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Rule of inclusion: the politics of postwar Stalinist care in Magnitogorsk, 1945-1953.

After the Second World War, what many Soviet people desperately sought was care from the state. For the Stalin regime, caring for physically and emotionally wounded subjects was an urgent issue. The Soviet press and party journals frequently published articles defining caring for the needy as the crucial postwar responsibility of Soviet citizens. (1) Caring for the needy--including workers, war widows, families of servicemen, as well as demobilized veterans--emerged as a key Soviet discourse immediately after the war, indicating that provision of support for the needy was a top state priority.

Despite its significance, scholars have paid little attention to postwar social welfare practices because of the limited availability of research sources on the subject and because of the seemingly unimpressive quality and quantity of the welfare benefits provided by the Stalin government compared to those provided by western governments, especially the G.I. Bill in the United States, (2) and by the Khrushchev leadership in later years. A few scholars who have studied the Soviet welfare system characterize the postwar Stalin years as dominated by prewar welfare practices. (3) Seeing the Khrushchev era, especially 1956, as a turning point in terms of significant improvement in welfare benefits, (4) they have suggested that welfare practices during pre- and postwar Stalin years were dominated by the rule of "exclusion." By this rule, the Stalin regime either ruled out unproductive social entities, such as invalids and aged people, or significantly reduced welfare benefits for the less productive groups and appropriated them as rewards to stimulate workers' productivity. (5) In this sense, scholars have considered the Stalinist welfare practices as mere "rhetoric" and "propaganda" (6) or as a post-Stalin phenomenon, appearing in the Khrushchev era. (7) Although this productivity-oriented approach to Stalinist welfare policy explains one aspect of the welfare program, it does not provide a comprehensive view. Soviet scholars' evaluation of welfare in the postwar Stalin years was not so different from that of western scholars. Many Soviet works either focus on the expansion of welfare benefits during Khrushchev era or keep silent on the practices of postwar Stalin years. (8)

Departing from previous scholarship, recent works have enriched our understanding of Stalinist welfare practice by providing either a new perspective or more nuanced interpretations based on newly available archival sources. Portraying the prewar Stalinist welfare program as a modern-state project which aimed to enhance the social insurance system, Stephen Kotkin has valued the extensiveness of state-guaranteed welfare benefits (including housing, education, employment, and health care) compared with those provided not only by the pre-revolutionary Russian government, but also by other modern capitalist countries. (9) However, other scholars have paid more attention to the limits and ineffectiveness of Soviet welfare system. (10) During the immediate postwar years, the demobilized emerged as the group that received extensive welfare benefits from the state. (11) But Edele emphasizes that welfare benefits for war veterans considerably diminished after 1947, when the major demobilization process was over and the "threat" from the demobilized to the Soviet government seemed less realistic. (12) Some scholars have seen the pre-1956 welfare practice as very limited, excluding unproductive populations such as invalids since welfare was given to the labor force with the intention of stimulating productivity. (13) Although the productivity-oriented approach was an important characteristic of postwar Stalinist welfare practices, the approach explains only one aspect of the system. The motivations of the postwar welfare policy went beyond the economic concern of raising productivity.

Integrating and extending these recent studies, this research explores the politics of welfare--the ways that the Stalin government used the welfare system to achieve its socio-political goal, stability between the state and society, through a case study of Magnitogorsk, a city valued for its steel production during the postwar reconstruction era. In fact, a political motivation was deeply embedded in the implementation of the welfare practice. Directly following the war, Magnitogorsk authorities' foremost concern was the widening gap between officials and average citizens. Discourse which appeared in the official newspapers during the postwar Stalin years indicates that the growing gap between the officials and ordinary people, as well as the potential threat from veterans exposed to the western capitalist system, was one of the foremost concerns of the postwar Soviet government. How did the local government of the "socialist city" of the 1930s respond to the potentially regime-threatening issue? To what extent did the Stalin government achieve its socio-political goals through welfare practices?

In this article, I argue that the paternalistic ethos embodied by the rule of inclusion was one of the important features of the postwar welfare practice, through which the Stalin government succeeded in winning the popular support and narrowing the gap between regime and society. The paternalistic welfare practice allowed many inhabitants of Magnitogorsk to identify with official ideology and to nurse hopes for a better future.

Against "heartless attitudes"

Paternalist values were a large factor in the design and implementation of postwar welfare policies. Indeed, the Stalin government was forced to increase paternalistic care to mitigate the problems prompted by the war. After total war, like any other government, the Soviet regime realized that caring for its physically and psychologically exhausted citizens through an enhanced paternalistic approach was not only effective, but also essential to secure social and political stability. However, one of the biggest obstacles faced by the Stalin government in the implementation of their care was governmental and enterprise officials' indifference toward average people--or the "heartless attitude" (bezdushnoe otnoshenie) frequently described in official rhetoric of the party--which developed during the pressing days of the war. The Stalin leadership was keenly aware that the gap between officials and average citizens caused by the "heartless attitude" was widening and reaching a dangerous level. For the Stalin government, it was not difficult to find indicators of the seriousness of the widening fissure between the state and society. For example, immediately after the war, the editorial offices of central newspapers such as Izvestiia and Pravda received many letters from demobilized veterans who complained that bureaucratism worsened their housing problems. (14) The veterans were particularly critical of administrative officials' refusal to assign them the same housing that they had lived in before they left for the front. (15) Despite court decisions restoring their housing rights, many evacuees also complained that the court decisions were not implemented due to the indifference of officials. For example, Zvezdochkin, a former Moscow citizen who returned to the city with his sick wife from the region from which he was evacuated, complained that they had not yet received their room from the organization, despite multiple court orders. He blamed the passivity of the People's Commissariat of Justice (NKIu: Narodnyi komissariat Iustitsii). (16) Under these circumstances, the authorities made enormous propaganda efforts to instill in the minds of the Soviet people, especially officials, the idea that a humanitarian mindset and attitudes were crucial to the Soviet people.

The Magnitogorskii rabochii editorial for July 31, 1945 was one of the many articles that urged local officials to have attentive attitudes and compassion toward the needy. The editorial stressed that the model Soviet man was one of "great humanity (gumannost') and generosity (blagorodstvo)." It also urged Soviet citizens to be concerned about their fellows, develop compassion, and attend to the inquiries of workers, collective farm workers, and intellectuals in order to secure normal working and living conditions. (17) Citing Stalin's instructions on the necessity of developing attentive and sympathetic relationships with workers, another newspaper article in the same month criticized hardhearted officials and enterprise managers and urged the leaders of administrative institutions and enterprises to handle workers' complaints with "compassion." (18) Recognizing that during the war "our people (nash liudi) gave up many things and lived with hardship and shortages," an article in a party journal claimed in August 1945, "Now it is time to do all possible work to improve the living conditions of the people." (19) It also stressed that addressing the people's requests for material comforts and cultured living conditions was a critical responsibility since "the work of the Party is work with the people (rabota c liud' mi)." (20)

The authorities' emphasis on the people inevitably resulted in attacks on administrative and enterprise officials. For example, a July 1945 report of the city's social welfare administration criticized Danilenko, director of the municipal industrial complex, for the "heartless attitude" he displayed in the implementation of material service programs for the families of servicemen. According to the report, the director shifted the work position of a demobilized veteran's wife from foreman to rate-setter (regulator) without considering the difference in wages and the difficult economic condition of the veteran's family. As a result, their living conditions worsened "considerably." (21) A city soviet report highlighted an even worse case in a party meeting on March 7, 1946. Due to the "rude and bureaucratic attitudes" of Magnitostroi officials, a war veteran working at the enterprise did not receive a room for seven months, despite the resolution of the manager (V. E. Dymshits). (22) A city war administration report on March 3, 1947 shows another example of hard-hearted officials. Due to the indifference of the city's trade unions and economic organizations, the vice director of the city's People's Education administration failed to obtain any material aid for 185 poor school children who had to quit school during the first two months of the year due to a lack of clothing and shoes. (23) Reminding party members of the city party's resolution of February 1946 ("On the provision of help for the families of the fallen soldiers had been carried out unsatisfactorily"), a district party secretary quoted in the report even suggested "severe punishment of the officials who had heartless attitudes toward the complaints from the families of the fallen soldiers, servicemen, and demobilized." (24) Similarly, proposing severe punishment for a former MMK official who evicted a fallen soldier's family from housing, a 1949 city soviet executive committee (Gorispolkom) report criticized "heartless and thoughtless attitudes toward fair inquiry of working people" among enterprise officials. (25)

Rule of inclusion in practice

The authorities' criticism of "soulless" officials did not end with an urge to cultivate humanitarian attitudes. One of the dominant features characterizing postwar welfare practices was the extension of benefits to more recipients. Of course, the practice of inclusion was not carried out in a "perfect" way: sometimes the principle was undermined by extreme shortages. During the postwar famine from 1946 to 1947, the Stalin government excluded invalids and others who did not have labor capacities (elders and children) from rationing. (26) But it should be noted that the postwar exclusion was neither permanent nor regulated by decree. While this group of the population was excluded from rationing, they were at the same time included in the Stalinist welfare system. As we see in Table 1, in 1948 local authorities spent more than one third of the financial support allotted for the city's neediest people on unproductive groups such as invalids.
Table 1

The amount provided for extremely needy families (1948) (rubles)

Families of the fallen soldiers      103,950

Invalids of the Great Patriotic War  38,175

Families whose breadwinners died     7,550

Families of servicemen               2,600

Invalids of labor                    27,756

Source: AOAM, f. 202, op. 1, d. 12, 1. 9. "Informatsionnyi otcher: o
rabote Magnitogorskogo gorodskogo otdela sotsial'nogo obespecheniia po
vypolneniiu plana prakticheskikh meropriiatii za 1948 god."

Unlike the welfare policy in the prewar years, the postwar policy did not exclude the weakest groups in society simply because certain groups of people were less productive or unproductive. (27) Rather, it stipulated that war and labor invalids receive food and other material aid. Of course, inclusion of war invalids on the list of welfare benefits was not exactly surprising, considering that it was not a unique welfare practice of the Stalin government but rather taken for granted by then as the indisputable responsibility of modern states. But the continuing provision of considerable welfare benefits for war invalids even after 1948--when the government largely diminished welfare benefits for non-invalid veterans--and expanding the recipients of governmental welfare benefits to include labor invalids suggest that a big change occurred in Stalinist welfare policies, compared to the prewar Stalin years.

The rules of inclusion were further elaborated by the provision of welfare benefits according to need, rather than merit or hierarchy. Special monetary payments (edinovremennyie pomoshchi)--one-time financial support without payback obligations either from the government or enterprises assisting the governmental welfare administration--that the authorities or factory committees provided people facing unexpected difficulties instituted was one example of need-based aid. In Magnitogorsk war widows and the family members of invalids (although not limited to these subjects) (28) were the main recipients of financial support during the immediate postwar years. The recipients of special payment were selected as a result of either the inspection of city inhabitants by the local government and enterprises or its approval of requests from needy people. In many cases, the recipients facing "very difficult material conditions" received 100-200 rubles. For example, in 1948 a MMK worker who needed to purchase seed potatoes received 200 rubles from the factory committee. (29) But some recipients, depending on their condition, received more than 200 rubles. For example, a widow who needed to pay for her husband's funeral received 500 rubles; a sick pensioner received 300 rubles for resort treatment for his illness. (30)

The way that the MMK factory committee distributed "American gifts" (31) also reflected the rule of inclusion in social welfare practice. Although the factory administration maintained a hierarchical distribution system through which the administration allocated material incentives according to the significance of work and skill level, (32) the factory administration did not abandon its paternalistic responsibility. For example, in April 1945 the MMK mechanical workshop distributed about one fifth (222 out of 1186 items) of the American gifts that the workshop received from the local authorities to teenage workers, the least skilled and productive group among the factory labor force. (33)

Facing extreme shortages which dominated during the postwar years, local authorities had to employ several strategies to provide the needy people with material aid. Provision of sufficient welfare benefits for all needy inhabitants was a challenging, if not impossible task for the local government. Under these circumstances, local authorities provided material aid to carefully selected groups of people. The local party and secret police (NKGB) registered inhabitants' complaints about poor food and difficult living conditions by examining their outgoing telegrams and letters. Responding to urgency, the city party arranged help for people in dire material conditions. For example, in 1945 after the district party secretly reviewed a letter a teenage orphan worker of the MMK electrical-repair workshop sent to her aunt (in which she complained of difficult living conditions), the district party provided the teenage worker and her seven orphan roommates with packages of American gifts. (34) Likewise, the city party frequently inspected the material and living conditions of workers at the city's two major enterprises, the MMK and Magnitostroi, and selected groups to support.

Enhancing social responsibility

Another welfare strategy that the postwar Stalin government employed was the enhancement of society's role in providing aid for needy people. Facing a lack of resources and without the capacity to fully implement its welfare policies, the government developed this strategy through organization of social guardianship and patronage. On August 13, 1946 the Soviet Ministry announced a decree which regulated "the obligation of all leaders of Soviet organizations and enterprises to help welfare organizations and to improve systematically material and living conditions for the families of deceased soldiers, invalids, and servicemen." (35) Indeed, a considerable portion of the priorities and welfare benefits for demobilized veterans would stop by 1948, when the major demobilization process was over. (36) In this light, one can see the governmental strategy of enhancing society's role in welfare practices as a state strategy to shift its responsibility for caring for needy people to society (e.g., enterprises, social institutions such as schools, and local communities). As we will see below, however, the case study of Magnitogorsk suggests that, despite the seemingly decreased role of "father" or "distributor" of the state, the state did not fully abandon its paternalistic role. Rather, the local authorities continued to display that role to society even after 1948 as they persistently audited the implementation of welfare practices by local enterprises and social institutions.

Organization of voluntary aid drives--including "Sunday aid drives" (Voskresniki), "Saturday aid drives" (Subbotniki), and "Monthly aid drives" (Mesiiachiniki)--for the demobilized and invalids (including those who were injured from industrial accidents) was one of the tactics that the authorities employed to mobilize necessary resources at the local level. Already during the second half of 1945 the Magnitogorsk city administration had organized two "Sunday aid drives." (37) The collected items and money were handed to the city's department of social security so that the department could distribute them to needy demobilized families through factory and enterprise organizations. As the result of two drives, for example, Garment Factory No. l handed over 25 children's coats and 20 suits to the city's Social Security Department. (38) In 1946, the Magnitogorsk city government required all organizations in the city to collect supplementary clothing, money, shoes, rations (food), and firewood for demobilized soldiers through these aid drives. (39) This suggests that after the war, the authorities redefined or expanded Soviet volunteer labor, such as subbotniki, to include the provision of aid for the needy, such as the demobilized and invalids.

By 1948 the local authorities directed local enterprises to organize patronages, or sponsorships (shefstvo), and a board of guardians (opekunskie sovety) for the more systematic implementation of aid practices for their needy workers, such as demobilized veterans (including families of war invalids and fallen soldiers) and invalid workers from industrial accidents. (40) Like the aid drives, society (in this cases enterprises and other social institutions like schools) was responsible for the implementation of this welfare practice while the government supervised and audited their activities. The tasks of the opekunskie sovety were very extensive. They included the organization of sponsorships for war and labor invalids and the families of fallen soldiers; the organization of various forms of aid, such as material and financial support; the arrangement of jobs for invalids' and fallen soldiers' family members; and arrangement of educational programs to help them increase their skill level and earn more wages. (41) Local enterprises and institutions in Magnitogorsk had taken care of the families of the frontoviki during the war by providing not only material but also "moral" support. (42) The local authorities elaborated and developed this wartime practice of sponsorship in 1948, when the government reduced many parts of the social welfare benefits for veterans. In January 1948, the city's social welfare administration inspectors conducted a complete check on all families of fallen soldiers, war invalids, and labor invalids in Magnitogorsk. Determining the neediest families in the city through the inspection, the social welfare administration directed local enterprises to organize boards of guardians and sponsorships for inhabitants in extreme need. As a result, a total of 62 boards of guardians and 290 sponsorships were organized in Magnitogorsk during 1948. (43)

Many needy Magnitogorsk inhabitants received practical aid through the opekunskie sovety and shefstvo created in enterprises and other institutions. For example, the city's Mining and Metallurgical Institute acted as a patron for a category I war invalid by providing practical items, such as two cuts of wool, 200 kg of potatoes, a one-half-year-old cow, and 500 rubles of cash. (44) The board of guardians of the Calibrating Factory organized sponsorship for 11 fallen soldiers' families. The board offered seven new apartments to the families, arranged for the repair of 28 apartments, and provided a total of 3,850 rubles of financial support and free passes for children's camps and rest homes. The board also helped 23 people raise their skill levels through the arrangement of educational programs. (45) The board of guardians in the Magnitostroi Construction Administration Department No. 10 operated sponsorship for 12 families of the deceased and war invalids in 1948. These families received a total of 1,650 rubles of special financial support, repair services for nine apartments, 9.5 tons of coal, and three cubic meters of firewood through the sponsorship. The sponsorship even organized field workers to plow land for war-widows' families who did not have labor available for the fieldwork. (46) The board of guardians of the department arranged job placements for 23 people from deceased soldiers' families and 19 from war invalids' families. More importantly, the board established patronages for the 11 neediest families for whom employment helped a great deal. (47)

The board of guardians of the MMK, consisting of 14 members, distributed a total of 106,390 rubles in grants, and offered apartment repair service for 52 families in 1948. (48) The board arranged the distribution of 22 passes for sanitoriums and rest homes, as well as 252 passes for the Pioneer Camps and sanitary playgrounds. (49) Thanks to the help of the board of guardians, for example, Zakharova, a war widow, received extensive support including fuel, harvest help, 800 rubles of special financial support, two passes for the Pioneer Camp for her children, and job placement for her son. (50) In 1952 the MMK board provided the families of war and labor invalids and fallen soldiers with a total of 245,000 rubles of financial support, 79 apartments, and 690 free passes for children (among them, 256 children of war and labor invalids) to the Pioneer Camp. (51) According to a 1951 decree of the city administration committee ("On the employment and material help for invalid veterans, and invalids of labor, and families of fallen soldiers of the MMK"), the board of the MMK arranged job placement for 60 people from deceased soldiers' families and 32 war invalids in 1952. The boards worked to increase the labor qualification of 28 people so that they could make more wages when promoted to new positions at their workplaces. (52)

The MMK board of guardians arranged sponsorships at the workshop level. During 1948 the chemical-recovery workshop organized sponsorship for four families while the high-grade rolling (Sortoprokatnyi) workshop sponsored six families. (53) The heating system workshop became the patron for an unemployed war widow who had three children; the workshop employed her, repaired her apartment, provided 175 kilograms of seed potatoes, ploughed up 2000 square meters of land without charge, gave out free authorization for the Pioneer Camp for her children, and bought two tons of fuel and three tons of hay. The MMK Railroad Department's Loading workshop organized patronage for a category I war-invalid family. Through the sponsorship the workshop provided the family with an individual house (which costs 12,000 rubles), six tons of coal and two cubic meters of firewood, 1200 rubles for the farmstead fence, and two sets of beds. The workshop also provided help for the construction of a kitchen garden and gave out free passes for the sanatorium and 1000 rubles in special financial support. (54) Even though it is difficult to know the exact portion of needy inhabitants who received various forms of aid from the boards of guardians, it is clear that there were many very needy people who were able to get through their worst times by relying on the aid. Nevertheless, it should be noted that the authorities' encouragement of local enterprises to provide aid did not always lead to satisfactory results.

Responding to Stalinist Care

Enterprise managers: resistance to decreasing paternalism

Not surprisingly, some local enterprise managers refused to provide material help for their needy employees, most of whom were demobilized veterans, by claiming that provision of help for needy was the state's duty, not society's. Although local enterprise managers had provided material aid for war widows and families of invalids and servicemen faced with dire conditions during the war, some local enterprises managers resisted the local authorities' orders to provide material support or to employ war invalids afterwards. Local society had endured hardship and provided aid for the needy during the war but society's expectation for the state's paternalistic role reached its height once the war ended.

In June 1945, after its inspection, the social welfare administration of the Kirov district of Magnitogorsk ordered Danilenko, director of the Municipal Industrial Complex, to immediately correct defects in material and daily-life (material 'no-bytovyi) services for the families of demobilized veterans. But instead of carrying out the necessary improvements, he declared: "Let the party and trade union take care of the issue of securing (providing for) the families. For me 1 need to concentrate on carrying out the production plan." (55) A report shows that Danilenko was not the only enterprise manager who believed that helping demobilized veterans was not his or her task but that of the government. Chudikov, the director of the Meat Factory, firmly believed that taking care of the families was the work of the community, not enterprises. According to a report, the director "had done nothing" for the workers of demobilised veterans' families faced with problems. Although the roofs were leaking and some rooms in their mud houses were collapsing due to lack of renovation, the director did not provide any repair work for them. (56) Efanov, the representative of the MMK trade union, did not distribute goods allocated for invalid workers during January and February 1947. Instead, he tried to hand over those goods to the city's social welfare department. (57) Although there was no explanation for the official's behavior, it seems that he did not want to accept the extra responsibility, which he believed to be the state's.

Due to workshop leaders' indifference, the provision of aid through patronage or boards of guardianship had not begun in some MMK factory workshops even by the early 1950s. The MMK industrial-furnace repair workshop, the open-hearth furnace workshop, the rolling-metal workshop and the electricity workshop did not organize sponsorships. Thus, no one in these workshops was involved in providing aid for the needy families of the factory. (58) Even in workshops where patronages were organized, provision of welfare help for war and labor invalids was not carried out systematically since the patronage committee and workshop committee of the labor union often did not know who the needy families were. Thus, material help was given only to needy workers who reported their conditions to the workshop. (59) Although some MMK workshops did not react to petitions of invalid workers for three months, the factory leadership did not take necessary steps to have the workshop heads and patronage committees provide aid for the invalids. (60) Paradoxically, this "resistance" of enterprise officials can be seen as proof that the Stalin government had succeeded in instilling a paternalistic image of the state in Soviet society throughout the prewar and war years. (61)

Expressing gratitude for paternalistic care

Despite the difficulties faced by the Stalin government during the implementation of the welfare program, it achieved more than its minimal political goals--e.g., preventing serious popular upheavals--through relatively successful operation of welfare practices. Even though there were challenging times (especially the postwar famine years) and groups that criticized the government for its inability to provide material aid at a satisfactory level, the Magnitogorsk inhabitants who received certain kinds of benefits from the welfare system expressed their gratitude and support for Stalin and the Soviet political system. Even though the benefits were not impressive in terms of quantity and/or quality, the meager benefits seemed generous to recipients living in the extreme hardship of postwar years, as Osokina correctly pointed out. (62) Moreover, it would be hard to deny the positive impact that the authorities' humanitarian/paternalistic criticism of officials' "heartless attitudes" had on city inhabitants' perceptions of the state. The Soviet people's responses to governmental aid would be psychological to some extent, rather than solely materialistic.

The city residents' expressions of gratitude toward Stalin and the Soviet government reflect the population's support for the Soviet system. In 1945 a war widow and mother of four children, Usova, who had suffered from poor living conditions, claimed "I now live well" after receiving material support from the government. With war-widow status, she received grain seeds and monetary support. According to a city soviet report, with the financial support she was able to purchase two goats, "with which she considerably improved her living conditions." (63) In this situation, the widow could also make additional income by selling milk or other dairy products from the goats at the local markets. For the standard of the time, having a goat or a cow was a big privilege. Futman, a former college professor who taught in Magnitogorsk during the postwar years, confirms the importance of owing cattle, especially for widows who had to cultivate the fields by themselves:
  After the war we had to reconstruct the economy of the western part
  of the USSR, where everything was destroyed. Thus even the cattle
  were transported from the eastern region to the west. There were
  women workers who plowed for themselves because the number of cattle
  was small [there]. Young livestock such as calves, cows, and sheep,
  were driven [to them]. When the livestock were distributed to the
  people [in the western region], they even cried out from joy. (64)

Many veterans and their wives sent thank-you letters to newspaper editorial offices, expressing their gratitude to the local social welfare administration that had taken care of their families by providing material support during the war years. (65) Senior sergeant Loktionov stated in his letter to Magnitogorskii rabochii: "The Social Welfare Department of the Ordzhonikidze district and the people of the motor transport depot of the MMK surrounded my family with care and attention ... the Social Welfare Department provided essential help." (66)

Messages and slogans that voters wrote on their ballots often reflect popular opinion. (67) Thanks to newly declassified archival documents, we now have access to these messages. Although Sarah Davies highlights only hostile messages on the ballot papers from the elections of the 1930s, (68) the secret reports released from the Cheliabinsk archive reveal that many voters wrote patriotic and politically loyal messages and slogans (including praises for Stalin, the Party, or the government) on their ballots along with other messages (including complaints of shortages, denunciation of certain candidates, and requests for what they needed) during the elections of the postwar Stalin era.

To what extent are the archival materials--party and security organs' reports dealing with the public mood--reliable sources reflecting popular sentiments? As historians have recently alerted us, it is possible that evidence in the reports on the public mood was frequently edited. (69) Depending on the motivations of the compilers, the features of the reports could differ drastically depending on whether they intended to emphasize the negative or positive. The secret-police reports by the NKVD usually tended to emphasize the negative attitudes of the people since the main responsibility of the organ was to identify those holding hostile views. In contrast, the Party reports usually focused more on the positive mood of the people since the party officials wanted to demonstrate their propaganda activities functioned effectively. (70) Indeed, the party reports on the ballot messages included relatively small portions of negative (otritsatel'ny) sentiments. (71) Despite the possibility of this bias, it does not necessarily mean that the messages themselves are false. Rather, the report would be one of several good sources demonstrating types of popular mood.

In February 1951, one war invalid of Magnitogorsk wrote a note on her ballot for the election of the delegates for the Supreme Soviet: "I vote for beloved leader and good comrade Stalin, giving heartfelt thanks and Bolshevik greetings for the whole care. I, an invalid pensioner, live by his care. I just hope from my heart that dear Stalin is healthy and lives long, long time. Pensioner, A. N. Murashkina." (72) Similarly, Shteingart also wrote on her ballot, "I, daughter of the Soviet Union, invalid of Great Patriotic War. ... thank you, Stalin (Shteingart Eva Markovna)." (73)

Of course, not all needy people in the city received material and moral support from the local government and enterprises. In comparison with later years, the welfare system during the period was still underdeveloped. Some people who did not receive sufficient welfare benefits expressed their complaints on their ballots. For example, a message on a ballot reads: "Take care of the invalids of the Patriotic War!" (74) Another message, which was probably written by a person who was neither an invalid nor a war veteran, reads: "I request care for the old who have not any relatives, just like taking care (otmetit') of invalids and the families of the Red Army." (75) In some sense, however, this message implies that the local government systematically guaranteed a certain level of welfare benefits for invalids and war veterans, though they might not have been very impressive.

The postwar welfare practices along with the emphasis on the humanitarian spirit caused those who received welfare benefits to have grateful attitudes towards the government. In this sense, the strategy was successful and allowed the citizens to maintain positive views of the Stalinist system and the country's future during the hard times of the postwar years.


There is no doubt that providing needy people with material help was a challenging task for the Stalin government during the postwar years when famine and shortages undermined the state's capacity for paternal care. No matter how dire the postwar conditions became for the government, taking care of its subjects was a desperate issue that was closely related to the issue of socio-political stability and Soviet legitimacy. After the war, the large number of war veterans, war invalids, and war widows--many of whom needed urgent material help--remained the social groups that could undermine stability. To exacerbate the situation from the party's point of view, "heartless" officials could be catalysts aggravating exhausted local people's resentment against the authorities.

These postwar socio-political conditions forced the local authorities to develop more paternalistic features in welfare policy (i.e., provision of need-based benefits) than before. Compared to the prewar Stalin government's welfare practices, implemented mainly on the basis of merit (e.g., provision of welfare benefits as incentives to encourage workers' labor productivity), the postwar practice was more inclusive and paternalistic. The government included not only war invalids, who were officially deserving of welfare benefits from the state, but also the least productive, such as labor invalids and teenage workers, on the list of recipients of material and monetary aid. Although the hierarchical distribution of welfare benefits remained a key feature of postwar Stalinist distribution strategies--as it had before and during the war--a need-based distribution embodied by paternalistic ethos was also an important part of postwar welfare practices. Seen in this light, the postwar Stalin era, rather than the Khrushchev era, was a turning point in the development of the inclusive nature of Soviet welfare policy.

Given its limited capacity, the Stalin government was strategic in carrying out its inclusive welfare policy. In a major move, it shifted the state's paternalistic responsibility onto local enterprises by pressuring them to provide aid for needy employees: this practice can be seen as the regime's offloading of its paternalistic burden to society. But this did not necessarily mean that the state completely abandoned its paternalistic responsibility. Indeed, the local government and party persistently directed and inspected the process of distribution of welfare aid to the recipient.

No matter whether some enterprise managers saw the state's pressure on local enterprises as the state offloading its responsibility on them, the Stalin government succeeded in instilling its paternalistic image among its citizens. Recipients of need-based welfare benefits expressed their gratitude to the Stalin government for its paternal care. The increased inclusiveness in welfare practice (compared to the prewar years) was one of the improvements that Magnitogorsk citizens experienced in their daily lives by the early 1950s. Along with the emergence of other signs of "normalization" in daily life (e.g., construction of new apartment complexes in the city, price drops, (76) improved food supplies, and decrease in state terror (77)), the postwar Stalinist system of care enabled local people to internalize official ideology and maintain their belief in the progress of Soviet society toward communism. (78) Saldaev, a former MMK worker, recalled, "Then, we had a principle of socialism and communism. We lived badly. But it was alright. [We believed that] our children would live well [in the future]. (79) The postwar Stalin government's skillful and vigorous utilization of welfare policy and its efforts to portray the government as a moral polity allowed the people of Magnitogorsk to maintain their trust in the Stalin leadership and their hopes for the future, despite the shortages and hardships that they faced in their daily lives. In this sense, Soviet citizens' trust for the paternalistic government, rather than their exhaustion from the postwar hardship as some historians argue, (80) seems to be a more likely reason why there were no serious protests against the government after the war.

Institute of Russian Studies

Seoul, South Korea


I would like to thank Lewis H. Siegelbaum, Mark Edele, William Chase, Christopher Burton, Greta Bucher, and the anonymous reviewers for Journal of Social History for their critical reading of earlier drafts and perceptive comments.

(1.) For example, see "Moral'nyi oblik sovetskogo cheloveka" Pravda, 30 July 1945; "Chelovek-samyitsennyi kapital sovetskogo obshchestva," Partiinoe stroitel' stvo, 17-18 (Sept. 1945): 1-8; V. Kuznetsov, "Zabota ob udovletvorenii material'no-bytovykh nuzhd rabochikh i sluzhashchikh--osnovnaia zadacha profsoiuzov," Partiinoe stroitel'stvo, 21-22 (Nov. 1945): 19-29; N. Potolichev, "Bol'she vnimaniia voprosam kul'tury i byta trudiashchikhsia," Partiinoe stroitel'stvo, 23-24 (Dec. 1945):19-22.

(2.) J. Eric Duskin, Stalinist Reconstruction and the Confirmation of a New Elite, 1945-1953 (New York, 2000), p. 18. Michael J. Bennett, When Dreams Came True: The GI Bill and the Making of Modern America (Washington, D.C., 2000).

(3.) For example, see Bernice Q. Madison, Social Welfare in the Soviet Union (Stanford, 1968), pp. 223-224; Gaston V. Rimlinger, Welfare Policy and Industrialization in Europe, America, and Russia (New York, 1971), pp. 245, 269-280; Alastair McAuley, Economic Welfare in the Soviet Union: Poverty, Living Standards, and Inequality (Madison, 1979), p. 3.

(4.) Indeed, the Khrushchev government introduced significantly improved welfare policies in 1956. For example, the increase in old-age and permanent disability pensions raised the average rate of all pensions by 81 percent. Also, the period of paid maternity leave was extended from 70 to 112 days. In 1956 wage, working hour, and employment reforms were also launched. Alec Nove, "Is the Soviet Union a Welfare State?" in Soviet Society: A Book of Reading, eds. Alex Inkeles and Kent Geiger (Boston, 1961), pp. 503-506.

(5.) See Gaston V. Rimlinger, "The Trade Union in Soviet Social Insurance: Historical Development and Present Functions," Industrial and Labor Relations Review 14 (April 1961), 401, 405; Madison, Social Welfare in the Soviet Union, p. 57; Dorena Caroli, "Bolshevism, Stalinism, and Social Welfare (1917-1936)," International Review of Social History 48 (2003): 51.

(6.) Rimlinger, Welfare Policy and Industrialization in Europe, America, and Russia, p. 254.

(7.) Madison, Social Welfare in the Soviet Union, pp. 95-96.

(8.) For examples, see L. A. Motylev, Gosudarstvennoe strakhovanie v SSSR i problemy ego razvitiia (Moskva, 1972), pp. 108-109; Sotsial'noe strakhovanie v SSSR (Moskva, 1973), pp. 62-69.

(9.) Stephen Kotkin, Magnetic Mountain: Stalinism as a Civilization (Berkeley, 1995), pp. 18-21.

(10.) For example, see Mark Edele, "Soviet Veterans as an Entitlement Group, 1945-1955," Slavic Review 65 (2006); Beater Fieseler, "The Bitter Legacy of the 'Great Patriotic War': Red Army Disabled Soldiers under Last Stalinism," in Late Stalinist Russia: Society Between Reconstruction and Reinvention, ed. by Juliane Furst (London and New York, 2006), pp. 46-61. See also Christopher Burton, "Soviet Medical Attestation and the Problem of Professionalisation under Late Stalinism, 1945-1953," Europe-Asia Studies 57 (2005); Donald Filtzer, "The Standard of Living of Soviet Industrial Workers in the Immediate Postwar Period, 1945-1948," Europe-Asia Studies 51 (1999).

(11.) Edele, "Soviet Veterans as an Entitlement Group," 124.

(12.) Ibid., 125. Not only Edele but many scholars have pointed out that the demobilized veterans who saw the world outside the USSR during the war were seen as the "potential danger" to the Soviet government. They were frequently compared to the Decembrists of World War II. E. S. Seniavskaia, Frontovoe pokolenie, 1941-1945: istoriko-psikhologicheskoe issledovanie (Moskva, 1995); Elena Zubkova, Russia After the War: Hopes, Illusions, and Disappointments, 1945-1957 (Armonk, 1998), p. 25.

(13.) For example, see Gaston V. Rimlinger, "The Trade Union in Soviet Social Insurance: Historical Development and Present Functions," Industrial and Labor Relations Review 14 (April 1961): 401, 405; Madison, Social Welfare in the Soviet Union, p. 57; Caroli, "Bolshevism, Stalinism, and Social Welfare," 51; Fieseler, "The Bitter Legacy of the 'Great Patriotic War,'" pp. 46, 58.

(14.) "Svodka, no. 61. otdela pisem redaktsii "IZVESTII" (Gosudarstvennyi Arkhiv Rossiiskoi Federatsii (GARF), f. 8131, op. 22, d. 5, 1. 170). It is unclear that how many letters these editorial offices received from demobilized veterans. In July 1945, however, the editorial office of Izvestiia received 1,500 letters from Soviet citizens. Of those letters, about one-third were about housing. "Svodka, No. 38-39, 59, 61 otdela pisem redaktsii "IZVESTII." Ibid., 11. 38-39, 89, 90.

(15.) Ibid., I.170.

(16.) Ibid., I. 89.

(17.) Joonseo Song, "Redefining Sovietness during the Postwar Stalin Era," Seoyangsaron (The Western History Review) 99 (December 2008): 160. The article was a republication of a Pravda article ("Moral'nyi oblik sovetskogo cheloveka") of July 30 1945.

(18.) Ibid. The title of the article is "Chutko otnosit'sia k zhalovam trudiashchkhsia," Magnitogorskii rabochii, 10 July 1945.

(19.) "Pered novoi piatiletkoi," Partiinoe stroitel'stvo, no. 16 (August, 1945): 8.

(20.) Ibid.

(21.) AOAM, f. 10 op. 1, d. 383, I. 165.

(22.) AOAM, f. 10, op. I. d. 402, 1. 129ob (3/7/1946). Subsequently, orders were given to correct the problems. OGAChO, f. P-234, op. 21, d. 83,1. 18 (3/3/1947).

(23.) OGAChO, f. P-234, op. 21, d. 83, I. 19. Out of those students, 42 were from MMK workers' families, 86 from Magnitostroi families, and 57 from other institutions and enterprises. Ibid.

(24.) Ibid., 1. 18.

(25.) AOAM, f. 10, op. 1, d. 415,1. 92 ob.

(26.) Filtzer, "The Standard of Living of Soviet Industrial Workers," 1022.

(27.) For an example of progressive exclusion and marginalization of the disabled from welfare benefits during the 1930s, see Caroli, "Bolshevism, Stalinism, and Social Welfare," 45.

(28.) For example, repatriated citizens received special financial support just as war invalids did. AOAM, f. 10, op. 1, d. 409, I. (1947).

(29.) AOAM, f. 118, op. 1. d. 203, II. 34 (1948).

(30.) Ibid., II. 34-35. The average monthly wage of Soviet industrial workers was between 626 and 687 rubles in 1948. Filtzer, Soviet Workers and Late Stalinism, p. 235

(31.) These were packages containing small items like socks and stockings given by the U.S. government to the Soviet people as a part of the aid program of the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration (UNRRA).

(32.) Joonseo Song, "The Decline of the Socialist Competition and the Formation of the Postwar 'Big Deal,' 1944-1953," Slav Hakbo, Zhurnal slavianovedeniia 24 (2009).

(33.) OGAChO, f. P-234, op. 19, d. 79, 1. 130ob (5/19/1945).

(34.) Ibid., 1.96 (4/18/1945).

(35.) OGAChO, f. P-234, op. 21, d. 83, 1. 18ob (3/3/1947).

(36.) Edele, "Soviet Veterans as an Entitlement Group," 125. Edele sees 1947-48 as the watershed in providing benefits for veterans since later the state almost stopped its support for the program.

(37.) OGAChO, f. P-234, op. 19, d. 92, 1. 50.

(38.) Ibid., II. 48, 50.

(39.) AOAM f. 10, op. 1, d. 383, II. 164ob, 167ob. It seems that collecting aid materials through the "Sunday drives" was not satisfactory, though. In early 1946 the city administration set a yearly plan for searching for additional sources for aid materials for the extremely needy families of fallen soldiers. OGAChO, f. P-234, op. 19, d. 92, 1. 59.

(40.) AOAM, f. 202, op. 1, d. 12, 11. 1, 8-9.

(41.) Ibid., 1. 6.

(42.) Magnitogorskii rabochii, June 17, 1945. By the end of the war, many servicemen, war widows, and war invalids whose family members received material and monetary support through the patronage organizations sent letters to the editorial office of the local newspapers, like Magnitogorskii rabochii, to express their gratitude to local enterprises, institutions, and administration that provided aid during the war. Ibid.

(43.) AOAM, f. 202, op. 1, d. 12,1. 6.

(44.) Ibid.

(45.) Ibid.

(46.) Ibid., II. 7-8.

(47.) Ibid., I. 7.

(48.) Ibid., I. 6.

(49.) Ibid., I. 7.

(50.) Ibid.

(51.) AOAM, f. 10, op. 1, d. 443, I. 104 ob. (12/1952).

(52.) Ibid.

(53.) AOAM, f. 202, op. 1, d. 12, I. 6 (1948).

(54.) Ibid.

(55.) AOAM, f. 10, op. 1, d. 383, I. 165 (7/19/1945).

(56.) Ibid., I. 165 ob. See also OGAChO, f. P-234, op. 19, d. 92, I. 161 (10/10/1945).

(57.) OGAChO, f. P-234, op. 21, d. 83, 1. 18 ob (3/3/1947).

(58.) AOAM, f. 10, op. 1, d. 443, 1. 104 ob. (12/1952).

(59.) Ibid., I. 105.

(60.) Ibid.

(61.) Some voters reminded the local candidates for the local soviet that caring for invalids, servicemen, and the fallen soldiers' families, including their children, was the state's responsibility. OGAChO, f. P-234, op. 25, d. 68, 1. 19, 20.

(62.) Elena Osokina, Our Daily Bread: Socialist Distribution and the Art of Survival in Stalin's Russia, 1927-1941 (Armonk, 2001), p. 93.

(63.) OGAChO, f. P-234, op. 19, d. 92, 1. 47.

(64.) Interview with Futman, January 18, 2003 (Magnitogorsk).

(65.) "Obzor pisem: vypolniaiut svoi dolg," Magnitogorskii rabochii, June 17, 1945.

(66.) Ibid.

(67.) Some voters also either wrote messages on the ballot boxes or put small notes (zapiski), such as petitions, in the ballot boxes during the elections. For example, see OGAChO, f. P-288, op. 17, d. 169, 1. 140; OGAChO, f. P-234, op. 25, d. 68, I. 4. (2/25/1951).

(68.) Sarah Davies, Popular Opinion in Stalin's Russia: Terror, Propaganda and Dissent, 1934-1941 (Cambridge, 1997), p. 112.

(69.) Davies, Popular Opinion, p. 13; Zubkova, Russia After the War, p. 7.

(70.) Davies, Popular Opinion, p. 14.

(71.) The report by the party secretary of the gorkom on the messages written on the ballots of the Supreme Soviet election held in February 1951 indicated that the proportion of the messages that the party categorized as "negative messages" was 9 percent (32 out of 357). For the party report on the local soviet election in February 1953 it was only 4 percent (9 out of 224). OGAChO, f. P-288, op. 17, d. 169, II. 129-140 (3/2/1953); f. P-234, op. 25, d. 68, II. 4-27.

(72.) OGAChO, f. P-234, op. 25, d. 68, 1, 9.

(73.) Ibid., I. 24.

(74. Ibid., I. 19.

(75.) Ibid.

(76.) Even though the reduction in price was not enormous, the frequent price drops during the postwar Stalin years (i.e., 13 times drops during 5 years, from 1946 to 1950) were sufficient to give many people a positive impression of the Stalin government. S. Kara-murza, Sovetskaia tsivilizatsiia: ot velikoi pobedy do nashikh dnei. Vol. 2 (Moskva, 2001), p. 7. Mikheev, who lived through the postwar years in Magnitogorsk, recalled the postwar price drop as the first thing that he remembered about the period. Interview with N. A. Mikheev, January 15, 2003, Magnitogorsk.

(77.) The "warning" of the Cheliabinsk oblast public prosecutor (prokuror) and senior advisor of justice (starshii sovetnik iustitsii) to the Magnitogorsk party secretary symbolically shows the Stalin government's effort to decrease unnecessary state violence after the war. In his official letter of September 1950, the public prosecutor urged the Magnitogorsk party secretary to stop the "vicious practice (porochnaia praktika) groundless arrests and bringing innocent citizens to trial which had continued despite repeated instructions of the Cheliabinsk obkom since March 1948." OGAChO, f. P-234, op. 24, d. 11, I. 60 (9/21/1950). Indeed, this example represented the postwar trend of decrease in state terror. The number of people convicted for political crimes, which reached a total of 123,294 in the Soviet Union in 1946, began to decrease throughout the rest of the postwar Stalin years. Accordingly, the number was only a total of 28,800 (or a 76.6 percent decrease from 1946) in 1952. The number of people convicted in 1946--the second largest number during 1939-1953--was only 15.5 percent of that in 1937, the peak year of the Great Terror. V. P. Popov, "Gosudarstvennyi terror v sovetskoi Rossii, 1923-1953 gg." Otechestvennye arkhivy 2 (1992): 28.

(78.) During the Supreme Soviet election of 1951, many voters in Magnitogorsk wrote anonymous messages on their ballots indicating their belief in the progress. OGAChO, f. P-234, op. 25, d. 68, 1. 6. This indicates that many local inhabitants identified themselves, at least partially, with official values. One can see these messages as simply a superficial form of "speaking Bolshevik"--using official language in public expressions, without internalization of the official values. But, it is unlikely that all of these messages were written with the expectation of benefits since many of them did not contain voters' names.

(79.) Interview with Saldaev. July 5, 2001, Magnitogorsk.

(80.) For example, see Fieseler, "The Bitter Legacy of the 'Great Patriotic War,"' p. 57.

By Joonseo Song

Hankuk University of Foreign Studies
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Author:Song, Joonseo
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Date:Mar 22, 2010
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