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"Anti-Western" Modernization


Stalinís industrialization was totally ďanti-WesternĒ in its methods: it was not based on private enterprise, but was state-driven and ostensibly based on centralized directive planning. At the same time, there was much in it that drew upon Russiaís traditional patterns. Ever since Peter the Great, the Russian government had played a key role in expanding the countryís industrial capacity. The state in Russia had always directed the main forces of production and kept most important branches of industry under its control. It is highly significant that Russiaís initial industrial boom in the 1890s, under the last two of the Romanov tsars, became possible mainly thanks to the government-sponsored railway construction program that created a big demand for metal, coal, and oil, leading to the rapid development of the metal and fuel industries.  


Stalinís methods of financing industrial expansion also had parallels in the Russian past. Both under him and the last Romanov tsars it was the peasants who, of all the population groups, paid a particularly heavy price for the governmentís industrial policy. To finance economic modernization, the tsarist government relied on Russiaís traditional fiscal structures, such as the village commune, which played a crucial role in the collection of government taxes. On top of the heavy fiscal burden of direct taxes, peasants also paid for the industrialization as consumers, through high tariffs on imported goods and rising indirect taxes on consumer goods.

Similarly, under Stalin capital was forcibly squeezed out of the reluctant population, mainly the peasantry, through an arbitrary price system. But the most drastic solution of how to finance industrial expansion was found in creating on the basis of small and low-productive individual peasant farmsteads large-scale socialist collective farms. The collectivization of agriculture enabled the state to exercise direct administrative control over large collectivized farms, whose profits could be ploughed back into the construction of new industrial plants. The policy looked radical and unprecedented, yet it too, to some extent, drew upon the legacies of the past, including serfdom and the traditions of the village commune. The imposition of the collective-farm system was achieved partly due to state terror but also partly due to the vestiges of communal traditions and the egalitarian attitudes of peasants in the countryside.

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The Soviet Period


Soviet Russia

Understanding the Soviet Period
Russian Political Culture
Soviet Ideology
The Soviet System
Soviet Nationalities
The Economic Structure
The Socialist Experiment
"Great Leap" to Socialism
The USSR in World War II
Stalin's Legacy
Brezhnev's Stagnation
The Economy in Crisis
Political Reform
The USSR's Collapse

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