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As we know now the cold war and the race of super- powers certainly had an influence on the Russian economy. Different historians argue a different time period for the cold war. Some of them say that the cold war has its roots in the causes of the first world war. Nevertheless for this essay it will be assumed the most common dates, with the start of the cold war in 1945.
There were several reason and parties that caused the cold war to start. For example you could name the west’s general fear of communism, and the soviet union’s constant fear of being attacked. Now the question occurs, was the Cold War the ultimate reason that made the Russian economy develop the way it did, and furthermore cause severe poverty ? From my point of view the Cold War was the dominating fact in terms of development and investments, which as already mentioned were directly followed poverty through out the whole country.
In the year 1945 Russian economy had recovered from the low point in 1942, though it was still seriously damaged from the war. At that time most of western Russia was wrecked. The state Committee of defence had remained in full power until the regular governmental organs restored on September 1945. Governmental organs immediately ordered reconversion of war factories to civilian production. On 19 August 1945 a new draft of a five year- plan was set up by the Gosplan which was out for exceeding the pre war output by 1950. 1
In 1945 Reconstruction was hit by cancelling the lend-lease. The foreign trade figures of 1945 state the Importance of aid . Exports 1, 433, Imports 14, 805 ( millions of roubles ). 2 The reaction on the cancellation of lend lease was an immediate insist on reparation payment of ex-enemy countries. German factories such as Zeiss 3 in Jena, were taken to Russia in order to benefit from German know-how, furthermore looking onto growing tensions with the west. First Russian claims for reparations towards Germany was recognized as an apply to whole Germany. Though as a result of the rapidly growing tension between Russia and America, German reparations in 1945 were mainly coming from German areas under Russian military control. In February.
1946 Stalin held his well-known 4 election speech. After stating great victories of Russian workers and the armaments industry he then looked forward to an industrial output that would treble the pre-war figures. He spoke about achieving an output of 60 million tons of steel, 500 million tons of coal and 60 million 5 of tons of oil in the course of three five-year plans. The immediate actions had to be reconstruction and reconversion. Most of the . in war times by the enemy occupied factories were only having an out put of a third of the output in pre-war times. Though Stalin in the years after the war often stated the importance of Russian population , other actions were taking place.
As a result of many factors , the cold war itself, Russian communism history and Stalin’s often mentioned paranoia 6 of never being save and being attacked, 87.9 percent of industrial investments in 1945-50 were directed into restoration and development of heavy industry while only 12.1 7 per cent to the light and food industries of a country with a population of a 150 million.
This can be easily explained. The cold war was an essential issue for Stalin. Also in Lenin times Stain was the one that was promoting the Soviet Union by all means. He was for the Soviet Union in first place while many of his opponents in the council were promoting communism revolutions in other parts of the world and especially Europe, which certainly might have also been a reason for the western fear of Russia and therefore an important cause for the cold war.
Stalin’s opinion was that heavy industry such as coal , iron and steel was the way to reach the status of the absolute super power. It was not only his one way directed nationalistic views, but also his constant fear of capitalism , of being attacked and western living schemes in general , that wanted the heavy industry to recover, reconstruct an improve. Stalin’s five year plan for the years between 1945 and 1950 stated that the heavy industry , in sectors such coal, iron and steel would improve it’s outputs by more than 300 %. 8 In fact this more than optimistic plan of outputs for the year 1950 was reached and furthermore greater outputs than the plan had stated were achieved.
While heavy industry and rearmament were more than recovering and promoted by the last five-year plan, only very insignificant improvements were planned for the light industry, such as food. And even those expectations were not archived in a single sector, 9 that affected Russia’s population in terms of living standards most. This first totally peaceful year 1946 proved to be a very difficult one. Severe droughts caused the slight improvements in outputs of agricultural products to shrink again. Many people and especially peasants in Ukraine were starving to death 10 as very few investments were made into the light industry sector which were immediate results of the relation between investments into heavy industry and into light industry was more and more getting out of balance.
The first peaceful time in years had not brought confidence and the will of rebuilding the country itself but it had caused much more the feeling of danger in Stalin his fellowship and later in Khrushchev. Since the war had ended all Russian economy was focused on rearmament. Huge projects of development of new weapons of mass destruction were launched. Huge sums that the country actually could not have afforded with a moderate and acceptable living standard were invested into the development of highly technologically weapons 11 such as those America was producing. Hundreds of thousand of soldiers and vast masses of newly developed weapons such as long distance missiles were shown in massive parades through Moscow.
After Stalin’s death Khrushchev came into power in the year 1953. In the early sixties Khrushchev visited America . He was certainly impressed by all their progress, what he nevertheless admitted to the Americans . He was shown new technologies and advances, which he all thought to be capitalistic nonsense 13 . Khrushchev was also brought to major crop fields typical for the part of America he Was visiting. Back in the U.S.S.R Khrushchev he was obsessed by the idea of that crops 12 . All kolkhozes were told to plant it though it could not grow anywhere in Russia due to climate difference in America. At that time Khrushchev had the idea to overtake America by all means.
This slogans was promoted to the whole population. As overtaking America would not only mean new kind of huge field of crops, it mend also major rearmament that the country could not have afforded if it would have kept up an western like living standards. In the fifties America’s wealth and very high living standards were not a term by that Khrushchev wanted to overtake America. At the Moscow, ” Kitchen Debate ” in July 24, 1959 for example Khrushchev was saying that the time was about rearmament and not about capitalistic gadgets as washing machines. 14 It was their power that had to be reached and beaten. According to these ideas all interests , investments were put into the heavy industry , which made the people suffer, for ideological ideas of a great Soviet Union .
Today we can conclude that the cold war certainly had influences on Russian economy at that time. It is even reasonable to say that the low living standards today partly result from the armouring in the cold war period. On the other hand you can argue also positive affects of the cold war on Russian economy. As for example the heavy industry and in particular the oil sector are very well developed today, furthermore the oil sector is the most essential part in terms of exports and there securing the Russian budget year by year. It was not only the cold war that made Russian economy develop the way it did. The cold war was just another secondarily import circumstance. If you look at Russia’s history today you will find that it were the leaders that changed the country significantly.
Khrushchev and Stalin very different in many ways, though finally had many similar objectives. It was Stalin’s paranoia of being attacked by western powers and Khrushchev’s true love for communist ideals and the will to make the Soviet Union the absolute super-power on the planet that made rearmament happen . I have concluded that the Cold war was not the essential reason for massive poverty and still on going low living standards in Russia. It was much more the ideological ideas of Soviet leaders. It was Russian communist history and the Soviet Union’s leaders love towards the nation rather than towards their people that decided Russian economic development. These ideological ideas of the great Soviet Union existed before the war remain now and will very like be there for the next fifty years as well.
1) An economic History of the USSR, Alec Nove, , London ,1969, p. 295
2) An economic History of the USSR, Alec Nove, London ,1969, p.296
3) An economic History of the USSR, Alec Nove, London ,1969, p.298
4) Stalin ” Autobiography” , Richard Luri, , Moscow, 1999, p. 127
5) An economic History of the USSR, Alec Nove, London ,1969, p.297
6) Memories of an unreal ambassador, Alexander Bovin, Moscow, 2000 , p. 196
7) An economic History of the USSR, Alec Nove, London ,1969, p.297
8) An economic History of the USSR, Alec Nove, London ,1969, p.298
9) An economic History of the USSR, Alec Nove, London ,1969, p.298
10) Letters of relatives , years from 1938 -1950
11) ” Sawerscheno Secretno”, Henrich Borovik, Moscow, 2003 Nr. 12
12) Memories of an unreal ambassador, Alexander Bovin, Moscow, 2000 , p. 234
13) Historical Documents, , Moscow, ” Kitchen Debate “, Moscow, July 24, 1959, http://edition.cnn.com/SPECIALS/cold.war/episodes/14/documents/debate/
14) Historical Documents, , Moscow, ” Kitchen Debate “, Moscow, July 24, 1959, http://edition.cnn.com/SPECIALS/cold.war/episodes/14/documents/debate/