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Explain how Russia and the Soviet Union modernised from the Bolshevik Revolution in 1917 until 1941. Despite its sometimes tortuous path, Russia’s economic development in the period between 1917 and 1941 could be said to have been a qualified success. This is largely due to the pragmatism of Lenin, whose New Economic Policy stabilised the nation following the Civil War, and the determination of Stalin, whose industrialisation program pushed Russia forward at a dizzying pace. Russia also modernised in many other ways, with improvements in health, education, social welfare and the rights of women. However, politically the country moved backwards under Stalin, as all vestiges of democracy and free expression were squeezed from the system. When the Bolsheviks first came to power, they had a clear idea of how to modernise Russia socially. Among the first things they did was to introduce a series of reforms to raise education levels, improve working conditions and better the plight of women. However, economically they were relatively clueless. Their ideological mentor – Marx – was of little help. He had assumed that socialist revolutions would occur in nations that were already fully industrialised; socialism would merely redistribute the wealth those industries had created. To make matters worse, Russia was convulsed in civil war before the Bolsheviks had the opportunity to put any new ideas into effect. Hence, by 1921, the economy was in a worse state than it had been at the end of the Great War – and much worse than it had been in 1913. The Bolsheviks found themselves having to rebuild what had been destroyed before they could even think about a strategy to achieve industrialisation. The system Lenin devised to facilitate recovery was the New Economic Policy (NEP). It essentially involved a mixed economy under state supervision. At its core was a system of rural capitalism, in which peasants gave 10 percent of their produce to the government, but could sell the rest on the market. To maximise output, rich peasants (kulaks) were even allowed to hire labourers. In industry, there was some central planning, but production was carried out in state, private and cooperative enterprises. The new system produced immediate results. The incentives offered to the peasants persuaded them to increase agricultural production – so much so that by 1925, output had returned to 1913 levels. Industrial production rose less rapidly than agricultural output (because most Russian industries were not subject to the NEP reforms), but still increased sufficiently to allow GDP to surpass its pre-war level by 1928. Despite these impressive results, it was clear by the late 1920s that NEP would not produce rapid industrialisation. The Bolshevik leaders faced a choice: continue with Lenin’s policy, and accept a lower rate of growth and an economy based on rural capitalism; or pursue a more radical policy, which would deliver higher rates of growth and a purely socialist system. This policy choice coincided with Stalin’s final victory in the leadership struggle. For economic, political and ideological reasons, the general secretary chose the radical path. Stalin’s economic program was based on the replacement of NEP with command socialism, under which all industry was nationalised and market mechanisms replaced by a series of five year plans. Imports were reduced to a bare minimum – mainly capital equipment – and almost all the nation's resources were concentrated on heavy industry. This meant extracting very high agricultural surpluses from the peasantry – a development which provoked widespread opposition. Stalin dealt with this by collectivising all the land, and unleashing a reign of police terror against all those who opposed his policies. As Stalin predicted, the three Five Year Plans were spectacularly successful, transforming Russia from a backward semi-developed nation to one which could match the West in industrial output. For example, by 1933 output levels were four times that of 1913. Production of oil and gas rose by 130 percent between 1929 and 1938. Over that same period, production of coal and iron ore rose by 230 percent each, steel by 267 percent, electricity by 540 percent, and chemicals rose by almost 1000 percent. These spectacular increases in industrial output were the product of three main factors: the vast investment in science and technology undertaken during the 1930s; the achievement of economies of scale, utilising relatively unsophisticated technologies (which could be acquired from abroad); and the decision not to emphasise consumer goods, which allowed investment spending to reach extremely high levels. By the outbreak of the Great Patriotic War, the Soviet economy had grown to the point where Russia was out-producing all other nations in terms of military equipment. It was this productive capacity that enabled the USSR to withstand the Nazi onslaught, and achieve victory in 1945. Even so, Stalin’s achievements came at a terrible price. Economically, the Soviet people suffered from serious shortages of consumer goods. It was difficult to obtain even the most basic of household items, like kitchen utensils or formal clothes. In addition, agricultural production failed to keep pace with the rest of the economy, mainly as a result of the inefficiencies of collectivisation. Indeed, farm output at the time of Stalin’s death (1953) was barely above its 1928 level. Socially, some of the reforms introduced by Lenin were reversed under Stalin. In particular, divorce laws were tightened and abortion was banned. Although women were still encouraged to work, they were now expected to devote themselves primarily to the family. As a result, married women often found themselves with two jobs – one in the workforce and one at home (housework). Politically, Stalin eliminated all democratic processes within the Party and replaced them with a brutal dictatorship which enforced a rigid conformity upon society. Finally, in human terms, the impact of ‘modernisation’ was appalling, with up to 20 million people dying through execution, starvation or being worked to death in labour camps. Hence it can be seen that, despite the chaos caused by the Civil War, collectivisation and the purges, the Soviet Union had achieved considerable success in its quest for modernisation by 1941. It did this as a result of the Lenin’s NEP, which rebuilt the economy after the ravages of two major wars, and Stalin’s Five Year Plans, which mobilised the nation and concentrated resources on the industrial sector of the economy.