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What do you do when the Germans invade from the West? You move to the East and South. Something that sounds easy in theory, until you need to move millions of Soviets. The three main locations that would receive these citizens were the Urals, Western Siberia, and Central Asia (Edwards). While an exact number of refugees is unknown, however it is estimated to be around 17 to 25 million evacuees (Edwards). How did these evacuations impact those citizens and companies who had to be moved?
The Soviet Government “created a series of ad hoc committees to direct the evacuation process, such as the Evacuation Council, the Civilian Evacuation, an the Evacuation Commission” (Edwards). However these institutions helped little because they could not provide the money needed for local governments to support the millions of evacuees. While “local leaders tried to increase the availability of housing, cafeterias, medical clinics, and day-care centers, but they were not given enough resources to serve the entire evacuated population” (Edwards).
However, the Soviet Union was determined to “defend and develop the Soviet military capability, so defense workers and factories were evacuated with the highest priority” (Edwards). Thus the companies and people who staffed them were the priority evacuees. While non-industrial evacuees often had to wait in train stations for days or weeks for housing, industrial evacuees were given more food, “higher quality housing, and better medical care” (Edwards).
That doesn’t mean it was all fun and games to be a factory worker during the war though. Soviet “authoritarianism permitted the state to mobilize the people and the resources necessary to prosecute total war” (Freeze 385). One of these measures was an act in June 1940 that made quitting or absenteeism essentially criminal in Soviet Russia (Siegelbaum). Being late to work by more than 20 minutes could allow a boss to fire the worker and evicted them from their “enterprise housing” (Siegelbaum). But as the saying goes, all is fair in love and war.
Edwards, Kristen. “Wartime Evacuation”.Soviethistory.MSU.edu http://soviethistory.msu.edu/1943-2/wartime-evacuation/ Accessed March 25, 2018
Freeze, Gregory. (2009). Russia A History third edition. Oxford University Press.
Photo: Kumanev, G.A. “Wartime Evacuation Images” Soviethistory.MSU.edu http://soviethistory.msu.edu/1943-2/wartime-evacuation/wartime-evacuation-images/#bwg118/696
Siegelbaum, Lewis. “Labor Discipline” Soviethistory.MSU.edu http://soviethistory.msu.edu/1939-2/labor-discipline/ Accessed March 25, 2018