Europe in Comunism

The Soviet Union after 1945: Economic Recovery and Political Repression
Mark Harrison*

Department of Economics, University of Warwick Centre for Russian & East European Studies, University of Birmingham Hoover Institution on War, Revolution, and Peace, Stanford University

Abstract Salient features of the Soviet Union after World War II include rapid economic recovery and the consolidation of Stalin’s rule. Both economic recovery and political consolidation are explained in large part by temporary factors arising from the war. Rapid postwar growth is attributed to the scope arising from a combination of preceding shocks that included the war itself but also stretched back into the prewar years. Political-economy considerations link Stalin’s capacity to organizing recovery while delaying reforms to the quality of repression, based on his exploitation of the war as a source of new information about the citizens over whom he ruled. JEL Codes: E1, N4, P2

* Mail: Department of Economics, University of Warwick, Coventry CV4 7AL, UK. Email: First draft: December 11, 2006. This version: April 14, 2010.

The Soviet Union after 1945: Economic Recovery and Political Repression
The story of the Soviet Union’s postwar years appears almost as remarkable as the story of the war.1 The USSR came to victory in 1945 only after first coming close to total defeat. In 1945 the Red Army occupied Tallinn, Riga, Vilnius, Warsaw, Berlin, Vienna, Prague, Budapest, and Sofia, but behind the army the country lay in ruins. Its people had suffered 25 million premature deaths. The survivors were profoundly weary. Many hoped for reconciliation and relaxation. Despite this, in the years immediately following, the Soviet economy and polity returned quickly to their previous form. There was renewed political and economic mobilization. Economic resilience was reflected in rapid Soviet postwar economic recovery. Political resilience can be seen in Stalin’s...