GKO 675 (Sept. ’41) and Soviet Early-War Economic Strategy

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GKO 675 (Sept. ’41) and Soviet Early-War Economic Strategy

Post by TheMarcksPlan » 15 Apr 2021 20:14

Came across GKO Decree 675 while perusing Soldat.ru and read it using Google translate. It’s an interesting document that highlights the SU’s strategic precarity in Fall ’41 and the (good) choices it made to maximize its short-term chances of survival at long-term expense.

In Soviet Planning in Peace and War, Mark Harrison emphasizes that the SU’s all-out effort to maximize arms production in 1941 denuded underlying primary industry capacities:
by 1942 it was the metals-energy-transport balance which had become most tightly constrained. In the arms industries fixed capacity was no longer a binding limit on output;4 current shortages of metals, fuels and labour were the problem. P.168
Decree 675 contains statistics that interestingly highlight 1941’s prioritization of short-term weapons output over long-term economic sustainability. The Decree calls for drafting 600,000 soldiers (actually 625,000 enumerated in the appendix) from “those using deferrals.” Again I am using Google Translate but it seems clearly to indicate economically-protected status in total context.

The appendix enumerates employment in various fields and the number of employees to be drafted from each field.

From the metals-engergy-transport block 5.4% of employees were ordered into the army (entries translated as “NK non-ferrous metallurgy,” “NK ferrous metallurgy,” “NK ways of communication” – which I assume means transport, power plants and electricity, and coal). From the arms/aviation/ammunition commissariats, only 3.3% of employees were ordered drafted.

The metals-engergy-transport block yielded about half (302,200) of the draftees.

So, consistent with Harrison’s narrative, the decree shows an emphasis on preserving short-term armaments output over the inputs to later armaments production.

Then, in ’42, we see signs of shift in GKO resolution titles regarding coal (I don’t have texts for these):

#1258 – February 8, 1942: Resolution. (On the release from mobilization of workers and engineers of the Moscow Region coal basin.)

#1409 – March 7, 1942: Resolution. On urgent measures to ensure the supply of coal to the NKvooruzheniye plants.

#1482 – March 14, 1942: Resolution. On the supply of a mine rack for the Moscow Region coal basin.

#1616- April 17, 1942: Resolution. On the organization of timber procurement in the nearest areas to the Moscow Region and Donetsk coal basins in 1942.

#1625 – April 21, 1942: Resolution. On providing the railways with coal.

#1808 May 24, 1942: Resolution. On the supply of coal, oil products and firewood to the mobilization and state reserves.

#1897 June 7, 1942: Resolution. On the increase in the average daily loading of coal in June 1942

#2011 July 10, 1942: Resolution. On the supply of coal to power plants in the third quarter of 1942

#2037 July 14, 1942: Resolution. On ensuring the export of coal of current production and reserves from Kuzbass.

#2172 August 14, 1942: Resolution. On the strengthening of the loading of coal to the railways in the month of August 1942

#2201 August 22, 1942: Order. (On the shipment of coal to Moscow.)

#2211 August 24, 1942: Resolution. On urgent measures to increase coal production in the Kuznetsk Basin.

#2288 September 12, 1942: Resolution. On the shipment of coking coal to the Magnitogorsk and Novo-Tagil plants of Narkomchermet.

#2304 September 13, 1942: Resolution. On urgent measures to increase coal production in the Karaganda coal basin.

#2305 September 13, 1942: Resolution. On urgent measures to increase coal production in the Kizelovsky coal basin.

#2424 October 15, 1942: Resolution. On granting a deferral from conscription to the Red Army for workers and engineers of the coal industry.

#2426 October 16, 1942: Resolution. On the unsatisfactory loading of coal to the railways.

#2427 October 16, 1942: Voznesensky, G.M. Malenkov to take measures to increase production, reduce consumption and create coal reserves for the NKPS for the winter.)

#2439 October 23, 1942: Resolution. On increasing coal production in the Moscow region.

#2463 October 31, 1942: Resolution. On increasing coal production in the Chelyabinsk Basin.

#2490 November 8, 1942: Resolution. About bonuses to locomotive crews for trouble-free work at a coal near Moscow.

#2513 November 15, 1942: Resolution. On increasing coal production at the Sverdlovskugol Combine.


There’s a similar increase in mentions of power plants, perhaps I’ll list them downthread.


In the context of September 1941 this seems the correct choice: Nothing would damage future armaments output so much as deeper German advances into the country that robbed labor, capital, and raw materials. If the SU could halt the advances, however, then massive increases in output during ’42 were assured as evacuated factories came online and as the initial chaos hopefully (and actually) subsided. Armaments made today could halt those advances; supply chain maintenance could not. A marginal hindrance to such increase due to lagging input flows was a small price for preserving the basic economic/demographic national engine.


It is instructive to consider this “short-termism” in contrast to other short-term prioritizations. The Luftwaffe decision to prioritize Eastern Front combat needs over long-term training plans comes to mind (Chief of Staff Jeschonnek stated in 1942, “First we have to beat Russia, then we can get on with training!”).

With hindsight, Stalin/GKO’s short-termism seems apt and Jeschonnek’s dumb. But had LW short-termism put Ostheer over the top in the East, it would seem inspired.

Hindsight has a bias towards a characterological/dispositional conception of prudence, rather than an analytical evaluation of decisions made under incomplete knowledge and imperfect claivoyance.

The point isn’t that Jeschonnek was right (he wasn’t); it’s that short-termism and go-for-broke are often justified in war. Soviet short-termism in ’41 cost lives in ’42 but helped win the war.


It’s also interesting to consider GKO 675 in counterfactual context, as is my wont. Had Stalin needed to draft another million soldiers over the historical lot – say Leningrad falls with a couple fronts starved/captured therein and thereabout – then a repeat of #675 would have been the primary replacement source. If promulgated similarly by field of employment, metals-engergy-transport would have yielded ~500k workers or ~10% of its workforce. The impact on 1942 output would have been dramatic.

The SU was not a limitless font of manpower, even mere months into the war. Difficult choices – often tragic – were constantly necessary: between feeding and arming, between expending blood or steel, between today and tomorrow.

TMP bookmark: Soviet resource crunch 1941-2
"The whole question of whether we win or lose the war depends on the Russians." - FDR, June 1942

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