The Truth About Scarcity: Why Soviet Store Shelves Empty

The topic of "total deficit", "widespread queues", "absolutely empty counters" and other problems allegedly inherent in life in the USSR is discussed on the Internet in our Fatherland and the so-called "post-Soviet countries" with fervor, often exceeding the passions that flare up in conversations about modern political events. Each of the parties brings a lot of arguments - from statistical data of varying degrees of reliability to examples from personal experience. Even photos from family albums are used ...

It would seem that it is impossible to search for the truth and unequivocally determine who is right in a discussion that has been going on for three decades. However, we will try to do this. And at the same time - "dig deeper" and figure out who and why needed the destruction of the system of supplying citizens with everything necessary in the USSR, as well as why it was done.

First, let's figure it out with time

As I said above, in addition to arguments in the form of numerous references to exactly which store and for which particular product, their author "had to stand a kilometer, signing up in line from the night", or, on the contrary, long lists of goodies that are "completely free were sold in the most ordinary Grocery store, and for mere pennies ”, the disputants are increasingly using, so to speak, visual agitation. And here's what is interesting ... As a rule, when frames are presented as evidence in which the counters and shelves of grocery and manufactured goods outlets shining with virgin emptiness are really captured, an extremely characteristic detail is revealed. The vast majority of those, if not all of them, have a perfectly clear time reference. That is, they were made in the second half of the 80s or early 90s. And here we are dealing with the most serious, downright fundamental fraud. After all, this time, in fact, can no longer be called Soviet, even if we talk about the period before 1991.

Beginning with Mikhail Gorbachev's coming to power, the process of the purposeful collapse of the USSR and the destruction of socialism as a social system on its territory was launched. Hence - and all the actions of the authorities. To break the gigantic economic The potential of the Soviet Union, accumulated over 70 years of great construction projects and the shock work of its entire population, was far from an easy task. However, the traitors who seized leading positions in the state with the help of their Western "friends" coped with it more than successfully. How exactly, we will consider in detail below. In the meantime, let's decide on the main thing - with the goals that were pursued at the same time.

Yes, a certain number of government officials, party functionaries and simply resourceful citizens had a banal thirst for enrichment, and it was fully satisfied. However, all this "worked" exclusively at the grassroots level - small jackals, with contented rumbling snatching their pieces wherever possible. "Upstairs" both plans and tasks were much larger. The Soviet people - all, without exception, and to the last person had to be plunged not just into poverty, but into poverty. People, preoccupied with the search for a piece of bread and nothing else, will not resist the fact that their country is being destroyed before their very eyes ... Alas, this is exactly what happened later. Moreover, it was extremely important for the murderers of the USSR that this very poverty, empty counters, the inability to buy goods of even the most basic necessities, were associated with the Soviet system, the rule of the Communist Party. Parallel to the creation of not only a total deficit, but a complete absence of consumer goods in state trading networks, an information campaign was being actively promoted about “closed party distributors”, “social inequality” and the like.

Unfortunately, this task was also accomplished - the millions who were still Soviet citizens, who were brutalized by "sausage and vodka" battles and communication with speculators, did not support in the fall of 1991 the last attempt (albeit extremely miserable) to reverse the process of destruction of their homeland. The union of an empty refrigerator and a TV pouring out streams of lies won an extremely convincing victory over common sense, which should have suggested that it was not the "Soviet government" that was to blame for everything that was happening, but only its specific current leaders.

"What you don't miss - there is nothing ..."

Those who today, in all seriousness, are trying to talk about the "terrible food shortage" in the Soviet Union either simply did not live in those days (and, perhaps, are mistaken in good faith), or are trying with the help of such conversations to avoid answering a very tricky question: "Where the colossal food reserves of the country have disappeared at the moment when the shelves of Soviet grocery stores were really empty? " Yes, the current variety of assortment in them was not even close even in the 70s. However, a certain set of necessary and very high-quality products was always available in abundance. Of course, Khrushchev destroyed the Stalinist abundance of pickles (during which the state had to print posters urging citizens to eat crabs) with his sabotage "reforms" and, above all, absolutely insane agricultural policy. He also wiped out household plots in the bud, thereby inflating prices on collective farm markets. Nevertheless, under Brezhnev, the main consequences of the "corn catastrophe" were overcome. There was no abundance, but no one was starving either. Under Brezhnev, but already at the suggestion of Gorbachev, in 1982 he had to adopt the famous "Food Program". Accepted - and, after five years, excuse the rudeness, there was nothing to eat at all. This is despite the fact that according to official statistics, its indicators have been met, if not exceeded. How so? It's very simple.

In my archive is a tape recording of one retired general from law enforcement. For some personal reasons, I will not name his name here, I will only make a reservation that at one time he held quite significant positions - for example, he headed the BKSS service of Checheno-Ingushetia. Subsequently, he ended up in one of the republics that gained independence - and also far from being in a low position. And this is how this person described to me a situation that he faced in the very beginning of the 90s:

The capital of the republic in those days was literally suffocating from the shortage, primarily from the food shortage. And at the same time, the warehouses of more than numerous trading bases located in the city were bursting with an abundance of products! I began to travel to all these bases myself. Moreover, he came to the area without any warning, taking with him from the city police department someone who was well-versed in the area, could show where all these objects are located. We entered the first warehouse - and I was amazed! Not that there are food in wagons, but in trains! What is not there - not only stew, condensed milk, but also cod liver, sausage, whatever you want, even caviar! What is most interesting is that the leaders of these very "klondikes" found a very original excuse for themselves - they say that both the bases and warehouses belonging to them were "under the union's subordination." Here they are, the orphaned and the poor, in the complete absence of guidelines from above, they cannot put their minds to it - what to do with all this. And we would be glad to put it on sale - well, they will be called to account!

Such is the story with geography. These are not fictions, but testimonies of a very specific person who was in his right mind and hard memory, and, believe me, was absolutely not inclined to fantasies. There are other confirmations - the same Nikolai Ryzhkov, who was chairman of the USSR Council of Ministers during the “perestroika” period, later admitted that there was a clear and unambiguous instruction “from above” - not even to unload the food trains arriving from the regions. In the end, if the country had real problems with food, its leadership could (and had to) make a decision on commodity interventions from the huge reserves of the USSR State Reserve. However, nobody did it. The murderers of the USSR needed a hungry and "silent" people - and they got it.

USSR for export

The situation with non-food products is even more interesting. Gentlemen democrats and liberals go out of their way trying to convince all of us that in the Soviet Union, neither normal clothes and shoes, nor household equipment, no furniture. In short - none of the most popular consumer goods. Decent (that is, exclusively imported) things could be "obtained by pull" or purchased from blacksmiths and other speculators at exorbitant prices. There is some truth in this, but only a fraction. Yes, there was "cronyism", and recordings on headsets and sets, and lively guys who sold from under the floor little-worn American pants. But here is how, then, to explain those figures about which the defenders of "market reforms" and other "re-arranged" devilry, if they remember, then very reluctantly, literally with a gnash of teeth. Among these very reforms there was, in particular, the decision taken in early 1987 to abolish practically all the restrictions that had been in effect before in foreign trade. This was the main step towards turning the shelves of Soviet stores into an absolute desert.

In this article, I will not touch upon the issues of exporting stocks of strategic raw materials abroad - this is a topic for a separate story, and our conversation is now about something else. Since the removal of barriers in the way of those wishing to enrich themselves at the ferry across the cordon of "unusable" Soviet goods, these same goods flowed there not even like a river - Niagara Falls! In 1988 alone, half a million (!) Color televisions, 200 thousand washing machines went abroad from the USSR ... This alone completely refutes the miserable thesis that in the Soviet Union such goods "were not produced in sufficient quantities" or were "completely of poor quality ". Abroad, primarily in Eastern Europe, our goods, as they say, were torn off with their hands! And there was a very specific reason for that.

Soviet consumer goods had a "ridiculous", penny cost. In comparison with their foreign counterparts (not always, by the way, of better quality and more reliable), they were generally almost free! They scattered them "with a bang", and with a double, triple "wrapping", or even at a price five times more than the price for which they were purchased in Soviet trade by resourceful "shuttle traders". And caravans pulled out from the USSR. To Yugoslavia, Romania, Poland ... The latter generally turned into one huge bazaar, where our compatriots sold everything and everyone. Literally everything that could be exported was exported - the state export of fabrics from the Soviet Union alone instantly took off 3, 5, 7 times! And we will never know how much and what the private persons were dragged off the cordon, and for no reason - customs statistics were not kept in the country as such. However, some customs still tried to keep at least some kind of accounting. At the same time, the numbers turned out to be terrible, downright catastrophic. According to only one of the posts through it during 1989, more than 2 million tons (!!!) of consumer goods, which at that time belonged to the category of acutely scarce, flowed over the cordon. Nobody even tried to count on pieces ...

Do you think that in Moscow, in the Kremlin, in the Central Committee of the CPSU, they had no idea about this? Could not figure out what horrific consequences such a total sale of the country would inevitably lead to? I am sure that everyone there understood and understood perfectly well. But what was happening more than met the plans of Gorbachev and his accomplices. It is impossible to assume anything else if we consider the reaction of the Soviet authorities to what was happening in it. In 1989, new Customs regulations were adopted, which, among other things, removed any restrictions on the export of gold and jewelry from the country. As a result, how many of them were exported abroad, how fabulously enriched both individual citizens and certain structures - this, again, no one will say.

The destruction of Soviet industry, trade, and supplies was carried out deliberately and purposefully. At the same time, let me repeat myself, both political and purely mercantile motives were pursued. Let me give you another concrete example - after the "sudden" shutdown of 26 of the 28 tobacco factories in the Soviet Union, a real cigarette collapse broke out. In some republics and regions, it came to "tobacco riots", and in the markets banks sold ... cigarette butts! After that, cheap domestic cigarettes completely disappeared from the shelves, but imported ones immediately appeared in their place. But they cost five times, or even ten times more ...

The shortage and insecurity of the population of the USSR with both food and consumer goods were created during the period of "perestroika" completely artificially and with criminal intentions by those who set their goal to destroy the entire country. This is the truth, confirmed by figures, facts and memories of those who lived in this terrible time. Everything else is shameless lies and rigging.
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  1. Wooh Offline Wooh
    Wooh (Barmaley) 21 November 2020 10: 17
    I fully support the author about sabotage from above. After my father was demobilized from the border troops in 1960, we first moved to Zaporozhye from Takhta-Bazar, and then, a month later, to Vilnius, thank God that we left Ukraine. I was 13 years old when the khrushchev was removed. On store shelves, cornflakes, corn loaves and corn honey. And the day after the plenum, abundance. Pigs were raised in one night, slaughtered and bacon made. And some say there are no miracles.
    By the way, about those sausages, I remember the doctor's sausage with longing. Such as now, then the mongrels would not eat.
  2. Sergey Latyshev Offline Sergey Latyshev
    Sergey Latyshev (Serge) 21 November 2020 10: 19
    Yes. And those who created these empty shelves are now in power. With descendants.
    Sobchaks, Chubais, Gaidars, Chernomyrdins and Usmanovs. And their sidekick.
  3. Artyom76 Offline Artyom76
    Artyom76 (Artyom Volkov) 21 November 2020 12: 14
    I absolutely agree with the author, unfortunately, our whole country was betrayed, and some of the people just thoughtlessly fell for it. I was still a child (12 years old) in 1991, but all my life I could not understand what the shortage of food was (by the way, I don’t remember it in our city, everything was in stores until the appearance of imported goods with shuttles already in the mid-90s) if the entire industry worked at 100% load.
  4. Artyom76 Offline Artyom76
    Artyom76 (Artyom Volkov) 21 November 2020 12: 16
    Quote: Uuh
    By the way, about those sausages, I remember the doctor's sausage with longing. Such as now, then the mongrels would not eat.

    I agree with you 100%, I still remember the "taste of childhood", but it is no longer realistic to meet it in our time .... even with their new "guests"
  5. Xuli (o) Tebenado 21 November 2020 12: 52
    Around 1979, the capital of the southern union republic: fruits and vegetables are freely sold, in stores in bulk canned fruits and vegetables; milk (milk, kefir, sour cream, cottage cheese) was enough for 1-1,5 hours after "import"; meat, chickens, sausages - you had to run 5-8-10 shops, and then (after standing in lines) luck will definitely smile on you.

    ..the potential of the Soviet Union, accumulated over 70 years of great construction projects and the shock work of its entire population ..

    It's time to repeat the dates:
    1918 - 1922 - Russian Civil War;
    30.12.1922/XNUMX/XNUMX - formation of the USSR;
    1928-1932 - the first five-year plan;
    08.12.1991/XNUMX/XNUMX - the collapse of the USSR.
    Thus, the USSR existed for almost 69 years. And at the same time, as stated -

    ... about the second half of the 80s or early 90s. ... After all, this time ... can no longer be called Soviet, even if we talk about the period before 1991.
    1. The comment was deleted.
  6. Jacques sekavar Offline Jacques sekavar
    Jacques sekavar (Jacques Sekavar) 21 November 2020 14: 00
    Canonical propaganda "chernukha" - stupidity rides on stupidity and stupidity drives.
  7. Oleg Rambover Offline Oleg Rambover
    Oleg Rambover (Oleg Rambover) 21 November 2020 14: 06
    I have not read it, but I condemn it. The author has too many letters. I think the old song about the main thing, Khrushchev and Gorbachev are traitors who specially arranged a deficit.
    In 1920, Ludwig von Mises, in his book Economic Computing in the Socialist Community, put forward the so-called calculational argument. The bottom line is that in a planned economy it is impossible to assess the value of resources and, accordingly, it is impossible to effectively allocate these resources. As a consequence, the low efficiency of such an economy and a deficit. Time confirmed von Mises was right. In short, the deficit is an integral part of the socialist planned economy. They also pointed to the unequal position of consumers and producers in the planning system, hence the low quality and sloppy design.
    1. nov_tech.vrn Offline nov_tech.vrn
      nov_tech.vrn (Michael) 22 November 2020 13: 35
      On the first day of the GKChP, my friend got into a group that, according to the plan of events, controlled one of the highways leading out of the city, they were located in a small town, a lot of greenery, the private sector was literally within walking distance of the city limits, well, some SMU were located from the industry and etc. So, literally on the first day, a local precinct officer came to them and said that he was ready to name several addresses in the private sector from which a large amount of goods and food was urgently sent to the city, his bosses ignored all information about underground warehouses.
      1. Oleg Rambover Offline Oleg Rambover
        Oleg Rambover (Oleg Rambover) 22 November 2020 17: 23
        Before believing any facts, let alone such rumors, I ask myself the question "why?" In this case, why would Gorbachev do something like that? He was the ruler of a huge country that dictated its will to the world, and became a pensioner. I cannot imagine Gorbachev's motives that he would like the collapse of the USSR.
        And there was always a deficit under Soviet rule, from the famine under Stalin to the lack of toilet paper under Gorbachev.
    2. Bulanov Offline Bulanov
      Bulanov (Vladimir) 23 November 2020 09: 22
      In short, the deficit is an integral part of the socialist planned economy.

      That's why in socialist China there is a deficit in everything ... Or maybe it's the other way around? How did the West steal medical masks from each other right on the runways of Chinese airfields? How is covid treated in China and the EU?
      1. Oleg Rambover Offline Oleg Rambover
        Oleg Rambover (Oleg Rambover) 23 November 2020 11: 32
        Quote: Bulanov
        That's why in socialist China there is a deficit in everything ... Or maybe it's the other way around?

        In modern China, from socialism only the name and the Communist Party. There has long been not a planned economy (when there was a planned economy and a deficit), but quite a market economy. Only 30% of GDP is formed by state-owned enterprises (for comparison, in the modern Russian Federation, 70%).

        Quote: Bulanov
        How did the West steal medical masks from each other right on the runways of Chinese airfields? How is covid treated in China and the EU?

        Autocracies have an advantage in times of crisis (they can react faster without giving a damn about people's rights), but are generally less effective than democracies.
  8. boriz Offline boriz
    boriz (boriz) 21 November 2020 19: 55
    All this is well known. And when the prices were released, everything suddenly appeared on the shelves. Where from? I don't remember all the prices, but here is the bread on 31.12.1991/20/01.01.1992. cost 20 kopecks per loaf, and XNUMX/XNUMX/XNUMX. - already XNUMX rubles. Despite the fact that salaries have not changed in any way. It was called "shock therapy".
    But this is not an invention of the Central Committee of the CPSU or the 5th Directorate of the KGB. At the beginning of 1917. Echelons with food on their way to St. Petersburg were driven into dead ends. And food was spoiled or stolen. And in St. Petersburg there was a well-organized food shortage. What served as the basis for one of the first "color" revolutions, which, as you know, do not occur in the poorest countries.
    The USSR was torn apart for a long time and diligently. Introduced distortions in development, up to the ideological level. And thus, they aroused doubts in people (more precisely, disbelief) in the chosen path. And this has already been hammered into the subconscious of the people. Already in the West, the ideas of socialism (left-conservative) are gaining more and more popularity, but in our country it is still like that joke: spoons were found, but the residue remained ...
    1. Xuli (o) Tebenado 21 November 2020 20: 27
      And when the prices were released, everything suddenly appeared on the shelves. Where from?

      "Everything suddenly appeared on the shelves" from about the same place where it appeared after 1921, when the tax in kind was introduced instead of the surplus appropriation, which brought the country to complete ruin and the former cause of several powerful uprisings. Around the same time, sailors with Mausers and wooden heads were torn away from the peasants who were feeding the country, and they remembered the simplest economic laws that immediately filled warehouses, counters and shop windows.
      1. boriz Offline boriz
        boriz (boriz) 21 November 2020 20: 36
        For one New Year's Eve?
        Just don't tell us about the market, which has an invisible hand ... blah blah blah ...
        Already 20 years as no one will believe.
        1. Xuli (o) Tebenado 21 November 2020 20: 53
          I did not count the nights there.
          I am not telling you anything about the market, as it is useless.
          From that whole history, I know one thing: the die-hard have profiled their country and are still looking for those to blame. And these guilty persons, in their stubborn judgment, are anyone, but not themselves.
      2. nov_tech.vrn Offline nov_tech.vrn
        nov_tech.vrn (Michael) 22 November 2020 13: 41
        The provisional appropriation of the invention of the interim government, do not look in the morning the films that were riveted in modern Russia, these creators were once in France, they were called bohemians, they were not even buried in cemeteries.
        1. Alexzn Offline Alexzn
          Alexzn (Alexander) 22 November 2020 14: 54
          Procurement of inventions of the interim government, do not watch movies in the morning

          Why not just find out ... The prodrazvestka introduced in 1919 is an invention of the provisional government, which was thrown off in 1917 ...
          1. nov_tech.vrn Offline nov_tech.vrn
            nov_tech.vrn (Michael) 22 November 2020 21: 55
            In 1916, because of the food crisis in the cities, Nicholas II introduced state purchases of grain. In March 1917, the Provisional Government tightens the tsar's policy. The voluntary principle of delivery of bread is abolished, a mandatory one is introduced. The norm for personal consumption of peasant families (food, sowing, private sale) is approved.
            A grain monopoly is introduced and the private trade in grain is prohibited. The purchase price falls, money depreciates, the peasants refuse to sell grain. The Bolsheviks exacerbated this practice.
  9. isofat Offline isofat
    isofat (isofat) 21 November 2020 22: 37
    You can't just declare capitalism without enterprising people who don't know the taste of money. Given that all this must happen without a civil war.

    Where can you find a private owner in a socialist country if you suddenly decide to build capitalism? How to grow it?

    Let the Democrats in the media preach entrepreneurship and capitalism. Make amendments to allow goods to be released from warehouses. Make hot goods in short supply, i.e. remove from stores. .... The process has started.
  10. Alexzn Offline Alexzn
    Alexzn (Alexander) 22 November 2020 09: 25
    It's fun to read this analysis of history. An old Soviet / Russian habit - you have lost such a country! Part of the population cries about the Tsar Father and the Russian Empire, some about the master Stalin and the mighty USSR, they don't cry about Khrushchev, they cry about the stagnant-drinking Brezhnev and the relative freedom ... The latter, by the way, I can understand.
    Few people think about why it all collapsed and are looking for malicious behind-the-scenes, pests, etc. They prefer to remain silent about the basic problems of the system itself. The obvious is ignored - such a system is effective only in extreme conditions - war, cataclysms, solving global challenges, and then it does not work. Everywhere! Geography and history are proof of this. If you manage to converge at a certain stage (China, Vietnam), you become a b / m successful system, if not, you are marking time as Russia and waiting for a chance in the form of oil prices.
    PS Russia has not converged the system in the worst way, it could be worse.
    Russia has remained a world power with an acceptable standard of living and is developing at the very least.
    How successful the new system can be argue for people who grew up and fit in with it, and the representatives of the scoop can feel sick about how good it was and the blue birds are getting rid of it - this is a dream come true.
  11. Pavel Kovalev Offline Pavel Kovalev
    Pavel Kovalev (Pavel Kovalev) 22 November 2020 14: 17
    Jews! And who invented?
  12. Alexzn Offline Alexzn
    Alexzn (Alexander) 22 November 2020 22: 14
    Quote: nov_tech.vrn
    In 1916, because of the food crisis in the cities, Nicholas II introduced state purchases of grain. In March 1917, the Provisional Government tightens the tsar's policy. The voluntary principle of delivery of bread is abolished, a mandatory one is introduced. The norm for personal consumption of peasant families (food, sowing, private sale) is approved.
    A grain monopoly is introduced and the private trade in grain is prohibited. The purchase price falls, money depreciates, the peasants refuse to sell grain. The Bolsheviks exacerbated this practice.

    Sorry, but the forced sale of agricultural products to the state at fixed prices was a worldwide practice during the First World War (and in the second for most of the belligerent countries). In Soviet Russia, they went much further, up to the complete confiscation of agricultural products, including the seed fund.
    1. tanyurg56 Offline tanyurg56
      tanyurg56 (Yuri Gorbunov) Yesterday, 18: 08
      Что ж у вас за яблоня такая гнилая, вместо генеалогического древа в родове была!? Вроде и поливали и ухаживали бесплатно, а яблоко всёравно червивое созрело!
  13. Rashid116 Offline Rashid116
    Rashid116 (Rashid) 23 November 2020 16: 11
    Well, okay, we figured it out. Nobody really argues with the author, because they themselves have witnessed all this. And what's next? What, do not bother anyone at all with these people who arranged it all for us? And we all know them and they still in power, and do not rot in a ditch with a ripped belly with all their servants. In the next elections, everyone will again vote for the same scum, because they have realized now how they will tear off their vest and lead us to light capitalism. And, these guppies also have an excuse their cowardice, they have already stolen, but new ones will come ...
  14. Vladimir Bikbulatov (Vladimir Bikbulatov) 23 November 2020 21: 34
    I would love to read the author's version of the explanations of the "ubiquitous queues", but I stood there! And the author, it seems, did not find that time, and in this he did not really get a job