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.
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.