Background Information for

East / West

The Impact of the War on the Soviet Union

Excerpt from 
Stalinism: It's Origin and Future.
Andy Blunden, 1993

The War had had a devastating effect on the Soviet Union. For three and a half years the war had been fought on its territory, and the Soviet Union fought under a criminally incompetent leadership. 1,700 towns and 70,000 villages had been totally destroyed, twenty-one million people were killed, and over a million people were deported to the interior on Stalinís order. Even by 1950, the USSR still had only 90 per cent of its pre-war population and the birth rate was declining.

All the nations of the USSR had mobilised for war to repulse imminent annihilation at the hands of the Fascist armies. No appeal to internationalism or socialist principles was necessary. After the War, Stalin abandoned any reference to internationalism or socialist ideas. The US maintained the threat of nuclear annihilation, so good old-fashioned chauvinism could be relied upon to deflect criticism from the leadership. A comprehensive system of uniforms, medals and ranks was introduced for all government officials, with a corresponding graduation in privileges from dire poverty for the workers up to dachas in the Crimea for top officials.

The deeply conservative turn in Stalinist politics was reflected in a new family law introduced in 1944. This law removed the recognition previously afforded to de facto marriages, revived the notion of illegitimacy of children, made divorce even more difficult and expensive, further restricted the conditions under which abortion was legal, and introduced rewards for bearing large numbers of children. The schools and official media vigorously propagated moral standards which had more in common with Victorian England than Revolutionary Russia.

Whole generations of young men had been obliterated by the War, and to a much greater extent than in the West, women moved into 'non-traditional' jobs in order to fill the gap. This was not matched however by an easing of the burden of domestic labour or in the patriarchal structure of the family. Consequently, the formal equality of women under Soviet law simply imposed a double burden.

Despite the enormity of the suffering which had been visited upon the people of the Soviet Union, the USSR had emerged from the War as victors and occupied half of Europe. Despite the fact that Stalin was at least equally responsible for the extent of Soviet casualties as was Hitler, Stalin remained firmly in control of the Party, the State and the country. Stalinís regime of terror continued unabated. National minorities, Soviet prisoners of war and even soldiers who had penetrated enemy lines were special targets for repression.


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