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The Five Year Plans

Modern History (Year 12) - Russia Transforms

Ben Whitten


The Five Year Plans were a set of economic initiatives introduced by Stalin in order to modernise and build up its industry. Stalin believed that the Soviet Union had to build up industry in order to defend itself from any attacks from Western nations. Stalin wanted to modernise factories in the Soviet Union to increase the amount of goods being produced.

The ultimate goal of the Five Year Plans was for the Soviet Union to be a modern industrial country similar to other superpowers, such as the USA, Germany and Britain.

Organisation of the Plans

Stalin introduced a set of rules/tactics to provide strict control over the Five Year Plans as well as incentives for good work.

  • Gosplan: Gosplan was a government planning office that decided by how much industry in the Soviet Union was to grow in every five-year period.

  • Targets: Gosplan set targets that factories were forced to meet, as failure to do so was seen as being a traitor to the nationalistic project of accelerated industrialisation.

  • Long Hours: Workers were forced to work extremely hard to meet their targets. Both managers and workers who failed to meet their targets may be arrested and executed.

  • Low Wages: Workers were made to work for very long hours, only for very low wages.

  • Propaganda: War-like propaganda was exploited by the Soviets (such as slogans and posters) which likened the production drive to a battle, in order to make people work harder.

  • Rewards: Few workers were rewarded for their hard work; some were given higher pay and better houses in comparison to other workers.

  • Society: The old method of farming (individual peasant farming) paved the way to a more efficient system of farming (collective farming/collectivisation). Despite their strength in numbers, their strength as a hierarchical group was no match to resist the campaign against their traditionalistic lifestyle.

Summary of Results

The Five Year Plans led the way for a massive increase in the output of goods such as coal, steel, electricity and oil; the Five Year Plans also led to great improvements in water and rail transport. For the duration of the plans, a massive number of tractors were produced which aided in food production in the countryside. New industrial towns/complexes were built, a predominant one being Magnitogorsk. By 1939, only the USA and Germany produced more industrial goods in comparison to the Soviet Union. As a result of the success of the First Five Year Plans, the Soviet Union defeated Nazi Germany in World War II.

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