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Oct 18, 2021
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Echelons went east …

The transfer of industrial enterprises from the western part of the USSR to the east in 1941 is one of the greatest sagas in history

The rapid advance of German troops deep into the Soviet Union put the national economy in the summer and autumn of 1941 in an extremely difficult situation. From June to December, the gross industrial output decreased 2.1 times. In the south of the country, all metallurgical plants stopped working, all the mines of the Donetsk and Moscow regions were out of order. There was an acute shortage of workers: about 40% of skilled workers from the RSFSR alone went to the front.

Already in the summer, over 80% of all enterprises of the defense industry, including 94% of aircraft factories, found themselves in the combat zone or in the front-line areas. At the same time, industrial enterprises in the Urals, the Volga region, Western and Eastern Siberia, as well as Central Asia and the Far East produced only 18.5% of military products.

Border and subsequent battles, during which the Red Army had to withdraw, led to the loss of a significant amount of weapons and military equipment. She lost 40-70% of ammunition, fuel, food and other types of materiel located on the territory of the border military districts. Because of this, already in July, the army in the field felt an acute shortage of military equipment, weapons, ammunition, and fuel.

An urgent evacuation of thousands of enterprises, millions of people, significant stocks of material assets to the eastern regions of the USSR was required to make up for the losses. The work was headed by the Council for Evacuation under the Council of People’s Commissars of the USSR, created on June 24, 1941. L.M. Kaganovich, and from July 3 – N.M. Shvernik. The evacuation council relied on the institution of commissioners, on bureaus and evacuation committees under the people’s commissariats and departments, on the comprehensive assistance of party and Soviet organizations.

Dismantling and loading of equipment into wagons and platforms went on day and night, often under bombing and shelling. Former Deputy People’s Commissar of Ferrous Metallurgy A.G. Sheremetyev, who was responsible for the evacuation of a group of factories in Zaporozhye, recalled: “From the right bank, the Nazis looked through the factories. The enemy saw how the equipment of Zaporozhye enterprises was taken away, bombed and daily fired at the territory of the factories with artillery and mortar fire. There were wounded and killed every day. But people were working, in a hurry. There were days when 800-900 cars each left Zaporozhye, loaded with equipment and materials “

In such a tense atmosphere, it was not possible to avoid failures. In fact, the evacuation of metallurgical, coke-chemical and refractory plants of the Stalin (Donetsk) region was thwarted. At the Dnieper hydroelectric power station, the craftsmen managed to remove only some parts from three turbines, and the dam had to be blown up.

Nevertheless, in the shortest possible time, hundreds of metallurgical, machine-building and other enterprises were moved to the eastern regions, including such giants as Voroshilovgrad, Bezhitsk and Kolomna steam locomotive plants, Kramatorsk machine-building, Kharkov turbine and others. 550 large enterprises were exported from Ukraine, 109 from Belarus, 62 from Estonia, 92 from Leningrad, 498 from Moscow and the Moscow region, 212 from other regions.

In total, from July to December 1941, almost 2.6 thousand enterprises were evacuated from the threatened areas mainly by rail, of which half were evacuated in the first three months of the war. The Volga region, the Urals, Siberia, Kazakhstan, and Central Asia became the regions of their new base. More than 12 million people were transported to the rear areas by rail and water transport.

The extreme stress with which the railway worked is evidenced by the following figure: all evacuation services in 1941 required more than 1.5 million wagons. Lined up in one line, they would occupy the path from the Bay of Biscay to the Pacific Ocean.

In the most difficult conditions of war, an entire industrial power was moved over a short period of time for thousands of kilometers. One cannot but agree with the assessment of one of the witnesses to the evacuation of the famous American journalist L. Sulzberger, who was at that time in the USSR: “The transfer of industrial enterprises from the western part of the USSR to the east has become legendary. Now dozens of Siberian factories produce machine tools, spare parts, tanks, anti-tank rifles, tractors, aircraft, guns, shells, rifles, machine guns, ammunition, hand grenades, mortars, artillery, diesel engines, carburetors, process copper and iron ore, oil. There are textile factories in the southeast of the country. This gigantic shift of industry to the East is one of the greatest sagas in history. “

However, removing the industrial potential from the front-line zone was half the battle. It was required in the shortest possible time to build factory workshops in a new and, as a rule, unadapted place. The builders experienced an acute shortage of building materials, qualified personnel, and there was not enough housing for new arrivals. But as soon as the equipment was installed on the foundation, the communications were brought in, immediately, often still in the open air, the machines were launched.

This is how, for example, the legendary Tankograd, a plant for the production of KB heavy tanks, created in Chelyabinsk on the basis of the Kirov plant evacuated from Leningrad, the Moscow Krasny Proletarian plant and the grinding machine plant, part of the Stalingrad Tractor Plant, was laid. The conditions in which the builders and production workers found themselves clearly appear in the memories of the workers of the Kirov plant about their senior comrade E.K. Titove: “Titov’s workshop was an unfinished box without the necessary equipment … Here, almost in an open field, in the harsh winter of 1942, Leningraders, Kharkovites, Urals people gathered – young men and adolescents, collective farmers and housewives, many of whom had never seen the plant before. It was necessary to create a team of these people … And Titov, together with his comrades, coped with this task … Kuzma Emelyanovich did not leave his workshop, day or night. He lived here … He showed how to work, taught, explained, inspired people, poured new strength into them “

Tankograd. Photo: Regnum

The Chelyabinsk Kirovsky plant, together with the tank shops of the Izhora plant (at Uralmash) and some other Ural enterprises of heavy engineering, became part of the plant for the production of heavy tanks. The Stalingrad Tractor Plant and the Gorky Automobile Plant also switched to the production of tank equipment. In total, eight tank-building, six hull and three diesel factories were put into operation.

A new metallurgical base was also formed in the Urals and Siberia. For the solution of the most important task – to provide in a short time and in sufficient quantities the ferrous metal necessary for the production of armor – the teams of the Magnitogorsk and Kuznetsk plants took up. And they successfully solved it, having mastered the smelting of dozens of new grades of steel, having learned to roll the armor plate (due to the lack of rolling mills) on a blooming mill.

As a result of these titanic efforts, already in August 1941, the production of tanks in our country in comparison with the average monthly production in 1940 increased by more than 3 times. On the whole, by the end of 1941, in just a few months, the tank industry was re-created in the deep rear.

Production increased in other defense industries as well. In total, in the second half of 1941, Soviet industry produced 8.2 thousand combat aircraft, 4.8 thousand tanks, over 9.9 thousand guns (76 mm caliber and larger, without tank) and 19.1 thousand mortars ( caliber 82 mm and larger), 106.2 thousand machine guns, 89.7 thousand submachine guns. The release of ammunition increased significantly.

Alexander Yakovlev.

Alexander Yakovlev. Photo: aviaru.rf

The outstanding Soviet aircraft designer A.S. Yakovlev: “The plant that produced Yak fighters evacuated from Moscow to Siberia, three weeks after arriving at a new location, began regular production of aircraft, three months later exceeded the Moscow production volume, eleven months later made aircraft seven and a half times more than before the evacuation”

While the output of military products increased in the second half of 1941, there was a further decline in overall industrial production. The most critical months turned out to be November and December 1941. But by the end of the year the heroic efforts of the working class and the entire Soviet people had yielded results – a necessary turn for the better was outlined in the dynamics of industrial production.

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