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The NEPmen (Russian: Нэпманы, Nepmani) were businesspeople in the young Soviet Union who took advantage of the opportunities for private trade and small-scale manufacturing provided under the New Economic Policy (NEP, 1921-1928). The NEP represented 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".[1] The biggest group of the 3 million or so NEPmen were engaged in handicrafts in the countryside, but it was those who traded or ran small businesses in the city that faced the most negative attitudes, since some amassed considerable fortunes. [2]

These entrepreneurial activities, and their very existence, were an affront to the Communist Party and to its goal of building socialism. Yet so long as state commercial and cooperative institutions proved incapable of meeting the demand for goods and services, the Soviet system tolerated NEPmen. As they gained a greater standard of living compared to their poor, working class counterparts, NEPmen became reviled, and stereotyped as greedy.[3] Among ordinary folk, traditional hatred of 'speculators' found focus in the nepmen, some of it acquiring an anti-semitic tinge[citation needed]. This was reinforced by the official media representation of nepmen as vulgar nouveaux riches. [4]

By the early 1920s NEPmen began to be taxed heavily. In 1925 the administration reduced these restrictions, affording NEPmen greater leeway in conducting commerce.[citation needed] This would not last for long, however. As Joseph Stalin consolidated his power, he moved violently to end the New Economic Policy and to put NEPmen out of business, abolishing private commerce in 1931.

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  1. ^ Hunt, et al., The Making of the West, Bedford/St. Martin's, 2009
  2. ^ Smith, S.A. (2002). The Russian Revolution: A very short introduction. Oxford University Press; pg. 131
  3. ^ "1924: Nepmen". Seventeen Moments in Soviet History.
  4. ^ Smith, S.A. (2002). The Russian Revolution: A very short introduction. Oxford University Press; pg. 131