As a result of strife within the party, in 1926, G.E. Zinovyev lost his power in Leningrad and S.M. Kirov took charge of the Leningrad Regional Committee of the VKP(B). He was a loyal follower of Stalin's policy; however, he had democratic image and personal charm and was popular in the city. Under Kirov, the Leningrad region went through the abolition of the New Economic Policy, collectivization, and the mass deportation of "social strangers" in 1928 and 1932. In 1934, Kirov was assassinated under circumstances that remain unclear. Already in those years, rumors circulated that Stalin had ordered the assassination. The assassination was used as an excuse for mass repression; Leningrad was targeted especially. Both former oppositionists and the remnants of the old intelligentsia suffered. In 1936, the "Great Terror" swept across Leningrad and the country.
After the beginning of the New Economic Policy, the pre-war industrial level of the city was quickly restored; during the First Five-year Plan, the role of Leningrad as one of the biggest industrial centers of the country was established. The city had the largest number of workers in the USSR, the Leningrad seaport retained its value as a key trade junction, and Kronshtadt was the main base of the Baltic Navy. The new borders of the USSR established after the Civil War made Leningrad a border post. The city was still the country's largest center of science and education, and it retained its reputation as the most European city in Russia. At the same time, the removal of the Academy of Sciences and other cultural institutions to the new capital aided Leningrad's gradual transformation into a provincial city, despite its great history.
During 1920s and 1930s, Leningrad retained its value as the main cultural center of the country. It was home to the Hermitage and Russian Museum, the philharmonic, and many theaters. Palaces in the city and suburbs became first-rate museums. The Leningrad journal Literary Contemporary was one of the most interesting and independent journals in the country. The most distinguished representatives of the Silver Age still lived and worked there - A.A. Akhmatova, M.A. Kuzmin, M.L. Lozinsky, and others. At the youth journals "Yozh" and "Chizh", there worked such innovative poets as Kharms, Vvedensky, Oleinikov. However, when A.A. Zhdanov replaced Kirov, ideological pressure on culture intensified, and in the years of mass terror, Leningrad's creative intelligentsia suffered terrible losses.
In the post-Revolutionary years, the administrative borders of Leningrad were widened. Former suburbs were annexed to the city. In 1935, a general development plan for Leningrad was conceived; the plan defined major priorities for mass housing. New housing was developed most actively in so-called workers' districts - behind the Narvskaya and Nevskaya Gates, along Moskovsky Prospect, in the Vyborgskaya area. In architecture, constructivism prevailed, defining the appearance of various neighborhoods to this day. Architects paid much attention to such new kinds of building as houses of culture, offices of District Soviets, food industry factories, stadiums. After the mid-1930s, ponderous pseudo-classicism - "Stalinist Empire style" - replaced revolutionary romanticism in architecture.
The city's population, which had decreased in the years of the Civil War, began to increase in the 1920s. This increase was largely due to immigration. From 1926 to 1939, the population of Leningrad almost doubled, reaching 3,191,000. The image of the city changed as well. Only a few representatives of the pre-Revolutionary privileged classes survived. From 1925 to 1941, the number of experts with degrees increased by nearly 6 times, but they were generally "first-generation intelligentsia". The percentage of industrial workers increased. The new elite of Soviet society was composed of top party managers, "red directors", and scientists and artists who served the new regime. The life of workers and most clerks and experts was harder than it had been before the Revolution.
In the years of the Revolution and Civil War, the mass "consolidation" of apartments took place as workers were moved into former private apartments. The process continued in the 1920s. As a result, most Leningrad's population had to live in communal apartments. New housing construction lagged behind the increase of the population. The end of the New Economic Policy, collectivization, and accelerated industrialization caused shortages of food and basic items. Goods and food were rationed. At factories, norms were increased. Before the war, the workday was prolonged and workers were forbidden to change their job as they liked. The punishment for coming to work 20 minutes late was prison. Only in the last years before the war did the availability of foodstuffs improve; rationing was cancelled, and some improvement in the standard of living took place.
While Kirov was still alive, the Pioneer Palace in the Anichkov Palace on Nevsky Prospect was established. There, as in district Pioneer Houses and many houses of culture, sport clubs and artistic or technical groups for children functioned. They helped children to spend their free time. Moreover, they also opened the door to careers in the arts, sports, and science for many young inhabitants of Leningrad. The Theater of the Young Spectator and puppet shows were at their service. For adults, to spend their spare time "culturally", houses of culture and stadiums were built, "parks for cultural leisure" were opened. In such parks, there were reading rooms, chess and draughts halls, stages for concerts, and dance floors. There were always merry-go-rounds and, in the winter, skating rinks. The suburban palaces were transformed into museums and opened for excursions. The task of bringing culture to the broad masses was well organized and was carried out by the entire staff of an enterprise. The mere fact of being in Leningrad acted to raise the cultural level of former migrants.
S. M. Kirov. Photo