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".
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.
By the early 1920s NEPmen began to be taxed heavily. In 1925 the administration reduced these restrictions, affording NEPmen greater leeway in conducting commerce. 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.
- Hunt, et al., The Making of the West, Bedford/St. Martin's, 2009
- "1924: Nepmen". Seventeen Moments in Soviet History.