Saturday 26 April 2014


I previously mentioned that some people donated money to buy a tank for the Red Army. Here is how much money was donated and how many tanks it bought between 1942 and 1945.

The columns are obviously years, with the final column being the total over the 1942-1945 period. The rows are as follows:
"Total received for tank construction
Additionally, golden rubles (total only)
Additionally, in old (total only)

From workers, factories, and other organizations
From farms of the 65 regions and republics
Personal contributions from soldiers and units
Teachers and students
Churches and churchgoers
The ill, wounded, and hospital staff
Individuals, of those, 47 contributed 100,000 roubles or more

Cost of tanks and SPGs given to armoured units"

Then there is a breakdown of how many tanks were given:
"For national units
a) Polish
b) Czech

For the 1st Ukrainian Front
For the 2nd Ukrainian Front
For the 3rd Ukrainian Front
For the 4th Ukrainian Front
For the 1st Baltic Front
For the 2nd Baltic Front
For the 1st Belorussian Front
For the 2nd Belorussian Front
For the 3rd Belorussian Front
For the 1st Tank Army
For the 2nd Tank Army
For the 3rdTank Army
For the 4th Tank Army
For the 5th Tank Army
For the 6th Tank Army
For Tank Corps
For Mechanized Corps
For various

Note: the amount of tank columns transferred in 1942-1943 is approximate due to a lack of documents"

Note how many vehicles were given in total: over 30,000 tanks and SPGs. 


  1. Amazing, but was the money used to buy material from foreign trade because did not the government in USSR just use all the material they had without having to buy it from private companies or corporations in the country simply because the Soviet government and the worker unions control the heavy industry?

    1. People want to get paid, even in times of war.

    2. Well yes, the Soviet command economy did attempt to relegate money to a secondary role--but although there was some dissension in the Party, it had been decided back in the early 20s when the Civil War was settled that for some time the USSR would remain a monetary economy--that is, workers would get paid wages and use money to buy the goods they needed, pay rent, etc. And while the state owned the major enterprises and the Party controlled the state, so in effect money should have been irrelevant to the production of the controlled enterprises (just about all of them of any consequence) it really wasn't.

      Many of the reasons I think citizen contributions to the war effort were relevant hinge on the fact that the Party-controlled command economy on paper did not match real-life actual conditions, and everyone knew it. One reason money mattered was that the command economy was not geared to supply citizens' needs fully, and so a more or less illegal market existed, "on the left" I believe was the Russian phrase. At the level of enterprises, this manifested as corruption in the reporting and handling of enterprise resources. Every Soviet plant manager, no matter how idealistic a Bolshevik he might be, quickly learned he had to keep reserves off the books, had to pad output in various ways (including claiming and getting accepted substandard or even worthless products as counting toward Plan fulfillment), had to wheel and deal with other managers and their black-market go-betweens to in fact get delivery of inputs they were supposed to get on paper, and to get them to accept delivery of outputs of dubious average quality.

      In this context I think citizen cash contributions oiled the sticky gears in several ways. For one thing, a contribution for a tank or airplane meant that particular item would be made, with no funny business, because that transaction might be watched. It would probably be ballyhooed in the local or even national press; a paper trail going to the Kremlin was attached to it; someone might follow up and the item better exist and be up to spec.

      For another, if a Soviet citizen ponied up tens of thousands of rubles for a weapon to be donated to the war effort, those hitherto more or less "private" funds no longer were available to circulate in the local black market. If a lot of citizens did this, the demand for "on the left" goods would slack off, leaving the marketeers with a relative glut of items to sell and slack, lean chances to sell them. Thus those goods might resurface at a lower price, easing the tight war subsistence economy, and the general level of pilfering of Soviet-owned goods might slack off too, leaving more goods to be actually devoted to the war effort.

      Finally, it was sort of an informal tax. If you are one of a bunch of citizens at a factory town or on a collective farm and your neighbors all dig deep and pay for tanks, planes, guns or ammo for the Red Army, and you don't--how are you going to look the next time there is some sort of purge or witch hunt? Who will the security organs look at most closely--your patriotic neighbors, or slacker you? Best to pay up for the good of the Worker's State if you possibly can, then they'll look at the next guy who didn't before they look too closely at you. Thus, without any overt coercion, the regime can draw on these hoarded resources.

      As you say, those funds ought not to correspond to slack, reserve material resources--the command economy is supposed to be superior to capitalism in that respect, that what resources the nation has are all mobilized productively. But given the reality of the endemic and unavoidable level of corruption at all levels, they do in fact mobilize resources otherwise not usefully accessible to the regime.