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The Second Five Year Plan

Modern History (Year 12) - Russia Transforms

Ben Whitten

The Second Five Year Plan

The Second Five Year Plan (1933-1938) was focused on developing water/water services, road and rail transport. The quality of goods that were made improved during this period along with communications which were massively improved by a more reliable rail system.

Change to the original plans for heavy industry were made by a faction of the Politburo (the Kirov Group), who put pressure on Stalin to prioritise living standards and consumer goods, believing this would increase the Party’s popularity. Increasing availability of consumer goods led the Russian people to describe the period between 1933-1936 as “three good years”. In 1936, the priorities of the plan changed and the Government scaled back spending on consumer goods to prioritise rearmament. Germany was rearming and Russian planners feared a war with Hitler, and Kirov had been assassinated in 1934 and his followers were purged in the Great Terror.

The successes of the Second Five Year Plan included:

  • Opening of Moscow Metro in 1935 and Volga Canal’s completion by 1937

  • Ending of bread rationing in 1934 and doubling production of consumer goods between 1933-37

  • The Stakhanovite movement allowed for an increase in labour productivity across Russian industry

  • Steel output tripled, coal production doubled

  • Spending on rearmament rose from 4% of GDP in 1933 to 17% of GDP in 1937

The failures of the Second Five Year Plan included:

  • New houses lacking running water and basic sanitation/hygiene

  • 650,000 people in Moscow had no access to a private bathhouse

  • Despite the increase in the availability of bread, many Russians had a poor diet

  • New clothing was difficult to obtain, e.g., a queue of 6,000 people formed outside a shoe shop in Leningrad in 1934

  • 55,000 senior communists were entitled to a higher standard of living, including access to holiday homes, chauffeur-driven limousines and specialised consumer goods

  • Stakhanovites were entitled to large financial rewards

  • Focus on quantity led to a lack of quality of products

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