A male factory worker in his temporary shelter on the outskirts of Kharkiv
- Wienerberger, Alexander, 1891-1955, Photographer
- Media Type
- Item Types
- Photograph albums
- In what appears to be an open, uncultivated field, a man sits in his temporary dwelling. The tiny shelter is slightly raised off the ground and made up of building scraps and assorted pieces of cloth. 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. Das Arbeiterparadies. U.d.S.S.R. (also known as the Red Album). Unpublished and undated album in the private collection of Samara Pearce. p.2b.
This personal album has a subtitle written on the inside of the front cover: “Proletarien aller Länder vereinigt euch!.... (im Massengrab.)” [Proletarians of all countries unite! ... (in the mass grave)]. Nicknamed the "Red" album because of its red cover, it contains photos from Kharkiv, Crimea, and Moscow taken 1933 through the winter 1933-1934. The Crimea and Moscow photos are not included in the Directory. They not only portray locations outside Ukraine’s political boundaries at that time but are primarily of a sight-seeing or personal nature.
For essays and a listing of originals and versions published through 1939 with their captions, see Related Features below photo and Home page menus.
- Handwritten caption on photo: “Arbeiterwohnung in Charkov” [Worker’s dwelling in Kharkiv]
- Date of Original
- Date Of Event
- Image Dimensions
Image Width: 23
Image Height: 17
- 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. Das Arbeiterparadies. U.d.S.S.R. (also known as the Red Album). Private collection of Samara Pearce, n.d. p.2b. Retrieved from: http://vitacollections.ca/HREC-holodomorphotodirectory/3636309/data
- Location of Original
- Private collection of Samara Pearce. Please contact Ms. Pearce for reproductions from the original.
- 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: Private collection of Samara Pearce.