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1941-1942 - Evacuation

Two days after the start of the war, when the reality of the enemy's capture of a number of Soviet cities became indisputable in line with the setbacks on the front, the question arose of the need to direct evacuation from the frontline zone. The idea of organizing a body with such functions had never occurred previously.

Encountering this at the outset of the war, the Politburo felt that the People's Commissariat of Railroads [NKPS] should play the main role in evacuation questions. The Decree of the VKP(b) [Ail-Union Communist Party (Bolshevik)] Central Committee and the USSR SNK [Council of People's Commissars] of 24 June 1941 established the Evacuation Council with a membership of L.M. Kaganovich (chairman), A.N. Kosygin, N.M. Shvernik (deputy chairman), B.M. Shaposhnikov (General Staff), S.N. Kruglov (NKVD [People's Commissariat of Internal Affairs]), P.S. Popkov (Lengorispolkom [Leningrad City Executive Committee]), N.F. Dubrovin (NKPS) and P.I. Kirpichnikov (USSR Gosplan).

Evacuation commissions were formed in the people's commissariats, the frontline republics and oblasts, while evacuation points were set up at major railroad junctions, stations and sidings responsible for the prompt receiving and dispatch of trains (transports) carrying personnel, equipment and materiel. Responsibility for the location, rapid reconstruction and starting up of the evacuated enterprises was entrusted to the Deputy Chairman of the USSR SNK and Chairman of the USSR Gosplan, N.A.Voznesenskiy.

However, the situation did not develop as assumed and even 2 days later it was clear that evacuation would assume an enormous scale. It was impossible to evacuate everything all at once. There was neither the time nor the transport. It was essential literally along the way to choose what should be evacuated first in the interests of the state. It was also essential to effectively decide to what regions of the nation the various plants and enterprises should be evacuated.

On 3 July the GKO adopted a decision to evacuate 26 plants of the People's Commissariat for Armament from the central regions and from Leningrad. Enterprises producing tanks, tank engines as well as metallurgical, machine tool building, tool and other plants were evacuated into the distant rear. Defense industries were evacuated first and set up in the rear. Simultaneously, scientific institutions, agricultural products, livestock and cultural properties were evacuated from the danger zone. Regardless of the extremely short period of time, the active resistance of the enemy and other unfavorable factors, the evacuation was carried out in an organized and precise manner.

The evacuation and relocation of the productive forces from the threatened areas of the nation to the East was a compulsory measure brought about by the extremely unfavorable situation on the front. This was carried out according to a unified plan on a colossal scale. The task posed by the party was in the shortest period of time to remove a significant number of enterprises together with the worker collectives from an enormous territory and move them to a new region and put them into production. The leaders of the VKP(b) Central Committee and the GKO were directly concerned with this most important measure.

The plan first of all was to evacuate approximately one-half of the per sonnel of the people's commissariats with two or three deputies. After the evacuated portion of the people's commissariat had begun to function normally at the new place, the remaining portion of it was to be moved headed by the people's commissar. One of the deputy people's commissars was to remain in Moscow as the agent along with a small group of workers for carrying out the assignments of the people's commissar and maintaining contact with the governmental institutions.

The success of the evacuation had depended largely upon the precise operation of rail transport. The dimensions of the evacuation were enormous. In mid-December 1941, an unusually large number of trains with evacuated equipment and other freight had become stuck on the railroads. There were not enough empty railroad cars. The situation on the railroads was extremely complex.

The people's commissariats were in no hurry to unload the trains with arriving equipment and materials, as production areas had not been prepared as yet for the arriving equipment and there were not enough warehouses. Proceeding from their own narrow departmental interests, they actually turned the trains into rolling warehouses. The Committee for Unloading Transit Freight in less than 10 days adopted measures which made it possible to break the log-jam in rail transport.

The conquest of a considerable part of the territory of European regions of the country by Hitler's troops, the attacks by any enemy aircraft and artillery and the sabotage in the rear led to the loss of labor resources, production equipment and supplies of ordinary products, and to the destruction of transportation arterials, means of communication and so forth. By the end of 1942 the losses of fixed production capital caused by Hitler's aggression reached approximately one-third of their prewar value. The forced evacuation of defense enterprises and those that serve them to the remote regions of the country for a more or less long period of time caused large production capacities to cease operating. A considerable number of industrial workers had to be called into the armed forces.

Enterprises whose products comprised two-fifths of the gross output of all USSR industry in 1940 were moved to the remote regions of the country. At the same time more than 10 million people were sent to the rear regions before the end of 1941. Additionally, they rebased almost three-fourths of the enterprises of the arms and shipbuilding industry, all specialized tank plants, more than 150 machine-building and metal-processing enterprises, and so forth.

Moving them to new regions involved overcoming many difficulties. There was not enough electric energy, especially in the Oral area, which received most of the evacuated enterprises. The production ties between plants and clients which had been formed over the years were broken. Transportation operated irregularly. In many places there were no supplies of raw material and fuel, nor did they have the necessary construction base.

They experienced a critical shortage of labor force: as a rule, only 30-40 percent of the workers were transferred along with the enterprise and in the new places there was almost no trained labor force. The evaluated population found very poor living conditions. In a number of cities of the rural area there were up to 2-2.5 square meters of dwelling space for each individual. The population suffered immense food deprivation and the consumption of industrial goods and services was curtailed.

From the very start of the war, the difficult task arose of shifting from the frontline areas the major enterprises, workers, engineers and technicians. Leadership over the implementing of these measures was entrusted to the Evacuation Council established on 24 June 1941 (chairman N. M. Shvernik, deputies A. N. Kosygin and M. G. Pervukhin).

Evacuation was carried out according to a precise plan. From July through November 1941, some 1,523 industrial enterprises were relocated to the East (667 to the Urals, 224 to Western Siberia, 78 to Eastern Siberia, 308 to Central Asia and Kazakhstan and 226 to the Volga). As a total during the second half of the year, according to incomplete data, the equipment of 2,593 industrial enterprises was moved from the threatened areas.

The members of the VKP(b) Central Committee and government S. A. Akopov, B. L. Vannikov, V. V. Vakhrushev, A. N. Kosygin, V. A. Malyshev, M. G. Pervukhin, I. F. Tevosyan, D. F. Ustinov, A. I. Shakhurin and others were concerned with the questions of relocating and reestablishing the enterprises arriving in the rear of the nation.

Not only industrial enterprises were evacuated to the East. The kolkhozes and sovkhozes in the eastern regions of the nation during the second half of 1941 received 2,393,300 head of livestock shifted from the frontline zone.

The shifting of the productive forces from the frontline areas deep into the rear made it possible to maintain a significant portion of national wealth and use this in the interests of carrying out the main tasks of increasing military production.

The moving over thousands of kilometers of what essentially was an entire industrial nation caused enormous strain in transport operations. The volume of operational shipments increased sharply. All of this necessitated a reorganization of transport operations and here a major element was to convert train traffic to a special military schedule called the "A" travel warrant. This envisaged the moving first of troop trains and freight involved with the strategic deployment of the Armed Forces. Other measures were also carried out envisaged by the mobilization plan. A special freight control system began to be employed in rail transport.

Due to the fact that transport was being evermore difficult tasks, its leadership had to be strengthened. In February 1942, under the GKO the Transport Committee was formed the membership of which included I. V. Stalin (chairman), A. A. Andreyev (deputy), A. I. Mikoyan, I. V. Kovalev, A. V. Khrulev, Z. A. Shashkov and others. With the aid of the Transport Committee, it was possible to achieve a greater coordination in the planning and carrying out of shipments and to coordinate the work of the means of transport. The GKO altered the management structure of the railroads and strengthened the leadership of the NKPS [People's Commissariat of Railroads]. On 25 March 1942, the USSR Deputy People's Commissar of Defense and Chief of the Main Directorate of Rear Services of the Soviet Army, Gen A. V. Khrulev, became the head of the NKPS.

Under the fronts positions were established for representatives of the NKPS. Responsible party workers and representatives of the NKPS were sent to accelerate troop train traffic to many junctions through which the main flows of military cargo were moving. Here also were the representatives of the chief of the rear services of the Soviet Army.

Due to these measures and the unstinting work of the railroad workers, shipments for the army and the national economy increased significantly. For just the 10 main lines, the volume of loading and unloading by the beginning of May 1942 had increased by 50 percent, car stoppages had declined noticeably and railroad capacity had increased.

Along with the measures taken to improve transport operations, the GKO and the USSR government gave great importance to mobilizing the material and labor resources in agriculture to continuously supply the Armed Forces with food and industry with raw materials. In order to carry out this task, it was essential to alter the procedure for distributing the food resources. The state channeled the existing food primarily to supply the Red Army and the population of the industrial centers. According to a decision of the Politburo of the VKP(b) Central Committee, from July 1941, a rationing system began to be introduced. The amounts were set depending upon the degree of importance of the work performed for defense purposes as well as the nature of the job and working conditions.

The most important conditions for solving the food problem were the rapid re-organization of agricultural production to a wartime footing and controlling the placement of the production of grain and other agricultural products. In the spring of 1942, the planted area of the kolkhozes and sovkhozes in the regions of the Center, Volga, Urals, Siberia, Kazakhstan, Central Asia, Transcaucasia and the Far East increased by 3.7 million hectares in comparison with 1940.

Of great importance for compensating for losses in food production was the extensive use of additional sources including the subsidiary farms of industrial enterprises and rear troop units and which were specialized chiefly in the raising of potatoes and vegetables.

On 26 June 1941, the Ukase of the Presidium of the USSR Supreme Soviet "On the Working Hours of Manual and White Collar Personnel in Wartime" was promulgated. The leaders of the enterprises were granted the right, with the permission of the USSR SNK [Council of People's Commissars] to set for employees compulsory overtime lasting from 1 to 3 hours a day. Regular and supplementary leaves were cancelled. This provided an opportunity to increase the load factor on the production equipment by approximately one-third without increasing the enterprise personnel.

Adjustments were made in the weapons system. It was essential to abandon individual models which were difficult to produce or required large material outlays and imported raw materials. Certain weapons were simplified and the requirements for finishing them reduced. Here its basic combat qualities did not suffer. Thus, while it required 2,080 parts to manufacture a 76-mm cannon of the 1936 model, the 1939 model required 1,057 parts, and for producing one of the best cannons from the period of World War II, the 76-mm cannon of the 1942 model (ZIS-3), just 719 parts were required. In producing weapons, maximum use was made of local resources and materials, and advanced equipment and progressive production methods were constantly introduced.

Beginning in December 1941, the decline in industrial production was halted and from March 1942, its volume began to grow rapidly with the output of military products just in the eastern regions of the nation in March 1942 reaching the production level which had existed at the start of the war on all Soviet territory.

The maximum decline of industrial production took place in November 1941: as compared to June 1941 the volume of industrial output decreased to less than one-half its previous amount. At the same time the evacuated enterprises were either still "on the road" or had been located in new places. During the subsequent winter months this critical peak was passed, but the increase in output was unstable and insignificant. The summer attack of Hitler's troops in 1942 worsened the conditions for the formation of the military economy, causing a second, although not as strong, wave of evacuation and breaking the production and transportation ties between the rear regions and the Northern Caucasus and the Transcaucasian areas.

The scale of evacuation was enormous. Over the entire period of the war, some 2,593 enterprises were relocated completely or partially just by rail. Prior to the war these produced 33 percent of all the nation's industrial product. Over 10 million persons were evacuated to the eastern regions and around 11,000 tractors, a large amount of livestock and the property of many kolkhozes, sovkhozes and MTS. In essence, an entire industrial nation was moved thousands of kilometers and this ensured the fastest fundamental restructuring of the national economy to a wartime footing.

The critical shortage of labor force caused the Soviet state even to temporarily reduce the age limit for workers from 16 to 14 years (the length of the work day for adolescents was limited to 6 hours). The proportion of youth under 18 years of age in the overall number of workers and employees in industry increased from 6 percent in 1939 to 15 percent in 1942. Naturally, the mass replacement of experienced workers who had been called into the armed forces with less skilled ones or personnel who were not trained at all considerably reduced the overall skill level of the workers and employees industry.

By the middle of 1942 more than 1,200 of the 1,360 large industrial enterprises that had previously been evacuated here were restored and began to produce products in growing amounts. Defense production was increasing at many of the "root" enterprises of the rear regions, the associated plants were transferred over to new interbranch and territorial ties, additional labor force was enlisted in production, the length of the work day was increased, and so forth. By the end of 1942 the changeover of enterprises from ordinary production to defense production was complete, and mass flow-line output of new kinds of military equipment and accessories was organized.

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