Explain how Russia and the Soviet Union modernized from 1917 to 1945

Essay by supwillis November 2004

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Despite the soviets unions initial desires to pursue a global revolution policy soon changed in light of reality and a shift in doctrine modernization in one country and with an unprecedented speed was pursued. The initial policy of War Communism proved hopeless in regards to modernization, the NEP proved more successful however, it too became incapable of achieving the rapid modernization. Stalin's policy launched with the "great turn" back to socialism of collectivization and the five-year plans proved economically miraculous but socially disastrous. By 1945, the USSR was modern.

The initial decrees of the Bolsheviks had little to do with industrialization or the economy and production potential. The decrees of land and peace actually proved economically disastrous, with the treaty of Brest Litovsk, a cessation of huge quantities of resources and land, throwing Russia into a political and economic turmoil, and a situation that would prove to be very difficult to alleviate.

With the impending civil war, even Lenin admitted, "there was no coherent economic policy." The policy of war Communism and grain requisitioning was not born of a need to industrialise but to supply the proletariat and defeat the White forces. War communism was "equality brought about by utter economic chaos" (Ulam). Production levels were cut in half and living standards fell across the board. War Communism in fact hindered modernization.

The New Economic Policy marked a return to the old Menshevik ideology of a slower and gentler move to communism but was not fueled by the Menshevik motive of global revolution. It aimed to recreate the schmyka and involved a mixed market economy with the Bolsheviks controlling the commanding heights. Lenin called the NEP a "tactical retreat," he saw it as a legitimate tool for the development of socialism in one country. Grain procurement quotas were lowered and...