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END of the COLD WAR and the SOVIET UNION (1 of 9)

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End of the Cold War and the Soviet Union

The Soviet Economy to the Mid-1960s | Decline During the Brezhnev Years | Gorbachev and Glasnost (Openness) | Gorbachev Confers with Reagan | More Economic Troubles | Sakharov, Gorbachev and the Reforms of 1989 | Freedom in Poland, Hungary, Czechoslovakia and East Germany | The Soviet Union Disintegrates | Transition to a Market Economy

The Soviet Economy to the Mid-1960s

From the 1930s and into the 1970s, the Soviet economy had been geared for heavy industry and the military – production with a lot of steel and cement. It was a "command" economy, directed from a central planning commission. Agriculture was mainly collective, with farm workers allowed small private plots. Technical education was vast, with the Soviet Union graduating engineers, scientists, doctors and persons of other professions in great number. Soviet manufacturing had grown to 17.6 percent of the world share in 1938 (behind a 28.7 percent share for the United States), but in the 1960s the question remained concerning future growth. [note]

The Soviet Union had lost 26 million people in World War II, but by 1970 its population would be 228 million, up from 190 million in 1937. The Soviet Union was one-sixth of the land area of the world. Its arable land was equal to that of the United States and Canada combined. The Soviet Union had an abundance of natural resources, and it had been producing more oil, natural gas, iron, coal, lead, nickel, silver, copper and zinc than any other country. It had the largest long-range fishing fleet. It was second in the production of gold and chromium.

In the mid-fifties the Soviet Union was the most advanced nation in rocketry. In 1957 it was the first nation to send a satellite into space, and in 1961 the Soviet Union sent the first man into space. The Soviet leader from 1955 to 1964, Nikita Khrushchev, predicted that the Soviet Union would bury (surpass) the West economically in twenty years or so (around 1980). In this period, the Soviet economy, as measured in Gross National Product (GNP), was growing at about 6 percent a year. But in this period growth was high around the world. In 1960 the Soviet Union was producing 12.5 percent of the world's goods (from farm and factory), just under half that of the United States (25.9 percent) and the European Economic Community (26 percent). These figures would change little by 1970, while Japan's share jumped from 4.5 percent in 1960 to 7.7 percent in 1970. But the Soviet economy was not the economic engine that Khrushchev had imagined.

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