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How did Stalin industrialise the USSR?

Every five years the Soviet government, under Stalin's instruction, set detailed targets that industry and agriculture had to meet. These Five Year Plans aimed for a great increase in production.

The key to industrialisation was heavy industry. Every year the amount of steel, coal, iron and oil that was produced rose. New factories were opened, especially in the east. More railways were built to transport the goods produced. New industrial centres sprang up in Kuzbass and the Volga. An entire city called Magnitogorsk was constructed in the Ural Mountains, with a steel mill (in a process that involved great hardship for the people involved). One great achievement was the Dnieper dam, built between 1927-32 to provide hydro-electricity.

This rapid industrialisation meant that many peasants left the land to work in towns or industrial centres. These workers had to be fed, so agricultural production also had to increase. Stalin ordered the collectivisation of farming, a policy pursued intensely between 1929-33. Collectivisation meant that peasants would work together on larger, supposedly more productive farms. Almost all the crops they produced would be given to the government at low prices to feed the industrial workers. Fewer workers were needed on these collective farms, so more peasants could become factory workers. By 1936, nearly all peasants had been moved into the collective farms.

In the drive to industrialise Stalin often adopted harsh methods. These methods included forced labour, punishments for those who failed to reach targets and the elimination of those who didn’t fit into his plans. Many kulaks (prosperous peasants) didn’t want to give up their own farms and resisted collectivisation, destroying their animals and equipment in protest. Millions were sent to prison camps. Stalin was able to enforce his power in the countryside and he got hold of the resources he needed to turn the Soviet Union into an industrial power.

Examine these sources to find out more:
1. Comparing 1935 & 1936 USSR production targets
1. Comparing 1935 & 1936 USSR production targets

2. USSR machinery production targets for 1938
2. USSR machinery production targets for 1938

3. Ways to get more work from Russians, 1938
3. Ways to get more work from Russians, 1938

4. Soviet propaganda poster, 1931
4. Soviet propaganda poster, 1931

5. Recording of a man recalling Stalin’s brutal policies

5. Recording of a man recalling Stalin’s brutal policies

6. Soviet labour discipline, 1931
6. Soviet labour discipline, 1931

7. Speech by Molotov on forced labour, 1931
7. Speech by Molotov on forced labour, 1931