Was the USSR economically stronger than Germany?

Discussions on the economic history of the nations taking part in WW2, from the recovery after the depression until the economy at war.
RichTO90
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Re: Was the USSR economically stronger than Germany?

Post by RichTO90 » 05 Oct 2013 20:32

paspartoo wrote:I also saw the same thing and consider it a mistake (or at least an exaggeration). According to ‘Germany: guns, butter and economic miracles’ (chapter 4 of ‘The Economics of World War II’) ‘by late 1940 most of the consumer branches were already devoting between 40 and 50 percent of their output to the military, leaving very little for the civilian population’.

I’m not sure what constituted the ‘civilian’ industry in the SU. Seems like everything they built was supposed to go into war production on a moment’s notice.
I'm confused; exactly which "consumer branches" do production - I thought that consumers consume? :P :lol:

The classification by groups doesn't differentiate between "civilian" and "military" use for the production of durable goods, I simply referred to Group I as "war-related industry" for convenience.

How about this then: the Soviets allocated greater manpower than the Germans to the production of durable goods for military and civilian use.

Now, if you want to argue that the Soviets allocated more of their Group I production to civilian consumption than the Germans did, then by all means do so...of course you may have a problem finding evidence for that notion. 8-)

Sid Guttridge
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Re: Was the USSR economically stronger than Germany?

Post by Sid Guttridge » 14 Oct 2013 11:58

Hi Guys,

There were whole ranges of the German civilian economy barely possessed by the USSR (which is one reason why the Soviet Union uprooted almost the whole of East German manufacturing industry after the war). Russian civilians rarely had watches, radios, cameras, cars, telephones, etc., etc, (which is why the Red Army looted the Baltic States in 1940) and there was little domestic industry to support their production, which in almost all areas was technically inferior to the Germans

All these have military applications. To take just a couple of examples, Germany had the world's leading optical industry and produced high grade cameras for the civil market. This same industry could be, and was, adapted to producing range finders, artillery sights, aircraft bomb sights, U-boat periscopes, etc.

Similarly, the German radio industry was able to give every tank, aircraft and gun battery a radio by the outbreak of war. Initially only Russian command tanks had radios, most(?) aircraft did not and gun batteries were dependent on land lines.

Because the Soviet Union did not have significant civilian sectors in such areas, it couldn't switch their manpower, skills and tools to military manufacture in the way the Germans (and British and USA) did.

I would suggest that Germany was demonstrably stronger economically than the USSR, but had many other opponents to address, who also helped compensate for the USSR's economic limitations through Lease-Lend. For example, new high performance Soviet aircraft were equipped with US radios by 1944.

Cheers,

Sid.

thereichsmarschall
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Re: Was the USSR economically stronger than Germany?

Post by thereichsmarschall » 16 Oct 2013 04:28

Sid
I think that's an important piece of the argument. Albert Speer in inside the third reich goes into detail about the internal struggles he had with various party and government organizations about mobilizing the civilian economy and how difficult it was to get even hitler to go along with certain living standard cuts for the population even in the disastrous military situations of 1943 plus. Irving's goebbels biography discusses some of the same issues that he encountered when he tried to stiffen the war economy. It's also been pointed out in previous posts, but is worth repeating, that the soviets were major assistance receivers of lend lease British aid ect, while Germany was a net assistance payer supporting Italy Hungary ect. doomed

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Re: Was the USSR economically stronger than Germany?

Post by thereichsmarschall » 16 Oct 2013 04:40

One specific instance that was discussed in both above mentioned books was an incident in which Eva Braun complained to hitler about a rumor that permanent waves were to be banned. According to Speer hitler immediately began vacillating and suggested that he simply stop manufacturing and repairing the apparatuses to create perms, as opposed to an outright ban. Even someone as fanatical as Goebbels backtracked on that issue saying " maybe with feminine beauty care we should take a more lenient approach." Can anyone here seriously picture Stalin having that conversation with one of his ministers!! Or can anyone picture one of stalins ministers having the heuvos to approach Stalin and inform him a factory that cold be producing some kind of war material was engaged in building perm machines lol!!!! Get this enemy of the people to the Lubyanka !!!

Politician01
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Re: Was the USSR economically stronger than Germany?

Post by Politician01 » 19 Oct 2013 22:36

German -Soviet GDP in 1990 prices (billions of dollars)

1939: 384/366
1940:387/417
1941:412/359
1942:417/274
1943:426/305
1944:437/362
1945:310/343

Total 1939-1945 : 2773/2426 = 1:0.9

The only years the USSR had a larger GDP then Germany was in 1940 ( boosted the the annexation of poland/the baltic,bessarabia) and in 1945 when the german economy collapsed

Also German GDP in 1942-1944 was most likely reduced through allied bombing

So no - it is clear that the USSR was not economically stronger then Germany

South
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Re: Was the USSR economically stronger than Germany?

Post by South » 21 Oct 2013 08:26

Good morning Politician 01,

Do be careful when stating near absolutes; "It is clear".

GDP is not a clear measurement - especially for the thread's theme. A nation can have magnified economic strength from its GNP.

The thread poses a difficult question for those addressing it. Some of us do not believe it can be measured. Illustrative; The Republic of Panama in WWII was a small nation with a "small" economy. Yet, astronomical economic resources were available by the US for protection of the Canal Zone. In contemporary times, small nations with small economies as per GDP, can have magnified economic strength if they field non-conventional ordnance.

Warm regards,

Bob

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LWD
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Re: Was the USSR economically stronger than Germany?

Post by LWD » 21 Oct 2013 13:11

How does fielding ordinance magnify economic strength? One of the most significant problems with this thread is one of the posters keeps equating economic strength with military strength. While the two are related it is hardly a one to one relationship. The economy of Panama was miniscule and it's military strenth was likewise when compared to the world powers. It hardly mattered as you say because not only the US but the British Empire were backing them (Once the US was in the war some Canadian troops were quickly despatched to the Canal Zone).

South
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Re: Was the USSR economically stronger than Germany?

Post by South » 22 Oct 2013 08:34

Good morning LWD,

I did not say fielding ordnance magnifies economic strength.

I wrote that fielding non-conventional ordnance magnifies economic strength. This category serves as a "force-multiplier".

In contempory times look at some examples and then look at their "pure" national economy.

Completely agree with you. The comingling of economic strength with military strength is why I posted above. When a national economy goes on a war footing (Think of Bernard Baruch) this stuff just cannot be measured other than for academic nonsense so someone can claim they published something important.


Warm regards,

Bob

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LWD
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Re: Was the USSR economically stronger than Germany?

Post by LWD » 22 Oct 2013 13:10

South wrote:Good morning LWD,
I did not say fielding ordnance magnifies economic strength.
I wrote that fielding non-conventional ordnance magnifies economic strength.
If it's not true in general how can it be true in detail? What makes something conventional or non-conventional in any case?
This category serves as a "force-multiplier".
But a force multiplier to military strength not to economic strength.
In contempory times look at some examples and then look at their "pure" national economy. ...
Frankly what you are saying doesn't make sense to me so it's kind of hard for me to find an example.

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Re: Was the USSR economically stronger than Germany?

Post by South » 23 Oct 2013 09:13

Good morning LWD,

Acknowledging I read your above post, I believe it best for me to decline a reply.

Warm regards,

Bob

KDF33
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Re: Was the USSR economically stronger than Germany?

Post by KDF33 » 23 Oct 2013 09:44

I am also confused. How does fielding unconventional weapons (do you mean NBC weapons?) magnify economic strength?

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Re: At what point did Germany lose WW2?

Post by Guaporense » 31 Dec 2014 00:51

KDF33 wrote:
ljadw wrote:1) It is obvious that the SU was economically stronger than Germany : it produced more tanks,artillery,aircraft,oil,etc
On the contrary, every piece of evidence indicates that Germany was ahead of the USSR economically and industrially. The basic inputs of the industrial economy, coal and steel, were overwhelmingly in Germany's favor:

1942:

Germany: 268,595,000 tons of coal and 28,744,000 tons of steel
USSR: 75,536,000 tons of coal and 8,069,600 tons of steel

1943:

Germany: 273,895,000 tons of coal and 30,603,000 tons of steel
USSR: 93,141,000 tons of coal and 8,474,800 tons of steel

1944:

Germany: 250,837,000 tons of coal and 25,853,000 tons of steel
USSR: 121,470,000 tons of coal and 10,886,700 tons of steel

This data obviously begs the question "Why then was the USSR overwhelmingly ahead of Germany in military output?", which was your reply to my initial assertion that Germany was ahead industrially. The short answer is that the USSR never outproduced Germany in military equipment, and that the usual yardsticks (i.e. tanks, guns, etc.) on which such an assertion is based are fundamentally flawed.
And this data also overestimates the Soviet coal supply because you are including lignite in Soviet numbers and not in Germany's. And excluding the contributions of the occupied territories. In 1943, Germany's coal supply was 360 million tons, USSR's was ca. 55 million tons. Coke supply was nearly 10 times larger for Germany. Steel supply you also didn't include the steel from occupied territories. The difference appears to be larger than your data shows.

Germany controlled 90% of the resources of continental Europe, the USSR only controlled the resources of siberia as some parts of eastern europe. If you measure the installed factory capacity between both powers the discrepancy is also enormous, but in the USSR's case the existing factory capacity was more intensively utilized.
So there you have it: Germany was outproducing the USSR at every point during the war, which makes sense given the large disparity in industrial inputs between the two countries. Only by looking at a limited cross-section of military outputs, and thus misleading data points, can one reach the conclusion that the USSR was economically / industrially ahead of Germany.

Regards,

KDF
I also noticed that earlier. The USSR survived the war thanks to a combination of lend-lease supplies and military pressure put on other fronts besides the eastern front and Germany's general underestimation of Soviet military strength in 1941 and lacking consideration for the logistical difficulties of invading the 22 million square kilometers of the USSR.
"In tactics, as in strategy, superiority in numbers is the most common element of victory." - Carl von Clausewitz

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Re: Was the USSR economically stronger than Germany?

Post by Guaporense » 11 Jan 2015 04:19

LWD wrote:One of the most significant problems with this thread is one of the posters keeps equating economic strength with military strength. While the two are related it is hardly a one to one relationship.
The Soviet Union is the ultimate 20th century example of country of limited economic influence but massive military power. Even in the 1980's they were reduced to oil exporters, being a country unable to produce anything of value besides just selling their own natural resources, still, militarily they were equal to the US.

In WW2 the Eastern front is a very good example how economic size does not dictate outcome of war. Germany controlled territories whose economic size was approximately 6-7 times greater than the USSR's. Even in modern terms, Germany controlled territories corresponding the European Union besides UK, Spain and Portugal, which had a GDP in 2013 of 13.4 trillion dollars, compared to Russia's GDP of 2.1 trillion dollars, a ratio of 6.4 times, (after Barbarossa, the Soviet Union controlled less of Europe than Russia does now, though some areas of Central Asia of near null economic relevance), and Russia's GDP probably grew more since the 1940's than Western Europe's did. In 1939, the nominal GDP of these areas were about 100 billion dollars compared to ca. 14 billion for the USSR minus the areas lost to Barbarossa.

Though the USSR's fighting power was far greater than it's relative level of economic development. Italy, for instance, was more advanced than the USSR's economically and by the theory that economics are everything should have been a stronger player than the USSR or Japan were in the war. It obviously wasn't.
"In tactics, as in strategy, superiority in numbers is the most common element of victory." - Carl von Clausewitz

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LWD
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Re: Was the USSR economically stronger than Germany?

Post by LWD » 12 Apr 2015 15:09

The USSR wasn't fighting alone though was it? Nor was Germany able to come anywhere near getting full capability from the territories it controlled. What's your point though?

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Re: Was the USSR economically stronger than Germany?

Post by stg 44 » 12 Apr 2015 17:07

Guaporense wrote: Though the USSR's fighting power was far greater than it's relative level of economic development. Italy, for instance, was more advanced than the USSR's economically and by the theory that economics are everything should have been a stronger player than the USSR or Japan were in the war. It obviously wasn't.
I don't think this is right; the Italians were using production techniques that were quite behind the Soviets (rivets instead of welding for tanks), while Soviet aircraft design was ahead of the Italians until they got the DB605 engine and were then able to match the Soviets and Germans with their 2nd generation monowing fighters. I'd argue the Italians were mostly behind the Soviets or on par, not ahead.

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