Despite the profound change in the country’s economic life in the postwar period, foreign trade shows its structure substantially unchanged in the twenty-year period 1913-1933, and its trend is, on the whole – regardless of fluctuations of a transitory or artificial nature -, almost identical to the pre-war one. The most notable differences consist in the variations relative to a certain number of supplier and customer countries and even more in the fact that the trade balance has generally accused more or less serious deficits in the last decade; however, the effort made by the government to contain these within limits as narrow as possible and finally achieve positive balances, as happened in 1929 and 1933, is evident.
The trade deficit is certainly due in large part to the need for high-cost industrial materials, determined by the development of the five-year plans; it is nevertheless interesting to note that the balance of trade with foreign countries closed in Russia with a surplus in the period immediately preceding the outbreak of the world war, which was also characterized, in the domestic economy, by a decisive orientation towards autonomy and industrialization. In fact, in 1911 imports represented just 42% of the total value of Russian foreign trade.
As for the composition of the two trade currents, the following table shows how both in the pre-war period and after the implementation of the first five-year plan, the prevalence of manufactured products in imports corresponds, in exports, to that of raw materials and foodstuffs. Non-negligible variations are however evident; Thus, for example, the introduction of food and drink from abroad was reduced from 1913 to 1933 to half the pre-war values, while Soviet industry was able to double those of exported products in the same period.
The analysis of the individual items that become part of foreign exchanges naturally reveals not slight fluctuations from year to year; stopping at the most recent period, which parrebhe even greater stability, we note that imports the part without lion’s comparison is represented as a rule by machines, tools and other equipment, metal maximum (by more than about 1 / 3, on average, of the total value of imports in the last five years) – raw metals and semi-finished products (10-15%), textile raw materials (10-20%), electrical articles and machines (5-10%), foodstuffs (5-10%) and chemical products – while more than half of exports are made up of the four items: cereals, skins and furs, oil and derivatives, wood and wood products, whose relative importance has however been subject to strong variations after 1925. However, it can be calculated that, on average, each of these items absorbs approximately 10 to 15%, in value of the total exports; followed by food products (sugar, poultry, fish, butter, eggs), cotton fabrics, raw minerals (especially platinum and manganese), etc.
No substantial change can be said to have taken place, on the whole, between 1913 and 1933, as regards the proportion with which Russia’s suppliers participate in its import trade; on the basis of the global value of the various lots, as shown in the table unit.
Germany retains about half of the imported goods, of which another quarter is supplied by Great Britain, China, Persia, and Poland; in contrast to the surprisingly low participation of Japan, it is worth noting the significant increase in the share due to Italy. The European nations and the United States supply above all industrial products and textiles, the countries of Asia supply food and raw materials.
As far as exports are concerned, Germany and Great Britain together absorb about half of the total, in almost identical proportions (and so throughout the twenty years). Holland, France, Belgium and Italy follow at a distance; much less regular is the part due to Asian countries, among which Japan always stands out for its too modest proportions.
Exports to European countries essentially consist of raw materials, while exports to Persia, China and Mongolia also consist of manufactured goods.
Italian participation in Russian trade contracted significantly in the post-war period, even if in the five-year period 1929-33 there was no lack of signs of an evident recovery. In this same period, the trade balance has always closed with an advantage for the USSR: the turnover reached about 840 million lire (of which 560 were imported from Russia) in 1931, but dropped to 570 (of 330 of which on import) in 1932. In the immediate pre-war period 1911-13) Russia participated in the import trade of Italy with 6.4% and in exports with 2.3% of the relative totals; these percentages decreased to 3.2 and 0.8% respectively in 1930, to go back to 4.1 and 3.7% in 1932. The last few years have marked the trend towards greater equilibrium, having grown more, in proportion , Italian exports. These essentially consist of machines, appliances and their parts (2 / 3 of the total value in 1931), airplanes, automobiles, citrus fruit, textiles and artifacts (maximum of cotton and silk), sulfur, chemicals, etc. Italy imports from the USSR first of all oil and derivatives (40% of the total value in 1931), cereals (wheat and oats), wood and timber, skins and hard coal.