chapter  9
27 Pages

Construction Workers in the 1930s

The 1930s were marked by a sharp increase in major construction work, 1 but, paradoxically, we do not know much about the building workers: in spite of their numbers, they have not caught the attention of historians and have been the subject of few publications. It is not only a question of better understanding of an important section of the working class. Much more is at stake, because building sites provide a privileged view of the industrialisation of the USSR. A systematic study would allow us to consider from a fresh standpoint several questions crucial to the understanding of Soviet development: the extent of mechanisation and the relative importance of Soviet and imported equipment; the place of manual work; and the contribution of prisoners to the development of the national economy. These questions greatly exceed the framework of the present study, which is a first attempt to address just some of the problems. We will examine in turn manpower, productivity, building-site equipment, and the role of the labour camps.