A Russian Perspective - Soviet economic interests in Austria 1945-1955

Vienna (Austrian Science Fund) - The history, including the economic history, of the post-war period in Austria is very well researched - at least from a western perspective. Following the collapse of the Soviet Union, some of the Russian archives, which had previously been inaccessible, were opened. Dieter Stiefel and his colleague Ingrid Fraberger from the Institute for Economic and Social History at the University of Vienna have, with the support of the Austrian Science Fund, used these archives to examine the years 1945 to 1950 from a Russian perspective for the first time. Both specialists and readers interested in history can look forward to the results of this research with equal anticipation: a number of books, articles and lectures are already being prepared.

When the Soviets withdrew from Austria in 1955, they took all of their archives with them. It is only recently that a number of these archives, most of which are stored in Moscow, have become accessible again. It is therefore possible for the first time to research and assess the economic development of Austria in the years immediately following the Second World War from an eastern perspective. "To begin with, we concentrated on three main topics: the Soviet dismantling activity in Austria, the Soviet economic body (USIA) in Austria and the chief administration in Moscow for Soviet property abroad", says Stiefel, outlining his research project. The dismantling activity, which started immediately after the Red Army marched into Austria in 1945, must not be underestimated. Although, compared to Germany, relatively few installations and materials were removed, the dismantling activity nevertheless represented an estimated value of around 131.2 million dollars. "In mid-1946, after the end of the dismantling activity, the Soviets moved over to the creation of a Soviet economic body called the USIA, in which all former "German assets" were subject to central administration - at least around 300 business enterprises and agricultural and forestry estates in Eastern Austria," explains Stiefel.

Two economic systems side by side
"The most interesting aspect of the USIA topic is the question of how such a concern, built on a planned economy, functioned in a market economy environment," says Stiefel. There were a vast number of difficulties, partly caused simply by the complete lack of understanding by both sides and partly due to mutual disapproval. For example, both the Federal and Provincial Governments held blacklists of USIA businesses, who were not to be awarded government contracts. From 1951, the Russians finally stopped investing in the Austrian businesses and the withdrawal of the eastern occupying power slowly became apparent. Until that time, the Austrian USIA was coordinated from Moscow by the chief administration for Soviet property abroad. This administration was created in 1945 and was largely equivalent to a ministry which was originally divided into different branches. In around 1950, the headquarters in Moscow employed roughly half-a-million people. However, the administration had the right of proposal only, with decisions ultimately being made by the State Planning Committee. "Each answer that we find throws up a whole host of new questions. We will therefore undertake further research in the years to come, but we first want to reappraise the valuable results from this project in full and publish these," explains Stiefel.


Univ. Prof. Dr. Dr. Dieter Stiefel
University of Vienna, Institute for Economic and Social History
T 01 4277-41314

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December 6th, 2001