The pension topic, which has recently become very painful and relevant for our country, is often discussed by people who, shall we say, are not too knowledgeable in the history of this issue, and therefore undertake to assert that the USSR was a real paradise for pensioners. Some, however, go to the other extreme, trying to present Soviet social benefits as paltry and almost beggarly. To find out the truth, you need to make a historical excursion, relying not on emotions, but solely on numbers and facts.
Let’s start with the origins. Moreover, some “experts” undertake to assert: in 1917 the Bolsheviks broke and abolished the excellent pension system that allegedly existed in the Russian Empire. Yes, in tsarist Russia, as of 1914, there were certain categories of citizens who could count on old age provided by the state, and not even when they reached a certain age, but when they gained the required length of service. However, what were these categories? Officials, officers, gendarmes – first of all, service people. Also, teachers, doctors, engineers and even workers, but exclusively working at state (state) enterprises and institutions, could earn a pension. All the rest – both the proletarians, who worked hard on the private trader, and the peasants (who made up 90% of the country’s population), were not entitled to anything.
With the coming to power of the Bolsheviks, all royal payments were indeed abolished. It is clear that the young Land of Soviets, barely extricating itself from the devastating Civil War, hunger strikes and epidemics, did not have sufficient funds to create a comprehensive social security system. Nevertheless, the first steps in this direction began to be taken at the initiative of Lenin. In 1918, pensions appeared for soldiers of the Red Army who remained disabled, in 1923 they began to receive party members with especially long experience and merits. Most of these people had years of prison and hard labor sentences behind their backs, the same Civil service … And they did not heal in the world – the average life expectancy of men in the USSR was then 40-45 years.
To our great regret, the myth is extremely tenacious and widespread that Khrushchev gave pensions to Soviet people. No. The first “Regulation on Pensions and Social Insurance Benefits” was adopted in the country in 1930, that is, under Comrade Stalin. Yes, the payments were small and were not given to everyone: initially, they were received by former employees of key industries: mining, electrical, transport workers. Subsequently, by 1937, the pension system was extended to all workers and employees. Also, which is very important, in 1932 a uniform retirement age was established – 60 years for men and 55 for women. At that time, it was the lowest pension level in the world. In the rest of the countries, old-age pensions were paid to older people – if they were paid at all.
Stalin is usually scolded for two things: too low amounts of social payments (they say, a student received 130 rubles of scholarships, and a disabled person of group 1 – only 65) and for the fact that he did not take care of pensions for the villagers. Let’s make it clear: at that time, collective farms and agricultural artels were obliged to provide for the old age of their members who had lost the ability to work. But on their own, from their own funds, they themselves establish both the size of the content and the age at which it began to be paid (or issued in kind). Thus, two things were stimulated: the desire of rural workers to increase labor efficiency (so that the elderly would not starve) and the transition of a certain part of them to work in industry, which was in dire need of personnel. As for the size of the scholarships, the rapidly developing country desperately needed literate people. Hence the bias in favor of students and pupils.
Nikita Khrushchev allegedly gave pensions to collective farmers. Here, too, not everything is so simple and unambiguous. Yes, the USSR law “On State Pensions” was adopted on July 14, 1956, that is, in his time. However, as for the village workers … Nikita Sergeevich with his characteristic “generosity” measured them out … 12 rubles each, completely regardless of seniority and achievements! I have made me so happy I am so happy. And at the same time, let’s not forget, Khrushchev actually deprived the same villagers of subsidiary plots, due to which most of the old people in the villages survived.
Be that as it may, since 1956, all citizens of the USSR had the right to a state pension, even those who did not have the required length of service. True, they were entitled to a minimum allowance of 35 rubles. The rest, who worked until the due date (it remained the same) and had sufficient experience (20 years – women, 25 – men) could count on half of their own salary for any labor “five-year” or the last two years. But again, no more than 120 rubles a month. The maximum were the so-called personal pensions, however, and their size could not exceed 300 rubles.
Now for the fun part. There was no Pension Fund in the USSR. At all. The funds were transferred by enterprises and organizations directly to the state budget, from where they were then paid to pensioners. Moreover, these contributions were not deducted from the salaries of employees, but were paid directly from the funds of an enterprise or organization – in accordance with the number of workers. In a socialist state, all kinds of intermediary organizations like the PF were simply not needed by anyone, it itself ensured the old age of its own citizens.
Were Soviet pensions small or sufficient for a normal life? This is a topic for a separate and difficult discussion. Everyone who lived at that time can simply turn to their own experience and what they saw and heard for themselves. Personally, in my Soviet childhood and youth, I somehow do not remember old people begging for alms.