Heavy Industry

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Heavy Industry


a group of branches of industry that primarily produce means of production. Heavy industry includes virtually all extracting industry and part of manufacturing industry.

According to the classification adopted in the USSR, heavy industry includes the power and electrification industry, the fuel industry, ferrous and nonferrous metallurgy, machine building and metalworking, the chemical and petrochemical industries, the timber and wood-processing industry, the pulp and paper industry, and the building-materials industry. In 1975 these industries accounted for more than 60 percent of the total industrial output of the USSR.

When industrial output is broken down into production of the means of production, or producer goods (group A), and production of consumer goods (group B), that part of the output of heavy industry intended for nonproduction consumption—part of the electrical and thermal energy, fuel, passenger cars, and cultural and household goods—is classified as consumer goods. By the same token, a large part of the output of light industry and the food industry is intended for production consumption, that is, for further processing, and is classified as means of production. As a result, the total gross output of the branches of heavy industry is not the same as the output of means of production.

In the USSR heavy industry plays a crucial role in developing the country’s productive forces and in creating the material and technical basis for communism. It is the foundation of expanded socialist reproduction, of the technical reequipping of the national economy and national defense, of increased production efficiency, and of improvement of the well-being of the people. Since the second half of the 1960’s, heavy industry has been expanding the output of means of production for those branches of industry that produce consumer goods. The production of consumer goods for the public at enterprises of heavy industry is also increasing.

Heavy industry was poorly developed in prerevolutionary Russia, which reflected the backwardness of the country’s economy as a whole. In 1913 heavy industry accounted for approximately one-third of the country’s gross industrial output. Machine building accounted for approximately 9 percent of industrial output, the chemical industry less than 3 percent, and the power and electrification industry a fraction of 1 percent. The machine tool industry, instrumentation, and the production of metallurgical equipment, motor vehicles, and tractors were essentially nonexistent. Many necessary types of producer goods were imported. Heavy industry was distributed in a very uneven manner throughout the country. Foreign capital held a large share of heavy industry, controlling 75 percent of ferrous metallurgy, 60 percent of the petroleum industry, and 40 percent of the chemical industry.

After the October Revolution of 1917, the Communist Party and Soviet government, in implementing Lenin’s plan for building socialism, consistently followed a policy of developing heavy industry. The GOELRO plan was developed and implemented. Industrialization made it possible to create large-scale machine production. Preferential development was given to machine building, electric power, the chemical industry, and other branches of heavy industry that influence technical progress in the overall economy. During the prewar five-year plans (1929–40), many large enterprises were built; new sectors of heavy industry were created for the production of aviation equipment, motor vehicles, tractors, combines, machine tools, and metallurgical equipment; and the technological level of production was raised. Preferential development of heavy industry fundamentally altered the structure of industrial production. In 1940 the gross output of all industry surpassed the prewar level by a factor of 7.7, and the gross output of heavy industry rose by a factor of 14. Advances in the development of heavy industry made the USSR a mighty industrial power. During the Great Patriotic

Table 2. USSR production of the most important types of output from heavy industry
Electric power (billion kilowatt-hours). . . . . .,039
Petroleum and gas condensate (million tons).10.311.631.137.9148353491
Natural gas (billion cu m). . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Coal (million tons).29.235.5166261510624701
Pig iron (million tons). . . . . . . . . . . . . . .4.23.314.919.246.885.9103
Steel (million tons). . . . . . . . . . . . . . .4.34.318.327.365.3116141
Metal-cutting machine tools (thousands). . . . .
Mineral fertilizers (converted to 100-percent nutrients, million tons). . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Table 3. World production of the principal types of heavy industrial output (1975)
 World totalSocialist countriesDeveloped capitalist countriesDeveloping countries
Electric power (billion kilowatt-hours). . . . . . . . . . . . . . .6,4991,5644,421514
Petroleum and gas condensate (million tons). . . . . . . . . . . . . . .2,6425945261,522
Natural gas (billion cu m). . . . . . . . . . . . . . .1,260326821113
Coal (converted to a standard fuel, million tons). . . . . . . . . . . . . . .2,5051,3091,051145
Pig iron (million tons). . . . . . . . . . . . . . .47616428824
Steel (million tons). . . . . . . . . . . . . . .65222739233
Mineral fertilizer (convertedto 100-percent nutrients million tons). . . . . . . . . . . . . . .96.638.451.96.3

War of 1941–45, heavy industry became the cornerstone of the defense industry and provided weapons for the front.

Soviet heavy industry has developed at a high rate during the postwar five-year plans. Between 1940 and 1975 the overall industrial output rose by a factor of 17; during the same period production output increased by a factor of 49 in machine building and metalworking, by a factor of 44 in the chemical and petrochemical industries, by a factor of 38 in the building-materials industry, and by a factor of 26 in electric power. Instrumentation, the radio-engineering and electronics industry, high-grade metallurgy, the gas industry, and other new branches developed rapidly. In 1975 the USSR led the world in total production of important types of heavy industrial output: petroleum, coal, pig iron, steel, iron ore, coke, mineral fertilizer, lumber, cement, precast reinforced-concrete structures, main-line diesel and electric locomotives, and tractors (by total engine power). The gap in production of the principal types of output per capita compared with that of other industrially developed countries has been significantly reduced.

The territorial distribution of heavy industry has been changed fundamentally; the percentage of output contributed by the eastern regions of the country has grown. The development of the branches of heavy industry and the most important types of production output are shown in Tables 1 and 2. USSR heavy industry is characterized by its large scale, high technological level, and advanced production organization.

World production output for heavy industry is shown in Table 3.

Heavy industry is developing at a high rate in the foreign socialist countries. Between 1950 and 1975, the share produced by these countries (together with the USSR) of the world total production of electric power rose from 15 to 24 percent, of petroleum extraction from 8.5 to 22 percent, of gas extraction from 4.8 to 28 percent, of coal extraction (converted to a standard fuel) from 26.2 to 52 percent, of pig iron production from 18.9 to 34 percent, and of steel production from 19.3 to 34 percent. The production output of heavy industry in selected socialist countries is shown in Table 4.

In the capitalist countries the second half of the 19th century saw significant growth in large-scale machine production in many countries, and production of the means of production surpassed the production of consumer goods. The fuel industry, metallurgy, and machine building occupied prominent places in the overall volume of industrial production. Production in electric power, the chemical industry, and machine building underwent intensive growth in the first third of the 20th century. In 1975 these branches accounted for 57.1 percent of the total industrial output of the developed capitalist countries. Rapid development after World War II characterized the petrochemical, atomic, electronics, aerospace, and other new industrial branches. Nuclear power plants have become more important in the production of electric power, as have the production of high-grade steel and light metals in metallurgy and the production of synthetic resins and plastics, chemical fibers, and synthetic rubber in the chemical industry.

Data on the production output of selected capitalist countries are given in Table 5 on page 74.


See references under INDUSTRY and INDUSTRIALIZATION.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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