: 50. e g Kravchenko 1947: 403-6. Mitrofanova 1971: 187-8, 193, 428, 433. Mitrofanova 1971: 434.

Labour: The Ultimate Bottleneck

The delay in im plem enting a centralised system o f labour adminis­ tration in 1941-2 was inevitable to some degree. T he rapid m ovem ent o f the front line made it so. For one thing, it was impossible to draw up and im plem ent nation-w ide priorities for the w orking population w hen the numbers available were changing so unpredictably and in such disastrous proportions. For another, the mobilisation needs o f d if­ ferent regions differed so greatly. It made little sense for anyone in M oscow to add up the labour requirem ents o f w ar w ork in the D on­ bass and the Urals and compare them w ith the com bined labour re­ sources o f these regions, w hen the workers o f the Donbass were dismantling their factories one day, fighting German spearheads the next, and under enem y occupation the day after. In fret, the Soviet labour m arket rem ained fluid ju st as long as the front line rem ained unstable. Stabilisation o f labour administration came only w ith the sta­ bilisation o f the Stalingrad front and launching o f the successful Soviet counter-offensive in N ovem ber 1942. N one the less the military situation alone cannot explain the long delay in grasping effective, centralised control over labour resources. T here is little sign that those in control o f em ploym ent policy under­ stood the task w hich freed them w hen w ar broke out. Like others, they had for years underestim ated the likely cost and duration o f w ar w ith Germany and did not understand the difficulties o f bringing to bear the country’s entire resources under the w eight o f a deep inva­ sion. By the end o f 1942, everyone in the territories under Soviet con­ trol was w orking for victory in a relatively coordinated way. B ut a substantial price had been paid for the delay in achieving nation-w ide coordination. This was the deep and persistent econom ic crisis o f 1942 w hich arose from the econom y’s excessive m obilisation. D uring most o f 1942 there w ere too many soldiers and too many m unitions workers compared to the few left in the supporting civilian infrastructure. In the absence o f effective restraint, the arm ed forces and m unitions industries acted on the econom y like a gigantic vacuum pum p, sucking up civilian employees and farm workers to replace sol­ diers and workers lost in the invasion and to m eet the huge expansion o f demand emanating from the front. Key sectors ranging from steel and transport to agriculture were left critically short o f resources. T he very foundations o f the country’s m ilitary-econom ic resistance were underm ined. Stricter controls on the mobilisation process and the sta­ bilisation o f the civilian econom y came m ore or less together at the end o f 1942. O nly then could the country turn the com er o f its ter­ rible econom ic crisis. 157


‘In Labour as in C om bat*

P R O D U C T IV IT Y IN P R E W A R P E R S P E C T IV E T he m acroeconomic dimension o f Soviet labour mobilisation was the subject o f C hapter 8. Was the country’s w orking population fully m o­ bilised into employment? Was it employed in fighting, in the m uni­ tions industries and in other w ar w ork in the right proportions? After this, how ever, comes the m icroeconom ic aspect. W ould each give their utm ost — w ould they w ork w ith new discipline and intensity, relendessly, for hours w ithout any break and for years w ithout any holiday? W ould their hard w ork produce results? For w ithout w ork effort and productivity, sheer numbers o f war workers could not su f­ fice to supply the colossal needs o f the front. The wartim e m otivation and morale o f Soviet workers are best seen against the backdrop o f the prew ar years, w hen rapid industrialisation had transformed the econom y’s structure, repbeing agriculture’s dom i­ nant role w ith m odem industries and services. B ut b b o u r productivity had not been transformed, and rem ained stubbornly low. T here w ere tw o kinds o f reasons for this. O n one hand were defects o f resource allocation flowing from the Stalinist strategy o f econom ic develop­ m ent, especially the neglect o f agriculture and living standards. O n the 1

1 O n prewar labour policy and mechanisms o f labour motivation see especially Barber 1986, Kuromiya 1988, Siegelbaum 1988. For the war period, much valuable detail is again contained in Mitrofanova 1971. Valuable sources on more specialised topics include Rogachevskaya 1977 (socialist emulation), Dokuchaev 1973 (the work­ force in Siberia), Zelkin 1969 (the Kuznetsk coalfield).


In Labour as in Combat

other hand w ere social relations o f production w hich had becom e en­ trenched in die w ork-place.2 W hat made up these relations o f production? A contingent factor was the w ork-force’s historical background o f self-em ploym ent in peasant and artisan production, w hich predisposed workers to a casual attitude to tim ekeeping, to unsteady w ork rhythm s, and to resistance to m anagem ent authority. But, in addition, there were influences perm anendy entrenched in the Stalinist econom ic system and reproduced by it. First, the sdcks and carrots used by employers in the old, pre-Soviet labour m arket to discipline the w ork-force had been weakened. The lack o f open unem ploym ent and the high demand for labour m eant that workers charged w ith absenteeism or slacking could laugh off the threat o f dismissal. Labour shortage encouraged workers to solve their problems at w ork by not turning up, or by leaving w ork and getting another jo b rather than acquiring skills and seniority while rem aining in their posts. Absenteeism and a high rate o f quitting w ork in Soviet industry in the prew ar decade notoriously low ered the average level o f skill and experience o f the w ork-force and held back the rise o f labour productivity.3 T he shortage o f available consum er goods also m eant that higher wage bonuses, offered in return for increased skill, seniority and effort, could not easily be spent in official shops and were often ineffective as incentives. Second, managers in Soviet industry had to m eet their quotas and satisfy those in authority over them ; but, in order to do this, they also had to get along w ith the workers under them . T o secure their co­ operation, managers often had to close their eyes to regular absences, and to w orking practices and traditions established to defend a slow w orking pace w ith plentiful breaks. It was better to w ork for com­ promise and a quiet life, than create a turm oil and cause a lot o f trouble to no effect. If m ore output was needed, it was easier to hire m ore workers than to try to make the existing w ork-force do m ore work.

2 This explanation begins from Komai 1980 and his theory o f the Shortage’ econ­ omy. Komai’s theory stresses underlying social relationships o f paternalism between su­ perion and subordinates and the power o f the producer over the user, the producers ‘soft’ budget constraint, and the widespread resort to non-price controls. As a starting point I prefer Komai’s theory to the neoclassical Barro-Grossman disequilibrium app­ roach, but the reader will not find any dogmatic exclusion o f disequilibrium concepts from this and following chapten. For a technical summary o f the two approaches and contrast between them, see Davis, Charemza 1989. 3 Barber 1986: 59-63.


The Soviet Home Front, 1 9 4 1 -1 9 4 5

T hird, the planning system supplied plenty o f ‘natural breaks’ in production by aiming to run the econom y beyond its hill capacity, by failing to make available machinery and materials o f sufficient quantity and quality on tim e throughout the increasingly complex industrial econom y. This also m eant that, if the workers w orked slowly and the factory perform ed badly, it was always possible for managers to blame their suppliers or even those higher up —the planners. Fourth, firms and managers were rewarded for producing additional output, and achieving this was usually sufficient protection against mild penalties for producing inefficiently. O n the other hand, penalties for not increasing output or underfulfilling the plan could be severe. M an­ agers strove constandy to acquire spare capacity, surplus stocks o f ma­ terials and supernum erary workers w hich could be mobilised w hen needed to cope w ith the rising scale o f orders and requirem ents handed down from above. Fifth and last, this ‘safety factor’ o f reserve capacity m ust be care­ fully concealed from outsiders. Planners must be led to believe the factory needed all its m achinery, all its stocks, all its workers to m eet just its regular quarterly, annual and five-year targets. R eporting low productivity and exaggerating input needs was the best way o f achiev­ ing this goal. And the best way o f substandating such reports and claims was to underperform in reality — not to mobilise the w ork­ force, not to achieve full capacity. The tacit collusion betw een managers and workers in favour o f low producdvity and a quiet life could survive by means o f a self-sustaining process. T he planners w anted higher output from given resources but, as long as they did not know w hat was truly possible, they were com ­ piling and sending out factory plans in the dark. As long as the factory refrained from heroic efforts and self-sacrificing demonstrations, the factory’s low output w ould continue to seem ‘norm al’ and no one higher up w ould expect miracles. In Soviet econom ic policy discussions the existence o f ‘hidden reserves’ o f labour producdvity had been long recognised. H ow could the collusion o f workers and managers in order to conceal these reser­ ves be broken? There were three tradirional m ethods o f mobilising hidden reserves: political campaigns, legal compulsions and econom ic inducements. First came extensive resort to political campaigns — most spectacularly, the m ovem ent o f shock workers under the first Five Year Plan (1928— 32), and the Stakhanov m ovem ent w hich began during the second


In Labour as in Combat

plan period (1933—7).4 (A G Stakhanov was a coal-m iner o f the D on­ bass region w ho, in August 1935, set a record by digging 102 tons o f coal, 10 times his personal average and 15 times the official norm , in a single shift). These m ovem ents sought to combine appeals from leaders to workers’ ideals and consciences w ith m oral pressures w ithin the w ork-force, so that badly-perform ing workers w ould feel they were letting the side down. W orkers could also be encouraged to blame slack managerial personnel for problems and delays and to denounce them . But those w ho did not w ant to w ork harder and produce higher output were often in the majority; high achievers, w ho pointed the way to m ore intensive and consistent effort, could experience social isolation, and verbal or even physical abuse. W orkers and managers alike could readily understand that the better the m inority elite o f shock workers perform ed, the m ore they exposed past underperfor­ mance by the w ork-force as a whole. M ore hard w ork w ould be ex­ pected o f the workers in the next planning period. M eanwhile, the revelation o f ‘hidden reserves’ w ould expose managers to criticism for not having uncovered them before. Second, legal compulsions were habitually applied to both workers and managers in order to overcom e problems o f lateness and absen­ teeism, drunkenness, resistance to management decisions and so forth. By forcible means the Soviet w orker could be compelled to attend w ork and to rem ain in post. Managers could be compelled to report offences and punished for condoning them . Force was a blunt instrum ent and, on its ow n, could never guaran­ tee good morale or w ork efficiency. How ever, it could effectively re­ inforce political appeals and make the most o f any spirit o f voluntary compliance. The exercise o f compulsory controls w ould dem onstrate to willing workers that the authorities w ould not allow the backsliding o f others to underm ine their increased efforts. Everyone w ould be willing to w ork harder if they knew that no one w ould be perm itted a free ride on their backs.5 T hird, both voluntary spirit and compulsory measures could be fur­ ther reinforced by financial inducements such as wage differentials and ‘progressive’ piece-rate bonuses. H ere, however, another dilemma w ould be generated.6 W age and salary incentives offered the w orker the chance to translate higher effort into higher living standards. But 4 See respectively Kuromiya 1988, Siegelbaum 1988. 5 Mills, Rockoff 1987: 209, ascribe popular compliance with British wartime con­ trols to this mix o f regimentation with voluntary spirit. 6 Siegelbaum 1988: Chapter 2.


The Soviet Home Front, Î 9 4 Î —İ9 4 5

increased earnings contradicted the regim e’s purpose in stim ulating higher output, w hich was to produce additional resources for public sector investm ent, not for household consum ption. T he authorities could avoid a rise in earnings by pushing up w ork norms to m atch the higher rates o f w ork, but at the cost o f damaging workers’ m otivation in the future - why w ork harder, if harder w ork became a perm anent requirem ent w hile the effect on earnings was only ever temporary? Alternatively, policy-makers could allow wage incomes to rise while continuing to steer resources into public investm ent, not retail sup­ plies. Consum er shortages and queues w ould result, weakening the attraction o f higher pay, w hich in reality could not be translated into higher consum ption. This latter problem was often overcom e by ad­ ministrative rules reserving first place in the queue for particularly scarce items (from meats and textiles to opera tickets and rest cures) for high achievers from the management and w ork-force. But this, in turn, made the shortages and disincentives still worse for everyone else. It w ould be probably be a mistake to see these m ethods, alone or in com bination, as always ineffective, but their influence was hard to disentangle from that o f other factors. In the prew ar decade the pro­ ductivity record o f Soviet industry was not static.7 After disappointing results under the first Five Year Plan, there was a big spurt under the second. T he spurt was associated w ith several factors. O ne was the fruition, at last, o f the big capital projects o f the first Five Year Plan w hich now brought a radical reduction in the average age o f the in­ dustrial capital stock. At the same tim e the new w ork-force, assembled in haste during the first plan, now grew less rapidly, so that its average level o f skill and experience rose. In addition, there was a return to financial controls and wage incentives. A nother factor was the Stakha­ nov m ovem ent, through w hich the new capital stock and the new w ork-force were accomm odated to each other. B ut after 1937 there was stagnation once m ore, w hich culm inated in 1940 in the reinstate­ m ent o f strict legal compulsions, despite their apparently disappointing record o f success in the early 1930s. In Soviet agriculture output per w orker stagnated under the Five Year Plans.8 Again, it is difficult to disentangle the influence o f differ­ 7 For competing estimates of change in industrial output per year worked, 1928-40, see Nutter 1962: 173-3. Nutter’s own measures show output per worker (1928 = 100) to have fallen to 93 in 1933, rising thereafter to 122 in 1937 and 127 in 1940. Output per hour worked in 1940, however, was no more than 115 per cent o f 1928. 8 According to Moorsteen, Powell 1966: 370, labour productivity in agriculture in 1940 was barely higher (1,800 roubles of GNP per 1937 ‘man-year’) than in 1928 (1,750 roubles). It was a litde higher than this in 1937, but lower in every other intervening year.


In Labour as in Combat

ent factors. Probably the dom inant effect was the setback resulting from the widespread destruction o f farm animals supplying food and tractive pow er at the tim e o f collectivisation. This was a legacy w hich could not be overcom e by any inducem ent or compulsion to labour. B ut it is also true that in the 1930s the farm population was treated brutally by higher authority, deprived o f necessary supplies and offered little incentive to good husbandry and farm management. W hen w ar broke out, the mechanisms sustaining the tradition o f low productivity became life-threatening. It was insufficient ju st to mobilise resources. Resources also had to be used efficiendy. O ther­ wise, even w hen folly mobilised, the w ork-force w ould still produce insufficient means to defeat the enemy. M aintaining and raising its productiveness became a m ajor preoccupation o f policy. In wartim e all the traditional mechanisms for trying to lever up the intensity and quality o f labour were used - forcible constraints, econom ic incentives and political campaigns. B ut they were deployed in a different balance from before. First am ong them were disciplinary measures.

W O R K D IS C IP L IN E (I) - P U B L IC S E C T O R E M PL O Y E E S Coercive measures were applied very extensively to the w ork-force. First, under the prew ar legislation o f June 1940, public sector em ­ ployees were already liable to strict penalties for m inor lateness, absen­ teeism, and quitting their jobs w ithout official sanction. Second, a new wartim e decree w hich affected the greatest num ber o f people raised the m inim um w orking week. O n 26 June 1941, gov­ ernm ent measures abolished normal holidays and introduced up to a maximum o f three hours’ compulsory overtim e per day. O vertim e was to be paid at the rate o f tim e and a half.9 The adult public sector em ployee’s normal w orking week, w hich had stood at 41 hours until June 1940, and 48 hours (8 hours a day, 6 days a week) thereafter, now rose to 54—5 hours.10 W hether this was wise is a good question in itself. The evidence o f industrial w ork in western countries suggests strongly that, w hen the 9 Resheniya vol 3 1968: 37-8. 10 According to Voznesensky 1948: 91, in 1942 the industrial worker’s hours ex­ ceeded those worked in 1940 by 22 per cent. If the working week in 1940 stood at 44.5 hours (the average o f 41 and 48 hours), then the 1942 figure must have risen to 54.3 hours.


The Soviet Home Front, İ 9 4 Î - 1 9 4 5

w orking w eek stands at 48 hours, weekly output per w orker is already at a maximum and that persistently w orking longer hours does n o t typically increase total output.11 M any, however, clearly w orked far m ore than this. Amid the em er­ gencies o f 1941—2 they simply lived at w ork, slept on site and ex­ tended the w orking w eek to its physiological maximum. R eports o f such cases were com m on w here workers were near to the front line, or were directly involved in m unitions w ork, or in the industrial evacuation, or in trying to replace the output o f a fellow w orker m o­ bilised for com bat.1112 (The quality o f w ork resulting from such long hours is not reported.) Third, some key workers — on 26 D ecem ber 1941, the m unitions workers, and on 15 April 1943, the railway workers — w ere con­ scripted at their posts, w hich made them liable to arraignm ent before a military tribunal for virtually any infringem ent o f labour discipline, in­ cluding lateness and unauthorised leaving o f employm ent. Absenteeism and departure from employm ent, made possible by chronic labour shortage, were already established in peacetim e as tradi­ tional responses o f Soviet workers to bad living and w orking condi­ tions. In wartim e, the intense labour shortage and exceptionally poor conditions probably com bined to encourage absenteeism and turnover, despite the harsh prohibitions in force. Certainly it seems to be true that Soviet workers frequently failed to measure up to the exacting standards o f discipline set by the authorities.13 D uring the w ar years an average o f 1 million people were taken to court annually and con­ victed o f absenteeism w hich, under the prew ar decree o f 26 June 1940, was defined as leaving one’s post or being m ore than tw enty m inutes late. In 1942 this m eant one in sixteen o f the public sector w ork-force. T heir sentence could include six m onths’ corrective la­ bour at w ork w ith reduced pay and loss o f seniority. T hree occasions or m ore were counted as unauthorised quitting, leading to a prison term o f tw o to four m onths. A yearly average o f 200,000 people (in 1942, one in seventy) were convicted o f unauthorised quitting. Fur­ ther thousands escaped these penalties by going on the run, until an amnesty in 1944. Those employed in the m unitions industries fell under still harsher regulation after the militarisation decree o f 26 Decem ber 1941. From 1942 onwards a yearly average o f 200,000 convictions was recorded 11 Denison 1967: 59. 12 e g Mitrofanova 1971: 101, Rogachevskaya 1977: 189, Tyl SVS 1977: 172, Ginzburg 1983: 230-1. 13 Following discussion is based on Zemskov, 1990.


In Labour as in Combat

for unauthorised quitting, w hich under this law could lead to a five to eight year term o f prison or forced labour; it is not certain how many were subject to this decree but, if we compare numbers convicted against estimated em ploym ent in military m achine building and metal working, then in 1943 it caught one in eight workers. Nearly 300,000 people were sent to the Gulag under the same decree (not necessarily all for quitting) in 1943—5. These figures show som ething about workers’ failure to w ork ac­ cording to the letter o f the law. T he law was so harsh, how ever, that they tell us far m ore about the mistrustful and punitive attitudes o f the authorities than about workers’ real com m itm ent or underlying effort. W hen a disrupted bus route could result in hundreds o f people facing criminal charges for lateness, an increase in convictions was ju st as likely to have been caused by m ore difficult circumstances as by low er w orker morale. This means that we learn litde from the law enforce­ m ent process about workers’ underlying readiness to be absent from w ork, or about real trends in turnover. W orkforce turnover was m ore meaningfully measured by factory returns on departures from employm ent. Some o f this turnover was seen as allowable in official eyes, but it is confirm ed that there was significant unauthorised quitting as well. In 1943-4, in each year, m ore than one-tenth o f the manual w ork-force o f plant operating in the iron and steel industry left w ork illegally. At steel works under reconstruction in 1944 the rate was even higher —one-fifth.14 R egard­ less o f legal bans, the prew ar labour m arket was struggling to reappear. O f new workers being taken on at steel works in 1943, the proportion hired by individual application varied betw een 9 and 16 per cent, but in 1944—5 the proportion rose to one-quarter.15 T he authorities looked on the revival o f voluntary turnover w ith deep disfavour. In the summer o f 1944 there was a renew ed clampdow n, based on an unpublished decree.16 R eports for a num ber o f industries suggest that turnover fell after August, and was low er in 1945 than in 1944.17 B ut it is hard to say w hether this was because the new controls were effective, or because August was anyway by tradition a bad m onth for workers w ith family links to farming, or because the country’s econom ic structure was anyway becom ing m ore

14 Sovetskaya ekonomika 1970: 195—6 15 Mitrofanova 1971: 434. 16 Mitrofanova 1971: 436. 17 Sovetskaya ekonomika 1970: 195-6; Mitrofanova 1971: 436.


The Soviet Home Front, İ 9 4 İ —İ9 4 5

stable w ith the restoration o f fixed frontiers and the w inding dow n o f the war effort. T he difficulty o f m aintaining labour discipline amid desperate short­ ages and deprivations was exemplified in the Soviet coal industry. In 1942 coal was desperately short. Invasion had cut the country's coal capacity by nearly tw o-thirds. At the same tim e, output from the Kuz­ netsk and the Karaganda coalfields, accounting for m ore than o nethird o f the country’s rem aining capacity, was filling. Behind falling output lay sharply declining output per w orker, w ith face-w orkers’ productivity in the Kuzbass dow n by one-quarter in August 1942 compared to the same m onth in the previous year (in the Karaganda coalfield shift output was dow n by two-fifths). In both coalfields, free workers’ absenteeism on a m onthly basis was running at sixteen to seventeen times the level o f the previous year. O nly half the free w or­ kers in the Kuzbass were fulfilling personal w ork norms, and in Ka­ raganda the proportion was no m ore than one-eighth. T he m onthly plans for January to August 1942 were also being underfulfilled for each coalfield taken as a w hole - on average, by one-quarter in the Kuzbass, and by 30 per cent in Karaganda.18 In A ugust-Septem ber 1942, the party authorities and war cabinet issued stinging rebukes in turn to the local party organisations for their negligence. W ith hindsight it can be seen that poor discipline in the coalfields in 1942 was probably inevitable. T he central problem (and this was not a peculiarly Soviet problem , being shared by Great Britain, Ger­ many and Japan) was that m ining coal was difficult and dangerous, and w hen w ar broke out many experienced m iners left willingly to jo in the arm ed forces. They were replaced by inexperienced young and w om en workers in insufficient numbers. W artim e experience in ore m ining w ould show that on average tw o years’ w ork experience was required for underground workers to build up the skill and strength to fulfil personal w ork norms. In 1942 the proportion o f workers in the Kuzbass w ith prew ar experience fell below one-half. T he num ber o f w om en employees and o f employees below norm al w orking age rose both absolutely and even m ore in proportion to the declining w ork­ force.19 Absenteeism was doubtless highest among new workers, being prom oted both by the unpleasant nature o f the jo b and by sheer physical exhaustion. Productivity decline was an inevitable result. M oreover, low productivity could only be further worsened by the

18 Resheniya 1968: 73-80. 19 Zelkin 1969: 77-80.


In Labour as in Combat

absorption o f massive drafts o f new labour sent to the coalfields in the late summer and autum n o f 1942. O ther factors also contributed to low productivity. Piece-rate bo­ nuses were not available to all underground workers. The living con­ ditions o f new workers were very poor, and consum er supplies and services had deteriorated. (In August 1942, how ever, a big wage in­ crease for coalfield employees took their cash earnings above those o f even steel workers and m unitions industry workers.) T he level o f coal­ face mechanisation had fallen. For the sake o f quick results, existing seams were being w orked to exhaustion while high-level directives to open up new pits were being ignored.20 In fact, given the problems besetting the industry, the record o f coal-m ining in 1942 was probably better than appeared at the tim e. Official condem nation was largely based on comparing m onthly coal­ field perform ance indicators o f August 1942 w ith those o f the previous year. B ut in August 1941 there had been the first flush o f wartim e enthusiasm, and output from the Kuzbass had broken all records, reaching almost 120 per cent o f the 1941 (second quarter) average.212If August 1941 in the Kuzbass had been untypically good, August 1942 was unusually disappointing, w ith m uch low er perform ance indicators than either o f the adjacent m onths. In terms o f plan fulfilment for individual face workers, and for the Kuzbass as a whole, both July and 22 Septem ber w ould have looked better than August. M ost likely, August 1942 was a bad m onth in the coalfields, unlike August o f the previous year, because by 1942 the mines were full o f peasant lads w ho hated the w ork, were short o f food, and seized the excuse o f helping w ith the harvesting to go hom e for a few days. T he rise in absenteeism and dip in output per w orker were maybe only tem porary - but just the thing to infuriate M oscow. T he situation in the coal industry was not necessarily typical, but still serves to exemplify the limits to coercion. T he nature o f the w ork, interacting w ith a steep deterioration o f living conditions, and rapid turnover and renewal o f the w ork-force, was mostly to blame for poor wartim e performance. Against such a set o f obstacles the compulsion to w ork was bound to be ineffective and could not bring about good results.

20 Zelkin 1969: 81-4, 93. 21 Dokuchaev 1973: 126-7. 22 Zelkin 1969: 90-1.


The Soviet Home Front, 1 94Ηİ9 4 5

W O R K D IS C IP L IN E (II) - C O L L E C T IV E F A R M E R S Equivalent measures affecting collective farm workers were passed, al­ though after some delay. In May 1939 the m inim um num ber o f w orkpoints to be accumulated annually by each farm w orker had been set at 60 in the m ore industrialised regions, 80 in the predom inandy agricultural regions and 100 in the southern cotton belt. Each w orkpoint was supposed to correspond to a day’s labour o f average skill and intensity, and each farm w orker's accumulated annual total w ould determ ine their share in the farm’s residual net incom e after the claims o f governm ent procurem ents, payments in kind to the local M TS, and expenditure on farm investments and social funds had been m et. (The fact that compulsory w orkpoint minima had been already enacted even in peacetime reflects the fact that under Stalinist policies the collective firm ’s residual net incom e was typically very small, dim inishing the individual farm er’s econom ic m otivation to w ork for the collective by choice.) W hen war broke out there was no immediate change in the legal minima; in February 1942, however, new ones were set at 100, 120 and 150 w orkpoints by region (see C hapter 6). And in wartim e each collective farmer did considerably m ore w ork than before. Thus, the num ber o f w orkpoints accumulated by each collective firm w orker o f the interior regions rose substantially during the war years —from 312 to 344 for m en and from 193 to 252 for wom en. Despite the higher compulsory m inim a, the proportions o f adult male and female collective farm workers reported for violation w ere substantially low er in 1944 than in 1940.23 Everyone did m ore w ork, but the main reason for increased w ork was not the higher m inim a, w hich were already for exceeded by most farm workers. Setting a low er m inim um in industrialised regions and a higher m inim um in the cotton belt was perverse. In the industrialised regions, agriculture was m ore diversified, and the possibilities o f year-round em ploym ent were greater. H ere farm workers w orked the longest year. In the agricultural regions, and most o f all in the cotton belt, firm s followed a pattem o f increasing specialisation, and em ploym ent was m ore and m ore seasonal. In the cotton belt it was most difficult to find year-round employm ent. But this was where the legal hurdle was highest. T he excess o f average labour inputs over the legal m inim um in wartime was greatest where the m inim um was lowest. As a result, 23 86-96.


The following discussion is based on Uchastie 1962, and Arutyunyan 1970:

In Labour as in Combat

the proportion reported for violating the legal m inim um was lowest in the industrialised regions (where the m inim um was easy to achieve) at 4 per cent o f farm workers in 1944, rising to 12 per cent in the agricultural regions and 15 per cent in the cotton belt w here the m ini­ m um presented the most difficult hurdle. The arbitrariness o f the law was evidendy recognised by judicial authorities, w ho rarely applied the maximum penalty to violators. W hen they did, they w ere toughest on violators in the industrialised regions, where the m inim um was easiest to attain. Legal penaldes tended not to be applied stricdy — even in the industrialised regions, w ith a relatively easy target to aim at, only some 15 per cent o f viol­ ators actually suffered expulsion from the kolkhoz as specified in the decree, and the proportion was no m ore than 3—5 per cent w here the hurdle was higher. T he im pact o f higher compulsory w orkpoint minima in wartim e seems therefore to have been slight or non-existent. If firm workers w orked harder in wartim e it was because o f material circumstances. Agricultural w ork became m ore labour intensive, because the country­ side was stripped o f tractive pow er — horses and oxen, replacem ent m achinery and fuel supplies. Reserves o f underem ployed rural labour had been exhausted by recruitm ent into military uniform and war w ork, so that the w ork to be done had to be divided am ong fewer people.

W O R K D IS C IP L IN E (III) - F O R C E D L A B O U R In wartim e some Soviet labour rem ained literally forced. In June 1941 there w ere, according to official figures, some 2.3 m illion held in prisons and in Gulag labour camps and colonies; the camp population alone stood at 1,501,000 in January 1941. In wartim e the latter figure fell sharply to a low o f 663,000 in January 1944 (at the end o f 1944 the larger category o f persons held in prisons, labour camps and labour colonies had fallen to 1,450,000). T he wartim e decline reflected a m ixture o f fewer arrests, m ore releases, and horrifying m ortality which reached 20 per cent o f the camp population annually in 1942-3.24 Long hours and poor conditions o f camp labour had already been taken to an extrem e in peacetime; the regim entation and punitive 24 Zemskov 1989; Nekrasov 1989.


The Soviet H ome Front, Î 9 4 Î - İ 9 4 5 2S

treatm ent o f prisoners made inevitable their very low productivity. (And the wastage o f ‘hum an resources’ was doubled by the diversion o f personnel and transport capacities on a large scale away from m ore productive tasks, to processing and guarding the Gulag population and shuffling it round the country.) W ith the outbreak o f war, food rations o f the Gulag workers w ere further reduced. And this further low ered their output. According to Solzhenitsyn, declining output clashed w ith the need to mobilise camp labour for m unitions production and soon forced reversal o f the food cuts.2526 T he official figures suggest, how ­ ever, that during the acute labour shortage o f 1942-3, w hen every defence factory and building site in the country was screaming for m ore workers, hundreds o f thousands o f Gulag labourers perished from overw ork and lack o f food. Y et even there, in the camps, Solzhenitsyn reports how labourers o f the Gulag became ‘caught up’ in w ork for the front — Coal for Len­ ingrad! M ortar shells for the troops! An attem pt to collect m oney for a tank colum n (suppressed by the camp authorities).27 Again suggestive o f the inefficiency o f forced labour in wartim e is the experience o f the ‘construction battalions’ form ed in 1941-2 by the Defence Commissariat from those judged physically —o r politically — ‘unfit’ to serve. T he construction battalions helped to fill the labour shortages o f the early m onths o f the war, but forced recruitm ent con­ spired w ith a harsh barrack regim e to degrade their morale and effi­ ciency. So poor was their perform ance that they were first transferred from the defence commissariat to the civilian construction authorities in O ctober 1941, then assimilated to a civilian regim e in M arch—April 1942.28 In summary, in wartim e everyone w orked m uch longer hours. T he existence o f a fram ework o f legal com pulsion was clearly o f some sig­ nificance, m ore so in the public sector than on the collective farm, b u t there were also limits to its effectiveness w hich were set partly by technological and supply conditions, partly by m otivation and m orale,

25 The voluminous western and Soviet unofficial literature on life in the Gulag emphasises the low productivity o f camp labour, but sheds litde analytical light on its underlying determinants. A model might be elaborated from remarks of Solzhenitsyn vol 2 1976: 147, concerning the ‘three pillars* propping up the Gulag system - ‘the differentiated ration pot, the work brigade, and the two sets o f bosses’, to which he then adds a fourth - ‘tukhta* (fictitious output). For some post-Stalin insights on the same problem, see Karldins 1989: 292. 26 Solzhenitsyn vol 2 1976: 118. 27 Solzhenitsyn vol 2 1976: 121. 28 D ’yakov 1978: 5*-60.


In Labour as in Combat

and partly by how m uch physiological strain the hum an body could take w ithout loss o f productive qualities.

E C O N O M IC IN C E N T IV E S W hat was the role o f material incentives to w ork harder for a higher income? Econom ic inducem ents still operated in wartim e, but there was an acute shortage o f the real resources required to support them . Betw een 1940 and 1942, the population fell by one-third, but food production foil by m ore than three-fifths. In 1943 things got still worse because the population grew a little (with the recovery o f terri­ tory from the enemy) while food production stagnated so that food availability per head fell still further — to only half the level o f 1940. Supplies o f m anufactured consum er goods fell sharply, too. M ean­ w hile, the m oney incom es o f public sector employees rose. As a result o f extensive overtim e and selective wage increases, by 1944 the aver­ age m onthly earnings o f manual workers in industry w ere 53 per cent higher than in 1940.2930 Prices in state and cooperative shops rose on average by m ore - 84 per cent according to official reports. B ut this was for less than the price increase needed for official shops to absorb consum er purchasing pow er, given the collapse on the supply side. Instead, in a general context o f severe shortages and extensive ration­ ing, material incentives were effective only in lim ited circumstances. In theory, one o f the m ost im portant influences on the willingness o f households to supply labour to an em ployer is their demand for cash. W orker households’ dem and for cash in wartim e may have been relatively lim ited. W orker households still needed some cash, o f course. Basic foodstuffs, especially bread, were rationed to most public sector employees and their dependants, but rationed goods were not distributed free and still had to be bought for cash. Still, the ’official’ prices at w hich they were supplied were relatively low , and rem ained unchanged until 1944, except for increases affecting alcoholic bever­ ages. W orkers’ cash needs for these purchases could be thought of, therefore, as foirly lim ited. As for as goods off the ration were concerned, state shops were soon em ptied o f stocks. W orker households had little m otive to ac­ quire cash to purchase non-rationed goods from official sources, be­ 29 Voznesensky 1948: 94. 30 Zaleski 1980: 456.


The Soviet H om e Front, Î 9 4 1 -1 9 4 5

cause they tended not to be available at any price. This state o f affairs persisted until 1944, w ith the introduction o f ‘com m ercial’ shops w here scarce goods were offered off the ration at m uch higher prices. T he most im portant source o f w orker households* dem and for ad­ ditional cash was to finance transactions in the unregulated collective farm markets (where collective farmers brought their ow n allotm ent produce for legitim ate sale) and on the black m arket (where stolen official supplies were illegally resold). T here goods were available off the ration, although at prices many times higher than official levels. At their 1943 peak, collective farm m arket prices were on average twelve to thirteen times the prew ar level,3132and higher still in some localities. H ere was still, therefore, a m otive for households to supply additional labour in return for additional cash. This m otive was strengthened by the reduction in supplies made available through official shops at low prices w hen w ar broke out. H ow ever, it was also weakened by the rapid rise in unofficial prices, w hich made those w ho turned to the unofficial m arket m ore likely than before to turn away w ithout mak­ ing a purchase at all. At a certain point, the m otive to acquire cash balances in order to turn to the unofficial m arket probably ceased to operate. At peaks o f scarcity, unregulated markets shifted from cash transactions to barter. Sellers o f food surpluses w ould no longer accept m oney in exchange but dem anded household durables —kitchen goods, clothing, watches, jew ellery or furniture (for use or for firewood); such transactions be­ came widespread in all parts o f the country.33 Beyond this point, w or­ kers’ desire to acquire additional cash through harder w ork m ust have been almost entirely blunted. Cash incentives were used for purposes o f official policy in w artim e. For example, there were increases in wage differentials for those em ­ ployed in the coal, steel, oil and m unitions industries, in railway trans­ port. in mechanical w ork in agriculture, and to various professional employees.34 H ow ever, the most effective kind o f econom ic incentive in wartim e was probably the offer o f goods in kind. W orkers were rewarded in kind in both the urban and rural econ­ omies, but in different ways and for different purposes. In the public sector rationing o f foodstuffs and access to meals at w ork were used as blunt instrum ents for differentiation o f reward. W ar workers and w or­ kers in heavy jobs received a bigger food allocation than office w or­ 31 32 33 34


Voznesensky 1948: 102. e g N un 1989: 112. Salisbury 1971: 522, Moskoff 1990: 161-5. Mitrofanova 1971: 498-9, Zaleski 1980: 327.

In Labour as in Combat

kers and the non-em ployed. Provided the increased w ork was not out o f proportion to their increased caloric entidem ent, such workers w ere n o t only kept fitter but also encouraged to rem ain at their posts and not to risk dismissal for any reason. In emergencies, rationing was also used in a discretionary way, to pum p additional food supplies to par­ ticularly crucial groups o f workers —railway workers in 1942, or coal and steel workers in early 1943. T he ration could be used as a stick as well as carrot. A ble-bodied citizens w ho evaded w ork were denied rations o f m eat and fats. H om e-w orkers received workers* rations only on condition o f fulfil­ m ent o f personal w ork norms. Forestry w orkers’ rations were made to depend direcdy upon their productivity in the preceding fortnight.35 In industry, absenteeism could result in a m onth’s reduction o f entide­ m ent (examples specify cuts o f 200 grams for a manual w orker on 800 grams o f bread per day or, for an office w orker on 500 grams, a cut o f 100 grams), w ith restoration conditional upon good behaviour in the interim . In the m unitions industry similar penalties w ere inflicted under the militarisation decree o f 26 Decem ber 1941, for lateness.36 This was no m ean threat, since bread typically accounted for 80-90 per cent o f officially rationed sources o f energy and protein. In wartim e agriculture the lack o f econom ic rew ard was keenly felt. O f course, one o f the m ost im portant sources o f low farm yields was the loss o f material supplies, w hich could not be made good by any incentive scheme. At the same tim e, the decline was com pounded by harsh policies o f confiscation o f surplus kolkhoz output. Econom ic in­ centives w ere mainly offered as an emergency measure at harvest tim e, w hen the agricultural labour shortage was at its m ost acute. For example, in the autum n o f 1941 the governm ent prom ised the farm workers in the front-line regions a half share in the harvest in order to secure the crops before the enem y arrived.37 In 1942, harvest workers w ere guaranteed a percentage share in above-plan yields. N ew systems for paym ent o f bonuses in kind were also developed to cover non-har­ vest tasks.38 These measures represented a big breach in tw o basic principles o f the kolkhoz system —that workers were to be rew arded in proportion to labour input, not output; and that their rewards w ould be calcu­ lated as shares in the residual incom e o f the farm, after deduction o f

35 36 37 38

Chemyavskii 1964: 75. Lyubimov 1968: 32, Zemskov 1990. IVOVSS vol 2 1961: 165. Vinogradov 1976: 83, 89.


The Soviet H ome Front, Î 9 4 İ —İ 9 4 5

compulsory sales to governm ent agencies, not as shares in the gross harvest before other deductions. All the same, the loss o f resources and their diversion from con­ sum er supply to the w ar effort made it inevitable that econom ic m oti­ vations w ould generally play a lesser role than before the w ar in m aintaining labour inputs and outputs.

M O R A L E A N D N A T IO N A L FE E L IN G Given the wartim e limits to both compulsory and econom ic stimula­ tion o f labour, political campaigns and moral appeals played a weigh­ tier role and, arguably, had greater effect. And this was m ore im portant than anything in helping to break up the peacetim e com ­ plicity o f workers and managers in the m aintenance o f low industrial productivity. As a result, hidden reserves were uncovered and set to w ork for the duration o f the war. An im portant expression o f high wartim e m otivation and m orale was the wide scope o f ‘socialist em ulation’. In wartim e old styles o f socialist em ulation were revived and new ones invented.39 First came a new m ovem ent o f the Stakhanov type. T he initiators o f the new m ovem ent were the ‘tw o-hundreders’, led by an employee o f the G o /k ii engineering factory, F Bukin. T here had been tw o hundreders before the war,40 but in wartim e they em erged under a new slogan: ‘W ork not just for yourself but also for your comrade w ho has gone to the front’. T heir aim was to fulfil their official shift norm s by 200 per cent or m ore. The m ovem ent spread across the country, reaching most enterprises during the autum n o f 1941. In August and Septem ber 1941 a m ove­ m ent o f ‘three-hundreders’ appeared and, in February 1942 a m ove­ m ent o f ‘thousanders’. T here had been thousanders, too, before the war, and the first individual thousanders o f the war period em erged, like Stakhanov, in the coalfields. T he initiator o f a new thousanders’ m ovem ent, how ever, was D F Bosyi, a m illing machine operator sent on party orders from Leningrad to N izhnii Tagil w ho, on 12 February 1942 w orked a special shift in honour o f the tw enty-fourth anniver­ sary o f the R ed Army and fulfilled his norm by no less than 1,480 per cent. By April 1942 there were 107 thousanders in N izhnii Tagil, and 39 See especially Mitrofanova 1971: passim, Rogachevskaya 1977: ch 4. 40 Dokuchaev 1973: 131.


In Labour as in Combat

Bosyi’s example was becom ing the inspiration for a national m ove­ m ent. T he thousanders seem not to have been very num erous, how ­ ever, never grow ing beyond a small elite. (M eanwhile, how ever, Bosyi w ent from strength to strength; his norm fulfilm ent rose to fifteen, then seventeen times, then on 1 May 1942 to thirty-seven times, and to a record peak o f sixty-tw o times in 1943.) H ow was it possible for Soviet workers to achieve double, treble or ten o r tw enty times the official norm? This depended upon tw o fac­ tors. O ne was the very low level o f the starting point. Official peace­ tim e norm s w ere based on a slow rate o f w ork, allowing for frequent breaks and breakdowns o f m achinery and supplies. T he other was the careful preparation o f record-breaking shifts, w hich depended not only on the individual effort o f the record-breaker but also on the or­ ganised support o f a pyram id o f auxiliary workers, suppliers and trouble shooters aim ed at securing the best possible conditions o f unin­ terrupted w ork. U ndoubtedly this was Bosyi’s secret. N o t everyone could w ork under such privileged conditions and be a thousander. At the same tim e, how ever, the thousanders w ere the ultim ate expression o f a genuine phenom enon. T he new Stakhanovism was found in m ost o f the war econom y’s key sectors. Tw o-hundreders and three-hundreders seem to have been found mainly in engineering and m etalworking, including defence production. In steel-m aking a m ovem ent o f ‘accelerators’ w orked for high-speed smelting. T here were also m ovem ents fbr m ulti-skill ac­ quisition and m ulti-m achine operation. In railway transport this was based on the prew ar m ethod o f N A Lunin, w hich involved teaching locom otive drivers and firem en to substitute for repair gangs and to accept entire responsibility for operation and m aintenance o f the loco­ m otive. A lready in the autum n o f 1941 this m eth o d was b eing extended to industry as a w hole.41 A nother developm ent was the Komsomol ‘front-line’ youth bri­ gades in industry. These, also, had arisen before the war, especially in the coalfields. N ow they became a particularly im portant means o f galvanising labour into action, given the rising proportion o f youth workers in the heavy and defence industries (in 1942, the proportion under 25 years o f age in these branches was typically 40-50 per cent). O ne special feature was expressed by their slogan: ‘From individual records to récords o f the collective.’ T he Komsomol brigades were popularised especially in Septem ber-O ctober 1941 w hen the battle for

41 Dokuchaev 1973: 135-6.


The Soviet H ome Front, Î 9 4 Î - İ 9 4 5

M oscow was at its height, by young workers at GAZ (the G or'kii m otor factory) and Uralmashzavod (the Urals engineering factory). An unpleasant attribute w hich became especially prom inent after the battle for M oscow was the Komsomol brigades’ tendency to ex­ trem e forms o f militarisation. Associated w ith their designation as ‘front-line’ brigades, and their slogan ‘W ork in the factory as soldiers fight at the front’, were often a quasi-military hierarchy, m ilitary oaths, managerial decisions issued as m ilitary orders, and military form ation m arching. These practices were even endorsed for general use by the central com m ittee o f the steel workers’ union for the eastern regions in M arch 1942, before being condem ned nationally in June.42 In a last category o f socialist em ulation were the intercity and inter­ factory all-U nion com petitions, usually organised by branch o f indus­ try, w hich began in May 1942. In these com petitions the workers o f a factory prom ised to overfulfil their plan by a given percentage (or fulfil it early, by a given date, w hich came to the same thing), and chal­ lenged others to do likewise. T he first such initiatives came from steel workers in the Kuzbass, and from workers in the aircraft industry. Typically the above-plan output w ould be prom ised as an addition to the funds for expenditure on defence. Similar campaigns o f socialist em ulation were repeated throughout the war. O n the surface, at least, m oral incentives played a very im portant role in stim ulating wartim e labour. O ne factor was surely the patriotic m otivation o f the workers - their desire to contribute to expelling the invader from Soviet territory and destroying the H itler regime. Soviet people saw that Germany was engaged in a w ar o f exterm ination against them ; w orking for Germany’s defeat was seen as bringing its ow n reward, not requiring further coercive or econom ic levers to be applied. O ne result was the tem porary absence o f the most im portant peace­ tim e obstacles to the spread o f Stakhanovite record-breaking. For example, w hen Stakhanovite workers achieved record-breaking feats in peacetim e, resistance was invariably induced am ong slower workers w ho did not w ant to have higher rates o f w ork forced upon them by an upgrading o f the output norm s required to earn wage bonuses. B ut in wartim e, wage bonuses w ere less im portant because basic consum er goods w ere rationed and litde else was available for purchase. T here w ere no reports, then or later, o f hostile reaction from w ithin the w ork-force to the wartim e feats o f Bosyi, Bukin and their emulators. 42 Dokuchaev 1973: 140-5, also Mitrofanova 1971: 155-7, R.ogachev$kaya 1977: 196.


In Labour as in Combat

T he traditional incentives to conceal reserves and hold back productiv­ ity had been to some extent neutralised.43 U ndoubtedly there w ere m any im portant reservoirs o f poor morale in the Soviet wartim e econom y, and many cases w here m oral incen­ tives did not give results. Patriotic m otivation was not an all-powerful influence, and did not suffice to overcom e all obstacles. Low produc­ tivity often resulted from supply disruptions and technological con­ straints w hich could not be overcom e by national feeling. In other cases, low productivity could be blam ed w ith equal plausibility on op­ pressive governm ent and bad m anagem ent. Conditions in the coal in­ dustry and in railway transport were often particularly difficult. Forced labourers in concentration camps, or deportees and conscripts in con­ struction battalions, had no chance to dem onstrate high m orale and patriotic feeling.

W A R T IM E P R O D U C T IV IT Y - SU C C E S S A N D F A IL U R E W hat actually happened to output per w orker in wartime? In the m unitions industry there were substantial gains; there, output per w orker probably doubled, or even m ore, betw een 1940 and 1944 (Table 10). This was an international phenom enon, noted also in Ger­ m an, American and, to a lesser extent, in British war factories.44 T he com m on circumstance was the changeover to standardised production o f parts and assembly o f weapons, w hich allowed transition from rela­ tively slow, non-specialised, small batch production to m uch higher rates o f flow production on conveyor belts, w ith a m uch greater divi­ sion o f labour. T here was also the fact that in every country m unitions factories were guaranteed preferential access to labour and supplies. In the Soviet case, the m obilisation o f reserve capacities also played a part. These were both explicit reserve capacities created deliberately in ad­ vance for m obilisation in the contingency o f war, and ‘concealed’ reserves o f idle tim e arising out o f the peacetim e labour-m anagem ent compact. Such reserves were now exploited. In the rest o f the econom y, there was a general productivity set­ back. Table 10 shows that in civilian branches o f industry, output per w orker sagged by one-tenth before recovery in 1944 (given the in­

43 Dyker 1987: 309. Sec also Chapter 11. 44 For evidence, see Harrison 1990a: 576n.


The Soviet H ome Front, 1 9 4 1 -1 9 4 5

crease in hours, output per hour w orked rem ained below prew ar le­ vels). In transport, trade and construction, output per w orker probably fell by a third in 1940-2, and its trend continued dow nw ard.45 In agriculture, prew ar productivity was already notably depressed, and output per w orker fell by a quarter in 1940-2 before recovery in 1944. And this was in spite o f the feet that each kolkhoz w orker farmed m ore land than before, and contributed m ore w orkpoints. T here were several identifiable causes o f depressed productivity. In industry and transport im portant factors were the loss o f econom ic coordination, and the reduced priority o f civilian output, w hich w ere both expressed in continual supply interruptions.46 Excessive w orking hours, and undernourishm ent, also played a part. In agriculture the devastation o f ferm stocks o f equipm ent and animals severely lim ited the wartim e results o f farm w ork. W orkers' perform ance was also strongly influenced by the impact o f wartim e m obilisation on the com position o f the w ork-force. In all branches it was the young, skilled adult males w ho were most likely to be mobilised but, relative­ ly speaking, heavy and especially defence industry were m ost protected so that the most rapid turnover was inflicted on civilian industry and the non-industrial branches. T here, the w ork-force rapidly lost sen­ iority and skill. In summary, the war was associated w ith sharp discontinuities in the productivity perform ance o f Soviet workers. It is hard to show that these w ere influenced by specific policies or institutions. T he m ovem ents o f tw o-hundreders and three-hundreders, the campaigns o f socialist em ulation, the ‘front-line’ youth brigades, had no measurable im pact on aggregate statistics o f output per w orker. T here was sharp im provem ent in output per w orker in m unitions w ork, but this hap­ pened everywhere —in Germany, in Britain and the U nited States, n o t ju st in the USSR. As for the difficulties o f the Soviet coal industry, they too could be m atched in any o f the warring econom ies. In the main civilian branches productivity sagged, then either recovered o r w ent on falling, but the identifiable determ inants o f the productivity setback were the loss o f hum an capital, technological regression and supply interruptions, not deficiencies o f law enforcem ent, m otivation or morale.

45 The downward trend, although not the extent o f decline, is confirmed by offi­ cial indices o f output per worker in transport and construction cited in 1VOVSS vol 6 1965: 142. 46 c g Voznesensky 1948: 91.


In Labour as in Combat

Was the Soviet wartim e productivity record in any way remarkable? By peacetim e standards, or by the standards o f the other m ain war econom ies —no. O n the other hand, one m ight take as a standard for comparison the German expectation that under the impact o f a deep invasion and devastating military defeat the Soviet will to resist w ould crum ble. In that case, the willingness o f Soviet workers to turn up for w ork and continue to produce at all should be considered surprising. T he war­ tim e extension and m odification o f peacetim e mechanisms o f com pul­ sion, inducem ent and political m obilisation surely averted this worst possible case o f a com plete collapse o f w ork effort.



Production: the pow er o f victory 1

D E M A N D A N D SU PPL Y T he ‘pow er o f victory’ in W orld W ar II was m unitions o f all kinds: aircraft, tanks, ships, guns and shells. W hat w on the w ar for the Allies, in the end, was their ability to produce m unitions in greater - m uch greater —quantity than Germany and Japan.12 This view is strengthened by the fact that, despite frantic m ilitary-technical rivalry, there w ere no persistent differences in the quality o f the weapons deployed by either side during the war, sufficient to make the difference betw een victory and defeat - at least until the first use o f the atom ic bom b in August 1945, w hen the outcom e o f the war was already decided. T he Soviet U nion’s contribution to the ‘pow er o f victory’ was very substantial - at least as m uch as that o f the U nited Kingdom , and as m uch as half that o f the U nited States. T he quantities involved w ere fantastic. D uring the war, Soviet production alone am ounted to 100,000 tanks, 130,000 aircraft, 800,000 field guns and m ortars and up to half a billion artillery shells, 1.4 m illion machine guns, 6 m illion m achine pistols and 12 m illion rifles. (How ever, the Soviet U nion produced hardly any warships, jeeps or military trucks.)

1 Available annual and quarterly data concerning Soviet physical output are col­ lected in Harrison 1985: 250-5. For their evaluation, see Harrison 1990a. For revised estimates o f munitions output, industrial production and net national product (including employment and labour productivity in different branches) see Harrison 1990a, 1991. Preliminary international comparisons are essayed in Harrison 1988. O n the evaluation o f mutual aid to the USSR see Harrison 1985: 256-6, 1988: 189-90, and 1991. 2 This was the message o f Goldsmith 1946, from which this chapter borrows its tide.


Production: the power o f victory

T he colossal volum e o f w ar production on each side demands spe­ cial explanation. N o one expected a w ar o f these dimensions. German leaders did not expect it because they expected to w in their wars quickly and w ithout m ajor losses. In particular, in the W ehrm acht they possessed a superior com bat organisation w hich, man for m an and gun for gun, consistendy outfought the enem y on both fronts.3 Even beforehand, the Allies knew that to beat the Germans w ould take tim e and resources, but they did not understand how m uch. After the failure o f the German Blitzkrieg the Allies succeeded in com m itting increasing resources to the war. B ut at first they did n o t understand that Germany, although stalemated and under increasing pressure, was economically for from exhausted. N o r did they anticipate the sustained military resistance o f the W ehrm acht w hich w ould continue through m ultim illion losses, years after any chance o f German victory had been destroyed. O n the contrary, German leaders had only begun to tap the avail­ able resources. From the Soviet invasion to July 1944, Germany’s w ar production trebled. This burst o f econom ic effort was already too late. N one the less, w hen m ultiplied by the outstanding effectiveness o f the Germans in com bat, it m eant that the Allies, too, w ere forced to devote absolutely undream t-of resources to their ow n w ar production. O ne o f the most im portant factors affecting the supply o f m unitions in wartim e was their rate o f loss, both in com bat and behind the front line in training and other use. W orld W ar II required the expenditure o f m unitions at unprecedented rates. A R ed Army gun w ould last eighteen weeks in the field. T he average life o f a Soviet com bat air­ craft was three m onths, and that o f a Soviet tank was barely longer. At the w orst, in the w inter o f 1941—2, the Soviet front-line forces w ould be losing one-sixth o f their aircraft, one-seventh o f their guns and m ortars and one-tenth o f their arm oured equipm ent every week. This was at the worst, but equipm ent losses w ould persist at rates not m uch low er than this throughout the war. Regardless o f w hether they w ere retreating or advancing, defending or attacking, outnum ­ bered or possessing num erical superiority, the Soviet arm ed forces con­ tinued to lose hundreds o f tanks and aircraft, and thousands o f guns, in each w eek o f fighting.4

3 Van Creveld 1985: 4-6. 4 Wartime losses o f military equipment are evaluated in Harrison 1985: 110-15, 256-66; Sokolov B V 1988. O n Sokolov's doubts regarding the reliability o f resulting estimates, see Harrison 1990a.


The Soviet H ome Front, İ 9 4 Î - İ 9 4 5

O ne reason for this was the relatively intense character o f warfare on the eastern front. M uch m ore than the British and the Americans, the Russians w ere faced w ith a w ar o f national exterm ination. T hey carried on fighting under conditions in w hich soldiers o f other nations m ight have given ground, and their losses w ere correspondingly heavy. A nother reason was the profound disadvantage o f the Soviet soldier w hen it came to handling the equipm ent o f m odem war. Soviet pilots and tank or gun crews lacked the training, experience and battle har­ dening o f the W ehrm acht, especially in the early stages. T he threshing o f R ed Army personnel, first by Stalin in 1937-8, then by H itler in 1941-2, ensured this. T he typical Soviet army man o f 1942 was very young and green, as likely to w rite off his brand new 11-2 on the airfield as under enem y fire. T he Luftwaffe rated the Soviet air forces m uch low er than their British and American counterparts, and ‘used Russia as a school for inexperienced pilots. T here they could build flying and fighting skills before being throw n into the cauldron o f w estern air battles.’5 B ut these are not the only reasons, for they do not explain the continuation o f heavy losses, w hich probably far exceeded Germ an losses, even w hen the Soviet forces’ personnel had stabilised, and w hen they were clearly w inning the war. H ere the reasons for such heavy losses must include harsh and wasteful military policies, w hich set too low a value not only on conserving equipm ent but also on hum an casualties. Thus Soviet tanks were squandered inappropriately in many battles, including assaults on large cities, right through 1945; as a result ‘the Soviet tank forces suffered impossibly heavy losses throughout the w ar.’6 W hen planning military operations, it seems likely that high officials generally did not take into account the likely losses o f equip­ m ent, and also ignored the possible hum an casualties. This habit was form ed in the desperate days o f 1941, and it persisted through the w ar into the period w hen there was no com pelling need to spend resour­ ces so carelessly, reinforced by the low valuation w hich Stalinist ideology placed on the hum an ‘cogs’ w hich made up the military and econom ic m achine.7 Soviet war industries thus freed a double task o f daunting magnitude — to make good the losses inflicted by the enemy (sometimes invited o r magnified by Soviet decisions), under conditions which were far from ideal in the first place, and further to supply additional resources for the huge expansion o f the armed forces which the war required. 5 Murray 1988: 371. 6 Shlykov 1988: 112-13. 7 Istoriki 1988: 314.


Production: the power o f victory

P R O D U C T IO N F O R W A R Soviet m unitions output had jum ped in the years prior to the outbreak o f war. In 1937 the Soviet U nion was already producing a full range o f m odem weapons on a scale exceeded only by Germany. By 1940, Soviet m unitions output had grow n to nearly tw o and a half times the 1937 level. Table 11 shows that, betw een 1940 and the peak o f the war effort in 1944, Soviet m unitions output quadrupled again. By this tim e, m onthly Soviet output w ould stand at 3,400 aircraft and nearly 1,800 arm oured fighting vehicles, 11,000 guns and m ortars, 200,000 rifles, and 19 m illion shells, mines and bombs. Behind the figures lay tw o main phases o f wartim e developm ent. In the first phase, the expansion was extrem ely rapid, even violent. It included the transition from peace to war and lasted through to the w inter o f 1942-3. It resulted in the doubling o f m unitions output in a single year, com paring 1942 w ith 1941 as a w hole. T he great expansion was very cosdy. N either the defence industries nor the rest o f the econom y were ready fr>r it. As a result, different lines o f war production were not kept in proportion w ith each other, nor was war production as a w hole coordinated w ith developm ents in the rest o f the econom y. Thus, in the early m onths o f the war the supply o f am m unition began to lag behind the availability o f guns and other military hardware; by the w inter o f 1941 on some fronts guns w ere being lim ited to one or tw o shots per day.8 T he shell famine w ould persist right through 1942. Again, in the w inter o f 1941, the production o f aircraft and arm our faltered. This is because, on one hand, prew ar reserves o f metals and fuels had been quickly used up; on the other hand, an increasing proportion o f defence plant was being decommissioned and put on wheels for transfer from batde zones and relocation to the interior regions. M easured by the w idth o f the chasm by w hich military needs exceeded available supplies o f w ar goods, the w inter o f 1941 was the worst m om ent o f the war. M oreover, the expansion o f war production was completely out o f phase w ith w hat was happening elsewhere in the econom y. W hile defence output climbed, everything else pointed to econom ic collapse. T he output o f coal, steel, electric pow er and industrial m achinery plum m eted. Tem porarily, new supplies o f non-ferrous metals and ball­ bearings, absolute essentials for war production, almost disappeared. Part o f this was simply because o f the W ehrm acht’s success in slicing up Soviet territory, but the pursuit o f w ar production at any price 8 Arsen’ev 1972: 20.


The Soviet Home Front, 1 9 4 1 -1 9 4 5

took additional resources out o f the civilian econom y. In early 1942 the m eteoric rise o f war production w ould be resumed, b u t to draw the civilian econom y away from the brink o f the precipice w ould take until the end o f that year. In the second phase, w hich lasted through 1943—4, disproportions betw een different lines o f w ar production were rectified and w ar pro­ duction as a w hole was brought back into balance w ith the rest o f the econom y as the civilian infrastructure began to recover. Defence out­ put rose towards its 1944 peak. Some military needs - e g for guns and mortars - were filled, and some lines o f output could be cut back, though others continued to grow. O n the w hole, enem y action affected Soviet war production m ainly by conquering and losing territory, and by diverting workers from production to the battleground. H ow ever, in June 1943 there were at least tw o German attem pts to destroy Soviet war industries by means o f long-range attack from the air. T he Luftwaffe launched both area and precision bom bing raids first on G or'kii, hom e o f a big tank pro­ ducer, the G or'kii m otor factory (GAZ); then on Yaroslavl', site o f the country’s first synthetic rubber factory (SK-1). U nder repeated attack both plants were knocked out, w ith significant loss o f output. SK-1 was recommissioned in m id-Septem ber, GAZ not until the end o f O ctober.9

C IV IL IA N IN D U S T R Y A N D T R A N S P O R T W ithout a m inim um level o f civilian output, there could be no w ar production. For the country’s defence plant to operate, they needed metals, fuels, m achinery and electric pow er. They also needed w or­ kers. T he workers could not live w ithout food, clothing and shelter. T he m unitions factories and their w ork-force also required a m ultitude o f civilian services —transport, training, scientific and financial services, inform ation and entertainm ent. T he civilian econom y was crucial in another way as well. T he army needed not only m unitions, but also huge quantities o f petrol and aircraft fuel, transport services, building materials and so forth - the means w ithout w hich military construction and operations could not take place. 9 Ginzburg 1983: 261—3.


Production: the power o f victory

W hat happened to the Soviet civilian econom y during the w ar is, in outline, simple. In 1941 it suffered a catastrophic reverse. By 1942, the output o f civilian industry (Table 11) had fallen to less than half the prew ar bench-m ark; only the sternest measures held it back from outright collapse. After 1942 civilian output began to recover, and to make new resources available once m ore. B ut by 1945 it still fell fir short o f prew ar levels. T he most threatening problem s w ere found in heavy industry. In the first half o f 1942 the supplies o f electricity, steel and coal were respectively no m ore than one-half, two-fifths and one-third o f the levels achieved a year previously. Daily shipments o f railway freight had fidlen to one-third o f the prew ar level. T he m ain factor was loss o f territory and the decom missioning o f evacuated plant, but there was also a dow nw ard spiral at w ork as coordination was lost. Coal short­ ages m eant a low er level o f railway utilisation; since coal accounted for one-quarter o f all prew ar ton-kilom etres shipped by rail, slower trains and m ore circuitous routes m eant pow er stations and blast furnaces w ithout fuel, pow er cuts and m ore loss o f steel output. T he need to extend railway track and replace rolling stock to avoid further degrada­ tion o f the railway system m eant another dow nw ard tw ist o f the spiral. D uring 1942 the natural tendency was for things to get worse, not better. W ith the German offensive in the south, m ore territory was lost. T he Caucasian oilfields, until now protected by their remoteness, w ere direcdy threatened. O il supplies had already begun to fell, be­ cause o f equipm ent shortages and the difficulty o f storing and transpor­ ting extracted oil; soon, yields w ould be dow n by one-half. T o reconcile such shortages w ith the rising needs o f war production could be achieved only by ruthlessly cutting off supplies to inessential users, and by rigid econom ising. But to get this right demanded accur­ ate calculation, tough leadership and hard choices. Accurate calculation — because coal could not be dug w ithout steel and electricity, nor transported w ithout m ore coal and steel; steel could not be smelted and forged w ithout coal, transport services and electricity; in its turn, electric pow er required coal, steel and transport services, and so on. T ough leadership - because managerial and sectional interests had to be overridden; workers, managers and officials all had to live w ith increased demands for effort and reduced allocations o f supplies. Hard choices - because m ore railway trucks for steel and coal m eant, in the short run at least, a reduced capacity to supply the front w ith weapons or to distribute food in the interior; m ore steel for railways and m ore coal for blast furnaces m eant less steel for firing at the enem y, and m ore civilian deaths from hypotherm ia in the freezing winters. 185

The Soviet Home Front, Î 9 4 İ —İ9 4 5

D uring 1942 the restoration o f civilian industry and transport be­ came just as im portant as making aircraft, guns, tanks and bullets. This restoration depended exclusively on the unaided efforts o f the Soviet civilian w ork-force and econom y w ithin its shrunken territory, since for the tim e being there was neither im provem ent in the m ilitary situ­ ation nor significant Allied aid. And since the resources were quite inadequate for the task, the year 1942 was m arked by continued des­ peration — emergency decrees, crash programmes, panic measures to try to break out o f the vicious circle dragging industry dow n.10 As each bottleneck was tem porarily eased, new shortages w ould be felt; the strategic environm ent itself often changed m ore rapidly than plans and policies could be adapted. Coal, steel, the pow er industry, the railways and other forms o f transportation w ere each in turn the object o f attention; managerial shortcomings and w rong priorities criticised, new resources and cadres pum ped in, along w ith exercises in boosting m orale and tightening discipline (for example, the Kuzbass affair, above). At this stage o f the war self-reliance was forced on Soviet industry at every level. T he econom y as a w hole was cut off from foreign trade and had to becom e a self-sufficient enclave; but this was not all. As central supplies ran out, every factory and locality was forced into greater self-sufficiency — better to produce one’s ow n raw materials and com ponents than have to rely on com m itm ents from other fac­ tories and regions that m ight never be honoured. Prewar habits o f self-reliance now helped wartim e factory managers to w eather the worst o f the crisis. For some branches o f the econom y, the scope for self-reliance was too lim ited to m atter. This was especially true o f consum er industry, w here the collapse o f output could not be avoided by turning to ’local resources*. W hen everything had been pre-em pted by the need to boost w ar production and preserve the m inim um required o f heavy industry, there was not enough left to go on m aking cotton frocks o r cups and saucers. After 1942, things im proved for all branches o f civilian industry and transport (except food industry, see below). And it was this, m ore than the continued rise o f w ar production, w hich signified that the Soviet war effort was becom ing sustained and sustainable. W hile expanding defence output continued to be coupled w ith civilian econom ic col­ lapse, the danger persisted that w ar production m ight at any m om ent grind to a halt. M unitions plants m ight simply run out o f steel and 10 Harrison 1985: 175-82.


Production: the power o f victory

pow er, or m unitions workers m ight starve. In 1941-2 these things w ere clear and present dangers, all o f the tim e to some degree but especially in the w inter m onths o f 1941 and 1942. After the w inter o f 1942—3 they became less dangerous. D uring 1943-4, how ever, the m enace o f hunger continued to overhang the econom y. This was be­ cause o f the failure to turn around the situation in agriculture.

F O O D A N D A G R IC U L T U R E As far as agriculture was concerned, 1941 was already terrible, and 1942 and 1943 were worse —awesomely so. In the autum n o f 1941, as the Germans swept into the south and west, two-fifths o f the grain harvest and tw o-thirds o f the potato crop had been lost. T he supply o f livestock products had been held near to the 1940 level, but this was mainly because o f heavy slaughtering o f herds in face o f the invading armies. In 1942 things got far, far worse. M ore rich farmlands fell under German occupation, and m ore livestock was lost. In that year total agricultural output w ould only reach two-fifths o f the prew ar level. In the mean tim e, the population under Soviet control had fal­ len by only one-third. In wartim e agricultural production was carried on only w ith great difficulty. T here were three problems w hich com pounded each other. First was the tem porary loss o f the U krainian and Volga black soil regions. T he cultivation o f field crops was therefore forced on to the inferior soils o f the northern and eastern regions. Second was the loss o f draught pow er, for it is well established that shortage o f draught pow er was a principal constraint on the expansion o f sown area into marginal lands.11 Horses were typically either handed over to R ed Army units, or failed to survive civilian evacu­ ation. (Cattle likewise died or were slaughtered.) It is true that by 1940 nearly half the draught pow er available to Soviet farmers was mechanised; but the production o f tractors and com bine harvesters had already fallen o ff because o f the im pact o f prew ar rearm am ent on So­ viet industry. W ith the outbreak o f w ar the supply o f m achinery and parts to agriculture ceased altogether. In wartim e Soviet ploughs and carts w ere increasingly pulled by hum an beings.

11 C f Hunter 1988: 206.


The Soviet Home Front, 1941—1945

T hird, the agricultural w ork-force also suffered sweeping change. As we saw in Chapters 5 and 8, young m en disappeared from the countryside, recruited into war w ork in industry or the arm ed forces. T he farm w ork-force collapsed, and became dom inated by w om en, children, pensioners and evacuees. T he evidence already put forward shows that this w ork-force struggled valiandy; m en and w om en both w orked harder than in peacetim e, w ith m ore tim e w orked on the collective, and w ith fewer breaches o f discipline. T he result, how ever, was that a reduced num ber o f workers was m ultiplied by a low er index o f productivity. O utput per w orker in agriculture was litde m ore than tw o-thirds the prew ar level in 1942, and failed to recover significandy thereafter. T he outcom e was the collapse o f output, coupled w ith its striking failure to recover subsequendy in line w ith population. The recovery expected in 1943 was postponed. The grow ing season was relatively unfavourable;12 in Central Russia there was too m uch rain, and it was too hot and dry in the south and east. In spite o f an increase in the area sown, yields declined further, and the 1943 harvest was barely m aintained at the 1942 level. There was perhaps a small im provem ent in total agricultural production, but the increase was very small and all o f it w ent to restoring livestock herds, so that the supply o f food for hum an consum ption did not increase at all. At the same tim e, the dem and for food was rising because in 1943 significant territory was being recovered, and on it lived hungry people w ho had themselves lost the means o f cultivating the soil. O nly in 1944 was significant recovery achieved, and prew ar standards o f output and pro­ ductivity still represented an unreachable goal. Closely tied to agricultural perform ance was the record o f the food processing industry, w hich supplied bread and bakery products, preserved fruit and vegetables, canned and cooked m eat, dairy pro­ ducts, sugar and confectionery to the urban population. Food industry output fell w ith that o f agriculture; it recovered m ore slowly so that, presumably, as the w ar continued tow n dwellers became used to con­ sum ing m ore food in a less processed form. (The shortage o f sugar and o f other means o f m anufacturing alcohol was also significant for the R ed Army because, in this war, m ost front-line infantrym en o f m ost other countries were drunk m ost o f the tim e.)13

12 That is, by the agrometeorological standards o f 1886-1950, 1940-2 and 1944—5 were all good years; 1943 was merely average. See Wheatcroft 1989; graph 8. 13 Fussell 1989: 96-105.


Production: the power o f victory

M U T U A L A ID All the great powers w hich engaged in W orld W ar II, except one, relied heavily on foreign supply to augm ent their national resources. O nly the U nited States was rich enough to supply resources freely to other nations. T he others - the U nited Kingdom , the Soviet U nion and Germany - all im ported heavily, and used their net im ports to pay for the w ar in various ways. Germany did this by looting and taxing her new colonies in France, Scandinavia and eastern Europe, and also by transferring millions o f slaves to the R eich to w ork on Germany’s account. T he U nited Kingdom and the Soviet U nion also had access to large net im ports, made available to them primarily by the U nited States under Lend-Lease. Aid arrived by three main routes. T here were the Arctic convoys w hich ran the gaundet o f German air and U -boat attack up the coast o f Scandinavia to the W hite Sea and the Soviet ports o f A rkhangelsk and M urmansk. Later, a land route was opened up through Iran (brought under Allied occupation in August—Septem ber 1941) over the m ountains into Soviet Central Asia. And in the Far East there was the short voyage across the Bering Straits from Alaska. For the Soviet U nion, Lend-Lease m eant thousands o f aircraft, tanks, trucks and jeeps, 1.3 m illion tons o f m achinery and industrial equipm ent, 6 m illion tons o f steel and non-ferrous metals, chemicals and petrochem icals, 4 m illion tons o f foodstuffs and 15 m illion pairs o f army boots. Nearly three-fifths o f it arrived in the eighteen m onths from mid—1943 to the end o f 1944. T here was also a comparatively slight British contribution, the bulk o f w hich arrived in 1942-3. The w hole lot came to about $10 billions. All this was supplied free o f charge to the Soviet U nion, but it was never an act o f charity. B oth the British and the Americans under­ stood that the main thing was to encompass the defeat o f Germany; while Germany controlled the continent o f Europe from the Channel to Central Russia, the only people engaged in direct com bat w ith the German ground forces w ere Russians, and it was in the w estern Allies’ ow n interests to help them . N o r did the Russians see it as charity. They saw themselves as car­ rying the brunt o f the w ar in its most critical phase. They were glad to receive material aid from the west; they also saw the western Allies tying dow n and w earing away German forces in N orth Africa in 1942, and in Italy in 1943, and they understood too that the bom bing o f Germany drew off German forces from the eastern front. B ut w hat


The Soviet Home Front, 1 9 4 Î - Î 9 4 5

they really w anted was for the British and the Americans to jo in in th e war on land in a decisive theatre, w hich could only mean France, and to take their share o f the inevitably heavy hum an casualties w hen ar­ mies o f millions vie for mastery. Consequently, they were not slow to criticise the scale and quality o f the material aid actually supplied w hen it fell below expectation. H ere, early shipments o f British light tanks and American fighter airplanes set a bad precedent o f low com bat fit­ ness. Allied aid did not m atter very m uch until after Stalingrad. T here was too litde o f it at first, the tanks and aircraft unsuited for warfare in the east, and too m uch o f it never arrived. Eventually, how ever, Lend-Lease acquired a massive scale. T hrough the war as a w hole, up to the beginning o f 1945, one in six com bat aircraft supplied to the Soviet front, and one in eight arm oured fight­ ing vehicles, came from the west. T he Soviet U nion supplied its ow n guns and am m unition, but its m obility and com m unications came to rely very m uch upon American trucks and jeeps, field telephones, tinned and concentrated foods. Thus, the Soviet ability to deny victory to the invader at M oscow, Leningrad and Stalingrad was hom e pro­ duced; but the rout o f the invader was significandy aided from w ith­ out, and the Soviet capacity to chase the retreating Germans thousands o f kilom etres from Stalingrad to Berlin was crucially dependent o n im ported means o f m obility.

T H E OVERA LL B U R D E N O F T H E W A R Soviet resources for w ar had to be found from w ithin a rapidly dim in­ ishing total. This put the Soviet U nion at a terrific disadvantage. In the case o f Britain and the U nited States, w ar m obilisation was assisted by significant increase in the real national product, w hich gready eased the problem o f diverting resources to the w ar effort. Betw een the outbreak o f w ar and the peak o f the w ar effort, U nited States national incom e grew by about one-half in real terms. T he U nited Kingdom was in an only slighdy less favourable position; betw een 1939 and 1943 its national incom e grew by nearly one-third. T he Germ an econom y expanded too, if less dramatically, 1943 national incom e reaching 116 per cent o f the 1938 level. Very different, and far worse, was the Soviet position, w hich is shown in Table 11. T he U SSR ’s real national incom e fell sharply


Production: the power o f victory

w hen w ar broke out, bottom ing out at less than tw o-thirds o f the prew ar level in 1942. By 1944, full recovery had not yet been accom­ plished, but the shortfall in comparison w ith 1940 had been cut to a little m ore than one-tenth. H ow m uch o f the U SSR 's depleted national incom e was used up by the w ar effort? This question is almost impossible to answer. If w e value the national incom e at prices o f prew ar years, w hen m unitions were expensive and food was at least relatively cheap, then the grow th o f m unitions procurem ents and army costs was so great that by 1942 m ore than four-fifths o f domestic output was earm arked for w ar out­ lays. This apparently huge share is in some sense an exaggeration, o f course, because in 1942 m unitions prices w ere falling sharply while food prices had quadrupled in comparison w ith 1940. Taking this into account sharply downgrades the share o f the national incom e diverted to w ar purposes. T he least ambiguous and most meaningful indicator o f wartim e econom ic burdens may well be the share o f the total w ork-force w hich was engaged in supplying and executing m ilitary operations. This means soldiers and m unitions workers, and all those em ployed in supplying them w ith fuel and pow er, transport and other productive services, equipm ent, com ponents and raw materials. Estimates con­ tained in Table 12 show that their share in the total w orking popula­ tion rose from one-seventh in 1940 to m ore than one-half, on a m inim um reckoning, in 1942—3. W ere it not for the relatively low productivity o f agricultural workers, the difficulty o f im porting food, and the need to retain a relatively large num ber o f workers in food production, this share w ould have risen even higher. W hen the burdens o f w ar are valued, 1942 was unquestionably the year o f w o n t strain. By then the Soviet w ar effort had by no means reached its m axim um in terms o f the sheer quantities o f solchen and weapons deployed. These w ould expand significandy in 1943 before rising to the peak in 1944. B ut the domestic resources required, in proportion to national assets and capacities, were never greater than in 1942. N o m atter how bad the imbalances were in the second half o f 1941, in 1942 they got w one. T he reasons w hy 1942 was so bad need careful disentangling. T he most obvious reason is that for most o f 1942 the R ed Army continued to retreat eastward. Things w ere worse in 1942 than in 1941 simply by reason o f the further loss o f territory and assets. B ut there w ere other factors at w ork as well — the continued expansion o f the R ed Army and the m unitions industries. These diverted huge stocks o f la­ bour, capital and material inputs away from the civilian econom y; and 191

The Soviet H ome Front, 1941—1945

at the same tim e they comm anded a larger and larger share o f th e civilian econom y’s outputs o f refined fuels, m achinery and transport and building services. T he civilian econom y, not being infinitely elas­ tic, came close to snapping. After 1942, w ith the recovery o f both territory and civilian output (in total and per w orker), and w ith increasing access to foreign supply, things got better. In 1943, the Soviet authorities w ould com m it far m ore o f the total resources available, including net im ports, to the war, but the domestic strains w ould be in some degree relaxed. Just how' im portant were net im ports to Soviet econom ic stabilisa­ tion in 1943? According to Voznesenskii after the war, the industrial goods supplied in Lend-Lease totalled no m ore than 4 per cent o f the gross value o f output o f Soviet public sector industry during the w ar as a w hole.14 Taking into account the low wartim e rouble-dollar ex­ change rate, the wartim e inflation o f Soviet rouble prices, the double­ counting inherent in the Soviet m easurement o f gross output value, and its inclusion o f net indirect taxes, this figure is not out o f the question and was probably not a lie.15 N one the less Voznesenskii’s 4 per cent clearly understated the im ­ portance o f m utual aid for the Soviet econom y in 1943-4. R evalued at Soviet factor costs o f 1937, Lend-Lease may have am ounted to o n efifth o f the Soviet net national product in 1943, and only fractionally less in 1944 (Table 12). In 1943 it also freed up to one in seven o f th e Soviet w ork-force from w ar tasks. These figures suggest that w ithout Lend-Lease the Soviet task in 1943 w ould have been far m ore diffi­ cult. T o achieve the actual Soviet military effort o f that year, as m any as 7 m illion or 8 m illion additional workers m ight have had to be w ithdraw n from the civilian econom y, and the pitch o f overall m obili­ sation tightened further. This was quite probably infeasible. T he result o f attem pting it w ould likely have been econom ic and military col­ lapse — w ar factories w ithout supplies, workers and soldiers w ithout food or weapons. W ithout Allied aid, the authorities w ould have been com pelled to w ithdraw m ajor resources from fighting in 1943 in order to stabilise the econom y. This is not to downvalue the Soviet achievem ent in 1941-2. T he rebuff administered to the W ehrm acht outside Leningrad and M oscow in late 1941 was o f decisive strategic significance. Germany had lost the strategic initiative in the w ar as a w hole, tem porarily at least, and the German strategy was crucially dependent on holding it continu­ ously. H ow ever, it had not yet changed hands, and M oscow was in no 14 Voznesensky 1948: 61. 15 Harrison 1991: 18.


Production: the pouter o f victory

condition to take the baton. M ore decisive here was the victory at Stalingrad. B ut these achievements were based on an unsustainable de­ gree o f econom ic mobilisation. In order to pursue the w ar at all, the authorities had to retreat and rationalise on the econom ic front in 1943. They were enabled to do so only by Allied aid. W ithout it, Germany’s defeat w ould have taken many m ore m onths and years. Speaking on 6 N ovem ber 1943, Stalin declared: The past year marked a turn not only in the progress o f hostilities, but also in the work o f our rear. W e were no longer confronted with such tasks as evacuating enterprises to the east and o f switching industry to the production o f armaments. The Soviet state now has an efficient and rapidly expanding war economy.16

Actually ’an efficient and rapidly expanding w ar econom y' was an oversimplification. By peacetim e standards everything was still awful. T he econom y was racked w ith crises and disproportions. Just a fort­ night later, civilian food rations w ould be cut to their lowest level o f the war. N one the less it is quite true that the econom y no longer stood on the knife edge o f 1942. T he m om ent o f greatest danger was past. This achievem ent was due in no small measure to the nerve, if not the skill, o f the Soviet commanders on the econom ic front. W e turn to them in C hapter 11.

16 Stalin 1945: 96-7.



Planning: ‘The M ilitaryEconomic S ta ff 1

P L A N N IN G IN P R E W A R P E R S P E C T IV E In Soviet accounts o f the war, the U SSR state planning commission (Gosplan) is often described as ‘the m ilitary-econom ic staff o f the So­ viet state’. B ut the wartim e system o f planning and m anagem ent was actually created in peacetim e, at the end o f the 1920s, for tasks o f peaceful industrialisation and econom ic transform ation. H ow success­ fully did it measure up to the needs o f warfare in 1941—5? T he prew ar econom ic system was hierarchical and centralised. T he main productive assets w ere ow ned by the state, and came under pub­ lic sector management (except, in theory, for collective farms w hich w ere supposed to be managed cooperatively). Hierarchy, w hether in the public or cooperative sectors, m eant that production, distribution and investm ent were managed w ithin narrow limits set by higher level plans and decisions reached by ministerial bureaucracies, very often in M oscow. T he chain o f com m and was organised on the production branch principle, so that steel mills were controlled by a People’s Commissariat (ministry) o f the Iron and Steel Industry, engineering plants by a People’s Commissariat o f the Engineering Industry, farms by a People’s Commissariat o f Agriculture, and so forth. Inform ation 1 O n the structure o f ministerial and planning institutions before, during and after the war, see Harrison 1985: 267-86 and Crowfoot, Harrison 1990. O n the formal and informal systems, see further Harrison 1990b. O n the prewar and wartime evolution o f the planning system see generally Harrison 1985.


Planning: ‘The M ilitary-Economic S ta ff

and initiatives m ight flow from below , but the right to decide policies and appointm ents lay at the highest levels. Centralisation was the other feature, This m eant that m inisterial plans and decisions w ere coordinated in M oscow. Commissariats w ere rep­ resented by their commissars in a collective executive body - the U SSR C ouncil o f People’s Commissars (Sovnarkom). (The Sovnarkom also included the usual com plem ent o f governm ent leaders w ith non-production responsibilities - internal and external affairs, defence, finance, health, education and welfare.) In the Sovnarkom, groups o f ministries tended to be supervised by a relatively small num ber o f sen­ ior party leaders; usually appointed deputies o f the Sovnarkom chair­ m an (Prime M inister), they form ed a kind o f inner cabinet. These w ere people like Beriya, Kaganovich, Kosygin, M ikoyan, M alenkov and Voznesenskii. In addition, detailed coordination o f ministerial plans was routed through Gosplan, the state planning commission. Gosplan had ministerial status and was headed for most o f the tim e betw een 1938 and 1949 by Voznesenskii. These, at least, w ere the formal institutions. They w ere bureaucratic and rule-bound. Bureaucracy and rules w ere not inconsistent w ith econom ic change; on the contrary, they comprised a dynamically ex­ panding system, grow ing from year to year by regular and predictable increm ents. T he rules o f the formal m anagem ent system w ere biased towards expansion because, right from the start, they gave priority to the increase in physical output over financial indicators o f enterprise perform ance such as profit and loss. As a result, managers and officials tended to encourage increased output, and increased capacity to produce output, rather than increased efficiency or an increased surplus o f revenues over costs. If production foil below target, it was always easier to try to make up the shortfall by seeking to use m ore inputs for increased production in the old way than by going over to production in a new way that w ould increase output from the quantity o f inputs already available. Indeed, innova­ tors were often penalised; technical change often disrupted production in the short run, resulting in loss o f rewards, and w ould also unsettle the w ork-force because o f the need to renegotiate w ork norm s and rates o f pay. T he formal system also regulated the expansion process from the top dow n, through detailed, centralised and comprehensive plans on the ‘railway tim etable’ m odel, and through quantity and price controls on supply and demand. In com piling plans, the planners started from tw o sets o f data. O ne was the industrial policies and priorities set by the political leaders; the other was the econom ic results achieved in 195

The Soviet Home Front, İ 9 4 İ —Î9 4 5

the most recent period. W hen they came to evaluate the latter th e planners knew, o f course, o f the tendency o f managers and m inisterial officials to encourage increased output at the expense o f additional inputs, w ithout increased efficiency. In response, they tended to set factory targets to extract an arbitrary increase in the ‘achieved level’ o f output relative to capacity. But, in the long run, planning ‘from the achieved level* tended to have a perverse effect, encouraging technical conservatism, not forcing change. It focused attention on securing im ­ mediate percentage increases in output w ithin the existing structure o f production; it reinforced the factory managers’ quest for additional current inputs, and it discouraged them from taking the risks o f long­ term innovation lest achievem ent o f short-term targets be prejudiced. These features contributed to an im portant paradox o f the form al m anagem ent system. It was dynamic, yet conservative. It encouraged the grow th o f output, but not the im provem ent o f efficiency. O u tp u t grew, but radical structural and technological changes were inhibited. Instead, innovation was restricted to m ake-do-and-m end improvisa­ tion. Consequently, the formal system was bad at adaptive tasks. W hen the strategic, technical or cultural environm ent was changing rapidly, plans drawn up ‘from the achieved level’ tended to lag further and further behind reality. T he formal system started as a bureaucrat’s dream w hich, as it be­ came steadily m ore and m ore com plicated, tended to becom e a night­ mare. R apid industrialisation was under way. T he econom y was expanding and becom ing m ore diversified, w ith new ly-specialised industries and plants grow ing up beside the old ones. As supply o f th e productive econom y became m ore complicated, the m ulti-level ad­ ministrative system o f coordination and control became necessarily m ore elaborate. It is not surprising, then, if we find beside the formal system an informal one. T he formal system gave order and inevitability to the econom ic process, but the informal system gave life. It was the infor­ mal system w hich inspired the radical transform ation o f the entire econom ic and social structure in the prew ar decade. T he informal m anagem ent system was quite different from the for­ mal one: simplified and direct, cutting across bureaucratic levels and departm ents w ith direct, personal relationships o f unrestricted authority and subordination. It thrived on excitem ent and emergency, an atmos­ phere o f unique and unrepeatable events - collectivisation, gigantic capital projects for industrialisation and urbanisation. T he role o f initia­ tive lay w ith political leaders — Stalin, M olotov and their deputies. They ruled from above, by decree rather than on the basis o f expertise 196

Planning: *The Military-Economic S ta ff

and consent, but the pow er relationship required them to be able to mobilise masses o f people dow n below , through the party and its ‘transmission belts*, and through the organised cult o f their person­ alities. Im patient o f rules and long-term perspectives, balances and cost-benefit evaluations, such leaders tended to rely instead upon key priorities and political campaigns o f ‘class warfare’ aimed at achieving results regardless o f cost. R ather than being centralised in a bureau­ cratic sense, the informal system focused econom ic m anagem ent on a changing set o f branch and regional priorities, each the responsibility o f one or another personal leader, each developing on independent lines o f maximum self-reliance. T he informal system was not m ore real than the formal one, w hich was also not ju st a paper creation. B oth really existed, but each did not exist independently o f the other. This is because the tw o systems com ­ plem ented each other; m ovem ent w ithout order tended to degenerate into directionless chaos, as periodic prew ar econom ic crises dem on­ strated; but order w ithout m ovem ent became stagnation, defeating the radical purposes o f socialist construction. T he boundaries betw een the tw o systems and their relative im port­ ance w ere constantly shifting. Fluctuations in the state o f the econ­ om y, the prestige o f particular leaders and the morale o f the people all contributed to this fluidity. T he m ovem ent betw een them continued w hen w ar broke out.

T H E E M E R G E N C Y R E G IM E , 1 9 4 1 -2 Soviet accounts o f wartim e econom ic experience tend not to distin­ guish the attributes o f the tw o systems, formal and informal. T hey stress the Soviet econom y’s exceptional m anoeuvrability, its rapidity o f structural change, its outstanding record o f mobilising resources for the w ar effort, but they attribute these achievements to the formal system o f planning and centralisation based on social ownership o f productive means. In fact, the record o f 1941—5 shows that, in the first and most dangerous period o f the war, when the Soviet econom ic structure changed most rapidly, it was the informal system w hich ran things. O n the surface, it is true, there was an appearance o f consolidation. T he rapid m ultiplication o f levels o f hierarchy and chains o f comm and w hich had characterised the formal system before the w ar came to an abrupt halt. Apart from a few sensible adjustments, Soviet governm ent


The Soviet Home Front, Î 9 4 İ —İ9 4 5

fought the w ar w ith the same ministerial structure w hich had existed on the day war broke out. T he only exceptions were the creation o f a w ar cabinet (the GK O), a handful o f tem porary commissions associated w ith wartim e operational tasks, and new specialised commissariats for w ar supplies. In reality, how ever, the formal system was entirely failing to coor­ dinate the econom y. N othing showed this m ore starkly than the fate o f the first wartim e econom ic plan for July-Septem ber 1941, adopted on 30 June 1941. T he plan called for a dramatic increase in m unitions output, reallocation o f new m achinery to defence plant and o f new investm ent to the eastern regions, and curtailm ent o f non-essential in­ vestm ent and household consum ption. These apparently sensible measures were, how ever, entirely irrelevant to the real situation. ‘T he turn made* (Voznesenskii w rote later) ‘was still insufficient’.2 O n the one side, the planned increase in war production was far too small even to cover R ed Army losses in the first weeks o f the war; at the same tim e, the industrial capacities on w hich the plan relied w ere under imm ediate threat from the invading forces. T he plan was too m odest compared w ith m ilitary needs, but too ambitious com pared w ith industrial capabilities. Consequently, this plan was in reality replaced straight away by a series o f ad hoc measures w hich collectively made up the real govern­ m ental response to emergency. These included the programmes to evacuate defence industry assets and bring in the harvest from frontline regions, to convert industrial capacity and redirect supplies to w artim e needs, and to mobilise the w orking population into the arm ed forces and w ar w ork. All were managed by individual leaders on the basis o f high-level personal initiatives and improvisations, their authority rein­ forced by decrees and dictatorial powers and supported by popular mobilisation. This was done entirely w ithout the benefit o f com pre­ hensive plans, and w ith only the absolute m inim um o f effective coor­ dination. Informal principles o f leadership dom inated the system as a w hole, right up to the highest level. T he early modus operandi o f the G K O itself reveals this. Its collective existence as a bureaucratic agency was tenuous. Instead, at least as far as the econom y is concerned, every m em ber had individual responsibility for some branch o f war produc­ tion - M olotov (the tank industry), M alenkov (aircraft and aeroen­ gines), Voznesenskii, then Beriya (armament and am m unition), Kaganovich (railway transport). (The exceptions w ere Stalin, fully oc­ 2 Voznesensky 1948: 34.


Planning: ‘The Military-Economic Staff*

cupied w ith the tasks o f Supreme C IN C , and poor old Voroshilov.) T he responsibilities and powers o f each w ere effectively w ithout Ümit. T he special apparatus at the disposal o f GKO members for the im ­ plem entation o f decisions comprised, on one hand, the pre-existing party and ministerial chains o f command; on the other, a superimposed netw ork o f individual GKO trouble shooters (usually m iddle-ranking party and ministerial officials). T he decisions o f the G K O w ere also reached informally (see Chap­ ter 3), w ithout agendas, secretaries or m inutes. Procedures for consult­ ation betw een Gosplan and the commissariats w ere ‘simplified in the extrem e’, and boiled dow n to the presence o f Voznesenskii, at first in his technical capacity as planning chief, later as a full G K O m em ber.3 And the lack o f m inutes often left considerable personal latitude to those charged w ith finalising details o f an policy agreed after discus­ sion.4 It was the informal system o f high-level im provisation and individ­ ual initiative, coupled w ith m obilisation from below , w hich carried the Soviet U nion through its greatest emergency. W ithout the informal m anagem ent system, adaptation o f the Soviet econom y to the needs o f W orld W ar II w ould have taken too long, o r w ould never have been achieved. This adaptation could not have been managed on the basis o f a ‘railway tim etable' type o f conversion plan. T he emergency situ­ ation o f 1941 was simply not amenable to detailed foresight or the comprehensive planning o f every nut and bolt. T he informal system also aided wartim e m obilisation by w eakening the perverse results o f planning ‘from the achieved level.’ Detailed ful­ film ent o f plan indicators was inevitably downgraded as a measure o f enterprise perform ance. Since the plans were obviously unattainable, the im portant thing, the thing w hich brought recognition and medals and privileges, became simply to w ork as hard and produce as m uch as possible, not to secure mechanistic fulfilm ent o f the plan. A t the same time, the positive role o f the informal system in 1941-2 m ust be qualified in tw o respects. First, this was the very same system w hich, in prew ar m ilitary-political m anagem ent, had perform ed so desperately badly, failing to foresee German strategic designs and to prepare the Soviet m ilitary, econom y and society for the true character o f the com ing war. T he Stalinist leadership’s failure o f foresight w ent far beyond any lack o f com prehensive, detailed plans, and was re­ 3 Khrulev 1961: 66-7. Although Voznesenskii was technically not head o f Gosplan during the first eighteen months o f the war, he was still Stalin's first deputy as Prime Minister, with dear overall responsibility for national economic coordination. 4 Vannikov 1962: 78.


The Soviet Home Front, 1 9 4 1 -1 9 4 5

fleeted in excessive reliance on H itler’s guarantees, com placent faith in the ability to deter German aggression, susceptibility to German de­ ception, arbitrary repression o f alternative diplom atic forecasts and m ilitary plans for defence in depth, and failures o f prew ar industrial dispersal. T he second qualification to the role o f the informal system is that in 1941—2 its managers did not know w hen they had gone too far, w hen to stop. In 1941 they had saved the country’s m unitions capacity and safeguarded the conditions o f tim e and space for a sustained m ili­ tary-econom ic mobilisation. B ut to sustain the m obilisation was itself beyond them . Instead, they allowed the disproportions in the econom y to rise to an unbearable degree o f tension. W e have seen that in the w inter and spring o f 1941-2, although m unitions production was ris­ ing rapidly, the econom ic crisis actually worsened. And this was n o t ju st a result o f military setbacks and territorial losses. Aside from m uni­ tions, the rest o f the econom y was in an utter shambles, and the pro­ duction o f steel, pow er, transport services and food (all o f w hich w ere ultim ately vital to m aintenance o f the country’s fighting strength) was reduced to a small fraction o f prew ar norms. By 1942 the econom y had been allowed to becom e overm obilised, w ith too great a volum e o f resources com m itted to com bat and w ar production, com pared to the resources rem aining in civilian em ploym ent.

T H E R E V IV A L O F F O R M A L P L A N N IN G The ‘planned character’ o f the Soviet econom y in wartim e re-em erged out o f the struggle to return from excessive m obilisation and stabilise the civilian econom y. T he process was w orked out pragmatically and significant costs were evidendy incurred. D uring m ost o f 1942 it was too early to talk about the revival o f the formal system. T he situation rem ained too changeable and crisis ridden, and the immediate priorities o f adaptation too urgent. Lack o f ready statistics m eant that the planners were too often ignorant o f w hat had really been achieved - or neglected - in evacuating industry and mobilising reserves. Plans continued to be com piled and launched, but were constandy overridden by unforeseen developm ents and new emergencies. A positive achievem ent was that civilian industry and transport w ere brought back to an even keel. The means by w hich this was done


Planning: *The Military-Economic Staff*

reflect the contradictions o f the tim e. As we saw in C hapter 10, by the w ar’s first w inter these sectors had becom e locked in a self-reinforcing dow nw ard spiral. Coal and steel shortages w ere being translated into cancelled trains and pow er cuts, and further damage to the utilisation o f w hat capacity rem ained. T he econom ic situation was still one o f emergency, but the emergency had becom e far m ore com plicated than before. In 1941 the urgent need was simply for guns, shells, tanks and aircraft w ith w hich to resist the invader. By 1942 steel and coal, transport, fuel and bread had all ac­ quired equal rank w ith m unitions as w ar priorities. T o understand the problem required an understanding o f the m ini­ m um requirem ents o f the econom ic system for coordination and equilibrium , w hich relied in turn on comprehensive statistics and plan­ ning expertise. T o solve the problem required, first, the designation o f new priorities, the identification o f new resources and non-essential claims on them , and their ruthless redirection. T he new priority sys­ tem had to be m ore comprehensive and finely graded than the old one (priority A -l for m unitions, 4-F for everything else) w hich had gov­ erned the first m onths o f evacuation and conversion. T here had to follow the design and im plem entation o f urgent measures and crash programmes to revitalise the industrial infrastructure. All this had to be accompanied by the ceaseless pushing o f tired, hungry citizens into sustained action on the hom e front - appealing, coaxing, encouraging, rewarding, shouting, threatening, compelling. In achieving this the informal system played, as yet, an irreducible role. At the same tim e the fram ework for informal action was sup­ plied, increasingly, by formal planning agencies. Gosplan, w hich had played little or no role in the first round o f econom ic m obilisation, regained authority and m oved back to the focus o f effective policy. This became encapsulated not only in panic measures but also in regu­ lar m onthly, then quarterly econom ic plans. W ithout this revival o f formal institutions, informal m anagem ent could not have sustained econom ic life. T he transition back to predom inantly formal m ethods o f resource allocation was sealed at the end o f 1942. T hree things made this so. First was the fact that the w orsening o f both military fortune and the resource balance was at an end. At Stalingrad the war had reached its strategic turning point. T he relocation o f industry was com plete; m oreover, the pooling o f Allied resources w ould now w ork m ore and m ore in the Soviet favour. Second was the establishment o f effective nation-w ide control over the ‘ultim ate bottleneck’: com petition be­ tw een rival claimants on the country’s labour supplies had been elimi­ 201

The Soviet H om e Front, Î 94 i - 1945

nated, and a truly centralised system for coordinating the direction and allocation o f the w orking population had been achieved. T hird was the end o f informal m anagem ent at the highest level. This was th e uncoordinated system o f econom ic leadership by individual m em bers o f the G K O and Politburo. A t the end o f 1942 such personal respon­ sibilities were devolved upon a new powerful cabinet subcom m ittee, the GKO O perations Bureau, set up in order to increase the centrali­ sation o f controls on industry and transport. Prom inent am ong its members were Voznesenskii, the planning chief, and M ikoyan and Lyubimov (responsible for foreign and dom estic trade respectively). Thus, in econom ic m anagem ent, personal dictatorship and rule by decree w ere being circumscribed by reassertion o f formal m anagem ent, and after the close o f 1942 their role dim inished sharply. As the na­ tional product began to recover from the post-invasion trough, new ly available resources were directed m ore to expanding civilian produc­ tion than to m unitions output or resources for imm ediate com bat. This transition was indispensable for the outstanding Soviet record o f sustained resource m obilisation for war. O f course this does not m ean that there were no m ore emergencies or panics, and in agriculture the crisis atmosphere persisted through 1944. T he revival o f the formal system was also enhanced by the resum p­ tion o f postwar perspectives involved in such issues as reconstruction o f recaptured territories and reconversion o f defence industries to peacetim e needs. Draft perspective plans extending into the postw ar era began to be com piled and discussed once m ore as early as 1943, and branch and regional plans w ith a post-w artim e horizon actually began to be adopted in 1944. W hile the w ar continued, how ever, these plans were all strongly biased towards heavy industry and trans­ port, although the needs o f agriculture and textiles received some at­ tention. Different aspects o f the Soviet econom ic system were therefore im ­ portant at different stages o f the war. Planning in the ‘railway tim e­ table* sense was not im portant in the initial battle for survival; everything depended upon improvised leadership and m obilisation. B ut im provisation could only stave off defeat, and could not secure victory. T o restore coordination o f the civilian and defence sectors, to revive the production o f steel, electricity and foodstuffs, and to allocate resources intelligently for these purposes required som ething m ore w hich only detailed planning could secure. T he Stalinist econom ic system, even in peacetim e, is sometimes de­ scribed as o f the general type o f a ‘w ar economy*. From the point o f view o f the experience o f real fighting, this turned out to be a sub­ 202

Manning: ‘The Military-Economic S ta ff

stantial simplification because in fact the econom ic system was not ready for war; it had to be significantly m odified to fit it w hether for im m ediated survival or for protracted fighting. T he informal system over w hich Stalin exercised personal dom ination perform ed certain es­ sential functions o f m obilisation for w ar in the second half o f 1941, but associated w ith it w ere also heavy penalties.

L IM IT S T O C E N T R A L IS A T IO N W hile centralisation was fundamental to achieving Stalin’s ‘efficient and rapidly expanding war econom y’, there was never any question that the w hole war econom y could be run from the centre. This had never been feasible in tim e o f peace, and it w ould scarcely becom e m ore o f a proposition w hen the planners w ere overw helm ed by new needs o f w ar mobilisation. U nder the prew ar Five Year Plans, im portant areas o f econom ic life were still regulated from below.. W herever basic needs w ere left un­ filled by the planning system, workers, managers and consumers cre­ ated decentralised mechanisms to fill the gaps. These mechanisms w ere o f tw o basic types. O ne was reflected in the trend to self-reliance the factory develops its ow n sideline production o f metals, com po­ nents, fuels, tools or electric pow er; the family grows its ow n m eat and vegetables. T he other was the m arket — w hat the consum er, or the manager, cannot obtain from state supplies, is purchased for cash, legally or illegally. And although both these mechanisms contradicted the idea o f an econom y coordinated by means o f comprehensive cen­ tral plans, all attem pts to eradicate them foundered. T he war brought change in the scope o f centralised resource alloca­ tion, and the scope both o f self-reliance and o f the m arket altered correspondingly. T he German invasion cut right back the total o f re­ sources available for producers and consumers. Huge shortfalls became general. O ne option for those trying to m aintain norm ality was to buy needed goods and services on the market. Enterprises could seek to make up their labour shortfalls by offering cash in return for additional effort and extra recruits. W orker households w ith a significant cash incom e could resort to legal markets for peasant surpluses o f foodstuffs (the kolkhoz market) or black markets for illegally resold state supplies o f rationed goods. In C hapter 6 we saw the results o f these efforts. T he m ost im portant obstacle was that at the same tim e the econ­


The Soviet Home Front, 1941—1945

om y was becom ing m uch m ore centralised. Everything available was being sucked into the centralised system o f supply o f industry, and drawn away from prew ar uses into supply o f the w ar effort. Regardless o f people’s readiness to resort to the m arket to m eet their needs, the real scope for m arket transfers was therefore sharply reduced. As a result, the main phenom ena to be observed were shrinking supplies and rising prices. Given the impossibility o f satisfying needs through increased resort to the m arket, self-reliance became m ore im portant than before. T here were tw o main aspects to this. O ne was that supplies w ere im m edi­ ately diverted away from existing industrial users towards new w artim e priorities. This m eant that producers o f non-m ilitary goods w ere cut off from customary supplies o f materials and com ponents, fuel and pow er, and had to fend for themselves to a higher degree than in peacetim e. A nother reason was that, regardless o f the diversion o f sup­ plies to military producers, the w hole overloaded system o f centralised distribution was brought to the point o f breakdow n by the shortage o f transport and the decay o f formal allocative routines; even supply o f the m ost im portant defence factories could not be guaranteed. Everyone had to becom e m ore self-sufficient. M unitions and civilian engineering factories learnt to make their ow n instrum ents and m a­ chine tools, and developed their ow n construction brigades; the latter in turn leam t self-reliance in supply o f building materials and tools. Sideline steel works became m ore widespread in heavy industry and railway engineering. Large specialised steel works expanded their ow n fuel bases and sideline engineering shops for making electrical and other equipm ent. W hat was required to m eet the needs o f industry became even m ore essential for the consum er. In C hapter 6 we showed that big factories created their own sideline farm enterprises; in face o f inade­ quate food rations, workers and consumers w ent heavily into allotm ent farming in order to achieve family self-sufficiency. W ithout learning increased self-reliance, the industrial econom y and its hum an agents could not have w eathered the storms o f 1941—2. A t the same tim e, self-reliance was not a cheap strategy. Its price was paid in the lost benefits o f specialisation and econom ies o f scale, w hich raised the unit costs incurred by small auxiliary production units. N either self-reliance nor the m arket could act as a magic w and. They depended, ultimately, on the availability o f local reserves o f ca­ pacity — labour, land, materials — w hich could be mobilised to m ake good the shortages being registered in the official system o f planned supply. B ut when the shortfalls continued to m ultiply and all reserves 204

Planning: ‘The Military-Economic Staff*

were exhausted, the scope for m aking them good w hether through self-reliance o r m arket exchange was at an end. W hen this point was reached, the lights w ent out, factories shut dow n and people retreated to their apartments and cottages to freeze and starve. This is w hat happened, m ost dramatically and tragically, in the Leningrad enclave in the w inter o f 1941-2. B ut it happened m ore typically in a small-scale, episodic, yet widespread fashion in towns and villages across the whole country through all the years o f war. N o factory com plex can have w orked entirely steadily, w ithout interruption, from invasion through to victory, and no com m unity can have completely escaped the pains o f hunger and cold. By a variety o f measures the wartim e econom y was m ore cen­ tralised than before or after the war. T here was a big increase in the num ber o f centrally planned com m odities and plan indicators. Plan­ ning o f high-priority industrial goods became m ore comprehensive and detailed. Controls on big industrial producers were tightened by means o f central com pilation o f their quarterly material supply plans. T he share o f national incom e claimed for governm ent expenditure was clearly m uch higher than in the prew ar years. A t the same tim e, there w ere clearly limits to the centralisation process, and parallel to it could be observed a process o f decentralisation. In some areas o f life the centre interfered less, and left producers and consumers m ore to their ow n devices. Sometimes this m eant a bigger role for the m arket, but m ore often it m eant enforced self-reliance. In this, as in many other ways, the w ar served to rem ind people that not everything could be decreed from M oscow. For purposes o f waging a great w ar o f national resources, centralised decision-m aking played an indispensable role. H ow ever, in wartim e as in times o f peace, the idea that the Kremlin could allocate every n u t and bolt and direct the w orking life o f every individual proved to be an impractical, utopian abstraction. T he collective will and initiative o f tens o f thou­ sands o f local com m unities and w orking collectives, the preferences and creativity o f a m ultim illion mass o f individuals, ultim ately decided the issue.



‘Spending half o f the night o f VE day on a park bench, alone in the middle o f a crow d gone wild w ith jo y ’, K S Karol observed the end o f the w ar in a provincial southern city, m ore than once the scene o f fierce fighting and enemy occupation, now restored to peace: Here was Rostov, an early-to-bed town pulled from its slumber by a party, exuberant, though without alcohol. . . . Stirred from sleep, I left the house in a hurry, w ithout even pulling my trousers on. Halfway to Kola’s place, we met, embraced, and began to weep. At the time o f our reunion in 1944, we had been able to contain our emotion. Tonight, however, everything was different: we were intoxicated by this victory —no less o f a miracle for having been expected and awaited. ‘N ow we really are going to be happy,’ Kola repeated in between sobs. His voice was drowned by the cries o f an agitated young girl: ‘W herever Stalin is, that’s where victory is!’ It was no exaggeration o f the truth. . . . Under the bright glare o f the searchlights, half-destroyed Rostov resembled an abstract painting full o f discordant forms, strange shadows and luminous stains. The people o f Rostov gave themselves up to a display o f genuine kindness.1

The euphoria, how ever, concealed an appalling bill o f costs. O utstand­ ing am ong these w ere the 27 m illion to 28 m illion prem ature deaths incurred by the Soviet population, w hich accounted for no few er than one in seven o f the prew ar population, and up to half o f global dem o­ graphic losses attributable to W orld W ar II. T he bleeding wounds o f victory were everywhere. T he Soviet Army had lost nearly 9 m illion dead. N o other army in history had 1 Karol 1986: 341-4.



achieved so m uch at such great cost. T he civilian cost was still greater. Some 19 m illion civilians had perished before their tim e. O ne-third o f the prew ar capital stock had been destroyed, and twice that am ount used up by wartim e defence, econom ic conversion, and lost national incom e. T he Soviet costs incurred for the sake o f victory outw eighed the w ar losses o f all other nations put together, but the fruits o f victory had to be shared in a very different proportion. In Germany the R ed Army now faced powerful Allied forces w hich had suffered only a small fraction o f the battle losses, yet now occupied the richer half o f Germany. In the Far East the U nited States had used its new nuclear m onopoly to deny the U SSR any significant part in the occupation o f Japan. In contrast to shattered Europe and enfeebled Britain, the U nited States had em erged from the w ar w ith renew ed prosperity and enlarged resources com m itted to an active foreign policy. Traditional hostility to Bolshevism was already re-em erging. O f the effects o f the w ar on Soviet society, most obvious and long lasting was the demographic impact. Virtually every family had suf­ fered long separation from loved ones - husbands and fathers, wives and m others, parents and children —and eventually the perm anent loss o f family members. Again, most families had experienced some forced change o f residence or occupation; at the same tim e as almost all adults had becom e soldiers, war workers o r farmers, huge m ulti-m illion flows had crossed the country, first eastward, then westward. T he loss o f young m en seriously im paired postwar processes o f marriage and child­ bearing, to the extent that only tw o-thirds o f w om en surviving in 1959 w ere m arried, w ho had reached the age o f 20 during the decade from 1929 to 1938. In the Soviet population as a w hole, the excess o f w om en over m en had increased by some 13 m illion; this was felt especially in the countryside w here by 1945 there w ere also 13 m illion m ore w om en collective farm workers than m en. As for the personal deprivations and hardships endured by the survi­ vors, these w ould continue for years afterwards. They were som ething to w hich Soviet citizens had already becom e habituated by prew ar patterns o f life. H ow ever, having ju st endured a terrible war, many now anticipated a m ore stable, peaceful w orld o f Soviet partnership w ith their new (and economically m uch m ore affluent) allies; they hoped that peace w ould bring if n o t prosperity, then less strain and discipline, and m ore fairness and social justice. Later, U’ya Ehrenburg w rote: W hen I recall conversations at the front and at the rear, when I re-read letters, it is dear that everybody expected that once victory had been


The Soviet Home Front, Î 9 4 Î - Î 9 4 5 won, people would know real happiness. W e realized, o f course, that the country had been devastated, impoverished, that we would have to work hard, and we did not have fantasies about mountains o f gold. But we believed that victory would bring justice, that human dignity would triumph.2

But realisation o f these goals w ould be long postponed. As for the Soviet political system, in the long run the w ar w ould have both conservative and liberating effects. O n balance, and certainly for the first postwar generation, the conservative effects w ere stronger. T o begin w ith, Stalin’s position was strengthened to the point o f unassailability, and he w ould rem ain Soviet leader until his death in M arch 1953. N ow portrayed as the architect o f Soviet victory, he was seen everywhere as the great Soviet w ar leader, the Generalissimus w ho personally symbolised the military destruction o f Nazi expansion­ ism and confirm ed the U SSR as a great pow er. As a m odernising statesman w ho changed both his ow n country and the w orld, Stalin invited comparison w ith Bismarck, N apoleon or Peter the G reat. M ore than anything, the Soviet victory in 1945 was used to validate his rule on a popular basis. Support for the cult o f Stalin’s personality, w hich form erly had been lim ited to officialdom and the most privi­ leged stratum o f workers, became a mass phenom enon, and w ould persist long after his death. Victory also entrenched the ministerial and party elite w hich had managed the w ar effort. For the next forty years the Soviet political system w ould be dom inated by members o f the same group w hich had led the U SSR to victory under Stalin. Bom in the years after the turn o f the century, they came to prom inence in the wake o f the prew ar purges. Having proved themselves in wartim e, they w ould rem ain at the top long after Stalin’s death, a few surviving briefly into the G or­ bachev era. Some o f these wartim e chieftains o f the Party, defence and heavy industry w ould later show themselves capable, at least, o f a ra­ tional reform -m indedness, and w ould eventually distance themselves from Stalin’s m em ory and the worst aspects o f Stalin’s personal despot­ ism. B ut their reformism w ould never prevail over their conservative values and faith in the basic soundness o f the authoritarian, centralised m odel w hich Stalin had presided over. For them the war had placed, if not Stalin himself, then the Stalinist system above criticism. In the years just after the war, the reinforced legitimacy o f Stalin and Stalinist institutions ran strongly against other, w eaker currents w elling up from below . T he w ar experience w ould also supply a 2 Cited by Hough 1985: 255.



sm othered impulse to reform . T here was a widespread desire for lib­ eralisation and relaxation, in politics as in culture and econom ic affairs. Veterans o f military service and war w ork, whose loyalty to the Soviet system had passed the severest test, may have expected the system to rew ard them w ith greater trust and increased rights o f participation, not ju st free bus passes. Some also believed that the w ar had revealed the weaknesses o f Stalinist dictatorship, above all in 1941-2, and the necessity o f lim iting the arbitrary powers o f individual leaders. T he w ar had given many the opportunity to exercise their ow n personal initiative and responsibility on a w ider scale than in peacetim e, as mili­ tary comm anders, factory managers, farmers, war administrators, war writers and reporters, and had taught them that mere unthinking obe­ dience to superior orders was not enough. For the tim e being, how ever, such beliefs and values w ould rem ain im plicit or, if voiced en dair, dangerous to the individuals w ho held them . Am ong the political leadership there w ere only confused ideo­ logical shadings, w ithout sharp distinctions betw een overall political alternatives or coherent program m es.3 In the absence o f any clear chal­ lenge, Stalin w ould seek to restore everything as it was before the war to the rigid m ould o f personal dictatorship and rule from above by decree. And while he lived he w ould very largely succeed. O ther na­ tions —the tw o Germanies and Japan under Allied occupation, Britain under the Attlee governm ent, France and Italy under new postwar constitutions —w ent through different postwar reforms. In the Soviet U nion, in contrast, the prew ar order o f forced industrial accum ulation, political dictatorship, and social m obilisation, w ould be restored. As for the universal desire for peace, it was diverted into channels w hich ultim ately led to increased militarism and great pow er national­ ism. Peace was represented as so all-im portant that everything m ust be sacrificed to it, including the sovereign rights o f the smaller nations o f eastern Europe such as the Baltic republics, Poland and Czechoslova­ kia, seen from M oscow primarily as a new defensive buffer zone against aggression from the west. Peace at any price m eant the conti­ nued priority o f m ilitary spending and m ilitary-econom ic preparedness, entailing further sacrifices on the part o f a tired, m alnourished civilian population. Armed force, not paper treaties, had stopped H itler. M ili­ tary pow er was now seen, even m ore than before the war, as the sole means o f Soviet security. T he ability to wage w ar was now seen as the only guarantee against its renew ed outbreak. T he prevention o f war was seen as sufficient justification for the continued militarisation o f 3 Hough 1985: 255-66.


The Soviet Home Front, i 9 4 1 -1 9 4 5

civilian life, and for the ruthless treatm ent o f real or presum ed enem ies — collaborators, returning prisoners o f war, m inor national groups. A s the U nited States tested out its new found confidence, prosperity a n d military pow er, w ar was presented in M oscow as increasingly inevit­ able, and became the justification for a new curtain o f secrecy an d repressive policies. U nder the surface o f the Stalinist m ould, changes w ere at w ork. N ew generations w ere rising, and the requirem ents o f the Soviet econom y and society w ould diverge steadily away from traditional models o f secrecy, authority and dictatorial rule. These trends w ould have operated anyway, w ith or w ithout the war; in a few respects th e w ar fostered them , but the m ore dom inant conservative effects o f th e w ar slowed dow n their effectiveness and delayed reform . D e-Stalinisation w ould prove a protracted, tortuous process. Khrushchev’s reform s o f 1955-6 w ould be only the beginning. T here w ould follow thirty years o f com plex political evolution away from the Stalinist m odel, w ith many standstills and even retreats under Brezhnev. B ut even if actual progress wavered, one driving force behind it w ould be memories o f W orld W ar II. This was already clear in 1956 w hen Khrushchev declared: N ot Stalin but the party as a whole, the Soviet Government, our heroic Army, its talented leaders and brave soldiers, the whole Soviet nation — these are the ones who assured the victory o f the Great Patriotic W ar.4

O ver the years, a variety o f revelations and reinterpretations has eroded the conservative, Stalinist lessons o f the war. M odem historical w riting tends to emphasise the price w hich the U SSR paid for Stalin and Stalinism in W orld W ar II as well as before and after. All those w ho fell under the shadow w hich Stalin cast in the w ar years have now , at last, secured some public redress - the generals, the industrial­ ists, the prisoners o f war, the Leningraders, the rank and file o f the Army and o f civilian society. Justice for Stalin is only part o f w hat is at issue in this judgem ent. If not Stalin, then w ho can be credited w ith the great victory on the eastern front? M illions o f ordinary people, infantrym en, officers, w or­ kers at the bench and in the field, managers, writers — even w ar ad­ m inistrators and Party secretaries: these shouldered the main burdens,, w hether they did it well or badly. For the most part they were not bom great heroes, and they were not innately brave or noble, al­ though many o f them did very brave things. They were m arked out 4 Khrushchev 1976: 57.



not by special personal qualities but by special circumstances, and an extraordinary history. W hat enabled them to wage such a terrible w ar and emerge victori­ ous? T he answer to these questions is the same — everything in their history, their revolutionary and national traditions, their cultural ties and family roles, the social, econom ic and administrative webs w hich defined their place in Soviet life, the organs o f state, the Party and its leaders, and Stalin too. All these are indispensable elements o f the ex­ planation o f w hat made them fight, and w hy victory cost them so m uch.



Table 1 Consumer products available, per head o f population, 1942—3 (1940 = 100)

Light industry, total sewn goods leather, furs, footwear silk weaves cotton textiles woollen textiles Food industry, total fish dairy products meat sugar Agriculture, total wool milk potatoes flax, hemp meat, fats raw cotton grains sunflowers eggs sugar beets




73 117 73 68 52 47 56 117 84 65 8 50 84 66 62 61 52 43 42 41 38 9

109 70 61 54 48 63 101 78 78 7 57 116 70 46 90 58 88 46 16 55 18

Source: Gross value o f output indices are from IVOVSS vol 6 1965: 45, 63, 67. These are divided by population given by Narkhoz 1973: 9, as 194.1 million in 1940 and by IVMV vol 7 1976: 41, as 130 million in 1942 and 143 million in 1943.


The Soviet H ome Front, 1941—194 5 Table 2 Official rations in 1944: some examples C h ild under 13 yrs

A d u lt dependant

W hitecollar employee

M anual w orked

M anual w orked





1 (with supplement)




Special list

Special list (with special supplement)

GRAMS PER DAY: 400 Bread, flour




1 200

GRAMS PER M O N T H : 400 Sugar, sweets Cereals 800 300 Fats 400 Meat, fish

400 600 200 500

400 800 300 1 200

800 1 500 600 2 200

800 3 000 1 000 4 500

1 074

1 913

3 460




1 600


2 500

3 000

2 190

2 500

3 000

3 500







Bread and sugar category N on-bread ration

CALORIES PER DAY, TOTAL: State rations 1 067 780 O f which, from 80 bread (% total) 81 F A O CALORY N O R M S Emergency subsistencec Temporary — maintenanced

PR O T E IN , GRAMS PER DAY, TOTAL: 49 36 State rations O f which, from 88 90 bread (% total)

Sources: For ration tables see Lyubimov 1968: 28-30; for overall calorie equi­ valents see Chemyavskii 1964: 77, except for children under 13 years, esti­ mated by the authors. Calorie equivalents from bread, overall protein equivalents, and protein equivalents from bread, are estimated by the authors. Davidson et al 1979: 171 state that the energy content o f breads lie within the range 215-250 kcal/100 gm. The lower end o f this range is consistent both with information about the quality o f Soviet bread and flour in war time, and with the totals for calories available shown in the table, when corn-


Tables bined with an estimate o f calories available from non-bread rations. Similarly, the protein content o f bread is assumed to lie in the range o f 10-11 gm /100 gm (Davidson et al 1979: 168). For recommendations o f the Food and Agri­ culture Organisation set out in 1946 (given in megajoules per day, converted at the rate o f 4.2 mj per 1,000 kcal) see Davidson et al 1979: 502. N otes:

a W ar workers in ‘leading enterprises’ o f the defence and heavy industries, construction or transport. b W ar workers subject to unusual difficulty or hazard at work, for example underground face workers in the coal industry. Some underground face workers could obtain up to another 1,000 calories daily in the form o f cold and hot meals at work. c The level ‘needed to prevent the most serious undemutrition leading to disease and the danger o f civil unrest.’ d The level ‘sufficiently high to maintain populations in fairly good health but not sufficient for rapid and complete recovery.’ Table 3 The composition o f the Soviet working population, 1940-5 (millions, annual average)







Military personnel* Public sector employees1* western USSR® eastern USSRb Artels, industrial cooperatives, other' Collective farmers'1

4.2 31.2 19.6 11.6

7.5 28.0 —

10.9 18.4 5.6 12.8

11.1 19.4 6.1 13.3

11.2 23.6 10.5 13.1

11.6 27.3 14.1 13.2

2.7 47.0

2.3 34.9

1.4 22.7

1.4 23.8

1.6 28.9

2.1 33.6

W orking population'













Forced labourersf

N otes and sources:

a Cited or estimated by Harrison 1991: Table 4. b Mitrofanova 1971: 445 (pre-1965 definition). c Estimated public sector (including cooperative) employment (post-1965 definition) from Harrison 1991, less public sector employment (pre-1965 definition). d Estimated by Harrison 1991: Table 4. e This is strictly the working population at liberty, exclusive o f forced la­ bourers employed in prisons, labour camps and colonies, and internal exile. f Numbers reported in NKVD Gulag labour camps and colonies, according to Dugin 1990. These figures are o f recent, untested provenance, and are left out o f figures for the working population as a whole.


The Soviet Home Front, 1941—1945 Table 4

The Soviet industrial work-force, 1940 and 1942—5 (millions, annual


Manual employees3 Non-manual employeesb Male employees' Female employees*1 All employees*






8.3 2.7 6.5 4.5

5.5 1.7 3.5 3.7

5.7 1.8 3.5 4.0

6.4 1.8 3.9 4.3

7.2 2.3 4.7 4.8






N otes and sources:

a Mitrofanova 1971: 439. A figure o f 7.8 million for 1941 is available from Mitrofanova 1984: 359-60. b All employees, less manual employees, c All employees, less female employees. d All employees, multiplied by the employment share o f women, from Table 5.

Table 5

W omen’s share in employment, 1940-5 (per cent) 1940

Public sector* • industry construction transport farming Collective farming1*

38 41 23 21 34


— —

— — 52





53 52 24 35 54 62

57 53 29 42 61 73

57 53

55 51 32 40 61 80

45 — 78

N otes and sources:

a W om en’s share in annual average employment, from Mitrofanova 1971: 455. b W om en’s share in the able-bodied work-force, on 1 January, from Uchastie 1962: 26.


Tables Table 6 The Soviet kolkhoz work-force, 1941—5 (millions, 1 January)

Able-bodied males Able-bodied females Youths Retired, unfit Source:

Table 7






16.9 18.6 7.1 4.4

6.3 10.1 4.0 —

4.0 11.0 4.7 2.8

3.6 12.9 5.3 3.2

4.4 17.5 6.4 4.5






1 501

1 416




420 429

408 361

345 500

269 516

289 745

1 930

1 777

1 484

1 180

1 461

Uchastie 1962: 26-7.

The Gulag work-force, 1940-5 Î940

TH OUSANDS, 1 JANUARY:* 1 344 N um ber in camps o f which, sentenced under Article 58b 445 N um ber in colonies 316 Gulag labourers, total

1 660

PER C E N T O F ANNUAL N et inflow into camps'1 Releases from camps Transit losses, escapes from campse Deaths in camps


48 43

30 43

26 41

42 22

44 51

5 3

4 7

1 21

4 20

3 9

6 7

N otes and sources:

a As in annual reports, cited by Dugin 1990. b Numbers sentenced under Article 58 o f the RSFSR Criminal Code (‘Counterrevolutionary crimes’), c Calculated from annual reports, cited by Zemskov 1989. d Inflow into Gulag camps from other places o f confinement, less outflow, e Transit losses: the difference between camp outflows and inflows arising from transfers within the Gulag camp system (stricdy, this also includes changes in the stock o f prisoners in transit from one N ew Year’s Eve to the next).


The Soviet Home Front, 1941—1945 Table 8

The Soviet war economy, 1941—5: official indices (1940 = 100)

National income produced9 Productive fixed assets, excluding livestockb Industrial productionc o f which, MBMW** Agricultural productionr Capital investment Freight turnover o f all modes o f transport Employment in the public sector, annual average Retail turnover o f state and cooperative trade8 Sourer. N otes:

a b c d












98 111 62 84

68 77 119 38 52

76 90 142 37 57

84 103 158 54 79

88 91 129 60 92
















Narkhoz 1987: 43. Notes below are by the authors.

N et material product, valued at ‘unchanged’ prices o f 1926/27. End-year figures at ‘comparable’ prices. Gross value o f output, probably valued at ‘unchanged’ prices o f 1926/27. MBMW: machine-building and metal-working - in wartime, mainly com­ posed o f munitions, e Ton-kilometres. f Excluding the collective farm work-force. g Measured at ‘comparable prices’, excluding turnover in the unregulated collective farm markets.


Tables Table 9 Soviet employment, by branch of output, 1940-5 (millions)

Military services Industry, o f which: military M BM W * civilian industryb all industry Transport, trade and construction Agriculture0 Civilian services W orking populationd o f which, soldiers and war workers0 other workersf Source: N otes:













1.5 11.6 13.1

1.8 10.1 11.9

2.5 5.7 8.3

2.8 5.8 8.6

2.9 6.5 9.4

2.0 9.1 11.2

9.5 49.7 8.6

10.3 36.9 6.1

5.9 24.0 4.3

6.2 25.1 4.7

8.5 30.6 5.6








12.8 72.3

20.1 52.7

25.2 28.1

19.7 35.9

21.2 44.1


Cited or estimated in Harrison 1991: Table 4.

a MBMW: machine-building and metal-working b Estimated upper and lower bounds for employment in civilian industry and military M BM W respectively, reflecting limiting assumptions used to derive employment in military M BM W and (as a residual) in civilian bran­ ches. c The kolkhoz working population (including workers participating in col­ lective production despite youth, retirement or disability), plus estimated employment in public sector agriculture and MTS. d As in Table 3, this is the working population at liberty, exclusive o f those employed in prisons, labour camps and colonies, and internal exile. The latter groups were also engaged in industry, agriculture, transport and con­ struction, but are not distributed between these branches in the table. e Military personnel, plus estimated war workers employed in all branches in domestic supply o f final and intermediate goods and services to the defence budget. f W orking population, less soldiers and war workers.


The Soviet Home Front, 1 9 4 1—1945 Table 10 Net output per worker, 1940 and 1942-4 (1937 roubles)

Military MBMW* Civilian industry Transport, trade construction Agriculture Source: N ote:





5 630 5 630

11 140 5 020

12 600 5 500

13 430 5 820

4 310 1 410

2 920 1 060

3 010 1 210

2 610 1 470

Estimated in Harrison 1991: Table 5.

a MBMW: machine-building and metal-working

Table 11 N et national product by branch o f origin, 1940 and 1942-4 (billion 1937 roubles at factor cost)

Military MBMW* Civilian industry Agriculture Construction Transport, communications Trade, catering Civilian services Military services N et national product Source: N ote:





8.1 65.6 69.9 10.6 19.3 11.1 33.8 6.8

27.4 29.1 25.3 3.2 10.2 3.8 16.9 17.6

34.1 32.2 30.4 3.4 11.8 3.5 18.3 17.9

37.7 38.3 45.0 4.4 13.7 4.1 22.1 18.1





Estimated in Harrison 1991: Table 2.

a MBMW: machine-building and metal-working


Tables Table 12 The burden of Soviet defence outlays, 1940 and 1942-4 1940




83 -7 76

89 -2 0 68

79 -1 9 60

47 4

35 14

32 11

PER C EN T O F NNP* (1937 roubles at factor cost) Total war outlays — Receipts from mutual aid = Supply from domestic output

20 -0 20

PER C E N T O F W O R K IN G PO PU LA TIO N Employed in supply o f war Freed by mutual aidb Source: N ote:

15 0

Estimated in Harrison 1991.

a N N P: net national product. b This indicates the estimated proportion o f the Soviet working population which would have been required to produce domestically the volume and assortment o f goods supplied through Lend-Lease in each year, given aver­ age estimated output per worker in relevant branches o f the Soviet econ­ omy.


Im portant dates

1941 22 Jun 23 Jun 24 Jun

25 Jun 26 Jun 27 Jun

28 Jun 29 Jun 30 Jun

‘Barbarossa*: German invasion o f USSR Rom ania declares war on U SSR Sovnarkom -Central Com m ittee order to im plem ent m o­ bilisation plan for am m unition production Politburo decision to evacuate arm our steel rolling mill from M ariupol' Sovnarkom -Central C om m ittee decision to establish C oun­ cil for evacuation under Kaganovich Politburo resolution on increased output o f m edium and heavy tanks Supreme Soviet decree on the extension o f w orking hours in wartim e Hungary declares w ar on U SSR Politburo approval o f plan for relocation o f evacuated air­ craft factories Sovnarkom -Central Com m ittee resolution on order o f evacuation o f people and assets Fall o f M insk Finland declares w ar on U SSR Sovnarkom -Central C om m ittee (‘scorched earth’) directive to party and Soviet organisations o f frontline districts Fall o f I/v o v A doption o f revised wartim e econom ic plan for 1941 (3rd quarter)


The Soviet Home Front, Î 94 i - 1945

1 Jul

3 Jul 4 Jul 5 Jul 7 Jul 8 Jul 12 Jul 16 Jul 18 Jul 30 Jul 14 Aug 16 Aug

17 25 30 8 17 19

Aug Aug Aug Sep Sep Sep

28 Sep 29 Sep 30 Sep 3 7 12 13 16

O ct O ct O ct O ct O ct


Form ation o f GKO (Stalin, M olotov, Voroshilov, M alen­ kov, Beriya) Form ation o f Sovnarkom Labour C om m ittee Fall o f R iga Sovnarkom resolution on the extension o f rights o f people’s commissars in wartim e Stalin’s radio broadcast GKO commission (Voznesenskii) to compile 1941 (4th quarter)-1942 plan for the interior regions Sovnarkom decree on order o f evacuation o f population Sovnarkom decree on increased use o f ‘local resources’ for consum er supplies M ilitarisation o f construction labour (until Mar^-Apr 1942) Anglo-Soviet m utual assistance pact Shvem ik replaces Kaganovich at C ouncil for evacuation Food rationing in M oscow, Leningrad cities, oblasts Harry Hopkins in M oscow Bread rationing in towns and industrial settlem ents, C entral Russia and Urals Fall o f Smolensk Sovnarkom -Central Com m ittee approval o f 1941 (fourth quarter)-1942 plan for the interior regions Stalin’s O rder N o 270: Soldiers w ho allow themselves to fall into captivity are traitors to the M otherland Fall o f D nepropetrovsk Fall o f Tallinn Leningrad cut off by rail (foil o f Mga) Leningrad encircled on land (foil o f Shlüsselberg) Kiev encirclem ent com pleted Stabilisation o f the Leningrad front Fall o f Kiev Beaverbrook and Harrim an in M oscow German forces enter Donbass ‘T yphoon’, first stage: first German offensive against M os­ cow Fall o f O rel Vyaz'ma encirclem ent com pleted Fall o f Kaluga Fall o f Kalinin Evacuation o f civil adm inistration and foreign embassies to the interior T he M oscow panic begins

Important dates

Fall o f Odessa M oscow: state o f siege Fall o f K harkov First German offensive against M oscow halted Form ation o f Com m ittee for evacuation o f stocks from M oscow under M ikoyan (wound up 19 Dec) Voznesenskii appointed to represent Sovnarkom in Kui­ byshev (until end-N ov) 30 O ct Sevastopol' cut off (falls 5 June 1942) 1 N ov Food rationing in forty-three towns outside M oscow, Len­ ingrad oblasts 3 N ov Fall o f Kursk 6 N ov Stalin’s eve o f revolution speech 7 N ov Stalin addresses R ed Square parade 9 N ov Fall o f Tikhvin (cutting Leningrad’s rail link to Lake Ladoga) D irective on schedule for relocation o f evacuated plant in the interior 10 N ov Bread, sugar rationing in all towns and industrial settle­ ments 16 N ov ‘T yphoon’, second stage: second German offensive against M oscow Fall o f Kerch 20 N ov Leningrad food rations reach lowest point 19 N ov Fall o f R ostov-on-D on 29 N ov R ecapture o f R ostov-on-D on 5 Dec End o f German offensive against M oscow Eden in M oscow 6 Dec Soviet counteroffensive: M oscow sector 7 Dec Pearl H arbor 8 Dec First T-34s leave the K har'kov tractor factory (now in the Urals) Britain and USA declare w ar on Japan 9 Dec R ecapture o f Tikhvin 11 Dec Italy and Germany declare w ar on USA 16 Dec R ecapture o f Kalinin 23 Dec First increase in Leningrad food rations 25 Dec Com m ittee for freight dispersal under M ikoyan replaces Council for evacuation 26 D ec M ilitarisation o f defence industry labour 29 Dec R ecapture o f Kerch 19 O ct 24 O ct 25 O ct


T h e S o v ie t H o m e F ro n t, 1 9 4 1 —1 9 4 5

1942 7 Jan 28 Jan 3 Feb 13 Feb 14 Feb 20 Feb 13 Apr 8 May 12 May 20 May 23 May 26 May 12 Jun 22 Jun 28 Jun 4 Jul 6 Jul 19 Jul 24 Jul 28 Jul 10 Aug 11 Aug 12 Aug 23 Aug 25 3 13 24

Aug Sep Sep Sep

19 N ov 23 N ov 8 Dec


Soviet general counteroffensive (western, central, southern and south-w estern sectors) Soviet forces re-enter Ukraine across upper Donets M ikoyan, Voznesenskii jo in GK O Decree on compulsory service liability o f urban population Form ation o f G K O transport com m ittee under Stalin Kaganovich joins GKO G K O approval o f crash programme for the iron and steel industry German offensive in Crimea Soviet offensive, K harkov sector Fall o f Kerch K harkov encirclem ent com pleted 20-year Anglo-Soviet treaty Central C om m ittee resolution on im provem ent o f political w ork in the Soviet Army Form ation o f Commission for evacuation on the southern front under Shvem ik German offensive against Voronezh Fall o f Sevastopol' Fall o f Voronezh Fall o f Voroshilovgrad Fall o f R ostov-on-D on Stalin’s O rder N o 227: ‘N ot a step back!’ Fall o f M aikop Fall o f Krasnodar Churchill and Harrim an in M oscow German forces reach the Volga Area bom bing o f Stalingrad Fall o f M ozdok German breakthrough south o f Stalingrad German offensive against Stalingrad German occupation o f most o f central Stalingrad GKO resolutions on defects in party w ork in the Kuzbass and Karaganda coalfields Soviet counteroffensive: Stalingrad sector Stalingrad encirclem ent com pleted Form ation o f GKO operations bureau Voznesenskii reappointed to head U SSR Gosplan

Important dates

1943 1 Jan 18 Jan 25 Jan 29 Jan 31 Jan 8 Feb 14 Feb 16 Feb 12 M ar 14 M ar 15 Apr 16 Apr 26 Apr 22 May 4 Jun 9 Jun

5 Jul lO Jul 15 Jul 26 Jul 5 Aug 23 Aug 30 Aug 3 Sep 8 10 16 25 7 13 14

Sep Sep Sep Sep O ct O ct O ct

German retreat from Caucasus begins R ecapture o f Shliisselburg; the land encirclem ent o f Len­ ingrad broken R ecapture o f Voronezh Gosplan decision to draft reconstruction plans for recap­ tured territories plus the Donbass and Leningrad German surrender at Stalingrad R ecapture o f Kursk R ecapture o f R ostov-on-D on R ecapture o f K har'kov R ecapture o f Gzhatsk-Vyazm a-Rzhev triangle Fall o f K har'kov Supreme Soviet decree on militarisation o f railway labour Soviet reply to German allegation o f Soviet responsibility for m urder o f Polish officers at Katyn Breach o f relations w ith Polish governm ent in exile (Lon­ don) Dissolution o f C om intern Area bom bing o f G or'kii begins (two weeks) and destruc­ tion o f G or'kii m otor factor (GAZ) Area bom bing o f Yaroslavl' and destruction o f SK-1 syn­ thetic rubber factory (reconstruction com pleted m id-Sept­ ember) German offensive against Kursk salient Allied invasion o f Sicily Soviet offensive against O rel salient Fall o f Mussolini R ecapture o f O rel R ecapture o f Khar'kov R ecapture o f Taganrog Allied invasion o f Italy Italian surrender R ecapture o f Donbass com pleted R ecapture o f M ariupol' R ecapture o f Novorossiisk R ecapture o f Smolensk Soviet forces cross the D nepr Italy declares war on Germany R ecapture o f Zaporozh'e


The Soviet Home Front, Î 9 4 Î —İ 9 4 5

18 25 28 6

O ct O ct O ct N ov

12 N ov 23 N ov 28 N ov

Allied foreign ministers in M oscow R ecapture o f Dnepropetrovsk R econstruction o f GAZ com pleted R ecapture o f Kiev Stalin’s ‘fundam ental turning point’ speech R ecapture o f Z hitom ir N ation-w ide bread ration cut Stalin, C hurchill and Roosevelt in Tehran

1944 17 Jan 4 M ar 2 Apr 10 Apr 11 Apr 9 May 13 May 6 Jun 10 Ju n 23 Ju n 28 Ju n 3 Jul 18 Jul 20 Jul 31 Jul 1 Aug 15 Aug 20 Aug 23 Aug 4 Sep 5 Sep 9 Sep 10 Sep 11 Sep 29 Sep 2 O ct 9 O ct 20 O ct


Leningrad blockade ends Soviet offensive in the Ukraine Soviet forces enter R om ania R ecapture o f Odessa Soviet forces enter Crim ea R ecapture o f Sevastopol' R ecapture o f Crim ea com pleted Allied invasion o f France Soviet offensive against Finland Soviet offensive in Belorussia Vitebsk-Bobruisk encirclem ent com pleted R ecapture o f M insk Soviet forces enter Poland German officers’ attem pt to assassinate H itler Soviet forces reach Praga (opposite Warsaw) W arsaw uprising Allied invasion o f southern France Soviet offensive in Bessarabia and Rom ania Rom anian surrender Finnish surrender U SSR declares war on Bulgaria Soviet forces enter Bulgaria Fall o f Praga (opposite Warsaw) U nited States forces enter Germany Soviet forces enter Yugoslavia Surrender o f Warsaw underground resistance Churchill in M oscow Soviet and Yugoslav partisan forces enter Belgrade

Important dates

28 O ct 20 N ov 16 D ec

Bulgarian surrender Bulganin replaces Voroshilov in GK O German offensive in France (Ardennes)

1945 3 Jan 12 Jan 17 Jan 19 Jan 4 Feb 13 Feb 13 M ar 23 M ar 29 M ar 12 Apr 13 Apr 16 Apr 23 Apr 27 Apr 28 Apr 30 Apr 1 May 2 May 4 May 7 May 8 May 9 May 26 May 24 Jun 17 Jul 6 Aug 8 Aug 9 Aug 14 Aug 19 Aug

U nited States counteroffensive in France (Ardennes) Soviet offensive in Poland Fall o f W arsaw Soviet forces enter East Prussia Stalin meets Churchill and Roosevelt in Yalta Fall o f Budapest Allies reach R hine Allied crossing o f R hine Soviet forces enter Austria D eath o f Roosevelt Fall o f Vienna Soviet offensive against Berlin Soviet forces reach Berlin Soviet and U nited States forces m eet (Torgau) D eath o f Mussolini D eath o f H ider German surrender in Italy Fall o f Berlin German surrender in Holland, Denm ark and north-w est Germany German surrender (Jodi to Eisenhower) German surrender (Keitel to Zhukov) Fall o f Prague GKO directive on reconversion o f defence plant Victory parade in R ed Square Stalin, C hurchill and Trum an in Potsdam Atom bom bing o f Hiroshim a U SSR declares w ar on Japan Atom bom bing o f Nagasaki Soviet forces enter M anchuria Japanese declaration o f intent to surrender Surrender o f Japanese forces in M anchuria begins


The Soviet H ome Front, 194 Η1945

1 Sep 2 Sep 4 Sep


Surrender o f Japanese forces in M anchuria, Sakhalin and Kuril islands com pleted Japanese surrender to M acA rthur Dissolution o f GKO


Places o f publication are M oscow (for items in the Russian language) or London (for English-language items) unless otherwise specified.

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