Skip to main content

Dictatorship, Hierarchy, and the Stalinist Economy: the Soviet Defence Industry 1929 -1953

Final Activity Report Summary - DHSE (Dictatorship, hierarchy, and the Stalinist Economy: the Soviet defence industry 1929 -1953)

The resilience and stability of harsh authoritarian regimes in the world today is a key issue of international relations. The first problem of any dictator is to ensure that, when a command is issued, subordinates carry it out faithfully and do not ignore it or reinterpret in their own interests.

The project looks at how this problem was solved under Stalin in the Soviet Union, one of the best documented dictatorships in history. The study is focused on the defence industry, which Stalin scrutinised particularly closely because of its importance to his external objectives. The research has shown that Stalin understood excellently the problem of controlling implementation. One issue was that, when things went wrong, he did not know whether it was the fault of his agents or the fault of circumstances beyond his control. He evolved a range of responses, sometimes punishing the agents and sometimes giving them more time or resources to finish the task. Another problem was that, if he let the control apparatus become too large, he would lose control of it; who would control the controllers? He responded to this by keeping it small and limiting its responsibilities. Thus, contrary to his popular image, Stalin did accept that he could not control everything perfectly.