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Regular version of the site

Article

Decentralizing Dictatorship: Soviet Local Governance during World War II

The Russian Review. 2018. No.  77 . P. 470-484.

Based on the new archival documentation, in this article, I investigate the process of localization (decentralization of authority towards local actors) in the USSR during World War II. Local authorities managed the economy of some regions as a unified complex. They re-allocated the workforce, equipment, and materials among enterprises that reported to different commissariats (economic and state ministries) and determined production plans. In so doing, local party authorities challenged departmental interests and violated the planned centralization standards. The localization of governance is interpreted in this article as the result of interactions between several related processes. On the one hand, after the terror of the 1930's, the composition of regional managers became increasingly stable. On the other hand, during the critical conditions of war the center restructured its relationships with the regions. The overall contraction in manufacturing and the breaking up of cooperation between enterprises forced the government to rely on the initiatives of lower level management, which then acquired significant authority. Under the influence of these factors, many practices of formal and informal localization spread at the regional level. The study and categorization of these practices, their reasons, and consequences is the goal of this article.