Massive Magnit(ude)ogrsk of a Change for the Soviet Union


Mangnitgotsk located onn the Siberian side of the Ural Mountains

Mangnitgotsk located onn the Siberian side of the Ural Mountains

Pictured above is the construction of Magnitogorsk, or magnetic mountain which the article Seventeen Moments in Soviet History called the “socialist city of steel”. This construction was in accordance to the Five Year Plan which was designed to industrialize the USSR in the shortest time possible and expedite the collectivization of farms.

Magnetic Mountain was a plan by Stalin to change a predominately agricultural nation into a “country of steel”. This would not have been possible without the five year plan however, because as Azar Gat notes in his book Russia: A History, “For the first time, the state would not only intervene in economic relations but actually serve as the chief, even sole, manager of the economy” (344). This was just one of the various social, political, and economical changes that the U.S.S.R was undertaking under Stalin’s watch.

There were two very important elements within Bolshevism that allowed all of this change to happen. One was the belief that a collective human effort could accomplish transformative miracles. The other was revolutionary maximalism which together comprised a new political culture and reproduced some elements of backward Russia as Gat points out (345).

Back to Magnetic Mountain, it’s overwhelming to see the growth that took place in such a small amount of time. it grew from 25 inhabitants in 1929 to 250,000 by 1932. Housing could not keep up with this strong increase in population so newcomers had to be housed in tents and bed space was often assigned in shifts. Not only was housing a problem in Magnitogorsk, but food was also in short supply. As one can probably guess, the collectivization of farms and the massive push of industrialization from the Five Year Plan caused disruptions in the food supply which put added pressure on all of the workers.

As you can tell, The Five Year Plan was a huge change for the Soviet Union in all aspects of life. The growth of such places such as magnetic mountain allowed a massive industrial boom which the Five Year Plan promoted to get the U.S.S.R. back in the competition of world power with capitalist forces. There were definitely many issues that came with the establishment of the Five Year Plan, but overall it lead the people of the Soviet Union to think that the country was heading in the right direction.



Gat, Azar. “Russia: A History”. 3rd ed. Oxford University Press. 2009. Print.


4 comments for “Massive Magnit(ude)ogrsk of a Change for the Soviet Union

  1. carlin
    6 October, 2013 at 12:09 am

    The limitations of an agricultural society had been a factor in the revolutions and societal discontent of the 1900s. The Five Year Plan’s focus on steel shows how the Soviet Union aimed to be a competitor in the race for power; this race was only possible through industrialization. You mentioned how the housing became an issue due to its rapid growth; however, I’m interested to learn whether other ventures were modeled after the Magnetic Mountain? In other words, was there another major industrialization project to promote steel, or was Magnetic Mountain the center of this development? What were its limitations?

  2. Schnaitman
    7 October, 2013 at 5:12 pm

    Carlin, I do not know if this helps or provides guidance, but while searching through the internet I read that the USSR actually reached out to Henry Ford during this period in order to model their automotive manufacturers after a successful American one like they did in Magnetic Mountain. While, not everything on the internet may be true, I think that there had to be more major industrialization projects to promote steel and such.

  3. Austin Wood
    7 October, 2013 at 7:36 pm

    That’s a good question Carlin, and one that I couldn’t really find the answer to after some research. I did find out however that it seems like Magnetic Mountain was a quintessential example of what a future socialist city was supposed to look like and that it sounded like many other places were supposed to be modeled like it. I’ll ask about that in class to see if Professor Nelson knows the answer.

  4. 7 October, 2013 at 9:39 pm

    Good questions and interesting post! There were many ambitious Stalinist construction projects (the White-Sea Baltic Canal, the Dneprestroi Dam etc.), but Magnitogorsk was among the most spectacular. The Soviets did use technology and specialists from the west for some of these projects, and American workers (most famously John Scott), went to the Soviet Union to work on these construction sites. We can definitely talk more about Stalinist Industrialization in class!

    Also, check the citation for the Freeze text (Freeze is the volume editor, the chapter we are using is by Lewis Siegelbaum). And try to take advantage of the many quality materials out there (rather than “infoplease”)

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