Chris Blattman

Was Stalin necessary for Russian industrialization?

Stalin’s economic policies of late 1920s and 1930s were harsh. The proponents, however, point out to the rapid growth in 1928-1940 and to the fast reallocation of labor from agriculture to non-agriculture. This view holds that, although excessively brutal, Stalin’s policies allowed Russia to develop a strong modern economy that sustained a successful war effort in 1941-1945 and propelled Russia into a position of a dominant power after WWII.

From Cheremukhin, Golosov, Guriev, Tsyvinski. They estimate a model and conclude:

Stalin’s policies led to the short run costs (1928-1940) amounting to astonishing 24.1 percent of consumption. However, in the long run the generation born in 1940 reaps the benefits of the reduction of frictions and yields a 16.5 percent lifetime gain.

12 Responses

  1. Remember an old history teacher, while teaching Russia, asked with a straight face, was the deaths of millions justified in order to achieve Russian Industrial development. The whole class murmured in unison, no. Working class kids every one of them. Kids know better. We should have sent her to the gulag to learn you don’t trivialise economics and mass murder.
    But Stephen doesn’t seem to know much about WW2 and after WW2. Hitler turned to Russia after he was defeated in the Battle of Britain. He lost in Russia because he wouldn’t follow his generals’ advice. After Monty defeated the Germans in North Africa they never lost another battle with them in WW2. Even if Hitler had conquered Russia and mainland Europe, the limeys and yanks plus the rest were still going to sort him out. It was just a matter of time.
    The aftermath was caused by the death of FDR. He had the bottle for Stalin but Truman didn’t. FDR and Churchill would have fought Stalin over Poland. He would have withdrawn and Eastern Europe would have been saved the scourge of Communism. The problem with WW2 was it only got rid of one dictator and mass murderer, Adolf Hitler. It never got rid of Joseph Stalin and the others that came along with him to form the Warsaw Pact.

  2. “that sustained a successful war effort in 1941-1945”

    It wasn’t just successful, it was the critical war effort. If the Soviet Union had been defeated in 1941/2, which it would almost certainly would have except for industrialization, the world would almost certainly now look very different. The United States would have been isolated with Germany controlling the whole of Europe (what’s different), the Near and Middle East, and Africa, and Japan controlling Asia and most likely Australasia, and many more Russians, etc. would have died or never been born.

  3. It seems like Japan accomplished the same transformation without the deaths of millions of its own citizens.

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