Snatching God’s Thunderbolts

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The Soviet and Electrification are the Foundation of a New World

In February 1920, the All-Russian Central Executive Committee of the Soviets established The State Electrification Commission (GOELRO), kicking off the first major economic overhaul under the Bolsheviks. The GOELRO sought construct thirty new power stations, reaching a total capacity of 1,000,000 kW within 10 to 15 years (up from 1,038 kW).

Expanding access to electrical power was significant for the Bolsheviks for both political and economic reasons. Vladimir Lenin, GOELRO’s fiercest proponent, saw electrical power as the “second program” of the Party. The first program, the political program, is “an enumeration of our objectives, an explanation of the relations between classes and masses.” The second program was a realization of the political objectives of the first program into tangible results. It was, according to Lenin, “a plan of work aimed at restoring our entire economy and raising it to the level of up-to-date technical development.”

GOELRO was significant not only because of the economic boom that it promised, but it showed that the Bolsheviks could capably plan large economic projects, serving as a precursor to Stalin’s Five-Year Plans. It would go on to be referenced throughout Soviet history as a key pillar of Soviet prosperity. Even today in Russia, GOELRO is seen as being a turning point in Soviet history. Even Russian president Vladimir Putin regards GOELRO as being the beginning of the USSR, saying:

The GOELRO Plan is a symbol of an entire era, an era of hopes and unheard of enthusiasm. It marked the starting point for creating the power system in the country. No less importantly, it was the first scientifically grounded long-term programme of the country’s economic development. In fact, the emergence of our country as an industrial power began with the GOELRO Plan.

The GOELRO plan interested me because it was the inspiration behind one of Lenin’s most famous quotes: “Communism is Soviet power plus the electrification of the whole country.” This phrase was used throughout Soviet history, and it was at the same time a running joke:

If:

Communism = Soviet Power + Electrification

Then:

Communism – Electrification = Soviet Power

and so forth.

soviet-power-plus-electrification

 

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6 comments

  1. Lots of people have written about religion this week, so it took me a minute to make the transition to the electrification campaign! Anyway, I love the title and the way you underline the significance of the electrification project by citing that terrific speech by Putin. My favorite line from that is:
    “The electrification plan was launched in a difficult period of the Civil War and economic dislocation. Skeptics described the GOELRO Plan as a fiction and a utopia.They were mistaken.” Of all the “assaults on backwardness” undertaken by the regime, this one was surely one of the most significant and effective.

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  2. The facilitation of new infrastructure can be a powerful political tool. Electricity, in particular, is a sign of wealth that would serve a practical use for the people, but would also boast on Lenin as a leader. I like that you connected this Bolshevik venture, as a showing of capability, to Stalin’s eventual plan. Nice work!

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  3. I agree that expanding access to electrical power can be beneficial both economically and politically. Access to electrical power opens a lot of doors and I believe this is a significant part of Bolshevik rule.

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  4. Andy Kapinos · · Reply

    I love that you brought in that speech by Putin- it is fascinating to see more of the Russian views on these events. Certainly electricity was quite necessary for an emerging industrial power. One thing that I have noticed this week is that Lenin was far more than an ideologue, he really knew what he was doing.

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  5. I really like how you ended your blog with that observation! Super clever. This GOELRO Plan is something that I believe has continued to make its mark on history, even today. It is something that has shaped the political and economic structure of a new nation, while focusing on advancements. Lenin really focused on the future and where he saw the country going, trying his best to set it up for an ideal “Russia”. I agree with you that there was a significance of the Bolshevik rule that served as a precursor for Stalin’s Five Year Plans! This was just the beginning.

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  6. Interesting topic, I don’t think I’ve seen anyone else write about this GOLERO this week, which seems surprising because you describe it as such significant program that paved the way for many more changes.

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