To what extent had the USSR recovered from the impact of the Great Patriotic War (1941-1945) by the time of Stalin’s death in 1953? Although VE celebrations started on 24th June 1945, peace was declared on the 9th May in Moscow. There are differing opinions on the amount of deaths that were caused by the Great Patriotic War (for example, Kenez estimates 26-27 million, many of whom were prisoners of war, whereas Hoskings estimated 20-25 million, many of whom were killed indirectly by the war, by means such as famines). It could be suggested that the USSR simply returned to where it had been previously in the 1930s after the war, for example primary focus for industry was put on "heavy" goods such as oil and coal. But to what extent did life for the Russian improve once the war was over?
Social conditions after the war were anything but favourable. 1,170 towns, 70,000 villages and 7 million homes had been destroyed leaving 25 million Russians homeless. This issue was not addressed or rectified and no housing schemes of building projects were started, instead the money was redirected to other areas. So Soviets were left restless as they had nowhere to go.
The peasants were essentially bound to their land as they had no access to funds or passports to travel. The two types of farms faced disadvantages, for example the Kolkhozy farms (collective state farms) had to meet state obligations which were 60-70% of their output and only received trivial rewards in return (such as sacks of potatoes). Even though the war had caused so many deaths, the Politburo remained to see the peasants as disposable after the war. Also Stalin did not trust the peasants as he said they were “too individualistic to make good socialists” and therefore increased the taxes on them. So this is not recovery as the lifestyle, especially for peasants, got worse.
The agricultural output in 1945 was only 60% of what it had been before the war, and as a result food shortages that had occurred previously (due to the farm workers going to the front, and with them taking machinery and horses) simply continued. There was a famine in 1946-47 and this caused widespread starvation, for example in Moldova alone 70,000 Russians died. Due to the famine, food rations were restricted and the numbers eligible for these were reduced (21 million reduced to 4.1 million). To make this even worse Stalin did not acknowledge the famine and banned private farming in 1946 as it was seen as anti-communist. This meant that the small amount of food the peasants may have been able to grow to feed their families was now taken away from them. As a result of this, the USSR could not recover because they had less resources and food. Also Stalin was ignorant, and made the any chance of recovery harder because peasants were not able to feed themselves, so they in turn could not recover.
It was not only in the country where the people suffered, workers in the towns faced inflated targets and reduced wages (further than this they were expected to subscribe to state bonds which totalled several weeks’ wages). So the people were not able to provide for themselves, meaning that they could not recover, as they couldn’t afford to. Consumer goods were very scarce, for example, although there were 341 million knitted garments by 1953, televisions and refrigerators were very rare even though they were now commodities in the west at this time.
Although after the Second World War, life was certainly looking very bleak for the Russians; some fixed prices were reduced in the towns to ensure that the poorest workers could afford food such as bread (which cost half the amount in 1950 as it did in 1947). So recovery had been initiated, however, in general, living conditions did not improve.
The Great Patriotic War affected Stalin very negatively, despite the Russian victory. He perceived his personal position and security in a different way to the Russians and saw himself to be very...
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