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Stalin’s Five Year Plan in 1929 brought a new expectation for the work that must be accomplished. However, in a society in which all workers earn an equal wage, how can workers be influenced to work hard with no incentives? The Soviets pushed a movement in 1929 promoting “Shock Workers” (udarniki).

medal2Soviet Shock Worker Medal

— Soviet Shock Worker Medals

The term was created during the Civil War to designate those who worked hard on arduous tasks. The term was now being coined for workers who exceeded their given quotas. Along with being deemed a “shock worker”, those who exceeded their quotas were given special privileges. Their names were posted on notice boards, they were given access to certain scarce resources, and were even sent on special trips as defined by the collection of testimonies in The First Cruise. Although many of the publications in The First Cruise were politically oriented, the signed testimonies from “shock workers” on a sponsored trip to Europe showed just how highly these workers thought of themselves, writing “Yes, with heads held high we walked through the streets…”

False Shock Worker

False Shock Worker

The movement was highly effective. In 1929 only 29% of workers were designated as “shock workers”, but only a year later 65% of workers were coined “shock workers”. However, the effectiveness of this movement was its downfall. With the increased number of “shock workers”, their value decreased exponentially. It also put a massive strain on the workers health and the machines used in the industry. It also led to “false shock workers” who reaped the benefit of “shock workers” without the work.

Although the “Shock Workers” would die out, they were essential for Russian industrialization and allowed for the Soviets to compete with Western society.


http://soviethistory.msu.edu/1929-2/shock-workers/ (Shock Workers, Lewis Siegelbaum)