GAZ and the Big Deal

soviet cars
an advertisement for the Volga car produced at the GAZ

When the Soviet Union emerged victorious from World War II, they entered an era completely different from the years before and during the war. During the war, the Russian people had been exposed to a liberalization of their country as well as the materialistic economy and society of the West. As a result, the Russian people expected rewards and concessions from the Soviet government for winning the war and being the victors. The main clamors for consumer goods came from the newly formed postwar Soviet middle class.  Hearing this clamor for more material and consumer goods, Stalin had two options. He could give in to their demands and the Soviet Union could possibly become a capitalist nation, which he would not allow, or he could make minimal concessions to this new middle class while still maintaining his power over them. He chose the second option, which came to be known as the “Big Deal” a phrase coined by Vera Dunham. The Big Deal gave the Soviet people and middle class some of these material concessions, such as clothes, cars, and personal housing, but only from the state. Their materialistic gains depended solely on Stalin and the Party.

Volga cars in production at the GAZ
Volga cars in production at the GAZ

One great example of the Big Deal in action was the creation of a Soviet car industry centered in Nizhni Novgorod, later renamed Gor’kii. The Gor’kii Automobile Factory (GAZ) was built in 1929 but throughout the late 1930s and during the war, it produced trucks primarily for the Red Army and war effort. After the war, Stalin authorized the creation and distribution of two new car models as part of his Big Deal, the Pobeda and the Moskvich. Although they were licensed for production, this production was limited and demand went through the roof. The GAZ’s production of these new cars represented one of the material concessions that Stalin was willing to give the Soviet people but it came directly from a Soviet factory. The people depended solely on the State to receive their car instead of being able to go out and buy their own from an independent seller like in the West. Providing the Russian people, and especially the middle class and the Soviet elite, with the opportunity to have a personal car was one step Stalin took in placating his people after the war. It wasn’t economic independence, but the opportunity to have their own cars was too valuable for the Soviet people to pass up, which allowed Stalin to retain all the power in Russia.

Sources Used:

http://soviethistory.msu.edu/1947-2/cars-for-comrades/

http://soviethistory.msu.edu/1947-2/cars-for-comrades/cars-for-comrades-images/#bwg120/704

 

http://www.volga.nl/InfabriekEN.htm

Kassof, Allen H. “Reviewed Work: In Stalin’s Time: Middleclass Values in Soviet Fiction by Vera Dunham.” American Journal of Sociology 84.1 (1978): 192-94. JSTOR. Web. 18 Nov. 2015. <http://www.jstor.org.ezproxy.lib.vt.edu/stable/2777989?loginSuccess=true&seq=2#page_scan_tab_contents&gt;.

 

5 thoughts on “GAZ and the Big Deal

  1. I found it extremely interesting how Stalin spun Churchill’s Iron Curtain speech in such a way that turned it into an issue regarding race. He clearly wanted the poignancy of World War II to resonate with all the Soviet people who would inevitably hear this speech. Is he a little far fetched in his claim, most likely, but this is Stalin we are dealing with here and the name of his game is manipulation of the people to build the state. This was a good post that called to light an interesting perspective taken by Stalin with regards to Churchill’s speech.

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  2. Stalin’s railing against Churchill is extremely ironic given the racial theory war that occurred in the Soviet Union against Jews and Central Asians. His propaganda is very typical of Soviet leaders, and parallels the propaganda visible today in China and North Korea. It is somewhat sad that the people never knew what was actually occurring within their country and outside of it, but rather lived in a bubble.

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  3. “The essence of the affair is that Mr. Churchill now assumes the position of warmonger. And Mr. Churchill is not alone in this; he has friends not only in England but also in the United States of America.” This message is very powerful and if these countries were already divided by the Iron Curtain itself, these words definitely did divide them. Also LOL at him calling Churchill a warming. Good job!

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  4. Now it connects really nicely! The “Big Deal” is a complicated and slippery concept, and I appreciate how you frame it in terms of the prestige of the GAZ factory.

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