The Communist Era
During the rule of Joseph V. Stalin (in power 1926-53), Armenian society and its economy were changed dramatically by Moscow policy makers. In a period of twenty-five years, Armenia was industrialized and educated under strictly prescribed conditions, and nationalism was harshly suppressed. After Stalin's death, Moscow allowed greater expression of national feeling, but the corruption endemic in communist rule continued until the very end in 1991. The last years of communism also brought disillusionment in what had been one of the most loyal republics in the Soviet Union until the late 1980s.
Stalin's radical restructuring of the Soviet economic and political systems at the end of the 1920s ended the brief period of moderate rule and mixed economy under what was known as the New Economic Policy. Under Stalin the Communist Party of Armenia (CPA) used police terror to strengthen its political hold on the population and suppress all expressions of nationalism. At the height of the Great Terror orchestrated by Stalin in 1936-37, the ranks of CPA leaders and intellectuals were decimated by Lavrenti Beria, political commissar for the Transcaucasian republics.
Stalin's enforced social and economic engineering improved literacy and education and built communications and industrial infrastructures where virtually none had existed in tsarist times. As they emerged from the Stalin era in the 1950s, Armenians were more mobile, better educated, and ready to benefit from the less repressive policies of Stalin's successor, Nikita S. Khrushchev (in power 1953-64). The years of industrialization had promoted an upward social mobility through which peasants became workers; workers became foremen or managers; and managers became party and state officials.
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