Industry in Russia during the last 100 years.
The industrialization of Russia (the USSR) – is a paradox of the XX century. The country sacrificed a lot to expedite its development, ruthlessly destroying its agricultural structure. In spite of the act, that Russia became an industrial country in an extremely short time, it did not catch up with its main competitors, and by 2000 had almost the same position, as it had in 1900, i.e. remained the semi–developed, semi–dependent country. In the beginning of the XX century the Russian Empire produced 5% of the world industrial production and was in the 5th position among other developed countries. By the end of the XX century, the share of the CIS decreased to 3% (the Russian Federation – to 2%), which is about the 6–8th position in the world (the 8–12th – for Russia alone).
During 100 years, there were numerous arguments regarding the role of industry and the strategy (model) of industrialization: market–consumer or military–mobilization. This was typical for transitory periods, including 1920–s and 1950–s (The author showed in this paper, that these periods coincided with transitional periods of the industry – the so called long waves of N.D.Kondrat’ev). Due to some historical circumstances, the second strategy overtook the initiative. Speaking of industry itself, its development was extremely erratic.
Prior to the revolution, many people thought that agriculture was the true way of development for Russia, rather than industrial capitalism with all its flaws. Nevertheless, the latter was developing quite fast. Before and during WW I, the “calico” country attempted to become a country of heavy industry, but did not have enough time to complete this spurt.
During 1917–1922 the Russian industry suffered from great crisis (by 5–7 times, and in some cases by 15–30 times, decrease), which was much more severe, than that of agriculture. Nevertheless, the industry was recovered very fast as soon as began to produce and sell with great profit (1925 was the year of the greatest production of the whole XX century). The New Economic Policy rejuvenated industry. However, this new policy did not have time for or was not able to provide a new impulse for the industry, to modernize it technically and structurally.
This task was accomplished by the era of accelerated industrialization that happened during 1930–50-s. Based on mobilization, enormous efforts and costs it formed the basis for a great industrial leap of the USSR (its rate, based on new data, were twice lower than the official figures, but higher than in all other countries, except Japan). The accelerated industrialization contributed to defeating of Nazi Germany and made Russia the second industrial giant in the world after the USA. However, even after Russia became a superpower, it did not completely dispose the syndrome of technical weakness and “catching–up” military–mobilization type of development.
Even in the 1960–s, nuclear and missile–space breakthroughs seemed to be the indications of Soviet scientific and technical superiority. However, the world energy crisis of the 1970–s had a reverse impact on the USSR, compared to what happened in the West, where development of new technologies allowed to overcome this situation. The USSR used the hard currency secured from selling of oil for importing grain, construction of the Baikal-Amur railroad, and for procuring more raw materials and fuels. The USSR produced more coal and steel, oil and cement than the USA, but lagged behind in such fields as electronics, communication etc. At the same time, Russian sources for extensive industrial growth became nearly exhausted.
Starting from the end of the 1980-s national economy stepped into a new, less profound than during the Civil War, but more prolonged crisis. Thus on a background of about 2-fold recession and accelerated de–industrialization the Russian industry became more primitive on its branch and technological structure. The industrial boom since 1999 in itself does not provide radical reconstruction and modernization.
Once again our industry is facing a difficult task of finding a decent place within the country and in the world, the choice of developmental strategy and a model of the future governed by a tough competition. Whether such solutions can be found, we shall see it in the XXI century. At present, we can only paraphrase the words of a classic of science and a protagonist of the Russian industrialization D.I. Mendeleev who said 100 years ago: a weak industry is unacceptable for Russia and shameful for our people.
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