English translation of the article «Экономическая цена Победы в Великой Отечественной войне» by VY Katasonov — TML Weekly site
The West continues to disavow the USSR’s momentous contribution to the defeat of Nazi Germany and her satellites. But there is documentary proof that can refute any speculation on this subject. Suffice it to point to the economic price of the victory won by the people of the Soviet Union.
The war caused an astronomical level of financial damages to the USSR. On Nov. 2, 1942, the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR issued a decree establishing the Extraordinary State Commission for Identifying and Investigating Crimes Perpetrated by the German-Fascist Invaders and Their Accomplices, and the Damage Inflicted by Them on the Citizens, Collective Farms, Social Organizations, State Enterprises, and Institutions of the USSR during the Great Patriotic War.
After the war, that Commission published the following statistics: the German-Fascist invaders and their accomplices razed 1,710 towns and more than 70,000 villages and hamlets, depriving approximately 25 million people of shelter. They destroyed about 32,000 factories, 84,000 schools and other educational institutions, and demolished and looted 98,000 collective farms. In addition, they destroyed 4,100 railway stations, 36,000 communications facilities, 6,000 hospitals, 33,000 outpatient clinics, treatment centers, and infirmaries, 82,000 primary and secondary schools, 1,520 specialized high schools, 334 institutions of higher education, 43,000 libraries, 427 museums, and 167 theaters. In the agricultural sector, 7 million horses, 17 million head of cattle, and tens of millions of pigs, sheep, goats, and poultry were appropriated or killed. The country’s transportation infrastructure endured the wreckage of 65,000 kilometers of rail lines and 13,000 railway bridges, and in addition 15,800 steam- and gasoline-powered locomotives, 428,000 rail cars, and 1,400 ships were destroyed, severely damaged, or stolen.
German firms such as Friedrich Krupp AG, Reichswerke Hermann Göring, Siemens-Schuckert, and IG Farbenindustrie pillaged the occupied territories of the Soviet Union.
The material damages inflicted on the Soviet Union by the Nazi invaders were equal to approximately 30% of the country’s national wealth, and that number rose to 67% in the areas under occupation. The Extraordinary State Commission’s report was presented at the Nuremberg trials in 1946. A summary of the direct material losses is given in the following table.
The Magnitude of the Direct Material Losses Suffered by the Soviet Union as a Result of the War Years of 1941-1945
Type of loss
Quantitative estimates of the losses caused by destruction, damage, and theft
Core manufacturing assets
|Metal-cutting equipment (each)||175,000|
|Sledgehammers and presses (each)||34,000|
|Coal cutters (each)||2,700|
|Electrical plants (kW of power)||5 million|
|Blast furnaces (each)||62|
|Open-hearth furnaces (each)||213|
|Textile machines (each)||45,000|
|Spindles for spinning (each)||3 million|
|Horses (per head)||7 million|
|Cattle (per head)||17 million|
|Pigs (per head)||20 million|
|Goats and sheep (per head)||27 million|
|Tractors (individual units)||137,000|
|Tractor-mounted seed drills (each)||46,000|
|Threshing machines (each)||35,000|
|Livestock buildings (each)||285,000|
|Planted croplands (in hectares)||505,000|
|Vineyards (in hectares)||153,000|
Transportation and communications
|Rail lines (in kilometers)||65,000|
|Rail cars (each)||428,000|
|Railway bridges (each)||13,000|
|River vessels (each)||8,300|
|Telegraph and telephone lines (in kilometers)||2,078|
|Urban housing (individual buildings)||1,209|
|Rural housing (individual buildings)||3.5 million|
Source: Nikolai Voznesensky. Voennaya Ekonomika SSSR v Period Otechestvennoi Voiny. — Moscow: Gospolitizdat, 1948.
These numbers do not reflect all the damages incurred. They show only the losses resulting from the direct destruction of property owned by Soviet citizens, collective farms, social organizations, and state enterprises and institutions. This total does not include losses such as the financial costs to the national government due to the partial or complete suspension of the work of state-owned companies, collective farms, and private citizens, nor the cost of the products and supplies confiscated by the German occupation forces, the military expenses incurred by the USSR, or the financial losses that ensued from the stagnation in the country’s overall economic development as a result of enemy operations between 1941 and 1945. Data is provided below on these additional economic damages.
The Toll on Soviet Manufacturing and Agricultural Production Due to Occupation and the Destruction of Industries in the Occupied Territories
(Until the End of the War)
|Type of product||Amount of loss*|
|1. Coal||307 million tons|
|2. Electricity||72 billion kWh|
|3. Steel||38 million tons|
|4. Aluminum||136,000 tons|
|5. Metal-cutting equipment||90,000 units|
|6. Sugar||63 million centners|
|7. Grain||11 billion poods|
|8. Potatoes||1.922 million centners|
|9. Meat||68 million centners|
|10. Milk||567. million centners|
* The losses are estimated as the shortfall in production. The annual level of production in 1940 was used as the basis for the calculations. Source: Nikolai Voznesensky. Voennaya Ekonomika SSSR v Period Otechestvennoi Voiny. — Moscow: Gospolitizdat, 1948.
Even before the end of the Second World War, it was clear that the Soviet Union was bearing the brunt of its economic burden. After the war, various calculations and estimates were made, which only served as confirmation of that obvious fact. The West German economist Bernhard Endrucks conducted a comparative assessment of state spending for military purposes over the duration of the war by the primary belligerents. The French economist A. Claude produced comparative estimates of the direct economic losses (destruction and theft of property) suffered by the primary belligerents. We have summarized these estimates in the following table.
State Military Expenditures and the Direct Economic Damages Suffered by the Primary Belligerents During the Second World War (In Billions of Dollars)
|State military spending*||Direct economic damages**||Total economic loss****|
|(1)||(2)||(3) = (1) + (2)|
* At current prices. **At 1938 prices. ***Along with Canada. **** The dollar’s purchasing power in 1938 was higher than during the war years of 1939-1945. Therefore, this total will be somewhat overvalued if given in 1938 prices, but somewhat undervalued if given in today’s prices. That said, we believe that this summation provides a fair picture of the aggregate losses these countries experienced. Source: Istoriya Mirovoi Ekonomiki/ Edited by Georgy Polyak and Anna Markova — Moscow: YUNITI, 2002, pgs. 307-315.
Exactly 30% of all the state military spending by the seven primary belligerents during the Second World War can be attributed to the USSR. The combined state spending by the allies (USSR, USA, Great Britain, and France) on military objectives amounted to $767 billion. The USSR financed 46.5% of all the military expenses borne by the four allied powers.
Of the total direct economic damages suffered by the five belligerents, 56% can be attributed to the USSR. It should be noted that the direct economic damages inflicted on the Soviet Union were 2.7 times higher than similar damages endured by Germany. This should be no surprise — the Third Reich imposed a scorched-earth policy in the East.
The USSR bore the burden of 53% of all the military expenditures and direct economic damages to the four victorious countries (USSR, USA, Great Britain, and France). Stalin was exactly right when he suggested at the Yalta Conference that half of all the German reparations should be paid to the Soviet Union.
The USSR suffered 50% higher aggregate economic losses than Germany. The Soviet Union paid the highest price of any of the belligerents during World War II.
1. The data cited in this article was taken from the book by Nikolai Voznesensky. Voennaya Ekonomika SSSR v Period Otechestvennoi Voiny. (Moscow: Gospolitizdat, 1948). The author, Nikolai Alekseevich Voznesensky (1903-1950), served as the chairman of the Soviet Union’s Gosplan Committee from 1938 to 1949.
(Strategic Culture Foundation, May 6, 2015. Slightly edited for grammar by TML.)