Rationing in the Soviet Union

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Rationing in the Soviet Union was introduced several times, during periods of economical hardships.


In 1929, the elimination of New Economic Policy (NEP) that existed in the USSR between 1921 and 1929 resulted in food shortages and spontaneous introduction of food rationing in most Soviet industrial centres.[citation needed] The revival of rationing originated in Leningrad after the City Soviet passed a resolution to ration bread in 1928. Moscow City Soviet soon introduced rationing, providing the supply of bread to workers using ration cards while simultaneously raising prices for non-workers. Kiev, Kharkov, and other big cities soon followed. In 1931, Politburo introduced a unified rationing system for foodstuffs and basic commodities and norms of rationing applied throughout the entire USSR. Besides bread, rationing applied to other foodstuffs, including products like sugar, tea, oil, butter, meat, and eggs.[1]

Rationing was applied only to people employed in the state-owned industries and to their family members.[citation needed] Such social categories as people without political rights known as lishentsy were deprived of rations. The lishentsy were also unable to access canteens, which served as a supplement to the rations. The rationing system was divided into four rates that differed in the size of rations, with lower rates unable to get such basic products as meat and fish.

The rationing existed up to 1935, ending in six main stages.[2] Beginning in May 1931, most industrial consumer goods were removed from the rationing system. Then, between March and April 1932, some food items began being removed from the rationing system. From 1932 to 1934, ration prices of foodstuffs and consumer goods were increased. The state also began selling increasing amounts of these goods off the rations at higher prices. At the beginning of 1935, the rationing of bread was abolished, followed by the end of rationing of all foodstuffs in October 1935. Rationing officially came to an end on January 1, 1936 when rationing of all industrial goods was abolished.[3]

Foreign specialists employed in Russia were supplied through a separately established organization Insnab.


The last, 12th Five-Year Plan that fell within the perestroika period ended with uncontrolled economical degradation, resulted in part in various ways of rationing in all Union republics.

Rationing of money[edit]

Perestroika produced a unique type of rationing: rationing of money. In 1990 in Byelorussia introduced a "Consumer's Card", which was a paper sheet sectioned into tear-off coupons with various designated monetary values: 20, 75, 100, 200, and 300 rubles. These coupons were required in addition to real money when purchasing certain categories of consumer goods. The coupons had next to none protection and could be easily counterfeited on modern colour copiers. (Copiers were scarce in the Soviet Union and under strict control of KGB, which to an extent limited, but did not eliminate, forging). The coupons were distributed at workplaces together with salary and had to bear the accountant's department stamp and signatures. This was an attempt to protect from profiteering, especially from profiteering by resales abroad.[4]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Chossudowsky, E. M. (1941). "Rationing in the U.S.S.R.". The Review of Economic Studies. 8 (3): 143–165. doi:10.2307/2967599. ISSN 0034-6527. JSTOR 2967599.
  2. ^ Elena Osokina, Za fasadom "stalinskogo izobiliia". Raspredeleniie i rynok v snabzhenii naseleniia v gody industrializatsii (Moscow, 1998).
  3. ^ Khlevnyuk, Oleg; Davies, R. W. (June 1999). "The End of Rationing in the Soviet Union, 1934-1935". Europe-Asia Studies. 51 (4): 557–609. doi:10.1080/09668139998804. ISSN 0966-8136. PMID 20509214.
  4. ^ Bayura A.N., Paper Money Circulation in the Territory of Belarus in 18th-20th Centuries (Баюра А.Н., Бумажно-денежное обращение на территории Беларуси в XVIII - XX веках,) Brest, Brest State Technical University, 2003, ISBN 978-985-6584-69-8 (in Russian)