Up until 1945 the tensions between the USSR and the USA had been covered by the fact that both sides were trying to fight against Hitler and therefore relations up until the war had been relaxed. However this changed after 1945 the victory against Germany brought them international superpower status giving them more control and influence over many countries especially in Eastern Europe. As a result Stalin changed and adapted policies accordingly to increase competition with the USA; both countries were fearful of each other hence why Stalin concentrated on things such as industry and ignoring agricultural production for example. I will explain what and why the cold war influenced Stalin’s policies inside the USSR and come to a conclusion.
My first point is that Stalin focused his efforts even more on the development of industry than ever before. The reason why Stalin did this was to rival the USA’s superpower status and therefore they focused on quantitative rather than the qualitative side of industry. Stalin wasn’t worried if the products they produced were any good as long as they met the 5 year plan targets then he believed he could compete with the USA. This showed as according to the statistics every planned target in 1950 was apparently met e.g. the coal target was 250 million tons which they surpassed and reached 261 million tons. Even the figures may have been exaggerated it is clear that the Stalinist approach had worked in terms of recovering from the war as well making significant progress in terms of producing goods.
My next point is again to do with industrial production, but more specifically how they focused on heavy industry and capital goods in order to help with defence and the production of nuclear weapons. In 1950 industrial production was almost up by 75% compared to 1940. The most significant increases were in the production of capital goods such as coal and steel which were important in terms of everyday living. Defence was also an important sector in the USSR as it received the most favourable treatment in the allocation of resources, including skilled labour. The reason why Stalin concentrated on these things was because he wanted to carry out the task and maintain their new superpower status. Stalin was also fearful of the USA and the UK because they had refused to share information with him on the atom bombs which increased the tensions further between them and the USA. But because of Stalin’s drive to carry through heavy industry and concentrate particularly on their defence he was able to use his skilled labour and eventually managed to produce their own bomb by 1949.
Another change to policies inside the USSR was to do with social policies and more specifically the campaign against cosmopolitanism. The reason why Stalin approved of the campaign against cosmopolitanism was because he feared anything from the Western world and he was particularly scared of what would happen in Leningrad as it was known as the “window to the West” where Stalin believed foreign influences was most likely to enter the USSR. He therefore opposed and banned things such as jazz music which was seen as something that was particularly Western. It wasn’t just that though as what was known as the “Leningrad purge” in 1948 where over 200 leading Leningrad party officials were either arrested or shot also occurred.
Other things that were controlled because of the cold war tensions included controls on what was read as well as what was viewed at cinemas & theatres. But the campaign against cosmopolitanism was also linked with the increased anti-Semitism, the discrimination and violence against Jews. Other examples include the doctor’s plot where Jewish doctors were blamed poisoning Zhadnov and plotting Stalin’s death as well as banning marriages with foreigners. The reason why Stalin did this was because the cold war essentially made him even more suspicious of the West and therefore made him become stricter in terms of the policies he carried out.
Alongside the campaign against cosmopolitanism was the rise in Russian nationalism. The USSR distrusted the Western powers and capitalism and Stalin knew that the two sides (USSR and USA) could not work together without trying to fight for supremacy at some point. The USSR decided that they would do this by praising everything that was Russian and making out that anything Russian was better than anything from the West. But in general this was excessive and made them look insecure; this reflected that in the past they were often invaded by Western powers that had better technology, as well as showing that they weren’t used to their new superpower status.
The reason why Stalin imposed these policies inside the USSR was to make sure the people knew that anything Russian was far superior to anything that was Western and make the USSR look even better in terms being seen as a great country from anywhere in the world. The essence of competition was important to Stalin as he wanted his country to look even greater than the USA.
The victory against Germany in the Great Patriotic war gave the USSR the chance to expand and gain more communist allies and help spread their influence in Eastern Europe particularly as well as the world in general. Stalin concentrated his efforts mainly on Eastern Europe as an “insurance zone” essentially to help protect them if they did come under attack from the USA. After 1945 the USSR recaptured Baltic States and therefore he had control over some major Eastern European countries such as Poland, Hungary, Czechoslovakia, Bulgaria and Romania. This was important for two reasons, one because it would add protection if they came under attack again as well as spread their communist roots/ideologies so that they would gain more influence for the future.
This was even discussed with wartime allies, the USA and the UK at the Yalta and Potsdam conferences. This was to help decide the fate of post-war Europe. It was dominated by Stalin and the conferences helped decide on the amount of influence countries had and who would make key decisions. Stalin also used his powerful position to strip assets from the Eastern countries mentioned above to help rebuild Soviet industry. By doing this they could deal with the fact that Stalin was fearful of the USA because of their development of the atomic bomb and the increasing tensions between the two countries.
The tension between the USSR and the USA also explains to some extent to why Stalin continued to ignore agricultural production and focus on industrial production as mentioned above. The situation got worse first during the war when the general public faced starvation because there was a lack of food and this continued to get worse as famine affected the USSR in 1946 & 47 when other Baltic states e.g. Moldova had to deal with drought. Agricultural production during the development of the cold war therefore continued to get worse as the planned 1950 target wasn’t met (didn’t get close). Another reason that could be suggested why Stalin ignored agricultural production was because there was a lack of competition with the USA in terms of agriculture, and therefore to him it didn’t really matter. Stalin’s rural economy was consequently a failure, which clearly underperformed and was obviously a weakness in the Soviet regime. The fact was because money was being directed towards industry there wasn’t any many to spend on producing food and providing modern equipment.
My last point is what was known as “comecon” or short for The Council for Mutual Economic Assistance. The Comecon was founded in 1949 by the Soviet Union, Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Poland, and Romania. The primary factors in Comecon’s creation were that Stalin’s desire was to co-operate and strengthen the international communist relationship at an economic level with the lesser states of Eastern Europe. This was a response to the USA’s marshal plan which provided aid and money to European countries that were affected by the war. Again this gives the sense of competition that Stalin liked to implement and show that the USSR was more than a match to the USA.
The programme also encouraged trade and industrial between the communist countries. There was also an important legacy of this brief period of activity; the Sofia principle which radically weakened intellectual property rights, making each country’s technologies available to the others which greatly benefited the USSR because in terms of technology they were far behind most countries. If it wasn’t for the USA’s Marshall Plan then the USSR would probably not have gained advanced technology, but because of the influence of the cold war Stalin wanted to compete with the USA at everything and make them look superior in any way possible.
In conclusion I believe the development of the cold war greatly influenced Stalin’s policies in the USSR. The fact that Stalin saw the USA as major competition in terms of being the ultimate superpower in the world also drove these policies faster than they might have been without the tensions of the cold war. But the fact that Stalin became more paranoid and suspicious as this reign went on also explains some changes in his policies e.g. becoming stricter on Jews. However in my opinion most of his policies including focusing on industrial production, ignoring agricultural production, introducing Comecon and the upsurge in Russian Nationalism can all be accounted for by the influence of the cold war.