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1945-1950 - Fourth 5-Year Plan

The Fourth Five-Year Plan began in 1945. During the early years of the period, attention focused on repair and rebuilding, with minimal construction of new facilities. Repair work proceeded briskly, with spectacular results. The country received no substantial aid for postwar reconstruction, Stalin having refused to consider proposals for participation in the Marshall Plan in 1947. Hungary, Bulgaria, Romania, and especially defeated Germany made reparations payments to the Soviet Union, however, consisting in large part of equipment and industrial materials. Entire German factories and their workers were brought to the Soviet Union to train Soviet citizens in specialized work processes. Although the government never published definitive statistics, an authoritative Western assessment estimated the value of reparations at an average of 5 billion rubles per year between 1945 and 1956. The exertions of the country's inhabitants, however, coupled with ambitious economic strategies, proved most crucial for the recovery.

During the war years, the government had transferred substantial numbers of industrial enterprises from threatened western areas to Asian regions of the country. After the war, these facilities remained at their new sites as part of an effort to promote economic development. These locations had the advantage of being near raw materials and energy sources. The government also deemed it strategically sound to have the important installations of the country distributed among several regions.

Like earlier plans, the Fourth Five-Year Plan stressed heavy industry and transportation. The economy met most of the targets in heavy industry. The performance of agriculture again lagged behind industry. Western observers believed that factors in agriculture's poor performance included a paucity of investment, enforcement of a strict quota system for delivery of agricultural products to the state, and tenuous linkage between wages and production, which deprived farmers of incentives. Housing construction, community services, and other consumer items also lagged noticeably. During the final years of the plan, Stalin launched several grandiose projects, including building canals and hydroelectric plants and establishing tree plantations in the Armenian, Azerbaydzhan, Georgian, and Ukrainian republics and in the Volga River area of the Russian Republic to shield land from drying winds. Collectively, these efforts were referred to as "the Stalin plan for the transformation of nature."

In 1946 Andrei Zhdanov, a close associate of Stalin, helped launch an ideological campaign designed to demonstrate the superiority of socialism over capitalism in all fields. This campaign, colloquially known as the Zhdanovshchina ("era of Zhdanov"), attacked writers, composers, economists, historians, and scientists whose work allegedly manifested Western influence. Although Zhdanov died in 1948, the cultural purge continued for several years afterward, stifling Soviet intellectual development. Another campaign, related to the Zhdanovshchina, lauded the real or purported achievements of past and present Russian inventors and scientists. In this intellectual climate, the genetic theories of biologist Trofim D. Lysenko, which were supposedly derived from Marxist principles but lacked scientific bases, were imposed upon Soviet science to the detriment of research and agricultural development. The anticosmopolitan trends of these years adversely affected Jewish cultural and scientific figures in particular. In general, a pronounced sense of Russian nationalism, as opposed to socialist consciousness, pervaded Soviet society.

Throughout the Stalin era, the pace of industrial growth was forced. On those occasions when shortages developed in heavy industry and endangered plan fulfillment, the government simply shifted resources from agriculture, light industry, and other sectors. The situation of the consumer improved little during the Stalin years as a whole. Major declines in real household consumption occurred during the early 1930s and in the war years. Although living standards had rebounded after reaching a low point at the end of the Great Patriotic War, by 1950 real household consumption had climbed to a level only one-tenth higher than that of 1928. Judged by modern West European standards, the clothing, housing, social services, and diet of the people left much to be desired.

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Page last modified: 20-10-2015 19:13:07 ZULU