A female factory worker in Kharkiv sits in her temporary shelter
- Wienerberger, Alexander, 1891-1955, Photographer
- Media Type
- Item Types
- Book illustrations
- A young woman worker sits by her temporary dwelling. It appears to be dug into the side of a small dirt embankment, with the floor of the tiny shelter below grade. The part of the shelter that extends beyond the embankment is sided by assorted building scraps and piles of bricks. Pieces of cloth hang over the roof and on the dirt embankment. Wienerberger states that this is a typical temporary dwelling for many of the workers at the factory he was managing for several months in 1933 in Kharkiv.
Context:The situation for Urban Residents and Industrial Workers, 1932-1933
While Stalin’s genocidal policies were decimating the countryside, most urban residents and industrial workers were suffering from severe housing shortages and varying degrees of relentless hunger and malnutrition leading to increased mortality.
Once Stalin consolidated power in the mid 1920s, he set in motion his massive industrialization program. All industry would be run by the state, and agriculture would be industrialized as well, via collectivization. To implement this unprecedented transformation, 400 new industrial plants were built in Ukraine alone during the first 5 year plan (1928-1932), some on a massive scale. The Dnipro hydroelectric plant – the largest in Europe at the time, huge steel and aluminum plants, and the Kharkiv tractor factory, were among the most impressive of their type in the USSR. However, by the end of 1932, all of agricultural production and most of the industrial production was removed from Soviet Ukraine’s control to that of Moscow.
Large numbers of people left the countryside to work in the new industrial centers of Ukraine. The number of urban residents nearly doubled between 1920 and 1933, resulted in severe housing shortages and crowding in the cities and nearby industrial sites. This problem was at best met with rapidly, shoddily assembled apartment buildings – but just as often with minimally functional shelters and huts that workers had to improvise themselves outside the cities. In the Donbas, for example, 40% of workers had less than 2 sq. meters of living space per person. At the construction site of the Dnipro Dam, the crowded and unsanitary conditions created significant health issues with inadequate medical care to address them. Outbreaks of smallpox, typhus, and other diseases further weakened workers and their families and increased mortality. In 1929, the State instituted food rationing, which became increasingly restrictive through the Holodomor years.
Stalin repeatedly warned of an imminent threat of attack on the USSR by outside capitalist powers, and workers were driven to perform to the utmost when convinced that their efforts were part of war mobilization. Whiting Williams, whose photos appear in this Directory, quotes miners that he first met in 1928 asking him when the US would attack the Soviet Union. Ultra high achieving workers were celebrated as heroes. The calls to patriotism and pride were used to offset the State’s ever-increasing failures to meet the basic needs of the proletariat. The average worker was surviving on wages that were decreasing in buying power throughout the period, wages that could hardly buy a warm coat, let alone supplement hunger rations. Furthermore, anyone rightly or wrongly accused of some form of neglect could lose their all-important food ration cards or housing, or be blacklisted from other employment, or even exiled to remote labor camps in the Gulag.
Although numerous strikes and other disturbances occurred during this period, eventually many workers responded to the grinding poverty and unfulfilled promises by engaging in the more passive forms of resistance, such as widespread theft from their places of work, frequently changing jobs, and decreasing productivity.
Sources: Subtelny, Liber, Kuromiya, Osokina, p.93, Rassweiler
- Photo taken between spring – late summer, 1933.
Photo source: Wienerberger, Alexander. Hart auf Hart. 15 Jahre Ingenieur in Sowjetrussland. Ein Tatsachenbericht; mit 52 Original-Leicaaufnahmen des Verfassers. Salzburg, Leipzig: Pustet, 1939. f.p.80.
Hart auf hart [Hard Times] was Alexander Wienerberger’s memoir of his career as a chemical engineer and technical manager in the Soviet Union through most of 1917 – 1933. Three of the chapters deal exclusively with his period in Ukraine, where he was tasked with retrofitting and managing a factory in Kharkiv from autumn 1932 – late summer 1933.
As stated in the title, the memoir includes 52 of his photos; however, only those from Ukraine are included in this Directory. The book was initially serialized with 7 photographs in an Austrian newspaper, the Salzburger Volksblatt, as “Abenteuer in Sowjetrussland,” [Adventures in Soviet Russia] in late 1938.
For essays and a listing of originals and versions published through 1939 with their captions, see Related Features below photo and Home page menus.
- Caption: “Und so wohnten unsere Fabriksarbeiter” [And that is how our factory workers lived]
- Date of Original
- Date Of Event
- Image Dimensions
Image Width: 11cm
Image Height: 8cm
- Local identifier
- Alexander Wienerberger: Beyond the Innitzer album
- Language of Item
- Geographic Coverage
Latitude: 49.98081 Longitude: 36.25272
- Copyright Statement
- Copyright status unknown. Responsibility for determining the copyright status and any use rests exclusively with the user.
- Copyright Holder
- Samara Pearce https://www.samarapearce.com/
- Recommended Citation
- Wienerberger, Alexander. Hart auf Hart. 15 Jahre Ingenieur in Sowjetrussland. Ein Tatsachenbericht; mit 52 Original-Leicaaufnahmen des Verfassers. Salzburg, Leipzig: Pustet, 1939. f.p.80. Retrieved from: http://vitacollections.ca/HREC-holodomorphotodirectory/3636257/data
- Location of Original
- Location of original photograph reproduced in this publication is unknown.
- Rightsholder requests that the name of the photographer, Alexander Wienerberger, accompany each authentic reproduction of his work.
- Reproduction Notes
- Reproduced with the permission of rightsholder Samara Pearce. Source: Book cited in NOTES above.