Russia after the War: Hopes, Illusions, and Disappointments, 1945-1957

By Elena Zubkova; Hugh Ragsdale | Go to book overview

Chapter 2 The Victory and the Victors

The war naturally left a dreadful legacy across the country. An extraordinary state commission, charged with calculating the material losses resulting from combat operations and defense expenditures more generally, assessed the cost at 2,569 billion rubles. 1 This figure took into account the destruction of cities and towns, industrial enterprises, and railroad bridges; the loss of output of pig iron and steel; the contraction of the motor vehicle fleet and the livestock population; and so on. Nowhere, however, was there mention of the number of lives lost (if we ignore the figure of 7 million announced by Stalin in 1946).

The magnitude of human losses in the Soviet Union during the Second World War is still disputed among historians. One reason for the disagreement is the lack of a complete statistical base and authoritative figures on birth and death rates, the natural rate of growth of the population, and other demographic indicators. 2 Research based on the methodology of demographic balance 3 indicates total human losses in the USSR during the war of 26.6 million people. 4 Approximately 76 percent, that is, about 20 million, were men, the greater part of whom had been born between 1901 and 1931--the most capable contingent of the male population. 5 This circumstance alone suggests the seriousness of the demographic problems of postwar society. In 1940 the Soviet population numbered 100.3 million females and 92.3 million males. The primary source of the imbalance was the superior life expectancy of women, especially after age 60. In 1946 the Soviet population numbered 96.2 million females and 74.4 million males; and in comparison with the prewar situation, the substantially greater number of women was already conspicuous in the age cohort of 20- to 44-year-olds. In 1940, there were 37.6 million

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