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  • Print publication year: 2010
  • Online publication date: July 2010



The preceding chapters have painted a picture of urban life in late Stalinist Russia that raises a number of questions about how we conceptualize the process of the USSR's industrialization and modernization. Let me first summarize what we have seen thus far.

First, most Russian hinterland industrial cities and towns lacked basic sanitation. The large cities had limited sewerage systems, but they did not extend to the majority of the population. Most smaller industrial towns had virtually no sewerage at all, other than the restricted systems installed by individual factories for their own use. The problem was complicated, of course, by traditional housing patterns, where even Moscow had a large percentage of its population living in single-story wooden buildings with no amenities. Yet the nature of the housing stock on its own did not explain why the population was so badly served. The main stumbling block was lack of investment in sanitary infrastructure. This infrastructure had been inadequate even before the launch of Stalinist industrialization in the late 1920s. With the five-year plans it became overwhelmed. Millions of new workers and their families poured into towns and cities, but the state made almost no effort to erect the housing, sanitary facilities, or water supply that such population shifts demanded. World War II turned this chronic inadequacy into a sanitary crisis.