Historical background on Shostka

Shostka is a city in Sumy region located among the woods of the Desna river. It got its name from the Shostka river. The history of this settlement is directly related to nitrate and gunpowder production. The first powder mill worked here in 1739–1742. From the end of 1771, the construction of the Shostka Powder Plant began. In 1848, a capsule factory was built here. Each new war of the Russian Empire triggered further development of the plant and the settlement around it. During WWI, its population doubled and in 1917, reached over 9,000. On the eve of World War II in 1939, it was already 28,000. In 1924, Shostka gained the status of a city.

In 1931, the construction of a film factory was completed in Shostka. The transition of the USSR to the offensive military doctrine stimulated military production. In 1938, a total of 6,500 workers were employed at the powder plant called the “encrypted” name “No. 9”, and 1,670 workers were employed at the capsule plant “No. 53”.

In the 1930s, the whole rhythm of life in Shostka was dictated by these plants: they gave jobs, built the city and formed a real “new man” – creator of the industry. Shostka becomes the center of labor immigration from all around the region, especially at the time of general disintegration and collectivization. At the same time, military factories became the object of NKVD scrutiny. According to the editorial board of Rehabilitated by History, over 1,200 people were repressed in the Shostka region in the 1930s-1940s.

During World War II, many skilled plant workers found themselves under occupation: they were neither mobilized into the Red Army nor evacuated. The Nazis viewed these people as potential partisans. Abandoned industrial objects became sites of mass executions. In the winter of 1942, hundreds of local Jews were shot at the Shostka film factory. On July 19, 1942, the SD Sonderkommando shot 215 “activists” from the Shostka city and district in the backyard of the Shostka Technical College. At the same time, invaders exported nearly 8,000 young people from the region to work in the Reich where the most of them labored at German powder companies.

In the postwar period, Shostka became a powerful industrial center. The film factory became the giant Svema production association. Along with the Star and Impulse military factories, a chemical reagent plant and other enterprises were built here. In 1989, the population of Shostka reached over 90,000 inhabitants.

The changing economic situation in the world and the technological revolution that coincided with the collapse of the Soviet Union had a profound effect on the life of the city. Nowadays, instead of industrial giants, the city is surrounded by ruins of plants and unfinished industrial structures. Shostka residents learn to live without the traditional “guardianship” and control of these enterprises over every aspect of their daily life. They are gradually learning self-organization and democracy.