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Life In The Stalin Era

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Post 20 Jan 2012, 11:45
There has been a lot of discussion here which seems to focus a great deal on life in the Soviet Union 1950s onwards. However is there any information on what life was like for the average Soviet citizen during the years of Stalin's reign? For example, I have heard that because the country was not as industrialised as it was in later years families had to live in communal apartments and even share individual units. Supposedly it was not until Kruschev that people were able to have their own individual apartment for their families. Were medical care and education well developed during these years and was there a shortage of basic consumer goods? Of course it goes without saying that the 1930s saw the Stalinist terror and purges while the 1940s were the years of the Second World War, both of which would have dramatically reduced living standards.
Post 20 Jan 2012, 12:30
Actually some horror stories put communal apartments and the 1937 together: apparently, some people tipped off the NKVD about their neighbors' dissent (which sometimes was outright slander) just to get rid of them and claim their space and possessions.

As for the education and medical care, it was improved rather quickly after the Civil War, and the access to it was no doubt broader than in any other country in the world at the time. That's not because the communists are such nice guys, but because they believe that healthy and educated people work better making the economy grow faster. Health care and education are not commodities, but productive forces.
Post 20 Jan 2012, 13:56
My history textbook, in the section concerning Stalin's rule in the USSR (under the topic of authoritarian regimes), has a joke about the fear of the NKVD taking away people. I quote...

Joke told by Russians in the 1930s, which describe the widespread atmosphere of fear in that period.

At four o'clock in the morning, there was a knock on the door at a house. Everyone leapt out of the bed. But none dared open the door. The knocking grew louder. Finally, one of the tenants took courage and opened the door. He was heard whispering for a few moments and then came back to his terrified tenants with a bright smile on his face. He said, 'Nothing to worry about comrades, the house is on fire, that's all'.

It's said that "as no evidence was needed for an arrest, anyone who had a grudge could get rid of another person by denouncing him to the NKVD."
Post 20 Jan 2012, 19:28
As someone who generally believes that both the Stalin period and what came after were overall positive and necessary experiences in Soviet history, I'll still say that personally I would not have liked to live in that time. The stories about cramped living conditions, long hours, dangerous and difficult working conditions, and the possibility for wrongful arrest are all true (though the last affected many more bureaucrats and professionals than ordinary workers or peasants). These facts have long been commonly cited by anti-Soviet politicians, journalists and commentators in Russia and abroad as evidence of the terrors and injustices of totalitarian socialism. I would urge people attempting to make their judgement to consider, without forgetting these injustices, what was at stake at the time, and what the country had to undergo to modernize, industrialize, and prepare for the coming global conflict. In my view, Stalin's foresight to note in 1931 that the USSR must compress fifty or a hundred years of development into ten years "or be crushed" made it all worthwhile. I am endlessly grateful to my ancestors who worked and lived through this period, who, as it happens, worked to ensure the very existence of future generations. That is the reason that I become infuriated when those 'sixtiesnicks' Russian liberals of the postwar generation spit on this period and their parents' accomplishments. That the tremendously accelerated process of industrialization undertaken by the Soviet Union should have been somehow softer or easier toward ordinary people than the British industrialization of the 19th century is a sign of bias to me. In fact the urge to pass judgement on what happened then by comparing it to how we live and think today is something I would encourage people to avoid, as difficult as that may be.

Taking into account the very real difficulties of life, I would also note that there was also a tremendous real sense of enthusiasm for the future, especially among youth. You have to keep in mind that these were mostly uneducated peasants or the children of peasants, who, after 1917, were taught en masse how to read and write, were encouraged to get a technical education, were able to move to the city for the first time or to work in a brand new industrial plant. In the 1930s they could literally see a new world coming to life before their eyes. There was a famous little comic I was trying to find about a landscape painter painting a scene, and getting angry because each time he looks up, there's some new building, factory, farm or road for him to have to incorporate. It's also valuable to consider that during this time pretty much the entirety of the developed capitalist world was suffering from the Depression, which meant mass unemployment, hunger and unrest throughout the world. Tens of thousands of communists and communist sympathizers were coming to the USSR to describe the problems in their own countries, taking great interest to report on the goings on in the USSR. Thousands of European and American specialists were also coming to the USSR to build the new factories and train their workers. Of course the Soviet propaganda apparatus naturally tended to exaggerate the very real effects of the Depression, thus making it appear obvious to the millions of politically interested Soviet people that bourgeois democracy was bankrupt, that fascism was a reactionary evil, and that the Soviet socialist way was the pioneering way for the rest of the world. In other words, it was simultaneously a difficult, fearful, and tremendously exciting time, if that's something we can come to comprehend.
Post 22 Mar 2012, 19:48
The masses should had gotten used to Stalin's crude behaviour. It was the type of behaviour typical of any soldier whether from the bourgeois establishment or social democracy. As a soldier, I was made to march 18 long hours while rain was pouring. I was ordered to make 300 pushups. Well, at least Joseph Stalin never ordered these but it was a simple case of respecting authority the way capitalists worship money. They were never rude to money. Take the case of a man selling peanuts on the streets. You show disrespect to him by abasing him for his lowly profession, I am sure you will end up in a morgue. And critics of Stalin were worse than these kind of troublemakers. They slander his name in the papers endlessly like Lev Trotsky. What do you suppose are you going to do when you're threatened with diplomatic tussles with America and Mexico combined? I too were to pull the trigger to save my life. Politics is useless without Machavellian conspiracies.
Post 22 Mar 2012, 23:37
Going back to the point that no evidence was needed for an arrest, i do not see how Americans can critisize the short Stalin period, when that sort of behaviour was happening to black people from the abolsion of slavery right up to the 1960's......
Post 23 Mar 2012, 00:17

An army expert once argued that the Red Army officer corps, whose origins came with Lenin’s benediction and Lev Trotsky’s methodological manner of thinking and management, was, for the most part, unprofessional throughout its existence and that this deficit of professional ability left it unable to defend itself during Stalin’s terror purge, caused the failure to conquer Finland, had disastrous consequences in the first year of the German invasion of the USSR in 1941-42, and contributed to the large number of casualties throughout the war. Its unprofessional nature compounded the debacle of Afghanistan and was the most significant cause of the public’s loss of faith when the military came under scrutiny during Mikhail Gorbachev’s reform era in the mid-1980s.

The question that concerns me is, would Lev Trotsky have made it a professional army if he had been in power? When the military situation deteriorated, Stalin effectively took control of the army. This was the sort of power of leadership the revolution required to survive, but it was a challenge to Trotsky, who had created the Red Army with the help of so-called ‘military experts’ - ex-tsarist officers. Stalin distrusted these ‘useful’ renegades and shot them whenever possible.

Always take note that Lev Trotsky had all the chances to stand up for Stalin, but instead turned him into a foe. Given the foreboding of a counterrevolutionary coup d’etat approaching and carried out by former tsarist officers, one cannot blame Joseph Stalin for arranging a massive purge that overwrought the whole chain of command, from top to bottom.

He opposed Stalin impertinently on all issues. The former tsarist officers were a real menace, but still Lev mollycoddled them under the expedient that an army is in need of military specialists in order to make it professional. Brushing off Stalin’s argument of political or ideological purity in the army, he insisted on contradicting him in all matters.

It might also be surmised that Trotsky had not anticipated a power struggle once Lenin died, despite Stalin’s malicious moves to shuffle or remove his appointed generals and commissars. Lev did not take the necessary precautions. He was good in political posturing and manoeuvres. But he did not expect a bloodbath, with Stalin as the executor.

Stalin, then, knew better. Trotsky was turned into a political mediocrity who should have known what to do, given his Machiavellian instincts in the realm of Soviet politics and totalitarianism. He was not in touch with reality.

Despite heavy losses during the war against Finland and the German invasion, the Soviet army was indeed a professional army. It was able to defy all the odds and it came to equal the United States of America in the number of intercontinental ballistic missiles, etc. The Soviet army was the most feared among democratic-capitalist states. The invasion of Yemen, the arming of North Vietnam, etc, proved not only its military stamina, but also its capability to subvert any country it chose.

Today we have Trotskyites and Stalinists in our midst. They come from all walks of life. The only difference between the two contending factions is that the latter always succeed in dominating the leadership of all recognised communist parties of the world and their central organs. The Trotskyites are justifiably condemned and persecuted because they denied Joseph Stalin the chance to explain himself or rebut their allegations. Without Koba, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics would not have been a superpower. Long live Joseph Stalin!

Angel Formoso, Member, CPUSA; Member, CPCanada; Member, PKPilipinas
Post 24 Mar 2012, 08:47
The idea that the Red Army wasn't professional is pretty ludicrous, especially in the case of Afghanistan or WW2. Also that's a weird tone change. They blame the military's lack of professionalism as the agent that made Stalin's purge of it (in a successful attempt to crush any lingering trotskyist elements) possible but then comes out in favor of it. Well I guess it isn't a waver at all it's just shitting on Lenin and calling him an idiot for putting the Jew-dog Trotsky anywhere but a grave. Not explicitly of course.

RAH RAH STALIN! Maybe if you chant it enough you can ward off the devil Trotsky and his counterrevolutionary tendrils.
Post 27 Mar 2012, 00:38
To everybody who wishes to know how life was under Stalin ruling i recommend the reading of "The standard of living in the Soviet Union, 1928 - 1940" and "Farm to Factory: A Reinterpretation of the Soviet Industrial Revolution" both written by ROBERT C. ALLEN. These works show us how much the USSR's standard of living improved during Stalin era. The numbers are absolutely overwhelming to say the least.

I will transcript an exert from the book "Farm to Factory: A Reinterpretation of the Soviet Industrial Revolution" which resumes the extraordinary improvement in soviet life during the thirties: "By the late 1930's, urban residents and industrial workers, teachers and bureaucrats had economic reasons for supporting the Soviet State". This written by an american author and Oxford professor acquires a special meaning and says it all about the question if Stalin improved the living conditions of the soviet people, leaving little space for debate.

Just to give you an idea someone working in the education sector was earning 633 rubles annually in 1928. Nine years later was earning 3442 rubles annually. The same applies for all sectors of labor activity (administration for instance: 1928- 790 rubles; 1937- 3937 rubles).
Post 27 Mar 2012, 04:57
Dagoth Ur wrote:

RAH RAH STALIN! Maybe if you chant it enough you can ward off the devil Trotsky and his counterrevolutionary tendrils.

Oh, how I wish it was that easy!

I'm definitely going to get a hold of those books soon, thanks JAM!
Post 27 Mar 2012, 23:08
Man In Grey wrote:

I'm definitely going to get a hold of those books soon, thanks JAM!

You're welcome Man In Grey! I only found this books myself very recently via internet and it's easy to know why. Any book that talks positively about Stalin is condemned to be marginalized, specially if the book is written by someone neutral and with some scientific background. That is horrible for some people.

But if you write some negative stuff about him it's certain that you'll have your book highly promoted, you'll receive the most prestigious prizes one after another and the money in your bank account will skyrocket. Financially writing trash about Stalin is very compensating.
Post 28 Mar 2012, 00:39
JAM wrote:
Any book that talks positively about Stalin is condemned to be marginalized, specially if the book is written by someone neutral and with some scientific background. That is horrible for some people.

Of course that's what they do. Even if it is backed up with concrete evidence, facts and statistics. The right wingers in particular don't care about statistics but just emotions, and capitalists in general don't care about them when it comes to demonizing communism. (Nor do they care about negative statistics applied to them, either.)
Post 28 Mar 2012, 12:35
Stalin was not imperialist. Trotsky was by way of his theory of propagating socialism all over the world and subverting capitalist states. Stalin was for "socialism in one country, USSR" or however it is said. Joseph Stalin is a child of God! (according to my good, liberal, sophisticated God who does not mind divorce as long as you do not kill Him (God))
Post 26 Sep 2012, 20:11
Just because I have a quote on this topic, I will post on this thread. Sorry for reawakening this thread.

"Survivors of the Stalinist period reminded the public that for many people the 1930s had been a period of happiness and enthusiasm, when a feeling prevailed that great things were being achieved. A typical representative of the generation that "made it" under Stalin was Ivan Benediktov, who became the people's commissar of agriculture in 1938 at the age of 35, remained in key government positions for many years, and eventually served as ambassador to India and Yugoslavia (1959-70). Among the main points made in Stalin's defense are the following: Promotion under Stalin was by merit only. Many very young people (such as Voznesensky, Ustinov, Kosygin, Tevosian, and Vannikov) were appointed to key positions in their early 30s--and proved themselves. Thousands of innocents suffered, but the overall number has been grossly exaggerated; the general atmosphere was not one of fear, repression, and terror but of a mighty wave of revolutionary enthusiasm, of pride in country and party, and of belief in the leadership. Decisions taken at the top were far more democratic than generally believed; Stalin was not an extremist, but on the whole a fair and reasonable man. In fact, Khrushchev's style was more autocratic than Stalin's. As for the murder of the Red Army leadership, there is reason to believe that they plotted not against Stalin but against Voroshilov, who they thought was not equal to his task. Such behavior would not have been tolerated in any country.
... The 1930s had been a time of great enthusiasm, of national unity and pride, of belief in the leadership, and of a historical mission; young people had been given chances like never before, and so on."

Laqueur, Walter. Stalin: The Glasnost Revelations. New York: Scribner's, c1990, p. 244

And since I posted that, I might as well post life expectancy and infant mortality as well.

Life expectancy and infant mortality of the Soviets:
After the communist takeover of power the life expectancy for all age groups went up. A newborn child in 1926-27 had a life expectancy of 44.4 years, up from 32.3 years thirty years before. In 1958-59 the life expectancy for newborns went up to 68.6 years. This improvement was used by Soviet authorities to prove that the socialist system was superior to the capitalist system.
The trend continued into the 1960s, when the life expectancy in the Soviet Union went beyond the life expectancy in the United States. The life expectancy in Soviet Union were fairly stable during most years, although in the 1970s went slightly down probably because of alcohol abuse. Most western sources put the blame on the growing alcohol abuse and poor health care, and this theory was also implicitly accepted by the Soviet authorities.
The improvement in infant mortality leveled out eventually, and after a while infant mortality began to rise. After 1974 the government stopped publishing statistics on this. This trend can be partly explained by the number of pregnancies went drastically up in the Asian part of the country where infant mortality was highest, while the number of pregnancies was markedly down in the more developed European part of the Soviet Union. For example, the number of births per citizens of Tajikistan went up from 1.92 in 1958-59 to 2.91 in 1979-80, while the number in Latvia was down to 0.91 in 1979-80. ... viet_Union


Mortality Rate:

Deaths per 1000

1956----------7.5-------------9.4 ... ussr2.html
Post 22 Oct 2012, 08:22
Some videos of the time in color:

This one is after post-war reconstruction:


Right after the war:

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