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Stalin’s rule over the USSR from 1929 onwards saw his country and his people devastated as he forced them to industrialise, ruthlessly eliminated his opponents and lead his county to a costly victory in the Second World War. Although his leadership was brutal his ideas to industrialise were successful, if he had not drove his country to industrialise defeat in the Second World War would be certain. The purges also offered small opening for peasants and workers to become involved in the running of the USSR.
Industrialization had a devastating impact on the people of the Soviet Union, although the country benefited from the modernization. In 1927 the Gosplan (the state planning commission) developed a series of plans to drastically transform the economy. These plans aimed to ensure that the workers reached certain goals. Industry, agriculture, energy, public services, housing, railways, canals, trade, transport and education were all taken into consideration and the people of the USSR were forced to begin this breakneck transformation. Stalin’s famous words ‘We must make up this lag in ten years. Either we do it or they crush us;’ inspired many to work hard and achieve the goals set before them; however, expectations were high and many workers began to hate the new push for industrialisation. These plans spanned over 5 years and the secret police introduced work practices that required workers to work harder for less.
In 1939 the government introduced the ‘uninterrupted week’, requiring each worker to work seven days a week. Absences, tardiness and unproductiveness were not acceptable from workers. Labour camps were erected and workers who did not meet the government’s standards would be sent to them and forced to work in a harsher environment. The conditions of these camps were so extreme, in some areas the temperature dropped to around -60º. The effect of Stalin’s rapid industrialization had a fatal effect on many workers. Although not everybody hated this demanding lifestyle, some workers belonged to a system called ‘shock brigades’, they were encouraged to exceed the output of their co-workers and become USSR role models. They showed pride for their country and enthusiasm to work. They were often rewarded for their good progress with higher pay and privileges like tickets to the opera, or paid for holidays.
Others were forced to live in despicable circumstances, sharing small flats with several families and slaving seven days a week in a factory. However devastating the impact on the people of the USSR Stalin’s plans to industrialize gave the USSR a huge advantage. They were able to dramatically increase the production of Oil, Steel and Coal. Oil manufacturing soared, going from around 11.7 million tonnes in 1927 to 28.5 million tonnes in 1937. Steel production increased from around 4 million tonnes in 1927 to 17.7 million tonnes in 1937. And the production of coal improved from around 35.4 million tonnes in 1927 to 128 million tonnes in 1937. The USSR emerged as a Superpower, with superior economic influence, at one stage producing 20% of the world’s industrial output and pre-eminent military ability, with the largest army the world has ever seen and the largest nuclear arsenal in the world.
It is true to say that the purges has a largly devastating impact on the country and its people. Stalin began to realise that he could not rely on the full support of the people and he even began to doubt his own party members. He construced a society built on fear and gave out orders for the arrest and execution of anybody who spoke out against him. Evidence strongly suggests that Stalin was implicated in the death of Sergei Kirov, who was secretary of the Leningrad branch of the Communist party, and a possible threat to Stalin’s position as ruler. This death sparked the begginning of a series of many political executions. The first of these trials was named ‘Trial of the Sixteen’, sixteen men were accused of political scheming to overthrow the government. Fifteen of the accused admitted to the absurd crimes that they had been tried for. All were shot. Folowing this came the ‘Trial of the Seventeen’.
They were accused of setting up terrorist groups with Trotsky, thirteen were shot. Shortly after that was the largest trial, ‘Trial of the Twenty-One’, at this trial the defendants confessed to being members of the ‘Trotsky-Rightist bloc’ and were subsequently shot. Stalin then went on to investigate his suspicions within his army. Several Red Army generals were executed, as they were accused of spying for Germany and Japan. It is said that half the officers for the armed forces including every admiral and three Red Army Marshals had been executed. Next Stalin investigated the loyalty of the Secret Police and he after his investigations the executions were arranged for all the senior figures in the organization.
These purges did not only apply to those close to Stalin, citizen everywhere were encouraged to denounce eachother if they suspected anybody to have anti-Stalin views. The only advantage these purges held for the people of the USSR were the small openining within the party, army and secret police that the eliminated members created. Peasants and workers were given opportunities to gain positions in these fields that otherwise would have been closed to them. Other than this the purges held no benefit. The purges evoked fear in everybody lives, under Stalin’s rule the purges had a largly devastating impact on the country and it’s people.
The impact of the Second World War on the people of the USSR was one of the more devastating occurrences under Stalin’s rule. The country itself suffered huge amounts of damage however it developed into one of the world’s two greatest superpowers. When Adolph Hitler rose to power in Germany in 1933, the prospect of an invasion looked greater than ever before. Hitler believed the Soviets were an ‘inferior race’ and he was strongly opposed to communism. Stalin began to set up connections with other countries, he joined the League of Nations and agreed to help France and Czechoslovakia resist an invasion by Germany. Germany was now advancing all over Europe while France and Britain remained unaffected they chose not to involve themselves. It was becoming apparent that the USSR would be next under attack by Germany.
The Red Army was not capable of putting up a strong fight; Stalin needed to find some allies. He look to France and Britain, but was turned down, in desperation he asked Hitler for an alliance. The Nazi-Soviet pact was formed; they agreed not to fight, together they invaded Poland and divided the country between them. The USSR was looking safe. Stalin decided that he would independently invade Bessarabia, Hitler had not approved this plan and things between Stalin and Hitler began to worsen. Germany invaded the USSR in 1941on the 22nd of June. 3.2 million German men tore through into the USSR and advanced into the Western areas. In a week they had caused utter chaos. They had destroyed the Red Army’s defences, taken vast quantities of their supplies, destroyed their planes and taken over 600 000 Soviets Prisoners. Stalin had instructed his people to use a scorched earth policy, whereby his people were instructed to make the land unbearable for the enemy by destroying everything in their path.
Although things were still looking dark, Germany had captured all the land west of Moscow. They also had a hold of Leningrad and were successfully isolating the USSR from the rest of the world. 900 000 people died from starvation and bombing. The USSR looked doomed for defeat. Nearing the end of 1941 the Soviets moved their main factories out of German reach, the USA stepped in to help save the Soviet Union and the biting cold Soviet winter drew upon them. These three factors got the USSR back on their feet. The Soviets were then victorious in winning back Stalingrad; they began to fight hard, winning back Leningrad and eventually driving the Germans completely off Soviet territory.
On the 2nd of May 1945 Berlin was forced to surrender, this was the end of World War Two. War time in the USSR was extremely costly for Stain and the Soviets. By the end of 1945 the land was a devastating wasteland. 40,000 hospitals, 65,000 kilometres of railway 70,000 villages 1,200 towns and 100,000 collective farms had been destroyed. , 19 million civilians and 9 million soldiers had died; 20 million soviets were now homeless. It is obvious that the Second World War had a hugely devastating impact on the people and the land of the USSR.