On June 1, 1962, in response to a sharp increase in the price of butter and meat, a strike erupted at the Novocherkassk Electric-Locomotive Works, which employed 13,000 workers. The stoppage immediately spread to neighboring industrial enterprises. Efforts of the local authorities to halt the strike proved fruitless. So alarmed was the central government headed by Nikita Khrushchev that six of the top party leaders were sent to deal with the situation. Although a negotiated settlement was not ruled out, several thousand troops, as well as tank units, were deployed.
The following day, thousands of workers marched into town to present their demands for price rollbacks and wage increases. During the confrontation between the strikers and the government forces, shooting broke out that resulted in twenty-four deaths and several score serious injuries. Hundreds were arrested, and a series of trials followed. Seven strikers were condemned to death, and many more were imprisoned for long terms. The regime effectively covered up what had occurred. Outside the USSR, little was known about the events until Alexander Solzhenitsyn devoted several pages to them in The Gulag Archipelago. In the last years of the Gorbachev era, information was published in Soviet media for the first time.
The Novocherkassk events, which became known as "Bloody Saturday," contributed to the demise of the USSR. Never daring to raise food prices again, the leadership was compelled to subsidize agriculture even more heavily, thus severely unbalancing the economy. Moreover, as information about the massacre of strikers became known, the legitimacy of what has long been proclaimed "the workers' state" was decidedly undermined.
See also: khrushchev, nikita sergeyevich; solzhenitsyn, alexander isayevich
Kozlov, Vladimir A. (2002). Mass Uprisings in the USSR. Armonk, NY: M. E. Sharpe.
Samuel H. Baron