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Stakhanovite

[stuh-kah-nuh-vahyt, -kan-uh-]

In Soviet history and iconography, a Stakhanovite (стахановец) follows the example of Aleksei Grigorievich Stakhanov, employing hard work or Taylorist efficiencies to over-achieve on the job.

The Stakhanovite movement began during the second 5-year plan in 1935 as a new stage of the socialist competition. The Stakhanovite movement was named after Aleksei Stakhanov, who had mined 102 tons of coal in less than 6 hours (14 times his quota). However, his record would soon be "broken" by his followers. On February 1, 1936, it was reported that Nikita Izotov had mined 607 tons of coal in a single shift.

The Stakhanovite movement, supported and led by the CPSU, soon spread over other industries of the Soviet Union. The initiators of the movement were Alexander Busygin (automobile industry), Nikolai Smetanin (shoe industry), Yevdokiya and Maria Vinogradov (textile industry), I.I.Gudov (machine tool industry), V.S.Musinsky (timber industry), Pyotr Krivonos (railroad), Pasha Angelina (glorified as the first Soviet woman to operate a tractor), Konstantin Borin and Maria Demchenko (agriculture) and many others.

On November 14-17, 1935, the 1st All-Union Stakhanovite Conference took place at the Kremlin, which emphasized the outstanding role of the Stakhanovite movement in socialist re-construction of national economy. In December 1935, the plenum of the Central Committee of the All-Union Communist Party (Bolsheviks) specifically discussed the aspects of developing industry and transport system in light of the Stakhanovite movement. The resolution of the plenum said: "The Stakhanovite movement means organizing labor in a new fashion, rationalizing technologic processes, correct division of labor, liberating qualified workers from secondary spadework, improving work place, providing rapid growth for labor productivity and securing significant increase of workers' salaries".

In accordance with the decisions of the plenum, the Soviets organized a wide network of industrial trainings and created special courses for foremen of socialist labor. In 1936, a number of industrial and technical conferences revised the projected production capacities of different industries and increased their outputs. They also introduced the Stakhanovite competitions within factories and plants, broken down into periods of five days (пятидневка, or pyatidnevka), ten days (декада, or dekada) and 30 days (месячники, or mesyachniki). The factory management would often create the Stakhanovite brigades or departments, which reached a stable higher collective output.

The Soviet authorities claimed that the Stakhanovite movement had caused a significant increase in labor productivity. It was reported that during the first 5-year plan (1929-1932) industrial labor productivity increased 41%. During the second 5-year plan (1933-1937) it reportedly increased 82%.

During the Great Patriotic War, the Stakhanovites used different methods to increase productivity, such as working several machine tools at a time and combining professions. The Stakhanovites were responsible for organizing the two-hundreders movement (двухсотники, or dvukhsotniki; 2 or more quotas in a single shift) and one-thousanders movement (тысячники, or tysyachniki; 1000% of the norm in a shift). The Stakhanovite movement remained widespread after the war.

Stakhanov and other "model workers" were promoted in the press, literature, and film, and other workers were urged to emulate their heroic examples. What is more, the achievements of stakhanovites served as an argument in favor of increasing of work quotas.

In reality, the Stakhanovite movement was a propaganda maneuver. Where workers received the best equipment and most favorable conditions, the best results of course showed up. After Stalin's death, the artificiality of the movement was acknowledged, and it was replaced with "brigades of socialist labor". In 1988, Soviet newspaper Komsomolskaya Pravda claimed that the widely propagandized personal achievements of Stakhanov were puffery — the paper insisted that Stakhanov had used a number of helpers on support works, while the throughput was tallied for him alone. Still, Stakhanov's approach had eventually led to the increased productivity by means of a better organization of the work, including specialization and task sequencing.

In fiction

Elio Petri's The Working Class Goes to Heaven centered around a Stakhanovite.

Harry Turtledove's novel The Gladiator, set in an alternate world where Communism prevailed in the Cold War, has multiple references to Stakhanovites as productivity models.

Andrzej Wajda's film Man of Marble explores the myth-making process behind a fictional Polish Stakhanovite, telling the story of his rise and eventual fall from grace.

References

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