The following are economic statistics from the Soviet Union’s First and Second Five-Year Plans with my commentary giving some context and helping you better interpret the numbers.
The four periods depicted in these statistics are the following:
1) The last Czarist census of 1913. This represents the height of the economic development of the Russian Empire. The economy of the Russian Empire declined during WWI (1914-1917).
2) The NEP figures of 1929. These figures depict the state of the economy before planned economy was fully implemented. During the NEP industry was largely nationalized but farming was mostly done by private producers and there existed a private sector of capitalist manufacturers. The goal of the NEP was to rebuild the country after the devastating Civil War (1918-1922). At the beginning of the NEP the Soviet Economy was in shambles and production at a worse state then in 1913.
3) The First Five-Year Plan (1928-1932). The implementation of Planned Economy, Industrialization and the Collectivization of Agriculture. All sectors of the economy grew during this time especially industry but also food production, consumer goods production and military spending.
4) The Second Five Year Plan (1933-1938) Consolidation of Collective Farming, the completion of the vast industrial projects of the first plan, massive increase in military spending. The 1937 constitution: implementation of free healthcare, free compulsory schooling. Massive improvements in education: construction of thousands of schools, academies and institutions of higher learning, cinemas, theaters and cultural institutions for the common people.
Co-operative farming and use of modern technology allowed the cultivation of previously unused land. Area under crops increased both compared to the last Czarist census of 1913 and the NEP figures. The bad weather of 1932-33 caused a temporary decrease:
The trend of fast growth continued and intensified during the Second Five-Year Plan:
Most of the land was cultivated by Collective Farmers while the remaining land was cultivated by private farmers and the State Sector:
The Collective Farm Movement that had existed in Russia since at least 1905 gained new energy after the October Revolution and fastened it’s pace even more during the NEP. In 1928 it became an official government campaign and reached a tremendous speed. The rate of collectivization in 1930-32 was blindingly fast, even too fast. Stalin said the Collective Farm Activists were being “Dizzy With Success”. In 1933-38 the speed was reduced to a more manageable rate:
The amount of food crops produced increased tremendously during both Five-Year Plans as did the production of industrial crops. Notice the fluctuation in the level of sugar-beet farming: The 1929 figure represents the aftermath of the devastating Civil War that destroyed the economy, production increased massively in 1930. In 1931-32 the sugar-beet sector was reorganized which also caused a temporary reduction. In 1933 production began to increase yet again:
During the Second Five-Year Plan the growth continued at a more consistent rate. At first glance you might think the production of grain actually didn’t increase much however this is not true: the production of grain increased from 1929 and from 1933 figures which were lower then the 1913 pre-War numbers. Secondly although grain production was only 118,6% of the pre-War figures it was achieved with a vastly smaller proportional work force. During the 1930s the USSR had gone from an agrarian country to an industrial country. Millions of people had moved from the countryside to the cities and an increasing amount of farmland had been harnessed for farming industrial crops. Despite all of this food production was greater then ever before!
“A peasant population rising from 120.7 to 132 million people between 1926 and 1940 was able to feed an urban population that increased from 26.3 to 61 million in the same period.” ~Ludo Martens (Another View of Stalin)
The amount of livestock decreased during the First Five-Year Plan. The reasons were twofold:
1) The sabotage by Kulaks and the Middle Peasants under Kulak influence. Almost all draft animals used to be owned by Kulaks. This allowed them to kill such a high number of them. (The idea that killing of animals was widespread among poor peasants is a myth, since the poor peasants typically owned no animals at all.) This caused serious economic damage to the USSR.
2) The breeding of animals was done almost exclusively by the Kulaks. It took several years for the Kulak animal breeding to be replaced by Collective Farm animal breeding since during the First Five-Year Plan most Collectives focused on crop production:
During the Second Five-Year Plan the number of livestock increased as animal breeding was taken over by Collective Farmers. The number of horses increased less then other animals because draft horses were being replaced by tractors more and more:
The development of industry, construction of machine building plants greatly benefited agriculture. The number of tractors used by peasants went from basically nothing to tens and hundreds of thousands. The Soviet State setup Machine and Tractor Stations (MTS) which supplied the Collective Farmers with machinery:
Amount of tractors used doubled during the Second Five-Year Plan:
During the Second Five-Year Plan the amount of combines grew by 600%. Amount of lorries by more then 700%, cars by 240% and other vehicles by around 150%:
The 1930s Great Depression devastated the economies of the Capitalist countries but had little impact on the economically blockaded Socialist Soviet Union. On the contrary the USSR was developing at a staggering rate due to it’s policy of industrialization. Soviet GDP growth at the time was fastest in the world:
The growth was biggest in the industrial sector. While the Capitalist economies stagnated and collapsed the USSR’s output more then tripled that of the Russian Empire, UK, USA, Germany and France:
The USSR’s industrial output doubled between 1929-1933!
Industrial output by sectors. The bulk was State Industry but a substantial chunk belonged to worker Co-ops and a small amount to remaining private producers and foreign corporations with trade deals with the Soviet government:
By the end of the First Five-Year Plan big industry had become 70% of the GDP. The USSR had become an industrial nation!
Machine and Factory Building compared to Consumer Goods production at the end of the First Five-Year Plan. Construction of machines doubled while production of consumer goods increased by 60%:
While in the Russian Empire most industry was involved in raw materials (mining and especially cotton) in the USSR Machine Building became the leading branch of industry:
National trade. Steady increase in the sale of consumer goods, commercial products, trade among collectives, co-ops and State enterprises:
Freight traffic increased together with increased trade and as a result of the building of new roads, railways and channels:
EDUCATION & CULTURAL LEVEL:
According to the last Czarist census of 1897 literate people made up 28,4% of the population while only 13% of women were literate. Among the rural population the number was only 19%. It is estimated that in 1917 around 30% of the population was literate but during the civil war the number decreased.
In 1919 the Bolsheviks began the literacy campaign Likbez. In 1926 51% of the population were literate. By the end of the Second Five-Year Plan male literacy was 90.8% and female literacy 72.5%.
Amount of elementary schools increased by four thousand between 1933-1939. Amount of secondary schools doubled. The number of public libraries, worker clubs and cinemas also increased. Before the industrialization & electrification campaign most people had never seen movies or had access to a library. In fact most people couldn’t even read.
The number of schools quadrupled as 16,000 were built between 1933-38!
The amount of people graduating from the new Soviet Higher Educational Institutions doubled between 1933-1938:
HEALTHCARE & LIFE EXPECTANCY:
In the 1937 Soviet Constitution healthcare was guaranteed as a human right.
According to the 1913 Czarist census life expectancy among the population was 32.3 years. By 1958 the life expectancy had doubled to 68.6 years.
After 1937 life expectancy increased rapidly:
Its quite dramatic that the Russian life expectancy has not really increased after the dissolution of the USSR! In the mid-late 90s it actually decreased. In 2012 Russian life expectancy was 69 years:
Russian imperial census (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Russian_Empire_Census)
Russia U.S.S.R.: A Complete Handbook New York: William Farquhar Payson. 1933. p. 665.
Stalin’s peasants New York: Oxford University Press. pp. 225-6 & fn. 78 p. 363.
The Russian Federation Before and After the Soviet Union, Alexey Shumkov
Official data of soviet statistical bureau available here