Russia has always been one of the most cruel an inhuman countries in the Europe, and its governments have never truly cared about people’s lives (even estimated in several millions) to achieve their political goals and maintain power. And so did Stalin, as the previous rulers, not really cared about the sacrifice of lives needed to achieve his policies as industrialization, agricultural policies (collectivization), and purges (labor camps).
In 1927 for the first time the 5-year plan as introduced By Gosplan. Stalin wanted the Soviet Russia to achieve the industrial level as in most Western countries, so the five-year plans were made to achieve this goal. Also as the New Economic Policies (NEP) were derided as thought only as a temporary measure, a new policy to arrange the economic problems in Russia was to be made. The plan came to action in October 1928 and from that moment the Russian economy became a “command economy”.
The first five-year plan was made mainly to develop the industrialization in the country and to achieve the collective griculture, thus increasing the production of food so that the fast growing cities would have enough of it. To achieve the collectivization meant that the peasants had to refuse from their private farms and join with other peasants in collective farms. However, Stalin knew that the richest peasants (kulaks) who had more land would most likely to protest to this policy, so first he had to deal with them.
In 1929 he said that he wants to “liquidate the kulaks as a social class”. About 1. 5 million people were deported to Siberia, where most of them died of cold and famine. When Stalin dealt with the kulaks another problem appeared, the peasants that were forced to join the kolkhozes, tried to oppose the decision by killing their domestic animals and destroying their crops. So this caused the problem of famine in whole Russia.
Also many peasants moved to cities searching for a work in factories instead, and this increased the demand for food in the cities. As there was little food, but there was an urgent need for it in the cities Stalin ordered to take most of the food produced from peasants and move it to urban areas. Thus although the ood production in Russia increased, as the five-year plan demanded it, still the peasants in the country were dieing of famine, because the food was confiscated and moved to the industrial cities.
In overall about 5 to 6 million peasants died of famine because of this policy, while in the meantime government was building large warehouses to store the grain in case of ware (they were actually useless as Russians burnt most them down when Germans were attacking Russia during the WW2). To conclude, as the government’s priority was the industrial workers, Stalin did not care at all for the dieing peasants eaving them in complete isolation and only demanded the food from them. Another important part of the five-year plan was industrialization.
Stalin thought that it is necessary to develop the heavy industry so that Russia would be able to protect herself in case of war. Also the development of the heavy machinery was necessary to increase the productivity of the peasants by modernizing their growing and harvesting tools and techniques. Although through this Stalin at the beginning gained the support of the working class, there were many harsh changes introduced to boost the production process. First government introduced the “uninterrupted” week. The factories were working without weekends, instead each fifth day would be free for the workers.
This caused disappointment in the working class as the families could not see each other because they had different cycles of work, and also it was difficult to visit the church, as Sunday was no longer a holiday. Also there was a harsh discipline introduced and even for a little disorder the workers were strictly punished. Absenteeism was abolished and even being twenty minutes late in the morning was regarded as absenteeism and punished. If the violation of rules was harsh enough the workers were sent to the labor camps where many of them died.
Also the peasants were not allowed to move from city to city because this would cause the decrease of production while they would be moving and there were the workbooks introduced to keep records of the punishments received. Also there were the so called shock brigades – groups of young workers that tried by all means to increase the production thus showing the example and Stakhanovitees who were the most prominent and skilled of the workers. Both of these roups gained several privileges that caused disappointment in normal workers class.
Despite all this the living standards for workers did no increase as the production of ordinary goods were changed to industrial and instead of the increasing population in the cities governments priorities were the factories not the living places and conditions for the workers. However the most drastic of the Stalin’s policies were the purges, as they were not thought to help to develop the Soviet Russia but only to increase the Stalin’s power and cause fear in his opponents and ordinary people. The beginning of what Stalin called “The Great Purges” was the assassination of Sergei Kirov in 1934.
Stalin thought that this is the beginning of the uprising in the government, thus he tried to eliminate all the politicians and other popular persons, he thought as rivals. Those were mainly the members of the Left opposition and the main rivals for struggle to power after Lenin’s death. Several of them were trailed in so called “show-trials” where they confessed in the most absurd crimes and were killed or sent to slave camps. As the Stalin’s paranoia grew more and more people were rrested and sent to trial. Later it even started to affect the military forces and even ordinary workers.
Witch talks against the Stalin’s policies to strengthen the country economically and military. Also the religion was derided, as there was the so-called “Stalin’s cult”, so many churches were destroyed, converted into clubs, restaurants, schools and cinemas. Furthermore the church leaders were arrested and imprisoned or even sent to labor camps. Also any religious activity was forbidden. The League of Militant Atheists was established to convince people to turn away from the religion and estroy any items or artifacts of it.
Although the repressions against church were terminated during the WW2 to increase the spirit of the people, however they did much harm for people and religious buildings,in order just to strengthen Stalin’s power. People who were not executed after the trials were sent to the labor camps that were established all around the Soviet Union. These labor camps, also called Gulags consisted mainly of the political prisoners and were established to boost the industrialization and also were a part of the five-year plans.
The conditions in these camps were completely inhuman and the working hours long. They had to work in any conditions of weather and the amount of the food given depended on amount of work done. No one cared whether the worker was old man, woman or invalid; everyone had to do their work to get the food. About 20% of the workers died in these drastic conditions of famine and illnesses. To conclude, one can clearly state that Stalin built the Soviet state on the expense of the soviet people. Although some might argue that the economy was developing at a very fast rate thus making Soviet
Russia one of the powerful countries in the world before World War 2, these achievements can not be justified on the expense of the soviet people. Millions of ordinary people died of famine, worked in drastic living and working conditions, were forced to refuse their religion, property and every other human rights were violated. The reforms that could be made using less harsh methods and achieving even better results, were carried out in such a drastic way just because of Stalin’s ambitions, paranoia and complete disrespect towards human lives.