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Article

Socialist construction for Siberia: Comecon and Ust`-Ilimsk forest industrial complex in the USSR, 1970s-80s

Kochetkova E., Popov A.

This article examines the history of socialist collaboration in Comecon through the lens of a large industrial project in Soviet Siberia. It examines the construction of the Ust`-Ilimsk forest industrial complex which was conceived as a collective effort of six socialist European countries. On the one hand, the project formed part of the Soviet Union’s strategy of technological colonization of Soviet Eastern lands, and on the other, it aimed to enhance socialist collaboration and integration efforts through the exchange of material goods and expertise, as prescribed by the project agreements. The paper focuses on the interplay between ideological implications, national interests and material shortages when completing the project, showing the contradictory nature of socialist collaborative construction. It argues that the Soviet central government sought material resources for the construction from ‘brother’ socialist countries with an ideological emphasis on how important it was for further cooperation in the Eastern bloc. In fact, the project exposed difficulties, ranging from material shortages typical of state socialism and the predominance of national economic interests, with the result that this socialist project was compelled to also make use of Western equipment and expertise, transforming Ust`-Ilimsk from a socialist to a far more international construction site.