SINITSYN F.L. Forming The Consumer Society in the USSR: Challenges for Authorities (1964–1982)


Fedor L. Sinitsyn

Doctor of Sciences (History), Leading Researcher,

Institute of World History of the Russian Academy of Sciences,

Prosp. Leninsky, 32a, 119334 Moscow, Russian Federation

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Abstract. Introduction. In the 1960s, the formation of a consumer society began in the USSR. At the same time, the differences in living standard and quality of life between the segments of the population became more and more noticeable. These phenomena were in conflict with the Soviet ideology – the basis of the political system of the USSR. However, the problem of the consumer society formation in the USSR and the associated challenges to the Soviet system have not yet been sufficiently studied in historiography.

Methods and materials. The methodological background of the research is based on the principles of scientific objectivity and historicism, as well as the general scientific and special methods typical for historical research. The research base includes both published and unpublished documents found by the author in the Russian State Archive of Contemporary History, the Russian State Archive of Socio-Political History and the Central State Archive of the City of Moscow.

Analysis. The Soviet power tried to respond to the challenges of consumer society within the framework of the new political and ideological concept of Developed Socialism. One of the tasks of the country’s development at this stage was declared to be the achievement of a high standard of living in the country, as well as the widespread introduction of a system of material incentives. This policy has had a certain effect. However, the previous challenges for the Soviet system remained, and new problems arose. The wage growth outstripped the growth of labor productivity, and the commodity deficit became one of the main reasons for the decline in the effectiveness of the material incentive system. To solve the problems listed above, the authorities introduced innovations in policy: reducing the rate of income growth and the population’s desire to consume, increasing the role of moral incentives, fighting surplus money, and pursuing people for non-labor income. These innovations were in conflict with the policy aimed at increasing the welfare of the population.

Results. Thus, the response of Soviet ideology to the challenges of the consumer society was to implement mutually exclusive measures. First, the authorities, while officially promoting a policy of increasing living standards, in practice sought to limit the growth of consumption. Second, material incentives to work and the rejection of equalization were introduced simultaneously with the censure of enrichment. In addition, the authorities failed to eradicate the negative manifestations of the consumer society for the Soviet ideology. In general, the inability of Soviet ideology to provide an adequate response to the challenges of consumer society was one of the manifestations of the ideological impasse in which the country was during the period under review. Problems related to the standard of living of the population became one of the time mines that undermined the Soviet system and led to its collapse.

Key words: consumer society, standard of living, material incentives, moral incentives, deficit, USSR, Leonid Brezhnev.

Citation. Sinitsyn F.L. Forming The Consumer Society in the USSR: Challenges for Authorities (1964–1982). Vestnik Volgogradskogo gosudarstvennogo universiteta. Seriya 4. Istoriya. Regionovedenie. Mezhdunarodnye otnosheniya [Science Journal of Volgograd State University. History. Area Studies. International Relations], 2021, vol. 26, no. 3, pp. 84-94. (in Russian). DOI:

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Forming The Consumer Society in the USSR: Challenges for Authorities (1964–1982) by Sinitsyn F.L. is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

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