1951-1955 - Fifth 5-Year Plan
The Fifth Five-Year Plan (1951-55) as a whole reflected Stalin's preoccupation with heavy industry and transportation, the more so because no single leader firmly controlled policy after Stalin's death. In many respects, economic performance pleased the leadership during the period. According to government statistics (considered by Western observers to be somewhat inflated), the economy met most growth targets, despite the allocation of resources to rearmament during the Korean War (1950-53). National income increased 71 percent during the plan period. As in previous plans, heavy industry received a major share of investment funds.
When Stalin died on 05 March 1953 (under circumstances that are still unclear), his inner circle, which had feared him for years, secretly rejoiced. After Stalin's death, when there was more confusion than normal in the Soviet Union, the dominant element, probably, for a period of about two years, was the technicians. Malenkov, Kaganovitch, Pervukin, and many others in high places were all engineers and practical managers of industrial plants and trusts.
Stalin died without naming an heir, and none of his associates had the power to immediately claim supreme leadership. The deceased dictator's colleagues initially tried to rule jointly through a collective leadership, with Malenkov holding the top positions of prime minister (chairman of the Council of Ministers; the name changed from Council of People's Commissars in 1946) and general secretary (the latter office for only two weeks). The arrangement was first challenged in 1953 when Beria, the powerful head of the security forces, plotted a coup. Beria's associates in the Presidium, however, ordered Marshal Zhukov to arrest him, and he was secretly executed.
After Stalin's death, the Ministry of Armaments and Ministry of Aviation Industry were consolidated for a time under the leadership of Dmitriy Fyodorovich Ustinov, becoming the Ministry of Defense Industry, but within a few years [by 1957] the Ministry of Aviation Industry was once again an independent entity. Also in March 1953, four of the eight existing engineering Ministries were amalgamated into one grossly inflated Ministry of Machine Building. In 1953 the Ministry of Medium Machine Building was established to develop nuclear weapons and nuclear power. In 1954 the Ministry of Radio Industry was established, with responsibility for developing air defense radars and related electronic systems.
During the final years of the Fifth Five-Year Plan, however, party leaders began to express concern about the dearth of consumer goods, housing, and services, as they reassessed traditional priorities. The new prime minister, Georgii M. Malenkov, sponsored a revision of the Fifth Five-Year Plan, reducing expenditures for heavy industry and the military somewhat in order to satisfy consumer demand. The newly appointed first secretary of the party, Khrushchev, launched a program to bring under cultivation extensive tracts of virgin land in southwestern Siberia and the Kazakh Republic to bolster fodder and livestock production. Although Malenkov lost his position as prime minister in 1955, largely as a result of opposition to his economic policies, the austere approach of the Stalin era was never revived.
At the Twentieth Party Congress, held in February 1956, Khrushchev further advanced his position within the party by denouncing Stalin's crimes in a dramatic "secret speech." Khrushchev revealed that Stalin had arbitrarily liquidated thousands of party members and military leaders (thereby contributing to the initial Soviet defeats in the Great Patriotic War) and had established a pernicious cult of personality.
By 1957 military and related ministries included:
- Ministry of Defense Industry
- Ministry of General Machine Building [missiles and space]
- Ministry of Medium Machine Building [nuclear weapons]
- Ministry of Machine Building and Means of Automation
- Ministry of Machine Building and Instrument Construction
- Ministry of Machine Tool Building and Instruments Industry
- Ministry of Heavy Engineering
- Ministry of Chemical Industry
- Ministry of Aviation Industry
- Ministry of Shipbuilding
- Ministry of Automobile Industry [Minavtoprom]
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