It goes without saying that winning a war takes sacrifice, but that sacrifice often causes ripple effects as the years after the war go by. Aside from how the Soviets may have benefited from their eventual victory, they endured major negative consequences from WWII across many aspects of their society. Specifically, the practical costs to their infrastructure, economy, and society in general counterbalanced the abstract “prestige” that Russia obtained from the war (Freeze, p. 392). While WWII may have given the Soviet Union a new sense of geopolitical superiority, it gave the Soviet people unemployment, homelessness, and famine.
For veterans especially, the benefits of a Soviet victory were often hard to see; as they experienced rampant unemployment, insecure housing, and lack of health services (Veterans Return, 1947). With an agricultural system severely damaged from the war, it’s easy to see the coordination between rising unemployment and decreasing food security (Famine of 1946-1947, 1947). It’s also easy to see how the lack of care for veterans would only compound the problems they might have with poverty and homelessness. The lack of mental health especially put Russian veterans in a baseline difficult position, even if they were still physically able bodied and could avoid the “shortage of prosthetic devices” (Veterans Return, 1947).
While there were certainly outside factors contributing to economic struggles and food insecurity, the Soviet Union’s post-war policies didn’t provide much relief for vast proportions of its people. With the restricting of private plot use and raising of taxes on their profits, the government “squeezed” the rural populace for the purpose of reconstruction (Freeze, p. 393).
While Russia may have benefitted in some ways from its victory in WWII, the sense of “victory” was likely hard to feel for many ordinary Russians. Given the perfect storm of damaged infrastructure, outside factors, and questionable post-war policies, it’s not surprising to see how the abstract benefits of victory often failed to trickle down to practical benefits for the Russian people.
Freeze, Gregory, L. Russia, A History. Oxford University Press. Oxford, New York. 2009.