The USSR under Khrushchev and Brezhnev Essay

Stalin died in 1953 after having transformed the USSR. Stalin made big changes to the USSR, he started in 1928 with the first Five Year Plan. He set a planned economy in which GOSPLAN, the state planning organisation created in 1921 by Lenin, set targets for each factory with the objective of increasing the production in heavy industries and of modernizing the USSR. The Communist leader did also put lots effort into industrialising remote areas of the USSR with the aim of exploiting the resources found in inhospitable areas like the Urals and Western Siberia.

An example of a city created by Stalin through his Five Year Plan was Magnitogorsk. Workers were sent to these cities to start the production of the raw materials found in those areas, most of these were Kulaks who had been forced from their homes. However, Stalin did not only change the economical and industrial system in the USSR, he also changed the agricultural methods. Stalin wanted to develop the USSR, and he believed that to do this he has to modernise agriculture.

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As a result of the increasing population in big industrial cities the USSR was short of grain to feed its population and Stalin even had plans of exporting grain to finance industrialisation. For this reason Stalin decided to increase the production of grain in Russia. To do this he first ended the New Economical Policy, created by Lenin, which Stalin did not like as it allowed farmers to sell their products and get richer. Due to this policy many farmers were now Kulaks who owned their own lands and employed other farmers.

Stalin hated these ‘rich peasants’ and wanted to destroy them for these reason when he ended with the NEP he decided to send the Kulaks to labour camps, Gulags, and to new industrial cities in Siberia. Stalin’s idea to modernise agriculture was to collective farming, which involved joining up small farms together to allow them to use modern agricultural method like tractor or fertiliser which could not be used in small farms. The large farmers were called kolkhoz and were achieved thanks to Stalin’s policy of collectivisation.

Farming method was not the only thing Stalin decided to transform in the USSR, the society was also affected by his rule. During 1932 and 1933 the purges began, first Stalin decided to only purge old Bolsheviks that knew about Lenin’s testament like Zenoviev and Kameinev. However, as time progressed Stalin built a totalitarian state in which he was a hero and everyone had to agree with him. Big propaganda campaigns portrayed Stalin as the saver of USSR to make people agree with him. The citizens who were seemed by Stalin as a thread were quickly purged by the NKVD who had quotas to fulfil.

The Red Army was reduced as most of its experienced officers were purged in the same was as intellectuals such as scientist, artist, etc. After Stalin’s death Khrushchev won the power struggle. By 1956 he was firmly in control and was determined to change the USSR. The new leader of the Soviet Union wanted to increase the production of grain and consumer good. He also wanted to increased initiative and independence which had been removed due to the planned economy. Another of his aims was to reduce central control (decentralisation) allowing the local leader to decide on industrial and agricultural policies.

Khrushchev started by increasing the grain production. He introduced the Virgin Land Scheme which involved the ploughing up of areas in Kazakhstan, Western Siberia and the Urals. By doing this Khrushchev tried to increase the grain production as there was more land in which to grow this grain. Khrushchev decided to join the collective farms with the objective of reducing procurement quotas, taxes on the farmer’s private plot, increasing procurement prices and take off debts that collective farms had.

He believed that this will make farms more independent, make them more productive. Farmers were also encouraged to grow maize as animal fodder to increase the amount of grain, meat and dairy produce. Industry was also changed by Khrushchev throughout the 1950s. He wanted to decentralise the USSR by abolishing central ministers and created Sovnarkhozy which controlled areas of the USSR and were encouraged to taker their own decision with the objective of increasing independence and initiative.

Khrushchev also tried to reduce the fear by relaxing the control on workers allowing them to change their job. New industries were created such as chemical, natural gas and synthetics industries to provide more jobs and develop the USSR. To compete with the USA Khrushchev invested lots of money on military and scientific research. As a result the number of researchers increased rapidly and missiles were made to replace men in the Red Army. The first satellite, Sputnik 1 and the first man in space, Yuri Gagarin were also a result of Khrushchev reforms.

In February 1956 Khrushchev made the Secret Speech in the Twentieth Party Congress. In this speech he criticised Stalin’s cult of personality, which led him to abuse of his power. Khrushchev also read out Lenin’s testament and described how Stalin purged million of innocent people, he said that Stalin was not the hero and genius he claimed to be. By doing this Khrushchev wanted to make people realize the change he tried to make to the USSR and wanted to make sure that people knew that Stalin’s rule was over.

He needed initiative and independence for his economical reforms and to get this independence he needed to tell the truth about what Stalin did during his regime. Khrushchev was forced to resign in 1964. He had made some improvements to the USSR but his policies had largely failed. The agricultural reforms imposed by Khrushchev quickly failed due to the lack of investment in fertilisers. The new farming lands in the Urals, Western Siberia and Kazakhstan did not have a suitable climate for the growing of maize and topsoil was frequently ruined. Transporting the crops was also a problem.

The new farms were in remote areas and the railway was very inefficient as a result crops rotted in the by the roadside. Motor Tractor Station were abolished which caused some problems in farming as many farms could not afford the machinery or could not maintain them. Farmers felt that local party leaders interfered too much in what they should grow and they did not agree to with them. Industry reforms did also suffer. Managers thought that Sovnarkhozy had no real authority so they did not work. Initiative was very low as everyone was used to being told what to do.

The USSR still had problems with the production of grain, and Khrushchev tried to increase these by making greater incentives. However, these incentives did not work and he did not wanted to use the profit motive to increase production. Consumer goods were still limited and the foreign aid and sports suffered. However, not everything went wrong under Khrushchev. De-Stalination was very successful. Stalin’s reputation was negatively affected causing statues to be removed as well as his body from the Red Square, Stalingrad was also renamed to Volgograd.

Freedom of speech was given if the target was Stalin and the death penalty was abolished until 1961. The control on poets, writers are artists were lessened in order to relax the system making Soviet people feel less fear. Khrushchev was replaced by Brezhnev. Under his rule the USSR stagnated. Brezhnev did not accept any critics to his way of ruling. Dissidents were locked up in mental hospitals to break their spirit. The black market was also developed as the Soviet economy could not produce what the citizens of the Soviet Union wanted.

The tenth Five Year failed under Brezhnev as a result of a lack of skilled labour, alcoholism, absenteeism and lack of effort on the part of the Soviet population and managers of the economy. This meant a poor economic performance as it did not improve the economy or industry in the USSR. Food production was also a problem, there was a food shortage but Brezhnev needed to export the grain to pay for the USSR’s foreign policy. As a result of the poor industrial development and a lack of technology to exploit its vast reserves of raw materials, raw material could not be exported either.

A socio-economic slowdown was caused as the USSR could not continue with its international policies. Corruption in the government led to the stagnation of the USSR. Members of Brezhnev’s own family were involved in politics and took lots of money from the government to become wealthier. With the objective of competing with the USA the USSR wasted vast amount of money on armaments and the space race, the Red Army also participated in many wars such as the Afghanistan War in 1979 which was a big cost in terms of lives, equipment and cash and did certainly turn many ordinary people citizens the government.

This led to the stagnation of the USSR as Brezhnev did not improve the economy of the USSR, he forgot about the old system and he took no control of it. Brezhnev actions could even suggest how he just wanted to remove oppositions by arresting dissidents and how he just wanted to be the leader of the USSR for the money him and his family was making out of it. The stagnation of the USSR was just a negative effect of everyone as the USSR went backwards. However, after two more successors Gorbachev came into power to make other important changes to the USSR.


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