Give Me Cheap Meat or Give Me Death!

Train from the Novocherkassk Electric Locomotive Works. Source:

On June 2, 1962 thousands of workers from the Novocherkassk Electric Locomotive Works left their positions at the factory and marched through the town to the local Communist Party to protest nationwide meat and dairy price increases.  This huge crowd was raging near the Communist Party building until the troops stationed in and around the building shot into the crowd.  24 workers died in the gunfire while many, many more were wounded.  Along with the 24 workers who died in the hail of gunfire seven more were executed after being charged with committing “mass disorders” and “banditry”.

These price increases were nationwide, but the only reported violent riot was in Novocherkassk.  As is noted in the post on this topic in  Seventeen Moments in Soviet History there could be many reasons for this interesting fact.  The most likely, in my opinion, is the abrasiveness of the factory manager, who was overheard saying, “If there isn’t enough money for meat and sausage, let them eat pirozhki with liver.”  This insensitive comment certainly fueled the fire and combined with his overall image as a ruthless taskmaster probably helped lead the workers over the edge.

The massacre also occurred under 4 supposedly wise Politburo members who had flown to Novocherkassk to oversee the situation.  All they were able to do is stifle any news reports of the shootings from being spread around the Soviet Union (hence no primary source Soviet press readings).  The news eventually leaked out, it always did, and was reported by Radio Liberty.  There was not a report of it in the Soviet press until 1988.

This unfortunate situation could have been avoided but it shows some of the flaws of the Soviet system.  By implementing impersonal, nationwide prices and policies the Soviets were not really able to tailor anything to local situations.  Also their belief that no stories would ever get out was laughable at best.  Furthermore, the fact that their leaders, the Politburo, hurt rather than helped the situation says all that is necessary about that body.


Further Reading:

Russia: A History

Seventeen Moments

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5 Responses to Give Me Cheap Meat or Give Me Death!

  1. Parker Leep says:

    It’s unfortunate that the Politburo members present could not have done anything to destress the situation. It really shows how fixed prices across the Soviet Union were not going to work. It seems like there’s always some kind of violent riot in Russia going on. Thanks for sharing!

  2. Amanda Rettberg says:

    It is so interesting and weird for me to think about that this violent massacre happened over the prices of meat and dairy. I just couldn’t picture something like this happening now days and even if people were protesting I couldn’t imagine it becoming violent like it did in this situation. It’s sad to think that something had to escalate this far and they couldn’t fix the situation before it ended the way it did.

  3. Amanda Thomas says:

    Your post was really informative. It’s hard to imagine people being killed over the prices of meat and dairy. I like how you discuss how this situation could have been avoided. Your post was very well written.

  4. Tom Ewing says:

    This post shows how structural conditions that produce dissatisfaction can be triggered into an actual uprising by the actions of both callous officials and passionate protesters. The suppression of the protests, and more importantly, the suppression of information, demonstrate the strength of the Soviet system even in its post-Stalinist phases.

  5. Hunter Thompson says:

    Great Post, once again we see the working class people of Russia breaking their backs to provide for their families only to have the food stolen right out of their mouths by cruel and insensitive policies written by men in far away offices with full bellies.

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