EUSP History Department alumna Elena Kochetkova (2013) successfully defended her PhD dissertation at University of Helsinki on May 27, 2017. The dissertation was titled “The Soviet Forestry Industry in the 1950s and 1960s : A Project of Modernization and Technology Transfer from Finland”.
We congratulate Elena and EUSP History Department on their success!
This study is devoted to technology transfer from the West (primarily from Finland) to the Soviet forestry industry during a period of rapid modernization under the rule of Nikita Khrushchev during the 1950s and 1960s. Under Khrushchev, the USSR sought to catch up and overtake America . However, in the post-war period the Soviet Union suffered from a dearth of technology and expertise, and technology transfer from more developed foreign industries became a crucial aspect of modernization. Despite geopolitical competition and a vast ideological divide, Khrushchev aimed to transfer updated Western technologies to the USSR in different forms and practices. The Soviet Union established scientific-technical connections with several countries. The main source of modern technologies and machinery needed for paper and pulp production in particular was neutral Finland, which could be considered as a window to Western technological achievements for the Soviet Union. Exemplifying unique relations of West and East in the Cold War, Finland sold many techniques and provided expertise within the framework of scientific-technical cooperation.
This dissertation examines the role that technology transfer from the other side of the Iron Curtain played in Soviet modernization from 1955 to 1964. How did technical cooperation with a Western country develop in the context of the Cold War? How and in what forms did Soviet institutions and engineers transfer technologies? How did they deal with more advanced machinery and new expertise? How did they apply the new technologies and how did Soviet domestic research develop? Did these technologies help renew machinery, launch new production and enhance the development of the industry, as expected? If not, why? And, in general, did these foreign technologies lead to technological modernization? In answering these questions, the dissertation sometimes refers to previous periods in order to trace continuities and change. Examining a vast collection of archival and published sources and using methods of the history of technology, the dissertation is focused on the forestry industry, which was one of key fields for expected positive changes in Khrushchev's modernization. Its technological improvement was necessary not only for the increase of pulp and paper production to meet expanding consumption demands; the forestry industry was also a supplier for a large number of other both civilian and military industries, the latter of which received particular importance during the Cold War. Several plants and factories annexed after the Second Would War (in particular from Finland and the Baltic states) provided for the production of new sorts of pulp needed for military use, and technological modernization of these factories as well as launching new production in other Soviet enterprises was seen as a crucial action for the development of many other industries. Cold War forestry technologies, thus, exemplified their capacity to be a site of exchange, enabling cooperation among different industries, engineers, scientists and institutions.
The dissertation illustrates that technologies from Finland and from the West via Finland played a significant role in the Soviet economy while creating a need for continuing transfer. The Soviet leadership aimed to create its own innovations to launch domestic production of the newest technologies. While Soviet engineers succeeded in implementing some technologies, they failed to develop Soviet ones. The Soviet industry remained dependent on cooperation with countries with more advanced industry. The main reasons for this were shortages of raw materials. In addition, technical expertise in industrial enterprises contributed to this dependence. Additionally, within the USSR, there were barriers to technology transfer between institutions. Generally, the successful implementation of Western technologies was possible only when all the details, machinery and expertise, needed for the technology were transferred. At the same time, as a framework for cultural encounters, transfer entailed cultural impacts on Soviet engineers which helped them become more reflexive about work conditions and management practices at Soviet enterprises.