Key Economic Developments
Witte (1890s)
Stolypin (1900s)
War Communism (1917 +)
NEP (1920s)
Collectivisation (1920s)
Five-Year-Plans (1930s)
Seven-Year-Plans (1950s)
Why nothing before Witte?
• Society still evolving from feudal to ‘free
agricultural’, let alone industrial
• Reactionary land policies of Alexander III
meant most peasants did not move to cities
• Hence very little industrialisation
• Aim: “Save Russia”
• Focus: Industry
• Theory:
– Railways built
– This required coal/iron
– This led to ‘supporting industries’
– Led to increase in agricultural goods
– All areas of economy stimulated
Witte: Continuity
• There had been small-scale railway and
industrial growth pre-1891
Witte: Change
• Witte’s Great Spurt relied on foreign
investment in Russia
• The new industries created needed to be
protected by tariffs, which greatly increased
the living costs
Witte: A Turning Point?
• State involvement in industrial planning
• Russia took great steps towards becoming an
industrialised power
• The notion of the peasantry being central to
Russian development took a less prominent
• Aim: Save Russia (“Wager on the strong”)
• Focus: Peasantry
• Theory:
– Through loans and land and rights, encouraged
peasants to leave mir and develop as independent
– Created a new level of wealthy small-holding
peasants, loyal to the regime
Stolypin: Continuity
• The peasant had always been central to Russia
• No redistribution of land
• In the same way that Witte aimed to develop
an industrial class loyal to the Tsar, Stolypin
wanted an agricultural group loyal to the Tsar
Stolypin: Change
• The emphasis shifted from industrial to
• Peasants were viewed as people with rights
and freedoms
Stolypin: A Turning Point?
• Stolypin’s ‘wager’ was the final effort of the
Tsar to do anything proactive towards the
War Communism
• Aim: Save the revolution
• Focus: Agriculture
• Theory:
– The requisitioning of grain and the execution of
those thought to be hoarding it would allow the
regime to continue
War Communism: Continuity
• The peasants continue to be badly treated
• Led to the organisation of peasant resistance,
the same sort as seen by Alexander and
• Production still low
• Cities still undersupplied
War Communism: Change
• The state was now prepared to use violence
not as a last resort, but as a first method
• The focus was not on production, but on the
distribution of what had been produced
War Communism: A Turning Point?
• It shows a negative attitude from the
Communist Party towards the peasantry
• Aim: Save the revolution
• Focus: Agriculture
• Theory:
– Farmers had to give a set amount of their income
to the state
– The remainder can be sold for profit
NEP: Continuity
• The peasants continued to see part of their
harvest taken by the state
NEP: Change
• The peasants became recognised as a hugely
important section of Russian society
• A radical departure from both war
communism and Marxist theory
NEP: A Turning Point?
• NEP was a departure from the period
immediately after 1917
• It was a return to the pre-1917 period
• It did not endure beyond 1928
• Short-term it ended famine and stabilised the
• Aim: Save the revolution
• Focus: Agriculture
• Theory:
– Peasants working together collectively produce
more than peasants working alone independently
– Large-scale farms would produce large-scale crops
– Farming would be equal, eliminating Stolypin’s
Collectivisation: Continuity
• Link with the mir of Tsarist Russia?
• It was followed ruthlessly, much like War
Communism had been
Collectivisation: Change
• Agriculture became industrialised
• Wealthy peasants were viewed as dangerous
rather than desirable
Collectivisation: A Turning Point?
• After this point, there was little or no private
agriculture in Russia
• The cities and the countryside finally formed a
symbiotic relationship, with each needing the
• Aim: Save the USSR
• Focus: Industry (Heavy and Light)
• Theory:
– The USSR was non-industrialised
– Stalin reckoned that they had about 10 years
before someone exploited this and invaded
– USSR must be forcefully and totally industrialised
Five-Year-Plans: Continuity
• Link with Witte, in terms of the focus (heavy
industry, coal, iron, steel and railways)
• Marxist ideology depends heavily on an
industrialised working class
• The total disregard for the suffering and loss of
life that it caused was a continuation of the
attitudes of previous approaches
• There was a reliance on foreign expertise in the
same way that Witte had relied on foreign capital
Five-Year-Plans: Change
• Attention switched back to industry – this was the
first time since Witte that it became central
• The scale of involvement was far greater that
• The Five Year Plans incorporated movements to
modernise the army and defence, which had not
been a feature of Witte’s plans
• Some new industries, which Witte had not
examined, were included – electricity being the
most notable
Five-Year-Plans: A Turning Point?
• After them, the USSR was an undeniably
industrialised nation
• It set the scene for future centralised planning
initiatives, notably the seven-year-plans
• Focus clearly shifts back onto industry over
and above agriculture
• Aim: Make people happier
• Focus: Consumer goods
• Theory:
– “It is no good having the right ideology if everyone
has to walk around without any trousers”
– More consumer goods led to a happier populace
– This led to a contented populace
– This safeguarded the regime
Seven-Year-Plans: Continuity
State planning
Production targets
Continued city/countryside relationship
Although new targets in new areas were set,
traditional areas like industry and defence
continued to be important
Seven-Year-Plans: Change
• The welfare of people is paramount, at least in
the first instance
• Consumer goods
• A genuine understanding of the needs of the
Seven-Year-Plans: A Turning Point?
• Difficult to say, as at the end of the period
• BUT the first time that welfare of the people
had made the list of important considerations

Treatment of the peasants - bedstone