How effective was the modernization of the USSR


Key Terms

Collectivization was the idea proposed by Stalin in 1928 to 1940 to increase production by grouping the small farms into big farms called collectives. Technology and other tools such as tractors were also incorporated to make production more efficient.
Industrialization is the process in which a country's economy is made to focus on industrial products such as steel and cars. Industrialization in Russia's case was achieved by the Five Year Plans. Russia become successfully industrialized by 1932 after the First Five Year Plan.
First Three Five Year Plans
These plans were developed by Stalin and the State Planning Committee for extensive growth industrially and economically. The Plans brought changes to Russian society and it can be said that happiness was traded for progress. The first three plans extended from 1928-1941 when World War II began.
A place of ideal perfection especially in government and society
The Great Purge
The Great Purge, 1936-1938, was when Stalin "purged" (killed, imprisoned, tortured) members of the state whose loyalty he doubted. The Purge also spread to the army and the NKVD.
The NKVD were the Communist Secret Police which was established in 1934. It is famous for executing a great number of Stalin's enemies.
The process in which a country aims for technological advancement.

First Five Year Plan 1928-1933

Industry in Russia at that time was very uncommon and only a hand full of cities were industrialized and modernized. Russia was also very poor at that time with many regions being underdeveloped. Once Stalin came into power his vision was to industrialize and economize Russia.

“We are about 50 to 100 years behind the rest of the world; we must cover this lost time in a good 10 years if we do not want to perish” - Stalin

Stalin was famous for his Five Year Plans which were made for extensive growth. Once he came into power, Lenin's old NEP (New Economic Plan) was ended and replaced with the first set of Five Year Plans which was devised by the State Planning Committee for extensive growth industrially and economically. The First Five Year Plan was implemented in 1928 and the goals that were set for these plans were unrealistic. This plan called for rapid industrialization which was what Russia needed at that time. Stalin thought that collectivization was the answer to feeding the Russian population. This meant that food and other agricultural products were sold to the government at very low prices. The food was then used to feed the workers in factories.

Cover of a book by Richard Cartwright Austin
Communism required a lot of discipline and labor force.

In 1928, Stalin said:
"Agriculture is developing slowly, comrades. This is because we have about 25 million individually owned farms. They are the most primitive and undeveloped form of economy We must do our utmost to develop large farms and to convert them into grain factories for the country organised on a modem scientific basis."

Stalin's description of the state of Russia's farming was very accurate at that time. Since there was no order to it, the farms were small yielding small production, and the products produced were only used to feed themselves. Collectivization changed all this by gathering all the small farms together into one large massive farm. The term collectives were used to call these big farms. Once they were large machinery was incorporated into the farms yielding increased production. The more food that could be grown, the more factory workers could be fed. If there were a large number of starving people the Five Year Plans wouldn't succeed. By 1930, over 50% of all farms were grouped together using machinery and science. The peasants reacted with outrage since in 1918 Lenin had given the peasants their land. By 1924, under Lenin's rule even the poorest peasants owned land. Rich peasants, called Kulaks, were prospering under Lenin's rule. Once collectivization was introduced they were very against it because they felt that their hard work was being taken advantage of.
Number of
collective farms
Percent of farmsteads
in collective farms
Percent of sown area
in collective use




At that point Stalin gave a speech:
"Look at the kulaks farms : their barns and sheds are crammed with grain. And yet they are holding onto this grain because they are demanding three times the price offered by the government."

However most of the peasants, rich and poor, were against collectivization since the land Lenin gave them was now being taken from them by Stalin. Villages which refused to join a collective were shot as "enemies of the people". Villages that didn't want to join a collective killed their animals and destroyed their grain so that they couldn't be exploited by the government. This caused famine, inflation, and lower grain production. Inflation was created when their was a shortage of food in Russia.

A collectivization is depicted here. These peasants and farmers were being deprived of their private property and were forced to participate in the collectivization program.

The First Five Year Plan was a huge success in terms of industrialization because by the 1930's Russia was industrialized. However it wasn't successful in social aspects since many people were killed from either starvation or execution. One objective that was accomplished was the elimination of Kulaks from the face of Russia. The plan is called a five year plan however this plan was achieved in 4 years which was from 1928-1932. The First Five Year Plan was declared finish and the Second Five Year Plan was created to further develop Russia. The Five-Year Plan also provides education for the people and new technical colleges were also being established. It can be said that this plan traded progress at the expense of happiness.

1928 = 73.3 million tons
1934 = 67.6 million tons
1929 = 70.5 million
1934 = 42.4 million
1928 = 26 million
1934 = 22.6 million
Sheep and goats
1928 = 146.7 million
1934 = 51.9 million

Soviet Propoganda poster saying "Comrade, come join the kolkhoz (collective farm)

The Second Five Year Plan 1933-1937

After the success of the first plan the Second Five Year Plan was planned in 1932 and was officially started on 1933 and ended on 1937. Heavy industry in Russia was given top priority which placed the Soviet Union in 2nd place behind Germany as one of the major steel-producing countries of the world. "Air-lines now penetrate into the distant solitudes of Siberia. A Trans-Siberian air-line will soon revolutionize the postal and passenger services between Europe and Japan. A Welshman who flew from the South of Russia to Moscow last summer was struck by the excellent arrangements of the Soviet Aviation Company. Under the Five-Year Plan the book trade is to develop quickly, and masses of books are now offered to the peoples of Russia at low prices." Civil services such as railways, airlines, and other types of transportation and communication became much more efficient.

The Second Five Year Plan contained more realistic goals than its predecessor which resulted in a 14% increase in production. This was also due to the fact that planners and workforce had gained experience. The government's control over the labor and workforce was also increased. Growth in the engineering and metal working sectors were excellent however consumer growth goods was less successful. Weapons and armaments production was increased after Hitler ruled Germany.

The Great Purge 1936-1938

During the Second Five-Year Plan was also the start of The Great Purge. During the summer of 1932 Joseph Stalin became more aware of the enemies around him. Party Members were publicly criticizing Stalin and demanding the return of Leon Trotsky to Russia who was at that time in exile at Mexico. Sergey Kirov who was a close adviser of Stalin started to argue against Stalin's policy on imprisoning the people who were against the collective farms and industrialization. Stalin then feared that he was losing his grip on the party so during the summer of 1934 Kirov and Stalin went on a holiday together. At that point Stalin tried to persuade Kirov to remain loyal to him and asked Kirov to join him in Moscow where observation could be kept on him. Kirov refused and on December 1st, 1934 he was assassinated by a young party member, Leonid Nikolayev. The blame on this assassination was lain upon Stalin's claim that Nikolayev was part of a conspiracy led by Leon Trotsky. In August 1936, 16 part member who had been against Stalin were arrested, found guilty, and executed.

Results of The Great Purge

Nikolai Yezhov was appointed as head of the NKVD, the Communist Secret Police in 1936. Political figures who were against Stalin were quickly arrested by Yezhov who then forced these people to confess that they were wrong. The interrogation continued for several days until they confessed that they had been attempting to overthrow the government. By the end of 1933, around 400,000 people were expelled from the party. Being purged or expelled meant arrest, imprisonment, or execution. Stalin also decided to cleanse the Red Army free of people against him. Stalin claimed to have evidence when he claimed that the army was planning a coup. Mikhail Tukhachesvsky and seven other top Red Army commanders were charged with conspiracy with Germany in June, 1937. All eight were put on court, found guilty, and executed. A total of 30,000 members of the Red Army were executed with fifty percent being army officers. Stalin also purged the NKVD because he wanted to make sure that the people who knew too much about the purges would be silenced. Lavrenti Beria was appointed as the new head of the NKVD and arranged the executions of all the senior officers in the organization. The purges were necessary for the five year plans to continue on.

Nikolai Yezhov
Lavrenti Beria

Effects of the Purge

Opposition to Stalin was eliminated which enabled him to act as a dictator. The Purge also eliminated the most effective men in the Soviet society and also killed most of the experienced officers in the Red army (commanders). Million of people who were mostly innocent were executed, tortured, and imprisoned. The Purges led to disorganization in the Soviet Union.

Third Five Year Plan 1938-1941

The Third Year Plan was established in 1938 however it was interrupted by the 1941 German invasion. The goal of growth in this plan was 12% and the production was aimed at weapons manufacture since tension was growing. This plan required even more labor which resulted in labor shortages because most of the Russian population was already working for the government.

Effects of the First Three 5 Year Plans for the Industry (Answer to Question)

The Five Year Plans succeeded in industrializing the USSR in a short period of time and also making it into a major industrial power. However happiness was traded for progress since the methods used were harsh such as collectivization and the abolition of private ownership of land. Living standards during the early years were very low but improved later on when education was given to the citizens and the effectiveness of communications and transportation was increased. The industrialization of the USSR allowed it to resist the German invasion in 1941.


Bloom's Questions

Creating- What would have happened if there weren’t economic growth plans in place?
Evaluating- Were the Plans successful?
Analyzing- What were the different parts of the First Five Year Plan?
Applying- How was inflation at that time related to the First Five Year Plan?
Understanding- What was the main reason for the famine?
Remembering- Why wasn’t the Third Five Year Plan completed?

Creating - Russia would be in deep trouble because the Germans were aiming to conquer Russia. They would also still underdeveloped if it wasn’t for the Five Year Plans made by Stalin’s staff.
Evaluating - The plans were successful but also had many failures such as the reduced grain production rate and the killing of so many lives.
Analyzing - The different parts included the rapid industrialization of Russia into a modern country. It was also made to introduce collectivization and exile the rich kulaks.
Applying - The First Five Year Plan created a widespread shortage of consumer goods causing the inflation to rise.
Understanding - The main reason was because of unwilling peasants burning livestock and the government collecting the food from peasants.
Remembering - The Third Five Year Plan was not completed because World War II arrived first.

Challenge Question:

To what extent were the First Three Five Year Plans successful?

The First Three Five Year Plans were success in a moderate extent in terms of industrializing and modernizing Russia. Collectivization is an example of change from the First Five Year Plans. Collectivization was Stalin's plan in terms of agriculture where the food was provided from collectivization and fed to workers in factories. The grain and other agricultural products were also used to trade for parts and other necessary equipment for factories. By 1932 there was no unemployment in Russia since all of the population was occupied doing their assigned work and all of the kulaks (rich peasants) had been eliminated or exiled to Siberia. Education was also made more available after Stalin came into power making causing the Russians to be educated also there was a lot of propaganda involved. The first three plans increased the production rate of Russia by an unbelievable amount and by 1930 Russia was successfully industrialized and the production rate for steel even surpassed Germany. The Second Five Year Plan focused on more realistic goals and involved armaments production and was similar to the first plan. The Third Five year Plan was stopped short in 1941 by the German invasion. By 1932 Russia had emerged as one of the world powers after decades of turmoil and underdevelopment. Despite all the success however it wasn't successful in social aspects because it limited and changed a lot of things in Russian society. The advance of Russia's industrialization had also come with a huge cost which was around 4-5 million Russian lives because of bad working conditions and the process of collectivization. The industrialization process also could have been better since most of the workers in factories didn't know how to use the machines properly and only a small percentage of the work force knew what they were doing. If the workers were trained properly the industrialization could have been made much more effective. The collectivization program forced peasants and farmers to live and spend their lives in collectives and these dwellings were in poor conditions similar to the bad wages paid to the workers. Despite all this, the plans enabled the Russians to withstand the invading German force in 1941 because Russia was industrialized and had the means to survive the war.

Russia and the USSR

Unit Two-The Rise of Communism