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M. Ilin's

The Story of the Five-Year Plan


1. Rivers of Freight

During five years we shall build thousands of new factories. And each factory will turn out thousands of tons of freight. Over a network of railways and waterways this freight will flow in all directions. Throughout the whole country rivers of freight will how, rivers of coal, bread, lumber, iron, cotton, machines.

Whence will they come and whither will they go? This we can foretell. Because here, as in the whole of nature, laws govern.

Rivers of water flow into the seas.

Rivers of freight flow into large cities, into manufacturing centers. Where do we have the largest number of factories?

In Leningrad and Moscow.

So it is into these cities that two of the largest torrents will how. One from the south along the meridian, from the Donbas and the Ukraine. Another from the east along the parallel, from the Urals and Siberia. A third wide river of freight will flow from the Donbas west and bring coal to the Krivorozhsky Factories. A fourth will carry bread and lumber from Siberia into Turkestan. A fifth will transport Kuznets coal from the Altai Mountains to the Urals.

Hundreds of rivers of freight will flood the entire country like waters in springtime.

But water cuts its own channel, builds its own way. Coal, cotton, iron, and lumber, of course, cannot construct roads themselves. We must do this for them. We must prepare the country for the great freight flood: we must dig canals in one place, lay a railroad in another, build a port in a third, and reinforce bridges, rails, and ties everywhere.

If we fail to do these things, the whole Five-Year Plan will collapse. Because by 1933 we shall have to transport twice as much freight as we are transporting now. Every factory that we build is not only a factory, but a railroad station too.

Examine the plant of any large factory. You will see semaphores, blocks, platforms, depots, water cranes, cabins for watchmen. As the railroad approaches the factory, it splits into tens of branches so that it may reach every building and bring raw material and fuel to every department. A storeroom of coal or of pig iron is at the same time a railroad station. With the noise of thunder trains by into the very heart of a building. Smoke from locomotives rises to the glass roof shutting out the light. Every where in the factory you hear locomotive whistles, you see long chains of red cars. How can you distinguish where the railroad ends and the factory begins?

Stop the flow of goods and the factory also will stop: it will die. We must prepare roads beforehand. If we fail to do so, dams will be hung across the rivers of freight, one after another the streams of traffic will cease to how, stagnant lakes will form at the crossing stations, and overflow storerooms, platforms, and packing houses.

We must not permit this to happen.

But what can we do to make railroads transport twice as much freight as they are transporting now? We must compel the trains to run more swiftly and we must use every locomotive to its full capacity.

We must organize the work so that not one locomotive, not one car, will stand idle. Men require rest, but machines never tire. The question of repairs is, of course, a different matter, but repairs can be made more quickly so that locomotives will not have to remain in the shops a single extra day.

But this, too, is not all. In order to meet ah our transportation needs, we shall have to build thousands of kilometers of new roads, thousands of new cars and locomotives. Our whole network of railways must be reorganized and regenerated according to one general plan.

2. What is a Railroad?

One large factory is better than several small factories.

Likewise one large railroad is better than several small railroads.

After all, what is a railroad, anyway? A railroad is the same as a factory.

In a factory machines work; on a railroad also machines work. Out of useless and worthless things a factory makes necessary and valuable articles.

A railroad also makes useful things from what is useless. We take a forest somewhere on the taiga, where it rots and is practically without value, and transport it to the city, where it is needed in the construction of hundreds of industries. A pine log in the depths of a forest and the same pine log st the gate of a sawmill are two very different things.

A railroad is a factory. And the larger this factory, the better it will work.

In all of our factories we try to install the strongest machines, the most powerful engines, because they are most economical. In proportion to their strength, they use less fuel and work more efficiently than their weaker rivals.

On a railroad we have precisely the same situation: we must have the mightiest of locomotives. No longer shall we build the feeble engines of the past. We shall construct freight locomotives of the new powerful series E–with ten revolving wheels.

In the factory the number of steam engines grows less and less, being replaced by electric motors. On our railroads also we shall change to electric power. Near the Kashir Station we shall build an electric railroad from Tovarkovo to Ozherelie. In the Caucasus in the region of the electric station, Sages and Rionges, electric motors will run over the road from Tiflis to Khashuri. From Moscow and Leningrad electric trains will provide transportation to the various suburbs.

Already we have electric trains from Baku to the Sabunchinsky and Surakhansky oil wells; also from Moscow to Mitishchi.

In time we shall electrify all of our roads.

For after all, the electric motor is the most profitable. A locomotive must produce its own energy. But an electric motor receives its energy directly from the electric station. A locomotive must carry quantities of coal and water, and a steam boiler besides. An electric motor carries nothing. To burn coal or to generate steam is the business of the electric station.

Also the electric motor can pull a larger number of cars and develop a higher rate of speed than the steam engine. And it moves with fewer jerks and is less wearing on the road.

But if all these things are so, why should we not electrify our roads entirely?

Because the matter is not so simple. To accomplish this, we must cover the whole country with a network of wires and electrify the entire Union. Such a task you cannot perform in five years. But from the first small experiments we shall pass on to larger achievements, and perhaps during the next five-year period coal from Donbas will be delivered in Moscow by means of electricity.

Electric traction, however, is not everything. There are many other improvements to be introduced to increase the speed of our trains.

In factories we already have automatic machines, and on railroads such machines can also do the work of men. Automatic couplers and signals are now in use. Machines have likewise been invented for the loading and unloading of cars, for the fastening of the rails, for the feeding of coal into the locomotive.

The railroad is a factory. But if it is to work as well as other factories many changes must be made.

3. A Giant Road

Already we have giant factories. And we shall construct giant roads also to carry the largest rivers of freight.

The most powerful of such rivers will flow from Siberia to Moscow. The way is long. Day after day the hat steppe hashes by the windows of the car. Slowly, slowly grow the hills. Now the earth rises upward, now it softly flattens down to the horizon. Hills enlarge and turn into mountains. Dark forests shut out the light, only to give place again to the open steppe. Ridge, plain, and woodland follow one another in an eternal succession. It seems that the white kilometer posts will continue to flash by forever.

And along this endless road will go millions of tons of grain, of lumber, of metal. Rapidly will fly the kilometers. Each kilometer a kopeck. The transport of one ton of goods over one kilometer will cost only one kopeck. But when millions of tons go, it will mean millions of kopecks. And when millions of tons go thousands of kilometers, then it will mean thousands of millions –billions of kopecks. A billion kopecks is ten million rubles. Thus to transport freight from Siberia to Moscow will cost us millions of rubles.

If we could only bring Siberia nearer to Moscow! How much money we then should save! And money means labor–our own labor.

But is it really possible to bring two regions nearer which are separated by thousands of kilometers?

4. How to Bring Siberia Nearer to Moscow

Look at a map. Follow the road all the way from Moscow to Novosibirsk. In many places the road curves and makes unnecessary turns. Why did they build it so? Who can tell now! In former times before the Revolution, railways were constructed without a definite general plan. Each city sought to draw the road to itself. The road consequently twisted and wriggled, depending on which could pull hardest. Now the railways must be straightened, the mistakes made by others corrected.

See what a tremendous circle the Siberian road makes between Sverdlovsk and Kurgan. Why does it go through Cheliabinsk, when this city is altogether out of the way? From Sverdlovsk to Kurgan a new direct road must be built.

Between Moscow and Kazan the road again makes a great curve. Let us now take another road, not to Kazan, but to Nizhni Novgorod. And from Nizhni we shall build a new division of the railway directly to the station of Shemordan.

Already the road is shortened by many kilometers.

But this is not all. Siberia can be brought still nearer. The road-bed can be reconstructed so that there will be no sharp grades anywhere. The sharper the grade, the more difficult for the locomotive to draw the train; and the heavier the load, the greater the consumption of coal. But coal costs money.

If we moderate the grades, if we take out the curves, we shall transform the Siberian Railway into a giant road.

Over this new road trains will run more rapidly than over any of the other roads. And every kilometer will cost, not a kopeck per ton, but only half a kopeck.

Is this not the same as halving the distance between Moscow and Siberia?

5. New Roads

But to rebuild old roads is not enough. We must construct a large number of new ones.

In many regions our railroads are inadequate. Consequently, forests decay, and deposits of ore, coal, and fertilizers lie unused in the earth. In Turkestan only one fourth of the irrigated land is planted to cotton. And we need cotton so badly for our Leningrad, Moscow, and Ivano-Voznesensk factories that we import it from America and Egypt and spend millions of rubles for it every year. Why, then, do we not grow cotton everywhere in Turkestan? Because we are forced to raise large quantities of grain there. If we could secure grain from some other region, Turkestan could turn to its natural occupation and concentrate on the raising of cotton. There is an abundance of grain just across the way in Siberia. But heretofore it has not been available to Turkestan because there is no railroad connecting the two regions.

This situation shows what a railroad means to the world. The absence of a line here is felt in Siberia, and in Turkestan, and in Moscow, and in America, and in Egypt.

However, the needed road has just been constructed. Only three years ago air pilots with cameras flew over the summits of the Chokparsky Mountains, photographed the stony sea below, and discovered a way for the future railroad. In order to join Siberia with Turkestan, 1442 kilometers of track had to be laid. Work began at the same time from both ends. Winding through steppes and deserts, crawling over mountain ridges, two halves of a single railroad stretched the one toward the other. And on the 28th of April, 1930, seventeen months ahead of the original schedule, they were united into one great Turkestan-Siberian road.

This is but one of our new roads. We need others. We must join Magnetic Mountain with Kuzbas by railway. Otherwise Kuznetsky coal and Magnetic ore will be unable to meet and produce iron for our machines.

We must extend roads into the dense northern forests and open up the riches of the north and Siberia. We must find an outlet for the grain from the region beyond the Volga and for the meat from Kazakstan. And how about the phosphate deposits near Viatka! If we do not go to them, they assuredly will not come to us. And our sovkhozes and kolkhozes will be left without fertilizers.

Eighteen thousand kilometers–this is the total length of the new railroads that we need. Each new railroad is an iron key which opens the locked doors of Nature.

6. Ways Without Rails

According to the Five-Year Plan, we must construct 3385 new locomotives and 165,000 new cars. But, if we have no automobiles, these locomotives and cars will remain idle. We cannot extend a railroad to every kolkhoz, to every village, to every cooperative. A railroad is a large river; but a large river cannot exist unless hundreds of little rivers, streams, and brooks how into it.

We need not only locomotives, but also automobiles; not only railways, but also ways without rails.

We have 3,000,000 kilometers of ways without rails. This is the distance from the earth to the moon multiplied by eight.

But how sad is the condition of these ways! Of good roads, paved, macadamized, and others, we have only 19,000 kilometers. The rest are good for nothing. Ruts, holes, pits, flimsy bridges. Along such roads even a telega cannot always pass, much less an automobile.

And in just one factory in Nizhni Novgorod we expect to build 200,000 automobiles a year. Into the Siberian taiga, the Kirgiz; steppe, everywhere, the automobile will penetrate. But for this roads are needed. An automobile without a road is like a train without a track. Abroad automobile roads are veritable streets, paved with asphalt and cement, streets amid well-kept fields. Such roads we have also begun to build in the Crimes, in Transcaucasia, and in the North Caucasus.

To dress 3,000,000 kilometers of road in asphalt and cement in five years is, of course, impossible. The Five-Year Plan calls for the building of 36,000 kilometers of improved roads, macadam, asphalt, and others. But in addition every city and every village must with its own strength repair and keep its own roads in order. Because of bad roads and costly transportation, every man, woman, and child loses tens of rubles a year. This fact must never be forgotten.

7. How About the Airplane?

The automobile and the train on the ground, the airplane in the air.

By 1932 we shall have 138 air-lines, 110,000 kilometers of air-ways. This is six times as much as we have at present. It will then be possible to fly from Moscow to Vladivostock and Tashkent, from Novosibirsk to Berlin. Tens of air-lines will go over the forests of Siberia, over the mountains of the Caucasus. In 1932, 12,000 passengers, 3500 tons of mail, and 2500 tons of freight will be transported by air.

But the airplane will not be engaged in transport only. It is not merely a carrier and postman; it is also a huntsman, a photographer, an agronomist.

Airplanes will serve the fur industry in Siberia by discovering seal rookeries set as black spots against the white snow. They will destroy injurious parasites by spraying crops and forests with chemicals. They will aid in the constructing of railways by photographing the earth from above.

8. A New River

We shall build thousands of kilometers of railways and ways without rails. But we already have the ways created by Nature–the rivers. These ways, however, do not always go where they should. The Volga can do the work of six railroads running side by side. But the six roads lead nowhere–into the Caspian Sea.

For the Caspian Sea is really not a sea at all, but a lake. It has no outlets. We cannot, therefore, export grain and lumber abroad by way of the Volga, because the Caspian Sea stands alone.

Also we cannot transport Don coal to factories along the Volga, because there is no passage from the Don into the Volga.

Nature has given us an excellent free highway, but this highway leads nowhere. Perhaps we can change it.

In all of our work we are constantly changing Nature. The irrigation of deserts, the shattering of cliffs, the transportation of lumber from place to place–is this not the changing of Nature?

The Volga flows nowhere, into the Caspian Sea. We shall force it to how into the Black Sea. We shall unite the Volga and the Don with a canal.

This is a huge undertaking. It will require the construction of a canal one hundred kilometers long and over sixty meters wide. At the outlets to the Volga and the Don, two giant sluices will be built. On the side of the Don, there will be four locks; on the side of the Volga, nine. In order that the canal may not fill up with silt, a powerful pumping station will be constructed near the Don to force water into the canal along a tube two kilometers in length. The diameter of this tube will be such that the tallest man can stand erect inside without bending his head.

Not so long ago boatmen hauled ships up the Volga. A gang of men trudged along the bank, and with shouts and songs, bathing in their own sweat, dragged the heavy barge. On the new Volga-Don River this work will be done by iron boatmen tractors. And in time electric wires will be stretched beside the river and ships will be towed by electric engines.

9. Spring Waters Imprisoned

Within a few years all the maps of the U.S.S.R. will have to be revised. In one place there will be a new river–the Volga-Don; in another, a new lake.

As yet this new lake has no name. It will unite two rivers–the Kama and the Pechora. Where the waters of the lake will soon how, there is now a vast swamp. Every spring when the snows melt, the waters race to the Pechora and the Kama. These waters we shall make prisoner. We shall construct two high dams and impound the melting snows, not permitting them to escape. Behind the dams a lake 115 kilometers long will appear.

Over the surface of this lake ships will go to the Volga laden with lumber from the Pechora region. The Volga will then be joined, not only with the Black Sea, but also with the Arctic Ocean. Here is the fist thing that the Kama-Pechorsky lake will give us.

But this is not all. Water from the lake will flow into the Kama. And there we shall construct an electric station for the generation of energy.

And this also is not all. The Kama-Pechorsky lake will raise the level of water on the Kama, and great ships will go up the Kama as far as Solikamsk. But do you know what Solikamsk means to the Soviet Union? Near Solikamsk great deposits of calcium have been discovered. This calcium will be transported by way of the Kama to the south to sovkhozes and kolkhozes.

All of this we shall accomplish by imprisoning spring waters.

The time has passed when men only contemplated Nature, when they looked at her from afar as spectators. For us the waters of spring are not merely something about which to write verses. They fill the banks of rivers; they give us energy to turn the wheels of industry.

A great new power has appeared in Nature–the power of human labor. Not only the blind forces of Nature, but also the conscious, organized, planned labor of man now fashions rivers and lakes, plants forests, and transforms deserts, moderates and accelerates the how of waters, creates new substances and new species of plants and animals.