In 1928 the Soviet economy experienced a moment of massive change. For four years, as power struggles between Stalin and the ‘troika’ of Trotsky, Zinoviev and Kamenev left Russia in a period of confused collective leadership, the biggest question had been one of economic direction. It was unclear how long Lenin’s New Economic Policy that had been introduced in the aftermath of the civil war and allowed a limited amount of free enterprise in Russia was meant to continue. Lenin, who died in 1924 after several strokes robbed him of speech did not make clear how long it should be, though he implied it might last many decades. Stalin decisively answered the question of when the NEP should come to an end by introducing the Five Year Plans, the massive state led industrialisation of Russia. It was inevitably the Russian people who would bear the economic and social burdens of the plans, which created a massive influx of labour from the countryside to the towns and cities. There was very little housing provision to begin with but overcrowding and shanty towns (Magnitogorsk was being built during this period and began life essentially as a tent city in the arctic north) defined the era for many Russians. Poverty and hunger became epidemic problems during the first plan, with only the civil war years to rival them in terms of hardship.
For more on Stalin’s first Five Year Plan see the video below: