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The Stakhanovite movement began during the second 5-year plan in 1935 as a new stage of the socialist competition. The Stakhanovite movement was named after Aleksei Stakhanov, who had mined 102 tons of coal in less than 6 hours (14 times his quota). However, his record would soon be "broken" by his followers. On February 1, 1936, it was reported that Nikita Izotov had mined 607 tons of coal in a single shift.
The Stakhanovite movement, supported and led by the Communist Party, soon spread over other industries of the Soviet Union. The initiators of the movement were Alexander Busygin (automobile industry), Nikolai Smetanin (shoe industry), Yevdokiya and Maria Vinogradov (textile industry), I.I.Gudov (machine tool industry), V.S.Musinsky (timber industry), Pyotr Krivonos (railroad), Pasha Angelina (glorified as the first Soviet woman to operate a tractor), Konstantin Borin and Maria Demchenko (agriculture) and many others.
On November 14–17, 1935, the 1st All-Union Stakhanovite Conference took place at the Kremlin, which emphasized the outstanding role of the Stakhanovite movement in socialist re-construction of the national economy. In December 1935, the plenum of the Communist Party's Central Committee specifically discussed the aspects of developing industry and transport systems in light of the Stakhanovite movement. The resolution of the plenum said: "The Stakhanovite movement means organizing labor in a new fashion, rationalizing technologic processes, correct division of labor, liberating qualified workers from secondary spadework, improving work place, providing rapid growth for labor productivity and securing significant increase of workers' salaries".
In accordance with the decisions of the plenum, the Soviets organized a wide network of industrial training and created special courses for foremen of socialist labor. In 1936, a number of industrial and technical conferences revised the projected production capacities of different industries and increased their outputs. They also introduced the Stakhanovite competitions within factories and plants, broken down into periods of five days (Russian: пятидневка, or pyatidnevka), ten days (Russian: декада, or dekada) and 30 days (Russian: месячники, or mesyachniki). The factory management would often create the Stakhanovite brigades or departments, which reached a stable higher collective output.
Female Stakhanovites were rarer than male, but a quarter of all trade-union women were designated as "norm-breaking." A preponderance of rural Stakhanovites were women, as milkmaids, calf tenders, and fieldworkers.
The Soviet authorities claimed that the Stakhanovite movement had caused a significant increase in labor productivity. It was reported that during the first 5-year plan (1929–1932) industrial labor productivity increased 41%. During the second 5-year plan (1933–1937) it reportedly increased 82%. The discussion of the draft constitution in the 1930s was used to encourage a second wind for the movement.
During World War II, the Stakhanovites used different methods to increase productivity, such as working several machine tools at a time and combining professions. The Stakhanovites were responsible for organizing the two-hundreders movement (Russian: двухсотники, or dvukhsotniki; 200% or more of quota in a single shift) and one-thousanders movement (Russian: тысячники, or tysyachniki; 1000% of the norm in a shift). The Stakhanovite movement remained widespread after the war.
Stakhanov and other "model workers" were promoted in the press, literature and film, and other workers were urged to emulate their heroic examples. What is more, the achievements of Stakhanovites served as an argument in favor of increasing work quotas.
In the de-Stalinization era, which sought to undermine any achievements made during Stalin's regime, it was declared that the Stakhanovite movement was Stalin's propaganda maneuver. Where workers received the best equipment and most favorable conditions, the best results would result. After Stalin's death, it was replaced with "brigades of socialist labor". In 1988 the Soviet newspaper Komsomolskaya Pravda claimed that the widely propagandized personal achievements of Stakhanov were puffery.[clarification needed] The paper insisted that Stakhanov had used a number of helpers on support works, while the throughput was tallied for him alone. Stakhanov's approach had eventually led to the increased productivity by means of a better organization of the work, including specialization and task sequencing, according to the Soviet state media.
- Yuri Krymov's novel Tanker "Derbent", and an eponymous Soviet feature film based on the book, are about Stakhanovitism in oil transport across the Caspian Sea.
- Elio Petri's film The Working Class Goes to Heaven centered around a Stakhanovite.
- Harry Turtledove's novel The Gladiator, set in an alternate world where Communism prevailed in the Cold War, has multiple references to Stakhanovites as productivity models.
- Andrzej Wajda's film Man of Marble explores the myth-making process behind a fictional Polish Stakhanovite, telling the story of his rise and eventual fall from grace.
- In Animal Farm, the ultra-loyal workhorse Boxer has often been interpreted as a stand-in for the Stakhanovites.
- Overy, Richard (2004). The Dictators: Hitler's Germany, Stalin's Russia. New York: W.W. Norton. ISBN 0-393-02030-4.
- Siegelbaum, Lewis; Sokolov, Andrei (2000). Stalinism as a Way of Life. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press. ISBN 0-300-08480-3.