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Trials and Tribulations of a Worker in the Soviet Union

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Stony Brook...

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  1. Mass production of steel has been around since the mid 1800's, allowed for by the invention of the Bessemer converter but, the closely related ironworking industry has been in existence for thousands of years
  2. The sheer size and rapid development of the industry may have sounded impressive when exclaimed by one of Stalin's aides in a motivational speech, but it had severe ramifications.
  3. My grandfather started his work at Stalin's Aviation Factory in 1945 at the young age of 13 and spent the first few years there trying to make ends meet for his family by working in strictly manual labor.
  4. Pavel aspired to work in another one of the sectors of the factory, which was divided up into ten of them, as he saw no potential in staying in the current one.
  5. The 800 rubles a month Pavel was now earning was still a very respectable salary for the time, the 1960's, but the variety of options to spend it on was quite limited.
  6. Pavel was one of the lucky members of the Soviet Union working class to overcome hardships and rise from poverty to the tiny middle class community of those days.

Pavel Chernin, my grandfather, faced excruciating hardships, felt a sense of nationalism and experienced unexpected satisfaction, all at the hands of the manufacturing industry of the Soviet Union. The industry was one of the country's biggest as a result of Stalin's first two five year plans and continued growing with the third, right around the time Pavel was entering the work force to help build airplanes for ?mother Russia?.
Mass production of steel has been around since the mid 1800's, allowed for by the invention of the Bessemer converter but, the closely related ironworking industry has been in existence for thousands of years.

[...] However, Pavel was still making only two thirds of what other non-Jewish workers of the same job title were earning and after about two months his salary was raised to 1200 rubles, for which he was overjoyed. But the excitement did not last very long. Pavel was one of the first of the Jewish people in Samara to receive a promotion which consequently caused extreme jealousy by his peers of all backgrounds and the weakening union could not prevent his salary to be dropped to 800 rubles per month, even lower than his starting salary. [...]


[...] Unlike America's multifaceted advertising and spending booms, money in the former Soviet Union seemed to flow in one direction only, towards the government. My grandfather recalls lines at the stores for one type of blue sweater, one type of car, one type of sausage, two types of cheese. Consumer selection and hence consumer consumption was restricted and in result money was paid to the government for various ?support? programs and the rest was used for food and other life necessities such as shelter and clothes. [...]

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