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Ukraine City Marks Soviet-Era Stakhanov Movement

Aleksei Stakhanov appears in an official portrait, with a coal hammer and miner's lamp, in 1935.
Aleksei Stakhanov appears in an official portrait, with a coal hammer and miner's lamp, in 1935.
STAKHANOV, Ukraine -- The eastern Ukrainian city of Stakhanov is preparing to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the Soviet-era Stakhanovite movement that lionized productive workers, RFE/RL's Ukrainian Service reports.

In 1935, miner Aleksei Stakhanov was reported to have extracted 102 tons of coal during one shift -- which was 14 times his quota and determined to be a record amount. He became a Soviet icon of dedicated labor and his "achievement" was used by the Soviet authorities to motivate people to exceed production norms.

Soviet propaganda extolled Stakhanov's achievements and hard workers in all fields were named Stakhanovites if they reached certain production levels.

Stakhanov died an alcoholic in a psychiatric hospital in 1977 and his mining achievements were later said to have been inflated, including in a 1988 article in the Soviet newspaper "Komsomolskaya Pravda."

Local historian Volodymyr Semystiaha told RFE/RL that the Stakhanovite movement was not appreciated by many other workers, as it meant continued pressure on them from authorities to produce more goods or resources in all spheres of industry.

"After a while, other miners and workers began to hate the Stakhanovites," he said.

Many Stakhanovites eventually became victims of Stalinist repression and, after the Soviets' third Five-Year Plan, the movement began to die out.

Semystiaha told RFE/RL that commemorating the Stakhanovite movement in an independent Ukraine is simply for nostalgic reasons.

"Our current government is made of former Communists and Komsomol members," Semystiaha said. "They don't know history. All they know is what was pumped into their heads by the Communist line, the young guard, and the Stakhanovite movement."

The city of Kadiyivka was renamed Stakhanov in his honor in 1978.

Today there are no working mines there, and the surrounding Luhansk Oblast is one of the most economically depressed areas in Ukraine.

Some miners in the area dig for coal in illegal mines that have no safety measures.

Stakhanov officials hope the commemoration of the Stakhanovite movement will provide them with some much-needed funds so they can repair roads and renovate the city's cultural center, where the commemorations for the 75th anniversary of Stakhanov's feat are to take place on August 31, also known as Miners Day.