Siberia: Under the Soviets
Under the Soviets
Under the Soviet government, Siberia, especially the Ural-Kuznetsk complex, underwent dramatic economic development. Under the First Five-Year Plan (1928–33), forced labor was instrumental in mining coal and building the iron and steel complex of the Kuznetsk Basin. In addition, part of the agricultural colonization of Siberia was carried out by the forced resettlement of large segments of the Russian rural population, notably the expropriated kulaks (wealthier peasants). As a result, Siberia's population doubled between 1914 and 1946. Forced labor was also employed extensively in the E Siberian gold mines. Parts of the vast Siberian concentration and forced-labor camp network established by Stalin may still exist, but many of the political prisoners were released by Mikhail Gorbachev.
Siberia's economic development increased dramatically during World War II with the transfer of many industries from European USSR to the other side of the Urals, where they would be less vulnerable to German seizure. Siberian grain was essential in enabling the Soviet Union to resist the German wartime onslaught despite the loss of valuable agricultural areas in W USSR.
Postwar industrialization of Siberia continued at a rapid pace, with special concentration on SW Siberia and the Lake Baykal region. Siberian agriculture, which suffered during the Stalinist collectivization campaign, was revived in the mid-1950s by Premier Khrushchev's “virgin lands” program, focusing on cultivation in the steppes of SW Siberia and N Kazakhstan. The Seven-Year Plan (1958–65) emphasized construction of large thermal and hydroelectric power plants in Siberia and elsewhere.
The resulting destruction of natural areas and the gross waste of resources led to strong environmental opposition. Centered on the issue of the polluting of Lake Baykal, Siberian environmental groups became some of the first organizations to challenge the Communist party's decisions openly. Indigenous peoples also protested the destruction of their autonomous regions. With the fall of the USSR, Siberia became more open to foreign travel and trade, while local Siberians sought to distance themselves from the Russian government in Moscow. The region also suffered population losses that were more substantial than those suffered by Russia as a whole.
Sections in this article:
- Under the Soviets
- During the Revolution
- Russian Settlement and Administration
- Russian Conquest
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