IT TOOK the Soviet Union four years to crush the German war machine. How long will it take to restore all that the Germans destroyed on its territory?

Twice in the lifetime of one generation the Soviet lands have been subjected to devastation. The damage done in the Second World War, moreover, was far greater than that inflicted during the First. The armies of Hitlerite Germany completely or partially destroyed or burned down 1,710 Soviet towns and more than 70,000 villages and hamlets, in all depriving nearly 25,000,000 people of shelter. The total damage inflicted upon the Soviet Union by the Nazi invaders is estimated in money terms at 679 billion rubles. In terms of human life, the Soviet losses reached nearly to the figure of seven millions, approximately the total population of Australia. Gutted buildings, huge piles of smashed brick and plaster, demolished railways, fields overgrown with weeds, hungry people living in dugouts -- such was the picture of the devastated western regions of the U.S.S.R. after the Germans had been expelled.

Six years were needed to restore the losses suffered by Russian industry after the First World War. This time the Soviet Union intends to achieve the prewar level of industry twice as fast.

The restoration of the national economy in the western parts of the U.S.S.R. started immediately after their liberation, while the war was still in progress. Whereas earlier, during the peaceful years of industrialization, the more developed western areas of the U.S.S.R. had helped the eastern regions of the country to grow, the latter developed rapidly during the war years and now began to help the western areas to get back onto their feet. Materials, machinery and people streamed from east to west.

The work which has been done to restore the economy of the western regions has begun to show considerable results. Donbas, the principal center of the Soviet coal industry, again occupies first place among the coal regions of the country. By the beginning of the current year it had already reached half its prewar productivity. The full rehabilitation of Donbas will require the restoration of more than 2,500 kilometers of galleries in the coal mines -- meaning that workmen must go through them and prop them up, at depths ranging from 200 to 700 meters, for a distance equal to that from Moscow to Paris. The Moscow coal region, which likewise suffered heavily at the hands of the German invaders, not only has achieved its prewar level of coal production; by the beginning of 1946 it had doubled its output.

The work of restoration is proceeding at a fast pace in the iron and steel industry of the Ukraine, which played such an important rôle in the national economy of the U.S.S.R. By the beginning of this year, 20 blast furnaces, rising from the ruins, were in operation in the Ukraine. The machine industry is also making a rapid recovery. At Kharkov, the industrial enterprises left in ruins by the retreating Nazis are again turning out tractors, turbines and bicycles.

Power stations were almost completely destroyed by the enemy. For instance, only 5 percent of those in Belorussia remained intact after the Germans had been expelled. They are now being rehabilitated and put into operation. The famous Dnepr hydroelectric plant, the biggest in Europe, had to be practically built anew; but the work is progressing at such a pace that the plant will be ready for operation toward the end of this year.

Reconstruction is being carried out in the field of transport on a large scale. Railway tracks are being repaired and temporary wooden bridges and new railway stations are being erected on the sites of those burned down by the Germans. One-third of the total railway network of the country was restored in the course of a single year. Inland waterways are likewise undergoing speedy rehabilitation. The Dnepr-Bug canal in Belorussia has already been restored. Restoration work continues on the wrecked Baltic-White Sea Canal, and navigation is to be resumed on it this year.

In agriculture, too, rehabilitation work is in progress. Machine and tractor stations are being restored and sowing areas expanded in the western regions of the U.S.S.R. Crop yields are steadily increasing. In the Ukraine, the area sown by collective farmers last year reached almost three-quarters of the prewar total.

In the towns, housing construction is continuing on a wide scale. Cities such as Stalingrad, Novorossiisk, Smolensk and others devastated by the Nazis are being built anew. In Leningrad, which suffered heavily from German bombardment, more than one million square meters of living space were restored in 1944 alone. In the countryside, peasant families are moving out of dugouts into new homes built at collective farms in accordance with new standard designs.

Throughout the devastated western regions of the U.S.S.R., indeed, restoration work is going on. Nevertheless, only a small part of it has been accomplished to date. Many industrial enterprises still lie in ruins, many fields have not yet been sown and the crop yield is low in the former occupied areas. In Belorussia, for instance, industry attained only one-fifth of its prewar output by the beginning of the present year. The population is greatly in need of household goods. In their retreat the Germans left zones which can simply be described as deserts.

The new Five Year Plan calls for restoration work on a large scale to be carried out in all these western regions of the U.S.S.R. The prewar industrial level should be reached by 1948. In the process of rehabilitation, many shortcomings of the past are being eliminated. Power and fuel industries are being established where they never existed before. Whereas the Donbas, for instance, used to supply the whole of the Ukraine with coal, now the western part of the Ukraine will have its own coal industry. New industrial plants are being built at the same time that those formerly in existence are being restored. Thus construction of the first automobile factory in the Ukraine got under way at Dnepropetrovsk almost immediately after the expulsion of the Germans. Belorussia also is building an automobile factory, as well as restoring all industrial enterprises which operated on its territory before the Nazi invasion.

One of the main tasks set under the new Five Year Plan is that the gross volume of output of all industries in the U.S.S.R. in 1950 shall exceed that of 1940 by 48 percent. Output is to be increased in every branch of industry. While the western regions were being devastated in the war, the eastern regions, on the other hand, were developing rapidly. Despite tremendous difficulties, their industrial output rose steadily. In the first six months of 1945, indeed, the total industrial output in the Soviet east was twice as large as that achieved during the same period in 1941. During the four years of war, industrial production in the Urals increased 3.6 times, in Siberia 2.8 times and in the Volga areas 3.4 times. This means that in the postwar period the U.S.S.R. is engaged not only in restoring but also in further developing its national economy.

The production figures for coal, oil and pig iron in the U.S.S.R. in 1940 were 166,000,000 tons, 31,000,000 tons and 15,000,000 tons respectively. The 1950 output level is to be 250,000,000 tons, 35,400,000 tons and 19,500,000 tons respectively. The production of machinery will be doubled. The new Five Year Plan calls for increasing the number of metal-working machines to 1,300,000. This will exceed by 30 percent the total in use in the United States in 1940. The machine industry continues to be the leading branch of the national economy of the U.S.S.R. and the basis of its technical and economic independence.

The steady rise in all branches of Soviet industry is ensured by planned economy. With a planned economy there is no need to be afraid of postwar unemployment crises or depressions.

Many new industrial enterprises will spring up in the Soviet Union in the coming five years. All in all, 5,900 large enterprises of ferrous and non-ferrous metallurgy, machine, chemical and light industries will be restored or built anew in 1946-1950. As an example of the scope of the new construction to be executed, let us take hydroelectric stations. Large stations are now being built on the Irtish River, in Siberia; on the Syr Darya River, in Uzbekistan; on the Kura River, in Azerbaijan; and on Lake Sevan, in Armenia. Big power stations are to be built in the next few years on the Kama River, in the northern Urals; on the Volga River, near Gorki; and on the Oka River, near Kaluga. A large number of small hydroelectric stations are also under construction at collective farms and in small towns.

In addition to the automobile factories now being built in the Ukraine and Belorussia, new automobile plants are under construction at Novosibirsk, in Siberia; at Kutaisi, in Georgia; at Ulyanovsk, on the middle Volga; and in Moscow. The latter will produce low-powered cars. The new plan calls for the number of automobiles in the Soviet Union to be double that in the prewar period.

According to the plan, the total farm produce of the U.S.S.R. as a whole will be increased by the end of the Five Year period 27 percent above the 1940 figure. This means that a tremendous work is to be carried out in expanding the sowing area, in boosting crop yields, in increasing herds of livestock, etc.

The Five Year Plan calls for creating an abundance of the main lines of consumer goods and improving the living conditions of the population. Wages are steadily increasing while the prices of goods are falling. Ration cards for bread and cereals are to be abolished in the autumn of this year and for all other products in 1947.

The great tasks of the new Five Year Plan cannot be solved apart from rapid technical and scientific progress. Everything possible is being done in the U.S.S.R. to foster the development of science. In his speech of February 9, Stalin said: "I have no doubt that if we give our scientists proper assistance they will be able in the near future not only to overtake but to surpass the achievements of science beyond the boundaries of our country."

Such, in brief, are the main features of the Soviet Plan for 1946-1950. The figures it sets are amazing, and one is still more struck by the confidence with which the time limit for fulfilling them has been fixed. In order to understand this, one must bear in mind the fact that planning of this sort has become a common feature in Soviet economy. In the U.S.S.R., state plans have the force of economic laws of development. The figures set for 1950 are not presuppositions or wishes. The new Five Year Plan has been approved by the Supreme Soviet of the U.S.S.R. and has become law.

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  • NIKOLAI MIKHAILOV, Soviet geographer and explorer; lecturer at the Stalin Institute of Transport Engineers; author of "Land of the Soviets"
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