Answering for Bacchanalia: Management, Authority and the Putilov Tractor Program, 1928-1930

Clayton Black


On September 25, 1930, Vasilii F edorovich Grachev was relieved of his post as director ofLeningrad's famous "Red Putilov" factory. He had assumed control of the plant in early 1926, when his predecessor was removed for participating in the Leningrad Opposition movement. Four and a half years later he, too, faced ignominy, in his case for falling short in his efforts to meet the challenge of producing 12,000 tractors in a single year. Things could have been worse for Grachev. In June his technical director, V. L. Sablin, in whose hands the day-to-day operation of the factory had been entrusted since 1923, was arrested along with the director ofPutilov' s tractor department and several engineers on charges of"wrecking" and sent, rumor had it, to the Solovki penal colony in the north. Grachev undoubtedly suspected that his tenure at Putilov was nearing its end by the time OGPU agents seized Sablin. The tractor program had failed to reach its quota for the past seven months straight, and the quality of the tractors that rolled off the line was notoriously bad. Collective farms awaited the arrival of mechanized agriculture, only to find that Putilov's tractors frequently broke down on their maiden voyages.

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