Soviet industry: dependent on Finnish know-how

A doctoral dissertation being defended at the University of Helsinki reveals that the Western technologies imported via Finns and Finland played a significant role in the economy of the USSR in the 1950s and 1960s: the USSR was ultimately dependent on the transfer of technology. The aim of Soviet leadership was to create the country's own basic technological know-how and, on that basis, produce modern technologies. Soviet engineers were mostly successful in putting technologies imported from the West to use, but not in developing their own technologies.

This doctoral research shows that Soviet industry was dependent on cooperation with other countries. The main reason for this was insufficient raw material supply for production facilities as well as inter-institutional barriers. Technologies were only able to be put to use successfully when all the technical details, infrastructures and expertise needed for the exploitation of the technology were transferred.

"The transfer of technology as one form of cultural contact affected engineers' and scientists' thinking, and gave them new points of departure for examining management and work practices in the Soviet system," doctoral student Elena Kochetkova of the University of Helsinki says.


The promotion of pulp production

helped other sectors

The production facilities in the territories annexed by the USSR after World War II, particularly in Finland and the Baltic countries, made a new type of pulp production possible. These facilities’ modernisation and launch was seen elsewhere in the country as a decisive factor in the development of other industrial sectors.

"The technologies of the Cold War forest industry should be examined as kinds of arenas of exchange which facilitated cooperation between engineers, scientists and institutes," Kochetkova says. 

Finland: a window

to Western technology

Despite the ideological confrontation between West and East, Nikita Khrushchev's policies strove to import Western technologies in various forms.

"Even though the USSR signed agreements on scientific and technical cooperation with various countries, in the pulp and paper industry the main source of modern technology was neutral Finland, which was for the USSR a window to Western technology," Kochetkova says. 

In selling the USSR large amounts of technology and offering its experts for scientific and technical cooperation, Finland was a unique example of Cold War East-West relations.

The research is based on a large collection of archive material and published sources. Its main focus is the forest industry, which was, during the Khrushchev modernisation period, a key economic sector and the basis of many expectations. In the USSR it was believed that the country's technological progress was necessary to increase the production of paper and cellulose and to meet the requirements related to these products' consumption. In addition, the forest industry supplied semi-finished products to several civil and military-industrial sectors, the latter of which played a particularly important role during the Cold War.

The doctoral dissertation examines the transfer of technologies from Western countries, especially Finland, to the Soviet forest industry during the period of Nikita Khrushchev's modernisation policy in the 1950s and 1960s. The period is significant in the history of Soviet modernisation, as it was marked by various plans and efforts to catch up with and overtake America.

After World War II, the USSR lagged behind its Western competitors in technical know-how and in the development of new and advanced technologies. Therefore, the transfer of technology from developed economies was considered an important means of reforming the outdated Soviet forest industry.



Elena Kochetkova will defend her doctoral dissertation entitled "The Soviet Forestry Industry in the 1950s and 1960s – A Project of Modernization and Technology Transfer from Finland" at the University of Helsinki’s Faculty of Social Sciences on 27 May 2017 at 10.00. The doctoral defence will take place in the University Main Building, Unioninkatu 34, Auditorium XII, 3rd floor.

The opponent is Associate Professor Mats Fridlund, Aalto University, and the custos is Professor Sakari Heikkinen.

The dissertation is also available in electronic form through the E-thesis service.



Additional information:

Elena Kochetkova

+7 909 5846966