The NEPmen were businesspeople in the young Soviet Union who took advantage of the opportunities for private trade and small-scale manufacturing created by the New Economic Policy (NEP). The NEP was a response to revolts against meager rations in the USSR during the early 1920s under Lenin's policy of War Communism. Vladimir Lenin responded by instituting the NEP, which encouraged private buying and selling, even to, as one official (Bukharin) put it, "enrich yourselves".
These entrepreneurial activities, and their very existence, were an affront to the Communist Party and its goal of building socialism in the USSR. Yet, so long as state commercial and cooperative institutions were incapable of meeting the demand for goods and services, NEPmen were tolerated. As they gained a greater standard of living compared to their poor, working class counterparts, NEPmen became reviled, and stereotyped as greedy.
By the early 1920s, NEPmen began to be taxed heavily. In 1925, these restrictions were reduced, affording NEPmen greater leeway in conducting commerce. This would not last for long, however. As Joseph Stalin consolidated power, he moved violently to end the New Economic Policy and put NEPmen out of business.
- Hunt, et al., The Making of the West,Bedford/St. Martin's, 2009
- "1924: Nepmen". Seventeen Moments in Soviet History.