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The First Five Year Plan

Modern History (Year 12) - Russia Transforms

Ben Whitten

The First Five Year Plan (1928-1932)

The First Five Year Plan (1928-1932) was focused on developing industries such as coal, iron, power supplies and transport. The targets set by Gosplan ended up being met in only 4 years, however, the rapid industrialisation of industry and collectivisation of farming resulting in the Great Famine of 1932-1933.

The first plans focused on heavy industry for two main reasons:

  • These industries produced the materials necessary for future economic developments and rearmament (the process of equipping military forces with a new supply of weapons)

  • The majority of Russian workers (peasants predominantly) had little experience in industry and industrial production, so were better suited to the relatively easy and uncomplicated tasks involved in heavy industry

The successes of the first FYP included:

  • Successes in production. Russia’s economy grew by 14% per year during the first FYP, and output exceeded that saw under the New Economic Policy.

  • Problems in the countryside and new opportunities available in the cities led to the trebling of the urban population in the 1930s.

  • During the 1930s, the bourgeoisie specialists who had run industry under the New Economic Policy were replaced by 150,000 new red specialists.

  • The Government invested into technical education, and workers were encouraged to attend courses at Russian universities.

The failures of the first FYP included:

  • Production increased massively but Gosplan’s targets were rarely met – the first FYP focused on quantity produced as opposed to quality, so a large portion of what was being produced was useless. The extreme pressure put on managers to meet their targets led to many lying about the extent of their production.

  • Life became more difficult for citizens as Stalin introduced a seven-day working week and longer working hours. Lateness, striking and breaking industrial equipment were criminalised. Russian citizens did not have access to consumer goods, as they were extremely scarce under such an industry heavy plan.

  • Stalin aimed to abolish the free market, and the scarcity of consumer goods led to a black market developing; speculators were said to have sold vodka, cigarettes, food and footwear at massively high prices.

  • Slave labour was used to achieve the goals of the first FYP; peasants who’d previously been arrested as a result of dekulakisation were sent to labour camps and forced to work on industrial projects, i.e. 400,000 prisoners were used to build Magnitogorsk.

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