There is a good discussion on this site of the German situation during World War II concerning ball bearings. Does anyone know what the Soviet situation was? I have heard as a result of Barbarossa they were in a desperate situation with ball bearings, only rectified by lease. Can anyone refute or confirm this?

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    Someone was doing a doctoral thesis on this very subject in the early 1990s. I don't know if he ever finished it, but you could try searching LSE theses online. Commented Aug 16, 2021 at 9:07
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    You'd have a better chance of an answer if (1) the title asked a clear question and (2) you documented your preliminary research.
    – MCW
    Commented Aug 17, 2021 at 16:48
  • Hello I don't think Barbarossa had a direct impact on ball bearings, since most importants plants were saved by the Russians by relocation Commented Aug 17, 2021 at 17:31
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    "Lack" as not having at all, thereby entirely relying on other solutions, or "desperate situation" as in "shortage"? There was "desperate situation" in pretty much everything.
    – Zeus
    Commented Aug 18, 2021 at 1:59
  • @totalMongot - Which relocation took about 18 months to complete and it did not include refinement industry (foundries, oil refineries etc). Severe labor shortages (caused by losing half of it's population to Germany) forced them to concentrate on the final product, with processed materials provided mostly via Lend-Lease. So it's safe to say USSR throughout the war had shortage of everything, with differences only in the degree (for example 95% of aviation fuel used by USSR during the war came from USA). So the question is not if, but if anything: how was the ball bearing shortage resolved?
    – AcePL
    Commented Aug 20, 2021 at 10:47

1 Answer 1


At some point following Barbarossa there was a severe reduction in domestic production of ball bearings:

Beginning in September, and right to the end of 1941, a decline in industrial output occurred. At the end of 1941, industrial production amounted to only one-half of the prewar level. The output of nonferrous rolled metal, cable products, and ball bearings, had almost completely ceased. Average daily railway shipments at the beginning of 1942 had fallen to 36-37 thousand truckloads, i.e. one-third of prewar shipments. [citing: Rossiiskii Tsentr Khraneniia i Izucheniia Dokumentov Noveishei Istorii, f, 71, op. 25, d. 9250, l. 28.]

from: Mark Harrison, The Soviet Defense Industry Complex in World War II

Wikipedia cites/quotes the exact same para in one of their articles...

Not sure how it was solved, as Harrison doesn't address that.

There were definitely ball bearings shipped with some Lend Lease ships, but the ones I found were replacement parts for LL vehicles. I don't know if there were bearings shipped that would have helped with the Soviets' own standards/vehicles...

On the other hand, there's a Business Week article from 1960 (which was entered in the Congressional Record) that mentions the first "export of ball bearing machines" to the USSR since the end of WW2. So, I'm guessing entire ball-bearing production machines were shipped during LL to help the Soviets with the bearing problem. (The article also mentions that in 1960 an export license from the Department of Commerce was required for such machinery exports to the USSR. It also mentioned that some of the machines shipped to the Soviets during WW2 were made by Bryant.)

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    Also Russia made huge effort to move production equipment east early in the war , such as to the Urals. So this equipment would have taken time ( such as a year) to get back into production. I saw some steel making equipment in the vicinity of Ekaterinburg ( 1990) that had been moved. I expect bearing production equipment would have been high priority for the move. Commented Aug 22, 2021 at 15:31

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