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As the Soviet Union waged total war largely on its own territory, it faced the enormous challenges of managing the devastation of its population and industrial centers, while simultaneously mobilizing the military and raising production. Civilian militia, mostly local citizens of threatened cities, were dispatched to areas near the front line to erect defense barricades, fire and observation points, trenches and tank traps.  Most were housewives and school children, always in danger of being bombed by enemy planes, and ultimately suffering massive casualties while trying to slow down the enemy. Away from the front lines, most civilian industry was converted for military production, with priority given to guns, bullets, shells, tanks and aircraft. The military was the first priority of agriculture and food production. The catastrophic Soviet defeats in 1941-1942 cut the civilian working population from 85 million to 53 million: women, school children and the elderly comprised a majority of the labor force.  While normal working week standards were raised to 55 hours, in reality many simply lived at work, slept on site and extended the working week to its physiological maximum. On the home front, hunger, cold, and disease were almost as great threats to survival as German military power.


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