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Soviet Foreign Policy 1917-1991
Transcript of Soviet Foreign Policy 1917-1991
Soviet Foreign Policy 1900-1991
World War 2
The Cold War
Treaty of Brest-Litovsk
Vladimir Illyich Lenin
Tsar Nicholas II
Treaty of Rapallo
Treaty of Berlin
'The Left Turn'
League of Nations
Spanish Civil War
Yalta & Potsdam
Tsar Nicholas II
Charming but weak
Firm belief in Autocracy
5 Pillars of Tsarism; aristocracy, bureaucracy, army, secret police, church.
System was problematic; inflexible, conservative, harsh and self interested.
System depended on calibre of Tsar - Nicholas, introverted and unprepared.
Became Tsar in 1894 - heavily influenced by reactionary Pobedonostsev and wife Alexandra - a strong believer in autocracy
They had little comprehension of needs of ordinary Russians
Seen as insensitive and uncaring
160 million people
1% wealthy landowners
redemption payments for freedom
Tension and peasant unrest rife
Slow to industrialise - small scale and limited to a few cities
Working conditions poor - trade unions illegal
Industrial workers felt excluded
National minorites (Poles, Finns, Ukranians, Muslims etc) - 56% - also felt excluded
Lack of freedom
Political power denied to all but Tsar
Local councils run by wealthy
Groups opposed to Tsar
Students and intellectuals
War against Japan to 'stop revolutionary tide'
Ended in disaster for Russia - Japan sunk the Russian fleet at Port Arthur
defeat by a second-rate power was a humiliation
Public anger over war, economic slump and food shortages
Strikes and unrest
March on Winter Palace in Jan 1905 to give the Tsar a petition - 150,000 people
Troops opened fire killing over 100 demonstrators.
Weakened loyalty of the common people
Produced a wave of sympathy strike In St Petersburg - workers Soviets were established
Peasantry began to protest agaist high taxes and redemption payments
Naval mutiny at Kronstadt snd Sebastopol
October Manifesto - agreed in priciple for all classess to take part in elections
Freedom of speech and religion
Parliament set up - Duma
Tsar could suspend at any time
Tsar had sole command of Army
Only Tsar could propose laws
Revolution a shock to the regime but it had survived
Armed forces stayed loyal
No one revolutionary had been able to co-ordinate and channel the rebellion
Underlying social, economic and political problems still not addressed
1st Duma 1906 - dominated by Kadets (liberals)
Other main parties were Octobrists (conservatives) and Trudoviki (left wing)
Nicholas dissolved Duma when faced with opposition.
2nd Duma lasts less than 4 months.
3rd Duma dominated by Octobrists and lasted from 1907-12
Industrial Growth - 6% between 1906-1013
Appalling working conditions - breeding ground for discontent
Peasants encouraged to own their own land - creates a class of more prosperous peasants called KULAKS
Agricultural production begins to rise - despite drop in peasant riots, tensions remain
Decline in organised and spontaneous unrest
Okhrana used ruthless tactics to deal with revolutionaries - executed 1,144 people in 1907
Tension not far from the surface
Police and army brutality caused further resentment, helping gain support for revolutionary groups
However Trade Unions still had limited influence outside Moscow and St Petersburg
Russia joined war in 1914 - wave of enthusiasm.
Public opinion supported Russian entry - 'protector of Slavs'.
Initial enthusiasm did not last long - early defeats dampened morale
Poor planning - arms shortages and high number of casualties.
Fuel shortages, rapid price rises and inflation
Inadequate transport system.
Gov set up War-Industry Committee and Zemgor
Peasants suffering hardships of war become more radical and susceptible to revolutionary ideas.
Conditions for peasants at home more difficult - discontent mounted.
Food shortages and 'scorched earth' policy increase problems - strikes and protests
Even landowners, industrialists and small businesses suffered.
Resentment grew and gov begin to lose control e.g. rebellion in Turkestan
War revealed political ineptitude of Tsar - Duma dissolved in 1915.
Tsar took over frontline control of armed forces- became target of military criticism
Alexandra, influenced by Rasputin, takes control of government - Rasputin gets church and gov jobs for his friends, upsetting aristocrats.
Minister regularly sacked, gov in chaos and aristocracy lose faith in regime - Rasputin murdered by Prince Yusupov in 1916.
Reputations of Tsar and Tsarina continue to decline - rumours of of German sympathies persist.
War alienated regime from its own supporter and peasants, industrial workers were becoming radicalised.
what were the aims of
Russian foreign policy at this time?
Retain 'Great Power' Status
Vital for survival of Romanov dynasty
Achieved through rapid industrialisation at home and...
Imperial expansion abroad
Increasing influence in Balkans
Traditional role as protector of Slavs and Orthodox Christians
Traditional role of protector of Slavs and Orthodox Christians
Control of Straits
Prize of Constantinople, warm water ports, access to Mediterranean and dominance over Ottoman empire
Occupation of Poland
Guard from Western Invasion
Good relations with France (and UK)
Due to French investment in Russia
Worsening relations with Germany and Austria
Expansion into Asia
Competing with Germany and Japan
Aiming for Mongolia and Manchuria
Policy curtailed by failure of Russo-Japanese War
Combination of these factors led Russia to enter WW1 with disastrous consequences
Demonstrations in Petrograd over Food Shortages - aimed at Tsar
Significant radicalisation of peasantry.
1/4 Million demonstrators in Feb
Army refused to fire on protestors - Tsar loses backing of his own supporters
Persuaded to abdicate - brother declined throne and Romanov dynasty over.
- continued support for War - unpopular decision.
- weakened Gov from the start - more legitimate and powerful
Delaying Constituent Assembly
- needed a parliament to legitimise power - unable to deal with land problems
Led initially by Prince Lvov and then by
- demonstrations and radicalisation 'all power to Soviets' - Kronstadt rebellion - Crushed by provisional government
- attempted military coup - army demoralised and confused.
Foreign Policy Aims
Pursued war aims inherited from Tsarist regime
Honored commitment to win control of Constantinople Straits
Despite size (20,000) Bolsheviks, led by Lenin, successfully took power in the capital.
Found common ground between demands of all groups in Russia at the time
How were the Bolsheviks
able to seize power?
Appealed to industrial workers who were facing hardships
Limitations of workers organisations
Trade unions & factory committees
support of soldiers
Peasants / land
Stand against Kornilov
Lenin convinced time was right to sieze power
Kamenev and Zinoviev opposed
Lenin persuades party -time for immediate revolution.
Key postions in Petrograd siezed - co=ordinated by
Provisional Gov surrendered power - Lenin & Trotsky are masters of revolution
Supported Lenin against more cautious voices
Planned details of siezure of Petrograd
Organised Bolshevik Red Guard
Co-ordinated military operations via MRC
Inspiration through unflagging energy
Treaty of Riga
Aims of Foreign Policy under Lenin
Ensure survival of new Communist state against hostile neighbors.
To spread world revolution
Foreign policy emerged from interplay between national interest and the idea of Communism as a world system
Lenin expected revolution to spread quickly one 'weakest link' (Russia) in imperial chain was broken
Trotsky expected the rapid growth of a free socialist commonwealth in which tradition international diplomacy would become irrelevant.
The whole Bolshevik party believed the revolution in Russia would lead to global or permanent revolution'.
However the revolution did not quickly spread and Russia remained isolated
The Treaty of Brest-Litovsk brought about the end of the war between Russia and Germany in 1918. The German were reminded of the harshness of Brest-Litovsk when they complained about the severity of theTreaty of Versailles signed in June 1919.
Lenin had ordered that the Bolshevik representatives should get a quick treaty from the Germans to bring about an end to the war so that the Bolsheviks could concentrate on the work they needed to do in Russia itself.
The start of the discussions was an organisational disaster. Representatives from the Allies, who were meant to have attended, failed to show. Russia, therefore, had to negotiate a peace settlement by herself.
After just one week of talks, the Russian delegation left so that it could report to the All-Russian Central Executive Committee. It was at this meeting that it became clear that there were three views about the peace talks held within the Bolshevik hierarchy.
On January 21st, 1918, the Bolshevik hierarchy met.
Only 15 out of 63 supported Lenin’s viewpoint
. 16 voted for Trotsky who wanted to wage a “holy war” against all militarist nations, including Germany.
32 voted in favour of a revolutionary war
against the Germans, which would, they believed, precipitate a workers rebellion in Germany.
The whole issue went to the party’s Central Committee. This body rejected the idea of a revolutionary war and supported an idea of Trotsky. He decided that he would offer the Germans Russia’s demobilisation and an end to the war but would not conclude a peace treaty with them. By doing this he hoped to buy time. In fact he got the opposite.
On February 18th, 1918, the Germans, tired of the Bolshevik’s procrastination, re-started their advance into Russia and advanced 100 miles in just four days. This re-confirmed in Lenin’s mind that a treaty was needed very quickly. Trotsky, having dropped the idea of the workers of Germany coming to the aid of Russia, followed Lenin. Lenin had managed to sell his idea to a small majority in the party’s hierarchy, though there were many who were still opposed to peace at any price with the Germans. However, it was
Lenin who read the situation better than anyone else
believed that Germany would offer wholly unacceptable terms to the Russians and that this would spur the German workers to rise up in revolt against their leaders and in support of their Russian compatriots. This rebellion would, in turn, spark off a world-wide workers rebellion.
believed that the German workers would rise up even if the terms of the treaty were reasonable.
believed that a world revolution would occur over many years. What Russia needed now was an end to the war with Germany and he wanted peace, effectively at any cost.
All treaties signed by Tsar made public.
Greater openness in foreign affairs was promised
Third Communist International (March 1919) designed to assist the spread of the world revolution
An attempt to 'take the war to the enemy.
Soon became simply another instrument of Bolshevik policy.
Co-existence of of COMINTERN with the Commissariat of Foreign Affairs symbolised the tension between ideology and pragmatism.
After the TBL, opposition to Bolsheviks mounted - 'white' opposition consisted of a range of political groups including....
Supporters of PG, supporters ofTsar, military leaders, menshevik and SR
Britain, USA, France and Japan all sent aid to Whites - saw communism as a threat.
The Civil war was “the seed from which the Cold War grew.” – Fleming
Lenin – “Germany’s knees are on our chests, and our position is hopeless.”
How did the Bolsheviks win?
The first reason was that the Whites were disunited
. They were a coalition of different enemies of the Bolsheviks many of these groups hated each other!
The second reason was Trotsky
, who was a brilliant war leader and strategist, so the Red Army had good tactics.
A third reason was belief.
Many Russians were Communists, who believed they were fighting for a better world.
Lenin helped the Bolsheviks by introducing War Communism.
The Bolsheviks nationalised the factories, and introduced military discipline. This put the whole nation on a war footing, and gave the Bolshevik armies the supplies they needed.
Whereas the whites were disunited, the Bolsheviks maintained absolute unity through Terror.
The Tsar and his family were put to death, which removed a focal point for the whites.
Finally, the Bolsheviks had what they needed to win the war
. The British, French and American armies were fighting thousands of miles from home, at the end of a long supply line. The Bolsheviks, on the other hand, had control of the main cities of Moscow and Petrograd (with their factories), control of the railways (vital), an army of 300,000 men, very strict army discipline, and internal lines of communication – giving them the advantage in the war.
State of Poland created in 1919 as part of Paris Peace settlement - Poland was to receive land from Russia up to Curzon line.
Polish unhappy and used the chaos of Civil War to attack Bolsheviks.
Poles win a decisive victory outside Warsaw
Bolsheviks in retreat - ceasefire signed 1920
Bolsheviks handed over territory east of Curzon line
"a bad peace was cheaper than a prolongation of war" Lenin
Lenin – “Poland will be the Red Bridge in to Europe.”
Baker – “First steps towards world revolution.”
A bridge to the resources and support of the German economy
Lenin starts to fear USSR isolation - not invited to LoN - had to accept co-existence with capitalist powers.
From 1921 Bolsheviks try to develop relations with other countries and obtain foreign aid.
UK and France remained hostile but Germany, also an outcast in foreign relations, proved a more willing partner
The Treaty of Rapallo was an agreement signed on 16 April 1922 between Germany and Russia under which each renounced all territorial and financial claims against the other following the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk and World War I.
The two governments also agreed to normalise their diplomatic relations and to "co-operate in a spirit of mutual goodwill in meeting the economic needs of both countries"
Included secret diplomatic, military and economic links between the countries - an end to open diplomacy!
Bolsheviks still expected revolution in the West - diplomatic initiatives just 'holding actions'.
Final defeat of German revolution in 1923 confirmed Soviet isolation.
A new balance required between Soviet diplomacy and world revolution
The death of Lenin in January 1924 followed a long period of poor health, punctuated by a series of severe strokes.
Lenin’s poor health forced him to wind back his involvement in politics. From mid 1922 Lenin mostly remained at home, where he was cared for by his wife Krupskaya and a small staff. Despite being housebound, Lenin remained alert to policy debates in the Politburo, continuing to communicate with Politburo members and officials.
Stalin, having become very influential in his role as general secretary, exploited Lenin’s absence by continuing to build up support on both the Politburo and the party’s Central Committee. Much information was withheld from Lenin, on Stalin’s orders, purportedly ‘for the good of Comrade Lenin’s health’.
Stalin was appointed General Secretary of the party's Central Committee in 1922.
He managed to consolidate power following the 1924 death of Vladimir Lenin by suppressing Lenin's criticisms (in the postscript of his testament) and expanding the functions of his role, all the while eliminating any opposition.
He remained General Secretary until the post was abolished in 1952, concurrently serving as the Premier of the Soviet Union from 1941 onward
The theory held that given the defeat of all the communist revolutions in Europe in 1917–1921 except Russia's, the Soviet Union should begin to strengthen itself internally. That turn toward national communism was a shift from the previously held Marxist position that socialism must be established globally (world communism), and it was in opposition to Leon Trotsky's theory of permanent revolution.
a treaty of 24 April 1926 under which Germany and the Soviet Union pledged neutrality in the event of an attack on the other by a third party for the next five years. The treaty reaffirmed the German-Soviet Treaty of Rapallo signed in 1922
Relations with UK improve in 1924 following election of Labour Gov
The "Zinoviev letter" was a controversial document published by the British Daily Mail newspaper four days before the general election in 1924.
It purported to be a directive from the Communist International in Moscow to the Communist Party of Great Britain.
It said the resumption of diplomatic relations (by a Labour government) would hasten the radicalisation of the British working class.
The letter took its name from the apparent signature of a senior Soviet official Grigory Zinoviev.
The letter seemed authentic at the time but historians now believe it was a forgery. It called for intensified communist agitation in Britain
Conservative government breaks of formal relations with Soviet Union in 1927
Soviet gov supported Chinese Nationalists (Kuomintang) which included Chinese Communists.
In 1927 Kuomintang purged communists within the party - 'White terror' resulted in massacre of communists in Shanghai
Actions of Japan in China, especially with regards to Manchuria, also worrying for Stalin - made him suspicious of Western policy.
Why didn't Stalin support the CPC?
He thought they were too few to achieve revolution alone and needed to work with nationalists- proletarian revolution would have to wait.
He hoped that a Nationalist Government would be a friend to Soviet Russia.
This policy failed - Trotsky, who had earlier criticized Stalin's policy in China, felt the massacres justified his attack on Stalin as the
'grave digger of the revolution'
Evaluating Lenin's Foreign Policy
• It could be argued that Lenin’s foreign policy challenges the proposition that only Gorbachev’s foreign policy was motivated by economic considerations.
• Economic considerations were very important in the early years of Soviet foreign policy – whether in the form of withdrawal from the war or the renunciation of Tsarist loans – although it could be pointed out that this was equally ideological.
• The withdrawal from World War One and the cancellation of all foreign debts could certainly be regarded as decisions motivated by economic concerns in view of the perilous state of the country in the aftermath of the revolution.
Some point out that the normalisation of Soviet foreign policy through diplomatic treaties were further examples of economics playing a role in decision making.
• Lenin’s policies were motivated by a range of other factors. The expansionist revolutionary role of the Comintern and the Russo-Polish War could be considered examples of the role of ideology in explaining Soviet foreign policy.
• The significance of security considerations is obvious in the early years of Soviet foreign policy. Withdrawal from World War One and the brutally harsh Treaty of Brest-Litovsk highlight the priorities of the embryonic regime.
• The subsequent Civil War once again highlights how security and survival were the primary motivations of Soviet foreign policy at this juncture.
• As Teddy Uldrick has noted
: “Soviet foreign policy was motivated by a genuine and desperate search for security”.
Whether it was the withdrawal from World War One, the Russo-Polish War or the Civil War, the survival of the revolution and thus the security of the new state was the paramount concern of the Bolsheviks under Lenin.
• Some have drawn attention to the authority Lenin wielded over foreign policy, observing that he rather than Trotsky ensured the withdrawal from World War One and the cancellation of all foreign debts. It is evident in these actions, and also in the ensuing Civil War, that Lenin sought to secure the revolution as a primary objective.
• Temporary capitalist intervention from western countries in the Civil War also demonstrated to the Bolsheviks that an isolated USSR was vulnerable and for a Communist regime to survive it would have to ensure its security in the future.
• Survival rather than any economic priorities or a desire to expand communism was the main priority in this phase, and in 1922 when it signed the Treaty of Rapallo with Weimar Germany, the USSR showed that it could be pragmatic and work with capitalist states if necessary for survival.
• Equally, the same willingness to deviate from a strict ideological adherence to the primacy of exporting the revolution is also present with the Anglo-Soviet Trade Treaty of 1921. As Michael Lynch has argued:
“Lenin adopted an essentially realistic approach.”
• The failure of Communism to take hold in central Europe and, in particular, the failure to defeat the Poles, acted as a catalyst for Lenin to develop a more moderate approach that witnessed the signing of a range of treaties which helped to secure the revolution.
• One could, however, argue that the Soviet Union was aggressive from the outset, with Lenin’s creation of the Comintern.
• Lenin set up the Comintern in 1919 with the goal of trying to spread communism internationally. In this regard it could be argued that foreign policy was motivated by a desire to expand communism.
• This intention to export communism was also evident with regard to the Russo-Polish War. This war has frequently been characterised as an attempt to build what Lenin called “a red bridge” into the heart of Europe through which the revolution could be exported. In this regard it could be argued that foreign policy was intended to follow a particular path and might expect to see continuity rather than change.
• Kennan was subsequently to claim that communism was an inherently aggressive and expansionist ideology and there is some evidence for that claim.
• Lenin’s belief that a Soviet Union would act as a catalyst to other nations and the fact that the Soviet Union was the only communist state could be used as the basis for the claim that the Soviet foreign policy was initially dedicated to expansionist aims.
• One could argue that there is no simple depiction of Soviet foreign policy during this initial period. As Condren remarked, the
“Soviet leadership pursued its aims with whatever means were at its disposal”.
• The importance of events and circumstances were to shape decisions and, while there may have been an ideological aspiration to export the revolution, such hopes were to flounder on the rocks of reality.
• Commencing with Lenin, it could be argued that he employed a range of methods between 1917 and 1924. Indeed, the methods altered as the aims altered and these changes can be understood in the context of events.
• No one leader was wholly defensive or aggressive and in fact circumstances, both domestic and international events, played a key role in shaping Soviet foreign policy – both in terms of aims and methods.
• However it can be argued that Lenin adopted a dual approach with the early establishment of the Comintern and the subsequent Russo-Polish War, which, while initially defensive in character, was perceived as an opportunity to promote the revolution rather than merely protect it.
Lenin was prepared to adapt policy to circumstances and as such was willing to enter trade agreements with Britain and Germany in the early 1920s. As Lynch has argued, “Lenin adopted an essentially realistic approach.”
• Equally, some draw attention to the role of different foreign commissars and speculate that they influenced the direction of foreign policy, whether it was Chicherin with his anglophile tendencies or later Litvinov with his push for collective security.
• Of course, it could also be argued that the foreign commissars merely reflected the wishes of Lenin or Stalin respectively rather than being a major determinant of foreign policy themselves. Thus, it could be argued that throughout the 1920s Soviet foreign policy was quite pragmatic but, given the opportunity, its leaders would have promoted the revolution.
“Recognised himself primarily as revolutionary.” – Lynch
“The whole of Europe will be Communist within a year.” – Lenin (1917)
“We don’t regard Marx’s theory as completed.” – Lenin
Kennan and Hout – “Lenin’s actions were inherently expansionist.”
Lenin – “Poland will be the Red Bridge in to Europe.” (Russo-Polish War)
ker – “First steps towards world revolution.” (Russo-Polish War)
Zinnoviev – “That in a year the whole of Europe will be Communist.” (Spread of Communism)
vans and Jenkins – “Revolution remained the cornerstone of SFP” (Peaceful Co-existence)
Beryl Williams – “Lenin’s main aim remained a European, or indeed a world, revolution.” (Peaceful co-existence)
“Strangle Bolshevism in its cradle.” – Churchill( wanted to)
After 1921 Lenin was ready to rely on “Diplomacy rather than revolution.” – Lee
“We cant develop it fast enough to prevent the West overtaking us unless we call on Foreign capital.” – AJ Hameneu
on Lenin’s decision to follow Peaceful co existence
“Lenin was primarily security based.” – Condran
Kennedy-Pipe – Germany were “Europe’s other international
pariah (trade agreements)
Lenin – “Germany’s knees are on our chests, and our position is hopeless.” (Treaty of BL)
Churchill – Communism is ‘foul baboonery’
Stalin inherited an approach of compromise rather than confrontation from Lenin.
He continued this adopting an essentially defensive approach to foreign affairs.
Whilst soviet propaganda was pledged to the active encouragement of worldwide revolution, in reality the Bolsheviks saw their first task was to ensure the survival of the revolution in Russia itself
Under Stalin, the primary purpose of Comintern was to safeguard the existence of the Soviet Union.
Whilst Comintern continued to have a role under Stalin it was limited to protecting the USSR
Any foreign Communist parties who wished to affiliate with Comintern had to swear absolute obedience to the Soviet Union -
Stalin's left turn
Stalin replaced Bukharin as head of the Comintern with his choice, Molotov who implemented a new approach towards non-communist parties of the left in Europe who were denounced as “Social-Fascists”. Moscow recognised communist parties were instructed not to co-operate with them as they would delay a genuine revolution.
Fascism and Nazism grew rapidly in this period and when the KPD in Germany followed Stalin’s orders and did not help the SPD in Germany in 1933 to stop Nazism, this allowed Hitler to take power.
Soviet relations with other states improved as they were no longer encouraging world revolution, it also allowed Stalin’s policies of collectivisation and industrialisation to be implemented without foreign interference.
Policy of “socialism in one country” meant that USSR aimed to preserve their own revolution not encourage others.
Attacks on KPD, German-Polish treaty - Stalin convinced that Germany now chief danger.
1933-36 - Stalin concerned with finding allies to nullify danger of Germany
Lieven compares Stalins policy with Tsars -
Aim to either form an alliance with UK/France or deflect German expansion westwards.
Nations acting together to protect individual states from attack
League of Nations
Agreement 1935 between USSR, France and Czechoslovakia promising mutual assistance in a military attack
Diplomatic contact made with USA
Comintern reverse policy of non-allignment with the left
Appealed for a popular front to combat fascism
European socialists reluctant to respond.
Collective security wholly unsuccessful
UK and France were not prepared to risk war
Appeasement of both Mussolini and Hitler underlines Anglo-French weakness and aggression
Aimed directly against soviet union
Formed by fascist nations Germany, Italy and Japan
Led Stalin to re-double efforts to find allies
Conflict between republican left and fascist right
Stalin sent agents to organise pro-Republican forces and sent military equipment in return for gold reserves.
Required Republicans to fall under Soviet direction
However - Stalin was not keen to see a Victory for Marxism in Spain
He feared that of Communism was installed in western Europe it would frighten France and Britain into an anti-Soviet pact with Germany and Italy
France, Italy, UK and Germany sign agreement granting Hitler his demands for Sudentanland
Another breach of the Versailles treaty was accepted on top of recent Anschluss of Austria
Stalin viewed this as a gathering of anti-Soviet forces to give Germany a free hand to launch an attack on the USSR.
France and UK continue to refuse alliance proposals
August 1939 - Germany and Russia sign formal agreement - also known as Molotov-Ribbentrop pact.
Both countries pledge to maintain peaceful relations with one another.
Secret Additional Protocol - agreements over Baltic states and Poland - carving up Poland between them.
Agreement seemingly defied logic due to opposing nature of Communism and Fascism.
USSR grabbed eastern half of Poland
Germany free to conduct war against France / Britain
USSR takes Baltic, southern Finland and Bessarabia-Bukovina regaining all territory lost after WW1
10 year guarantee of peace with Germany - Stalin thought he pulled off a masterstroke
USSR claimed that the NS Pact had safeguarded Soviet but remained oblivious to Hitler's real aim to invade and occupy Russia. (despite Hitler making no real secret of this in Mein Kampf)
Germans launch attack on Russia in June 1941
Analysis & Interpretation
Collective security school
USSR pursued a clear, unambiguous policy of building a European wide shield of collective security against Nazi's.
CS failed due to failure of Western nations to appose Hitler
NS pact needed due to threat from Germany and Japan
Stalin preferred co-operation with Germany rather than Western powers
Stalin was following an ambitious and aggressive policy to manoeuver capitalist states into a mutually destructive war.
CS was a mask for Stalin's designs and a bait to attract Hitler.
CS arose from genuine need to make a common cause with other states against Hitler.
USSR clung doggedly to policy of CS despite lack of success
Failure of Operation Barbarossa 1941
Reasons for failure:
• Stalin showed strong leadership after a period of “mental paralysis”
• The launch was six weeks later than the original planed day, meaning the presumed Russian capitulation against German forces had not happened by autumn 1941
• Fate- there was a torrential autumn with thick mud followed by one of the harshest winters in Russian memory. German forces stopped advancing and Russia was able to counterattack in December 1941 under Marshal Zhukov
Reaction to invasion:
• Local Soviets actually welcomed the invasion, some were even willing to join the German forces-caused by hatred of Stalinism
• “In the Soviet Union we found on our arrival a population weary of Bolshevism. The population greeted us with joy as liberators and placed themselves at our disposal,”-Otto Brautigam, deputy leader of the German ministry for the Occupied East
• “The Russian fights today with exceptional self-sacrifice for nothing more or nothing less than recognition of his human dignity,”-Otto Brautigam
• Soviets responded to German brutality by committing to a desperate struggle for survival
• The war became known as “The Great Patriotic War”, which they won in 1945
• While pushing into Eastern Germany, the Red Army treated civilians with the same severity as the German invaders had carried out on the Soviet people during Operation Barbarossa
The Battle of Stalingrad 1942-3
• German forces besieged the city to seize the oil fields of Caucasus
• The city was a symbol of Russian resistance- this was showed when the Germans reached the city and were met with ferocious resistance
• Hitler refused to retreat despite the appeals of his generals. They were instructed ‘to fight to the last soldier and the last bullet.’
• Surrendered on 31st January 1943 due to starvation
• 200,00 German troops died
• 91,000 became prisoners
• Hitler’s Sixth Army was destroyed
• Most important war in Europe-proved Hitler’s armies were not invincible
• ‘What was destroyed at Stalingrad was the flower of the German army.’
The Battle of Kursk July 1943
• Effort to regain Hitler’s army’s prestige
• 5th July 1943-Operation Citadel/Battle of Kursk began
• Largest tank battle in history
• 700,000 German troops and over 1 million Soviet troops deployed
• Hitler called off whole operation to save his armies from another devastating defeat, like the events at Stalingrad
• Spring 1945- Germany were battered, occupied and devastated. They surrendered
The Impact of the war on the USSR
• Stalin began to exercise his formidable powers of leadership
• 3rd July 1941-Stalin’s first radio broadcast of the war. He appealed to the people to defend ‘Mother Russia’ by adopting the scorched-earth methods of warfare
• Centralised authority was of great value when it came to organising the war effort
• Harshness of conditions under which the Soviet people had laboured in the 1930s- prepared them for the fearful hardships of war
• Raw courage and resilience of the Russian people- proved a priceless asset
• Half of the Soviet population was under German occupation
• 1/3 of the nation’s industrial plant- in German hands
• Livestock/grain stocks reduced by 60/ 40 %
• 40% of the railway system- no longer available
• Iron and steel production- dropped by 60%
The suffering of the Soviet people
More than a quarter of the estimated 25 million fatalities suffered by the Soviet Union during the war was a result of starvation, due to factors such as the long German occupation of the most fertile land and breakdown of the food distribution system among others.
As the military struggle drew to a close in May 1945, stalin declared, ‘we have survived the hardest of all wars ever experienced in the history of our motherland. The point is that the Soviet social system ha proved to be more capable of life and more stable than a non soviet system
He didn’t mention that most suffering was caused by his policies, not least his mania for deporting whole peoples whose loyalty he doubted.
The end of the war
Stalin gave instructions at the end of the war that his role in the nation’s military triumph be given the highest pace. Paintings portraying him as the great wartime leader adorned public buildings.
Although he was unforgiving of those who he felt were failures in the military, he allowed his generals such as Zhukov real freedom to direct the war. At the victory parade in Moscow's red square in 1945 Zhukov reviewed the troops mounted on a white charger.
Stalin intended to take the review himself but had changed his mind out of fear that he wouldn’t be able to control the horse.
Soviet foreign policy was driven by a pragmatic desire to survive and secure the revolution and was primarily defensive in nature:
• The Second World War itself would generally be understood in defensive terms – after all 80% of Nazi forces were concentrated in the East. The concluding years of the Second World War and its immediate aftermath offer the next serious points of discussion.
• It could be argued that Soviet foreign policy was seeking to advance communism, but more as a defensive measure than any expansionist tendency.
• The Nazi invasion of the USSR in June 1941 forced it into a temporary alliance with capitalist states to defeat the forces of Fascism but at some point during the Second World War Stalin decided that after victory had been achieved the USSR would never again have to depend on others for its own strategic security. What had been done for survival led Stalin to determine a course of action that security was to be at the heart of Soviet foreign policy.
Alternative views -
Once again a more balanced and nuanced view could be articulated that emphasises that this was a series of actions and re-actions and that it is not readily obvious as to who were the aggressors.
• The war itself was clearly defensive but it was to be the results of the war that were to witness the greatest expansion of communism in Europe in the period 1917–1991 and the effective “takeover” of large swathes of Eastern and Central Europe.
• Whether this was the result of a Soviet desire for a sphere of influence that could act as a buffer zone or the logical consequence of communist ideology is arguable. This discussion draws on the interpretations of the Orthodox school in contrast with the Revisionist approach.
The Potsdam Conference, July 1945
•This was essentially a continuation of Yalta- discussed Germany, reparations, Eastern Europe and Japan- Stalin, Truman and Atlee.
•Situation had deteriorated since Yalta- reparations commission produced no acceptable settlement for Germany- Soviet ruthlessness in Poland suggested that Stalin was intent on imposing a rigid system there similar to that in the USSR.
Stalin’s Position at Potsdam
•He was the dominant statesman at this conference- America and Britain had new leaders whereas Stalin attended both conferences- was not prepared to concede on any major issues.
•He was determined to safeguard gains made in Europe.
•Concessions over Poland and Eastern Europe extracted at Yalta remained substantially unaltered.
•In order to reverse some of the major losses, the Soviet Government decided to transfer huge sectors of Soviet industry over to the Eastern USSR which was relatively secure.
•All adults not involved in essential wartime work were conscripted into the army, women and children now had to fill vacant places within the factories. Women were almost exclusively set to work on the land.
•Arms production was now of incredible importance over half of national income by 1942 was devoted to military expenditure, which was the highest proportion of any of the countries involved in World War Two.
•1942 was both an economic and military low point for Soviet Russia, however from this point onwards elements in both areas definitely improved. The 17million tons of weaponry sent by the USSR by the USA under a so called ‘Lend Lease Programme’ seriously benefited the USSR. The Soviet railway was recovered and expanded enabling troops and supplies to be moved in the most beneficial way. In 1943 the USSR were able to reclaim their industrial sites as a result of the retreat of the German forces.
The Great Patriotic War 1941-5
* Hitler had a long intended attack upon the USSR on 22 June 1941.
* Hitler had named the operation, “Operation Barbarossa”.
* 15 June - a week before the attack – The Kremlin received word from Richard Sorge, a Comintern agent in Japan; this provided evidence that Germany was about to launch a massive assault on Western Russia.
* Stalin’s response was, “This is German disinformation.”
* However the following day Stalin received further news confirming Sorge’s story.
Why Stalin refused to accept the truth defies reasonable explanation;
* Perhaps he could not bring himself to admit that the Nazi-Soviet Pact had failed.
* Perhaps he genuinely believed that Hitler could still be bought off.
The Consequences were abundantly clear;
* Due to Stalin unwilling to admit the reality of the situation in June 1941 no underlings could take initiative.
* Stalin sat in his Dacha, refusing to speak or give instructions.
* The first week of the Second World War on the eastern front the German forces overran a Soviet Union that was without effective leadership or direction.
* Hitler declared that the world would hold its breath when it witnessed Barbarossa.
* It was a huge enterprise, unprecedented in the history of warfare.
* Germany put into the field;
1. 3 million troops
2. ½ million motorised vehicles
3. 4000 tanks
4. 3000 aircrafts
However even with this mass amount of weaponry, this wasn’t Germanys great initial advantage as the USSR ;
1. Matched the number of troops.
2. 4x tanks
3. 3x aircraft
What made that Soviet Union incapable of effective defence in the early days of the war was Stalin’s mental paralysis.
The Grand Alliance
•Britain, the USA and the USSR became allies not by choice but rather circumstance.
•Before the Soviet Union were attacked by Germany in 1941, they had not assisted Britain in any way, however, after the attack the USSR are brought into the War. The USA also join the War in 1941 because of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour.
• The sudden coming together of the three superpowers or the ‘Big Three’ was known as ‘The Grand Alliance.’
•However, a more accurate description could be ‘the marriage of convenience’. They only united because they shared the common goal of defeating Germany.
•Although on the surface relations after the defeat of Germany seemed to be seriously improved this was far from the truth as there was constant arguing between the Soviet Union and her Western Allies. CB- PAGE 108-109
A second front
•Stalin pleaded with the other allies to create a second military front against Germany in occupied Europe in order to take the strain off the USSR.
•However, he eventually had to retort that neither of the allies would truly understand the intensity of the war on the Eastern front as neither would help without aid, such as military aid.
•The taunts which resulted indicated the ideological differences between the allies and the USSR had been submerged because of the need for wartime cooperation, but began to resurface as the war began to end.
•There was a fear the capitalists by attempting to enlist Germany in a war against communism. On the eastern side, there was anxiety that the soviet advance into Eastern Europe and Germany heralded the start of a new period of Communist expansion.
The Polish Issue
•At the end of the war the USSR occupied Poland and installed a pro-Soviet Provisional Government. USA and Britain feared Poland becoming Soviet puppet.
•Churchill reluctantly agreed to concede to Stalin because of the Red Army and Poland and the readiness of the West to appease the USSR.
•Suspicion between East and West. Shown by reluctance for Soviet Union to join the United Nation and be out-numbered by capitalist countries.
•Stalin’s insistence on being on the Security Council and having the veto as a condition of joining the UN.
•Stalin, Churchill and Roosevelt meet at Yalta in February 1945
•Purpose was to plan the post-war settlement
•There were only temporary compromises settled as larger issues could not be agreed due to a mutual suspicion behind the official cordiality
Treatment of defeated Germany-
•The country would be divided into 4 zones, separately run by USA, the USSR, France, and Britain- no agreement on what system of government should be used
•The three leaders could not agree on the issue of Germany paying reparations- impossible to reconcile Stalin’s demand for harsh economic penalties for Germany. Roosevelt and Churchill did not allow the USSR to drain Germany while they were helping provide resources so that the country would not collapse
•Stalin later claims that Yalta guaranteed him with 50% of German reparations (much to Western denials)
•All three leaders agreed that prisoners of war should all be returned to their own countries- Stalin massacred or imprisoned them, especially any Soviet citizens who fought for Germany. Allies kept the agreement for fear of antagonising Stalin- this was an act of appeasement.
Stalin and the Japanese War
•Stalin had a secret deal with Roosevelt- USSR would enter the war against Japan in return for Chinese territory after Japan’s defeat.
•Critic’s suggest that Roosevelt’s acceptance of these demands was an act of appeasement.
•USA did not need USSR help- Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings brought an end to the war.
•Stalin heard of the atomic bombing and formally declared war on Japan- 14th August Japan surrendered and Stalin proceeded to claim the USSR’s territorial rewards.
Soviet American Rivalry
There was an ideological base to the tensions between the USSR and the USA during and following WWII
USSR- Stalin believed that the West, especially the USA, aimed to crush Soviet Communism.
USA- The USA maintained that the Soviets were planning ‘the forcible overthrow’ of all existing capitalist societies eg. through the Cominform
Their cooperation in the war did not alleviate the pressures- instead it had quite the opposite effect.
The Eastern Bloc Satellites (EF)
The USSR imposed its own authority as satellites.
Stalin refused to withdraw the Red Army from Poland until he had set up Soviet Governments.
Force and threats were used to achieve this.
The methods by which Stalin ruled in Russia were then enforced on the Satellites.
One exception of this was Yugoslavia, whose leader, Marshal Tito, refused to toe Stalin’s line.
Stalin’s treatment of the satellites was in direct defiance of a joint, “Allied Declaration on Liberated Europe”.
He was determined to create a large buffer against any future German aggression, which he now equated with Western anti-Communism.
He was not prepared to withdraw Soviet Forces unless Communist regimes subservient to Moscow had been installed.
The Eastern Bloc would have to pay the price for Soviet Security.
The Czechs strong anti-Nazism encouraged the growth of a sizeable Communist Party
Leader Gottwald formed a coalition government after the Communists gained 114 of the parliamentary 300 seats
Czech Communists prompted by Stalin, used physical force to crush their opponents
Murder of Masaryk (opposition leader) marked the end of the short lived democratic experiment leaving Pro-Soviet government in control
Protests were voiced by the West at the UN, but the USSR used its veto to prevent a formal condemnation being passed
Czechoslovakia was regarded as lying within the Soviet sphere of influence
Turkish and Persian Crises
1946- Soviets had troops on Turkish border to intimidate them to let them set up USSR naval bases.
Britain feared Soviet expansion into the Middle East through Persia(Iran).
Bevin(British foreign secretary told America they couldn’t protect Turkey or Persia.
USA drew up military plans should Soviets invade. When Stalin found out, he ordered Soviet withdrawal.
Interpretations- USSR wanted to see how far the Americans would go.
-Britain felt Empire was under threat(Middle east step toward India). Foreign Office Report questioned if there was “Any limit to Soviet aggression”.
The Greek Crisis
In post-war Greece civil-war broke out- a monarchy was supported by nearly 70% but challenged by Communist guerrillas.
Stalin backed communists- extend Soviet bloc further into Balkans.
British forces countered but needed American help and resources- Truman got involved.
America saw it as an example of Stalin’s expansionist aims that ultimately threatened the Middle East- vital area of US security.
The Truman Doctrine
Declared in March 1947 when the US promised to defend Turkey and Greece.
The USA regarded it as its duty to ‘support free people, who are resisting attempted subjugation by armed minorities or by outside pressures’.
The TD gave definition to the Cold War
USA- it committed the USA and its allies to continuous confrontation with the USSR
USSR- TD was an act of bad faith- it destroyed the Grand Alliance and renewed American imperialism.
The Marshall Plan
Stalin’s worries regarding the Truman Doctrine were deepened by his anxieties about American moves on the economic front. Whereas the abiding concern of the USA was that Europe would fall prey into an expansionist Soviet Union.
To prevent the severe economic problems becoming worse, the United States introduced the Marshall Aid Plan, which offered large amounts of American capital to Europe to enable it to undertake post-war reconstruction.
The intention of the plan was expressed by General Marshall when he introduced the plan in June 1947; It’s purpose should be the revival of a working economy in the world, so as t permit the emergence of political and social conditions in which free institutions can exist.
The Soviet Union condemned the plan as an extension of the Truman doctrine, as both were a cover for American imperialism.
Stalin’s opinion was angrily voiced at the UN by Vyshinsky, the Soviet representative; ‘the Marshall Plan constitutes in essence merely a variant of the Truman Doctrine, adapted to the conditions of post war Europe. It is becoming more and more evident that the implementation of the Marshall Plan will mean placing European countries under the economic and political control of the United States.
The Marshall Plan 1947
Had Marshall Aid been offered before The Truman Doctrine was issued then it is likely that The USSR would have welcomed it thus, the Cold War wouldn’t have turned so sour.
Stalin even considered taking Marshall Aid, however, he realised that it would be too great a risk to let the Eastern Bloc be financially dependent on the USA.
The acceptance of Marshall Aid would show Soviet Weakness and Stalin did not want the Western Powers to take advantage of this.
In 1949, the Eastern Bloc established COMECON which was set up to stand as a ‘counterweight’ to the Western Organisation for European Economic Co-operation.
Without any funding from the Marshall Plan, COMECON was very clearly a lot weaker and less effective than OEEC.
Eventually COMECON just became another way, Soviet Russia controlled the so called ‘Satellites’ within the Eastern Bloc.
NATO and the Warsaw Pact
In the eyes of the Soviets, the distrust of America’s intentions was justified further when NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organisation) was formed in 1949.
For the West, NATO was a defensive alliance, whereby countries in Western Europe and North America willingly entered into an organisation for their mutual protection.
However, for the Soviet Union, NATO was another attempt to spread American Imperialism, which began by the Truman Doctrine- their response was to build a military alliance in the Eastern Bloc
The Outcome- the 1955 Warsaw Pact. This states that members must collectively consult if there is a major crisis in Europe and to help if any member is involved in conflict.
The Warsaw Pact declared each nation to be sovereign and independent, but it was dominated by the USSR from the beginning- the Commander-in- Chief was always a Soviet marshal and the high command was permanently situated in Moscow
Crisis over Germany
1914+1941 - Russia was invaded and occupied by Germany.
Over 20 million deaths in Soviet Union between 1941-45
Stalin refused to contemplate the reunification of Germany as he didn't want it to ever be in the position to the threaten the Soviet Union’s existence.
Closing stages of the War- USSR occupied ⅓ of Germany.
Yalta Agreements - Germany split into 4 occupation zones.
Stalin became sensitive - unco-operative over the German Question.
Berlin became a potent symbol of the Cold War Divide.
Soviet Union would not withdraw so long as Germany was regarded as a potential menace - indefinitely.
The stubbornness undermined the attempts of the Allied Controlled Commission to reach - free elections + economic recovery.
Stalin wanted to see the Russian zone develop as a buffer between Soviet controlled eastern Europe and the West.
The Berlin Blockade 1948-9
June 1948- Western powers introduced the new German currency into West Berlin
Soviet Union claimed this was a breach of the Potsdam agreements and retaliated by imposing a blockade
All electricity and fuel supplies to West Berlin were cut off
All road links from the city to West Germany were closed
Object of the blockade was four-fold - Restore damaged Soviet prestige
- End the affront to Soviet security
- Break West Berlin economically
- Test how far the Western powers were
prepared to go in support of Berlin
Western response- typified by the warning of General Clay, the American commander in Berlin: “If we withdraw our position in Berlin, Communism will run rampant.”
Western powers- relieved the siege by a massive airlift of essential supplies: Berlin Airlift
Had the Soviet Union chose to intercept the planes, it would have been seen as
an act of war
Airlift lasted for 318 days with 600 individual flights per day and supplies of 1 ¼ million tons of food and fuel
May 1949-Stalin ordered the blockade to be abandoned accepting that he had been defeated
Results of the airlift
West Berlin had been preserved.
Showed commitment of the West
Cooperation of West with Berlin led to formation of NATO 1949
Historians- marked the end of the first stage of the Cold War.
Onset of bipolarity-Division of East(DDR)and West (FDR)
Berlin remained an irritant for USSR. The death of Stalin eased the tension but the prosperity of West Berlin embarrassed the East.
Between 1949 & 1958 over 2 million people escaped from East to West through Berlin.
The Nuclear Arms Race
In July 1945, the USA made the USSR aware during the Potsdam conference that they had successfully detonated their first nuclear device
The motives behind this were to shorten the war against Japan and to establish an unassailable advantage over the USSR
It has been suggested that the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki was undertaken to impress the USSR as to defeat Japan.
This achievement of the Americans increased tension between the East and the West, and encouraged the USSR to develop their own atomic bomb- soviet scientists had been working on the development of a bomb since 1942, however their efforts were accelerated with the success of the Manhattan project.
In September 1949, Soviet scientists produced and detonated an atomic bomb, which was aided considerably by the information provided to them by spies in the West.
The USSR under its ‘great leader’ had elevated itself as a nation to the highest rank.
American Anti-Communism Intensifies
Only a week after the Soviet Nuclear achievement, the news came through of the establishment of the People’s Republic of China under the peasant leader, Mao Zedong- China was now a communist state.
From 1949 onwards the anti-communism of the American people deepened.
There was a mixture of fear and recrimination: fear of the new Sino-Soviet colossus and recrimination against those Pro-Communist spies and sympathisers in America who had betrayed their countries.
New restrictive laws were rushed through against un-American activities and a witch hunt began.
McCarthyism in the USA
The most notorious examples of US anti-communism were the McCarthy hearings, in which Joe McCarthy, senator for Wisconsin, used congress’s Un-American Activities Committee which he chaired to mount a campaign against suspected communist sympathisers in public life.
Between 1950 and 1954, McCarthy and his team of officials used the law to force named individuals to appear publicly before them where they were aggressively questioned about possible communist affiliations.
Eventually McCarthy overreached himself; it was revealed that he used false evidence to concoct his charges.
The affair indicated the depth of AntI-Communism in the United States. It was the factor that meant the Cold War would continue so long as the Soviet Union was seen as the implacable enemy of American Values.
The Impact of the Arms Race
The success of the Russian nuclear and atomic programme furthered the US motivation to expand its own nuclear weapons programme resulting in the ‘Thermonuclear age’.
By 1953 the Soviet Union was caught up with the USA with regards to Arms and both superpowers could now manufacture Hydrogen Bombs and both were ‘stock-piling’ weapons of mass destruction. France and Britain also became independent nuclear powers by the late 1950s.
The arms race certainly intensified existing hostility however, it was not the root cause of hostility during the Cold War period.
It has been argued that the reason The Cold War did not become a ‘hot’ one was because the nuclear weaponry instilled fear between East and West, thus keeping the peace.
Because both powers were mutually destructive this lead to a so called ‘stalemate’ and provided a certain degree of international stability.
Stalin, the UN and the Korean War 1950-3
Membership of the UN sharpened the hostility between the USSR and the USA.
General Assembly and Security Council provided platforms for -propaganda
Security Council - discussion of major international problems of post-war world became a constant battleground between the USSR, regularly using its veto and non-Communist members.
Soviet Russia saw the veto as an instrument for redressing the anti-Soviet imbalance of the Security Council.
The Korean War
1949- Chinese Communist Party came to power, under Mao. They created the People’s Republic of China (PRC)
Communists had driven Chiang Kai-shek’s Nationalists (main enemy) from the Chinese mainland- forcing them to take refuge on the island of Taiwan.
USA committed itself to the economic assistance and military defence of Taiwan
USSR’s response- demanded that Mao’s new China replace Nationalist China at the UN and on the Security Council
1950-53- Korean War- first military confrontation which was due to the China issue
After Japan’s defeat in 1945- Korea was partitioned between an American-dominated south and a Soviet-dominated north
1950-North Koreans crossed the dividing line of the 38th parallel with the intention of establishing Communist control over the whole country
USSR blame for the Cold war
Most commentators have emphasised Stalin’s refusal to consider German reunification or to give up the USSR’s wartime gains in Eastern Europe as major in creating the Cold War.
It’s also frequently been suggested that Stalin never fully understood the Western position.
There was a Soviet perspective that despite the Soviet victory over Germany and the emergence of Stalin as an outstanding statesman, the USSR in 1945 felt more vulnerable than at any time since the Bolshevik Revolution in 1917.
Economics lay at the heart of soviet anxieties, which is one reason why Stalin had been so insistent at Yalta on the issue of German reparations. His constant fear that the West intended to crush the USSR had been intensified by the war’s revelation of America’s formidable economic and military power.
Stalin calculated that since they couldn’t compete with the USA on equal economic terms, the only policy available was to withdraw the Soviet Union behind its new defensive barrier, provided by the wartime acquisition of Eastern Europe.
Stalin set himself the primary task of defending his country’s interests in a hostile world, settling for the less ambitious but equally demanding task of safeguarding national security.
No matter how powerful he and the Soviet Union became, Stalin never ceased to regard the Soviet Union as vulnerable
In the 1960s American Revisionists placed a lot of the blame for the Cold War on the USA, they argued that the United States’ government exaggerated the threat from Soviet Russia in order to justify large defense budgets.
This argument presented Stalin and the USSR as not being primarily aggressive and presented them as victims of US aggression.
However, this argument is rendered inaccurate as the Soviet Union deliberately chose to expand as a means of protecting itself, this was further seen as an aggressive move by The US because Stalin began to use aggressive language threatening a global revolution. Stalin was paranoid of Western intervention and this is clearly shown in his Foreign Policy.
Although the revisionists tend to place heavy blame on the US, it cannot be argued that they were solely to blame for the intensifying of the Cold War.
The policy of the USSR was still to be the voice of Communism-aim was to use its own example to inspire an international proletariat revolution (the reason why Cominform was formed in 1947)
However, this was a bluff- the USSR did not have the military strength or enough economic resources to carry out this policy- USSR propaganda kept insisting that the capitalist nations “should be trembling at the thought of the revolution to come.”
The message conveyed through Soviet propaganda made it difficult for other nations to engage with the Soviet Union-constant air of aggression regarding Soviet diplomacy.
Stalin was paranoid that the USSR were surrounded by enemies who needed to be resisted or destroyed- “an aggression born of defensiveness” Ernest Bevin, British post-war secretary, was attacked by the Left for not following a pro-Soviet line- he replied that he found Stalin so single-minded in defending the USSR’s own interests that it was not possible to come to terms with them
The only foreign statesman Stalin ever trusted was Hitler- when this trust was abused with the breach of the Nazi-Soviet Pact in 1941 when Germany invaded Russia, Stalin vowed to trust no-one in international affairs again-his policies from this point onwards illustrated this.
Stalin fulfilled the basic duty of any national leader- he preserved the USSR’s security and independence, whilst turning the country into a superpower capable of matching the USA.
If one person was to have shaped and personified the Cold War, even after his death, it was Stalin- Stalinism long outlived Stalin.
It’s worth noting that Stalin also left several problems behind, these included; the intensity of Cold War divisions, the iron curtain with its suppression of democracy in the satellites, and the economic poverty in the Eastern Bloc.
Whilst Stalin’s successor Khrushchev did begin a policy of de-Stalinisation, he learned his politics under Stalin and retained a deeply Stalinist conviction, thus Stalinism did not die with Stalin. This is partly why the Cold War lasted for almost 40 years after Stalin’s death.
Nikita Sergeyevich Khrushchev
was born in 1894 into a poor family near Kursk in south-western Russia. He received very little formal education. He joined the Bolshevik Party in 1918 and served in the Red Army during the Russian Civil War.
In 1929, Khrushchev moved to Moscow to attend the Stalin Industrial Academy. In 1931, he began to work full-time for the Communist Party, rising through its ranks to become first secretary of the Moscow City Party Committee in 1938. The following year he became a member of the Politburo, the highest decision-making body of the Communist Party. During World War Two, Khrushchev worked as a political commissar in the army.
Stalin died in March 1953. Khrushchev became leader of the party shortly afterwards, but it took him several years to consolidate his position.
The "Secret Speech"
In the aftermath of Stalin's death the USSR was nominally led by -
(until 1955) and then briefly
(although Khrushchev was really pulling the strings).
Khrushchev only consolidated his position as both PM and party secretary in March 1958
24th Feb 1956 - Khrushchev addresses closed session of the CP in Moscow.
Launched a scathing attack on Stalin and Stalinism
Gave details of torture, purges, gulags -
(Stalin) caused tremendous harm to our country and to the cuase of socialist progress"
Quoted Lenin's testament, accused him of murder and questioned his reputation as a war leader.
Said it would now
be possible to progress along the Leninist path to new success, new victories.
Reform Communism & the Thaw
Moderate and humanize the soviet system
Relaxation of stringent conformity
New freedoms - cultural / artistic
Limits to new found expression
Strong reaction against Stalin
Statues and portraits destroyed
Renaming of places
Vitriolic campaign against religion.
Victimization of clergy and churchgoers
Atheism taught as a subject in school
Virgin lands scheme
Decentralisation of industry
7 year plan
Some improvement in standard of living
Space industry - Sputnik, Laika, Yuri Gagarin
Cuban Missile Crisis
Western-Soviet hostility increased after the creation of two German States and the establishment of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation(NATO).
Russian reaction- saw it as anti-soviet alliance and increased military spending.
-May 1955. Included Soviet Union, Albania, Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, GDR, Poland and Romania. Basically Soviet response to NATO.
Provided a unified soviet military command and their armies.
Khrushchev tried to repair rift with Yugoslavia in 1955 but Tito didn’t want to rejoin USSR.Khrushchev tried to dislodge Western influence by offering support to projects in the Third World. These offers in Egypt indirectly contributed to the Suez Crisis
Khrushchev was determined to ensure that Eastern Europe remained under Soviet control and retained their communist regimes.
Instead of supporting the traditional view that war between capitalist and communist powers was inevitable, he looked for détente, some relaxation in East West relations and put forward his own theory of peaceful co-existence.
Plans were made between Khrushchev and Eisenhower the US president, to call a major summit conference in Paris in 1960 but this came to nothing when, a fortnight before the meeting was due to begin an American U-2 spy plane was shot down over Soviet territory.
When Kennedy was elected in 1961, Khrushchev tried to demand a solution to the Berlin problem but Kennedy refused to be bullied. The Eastern German Government used barbed wire to seal the border between East and West Berlin and, five days later, the construction of the Berlin war began.
The U-2 Incident
On the 1st May 1960, a U-2 spy aircraft piloted by Gary Powers was shot down in the Ural mountains.
Khrushchev in a speech to the Supreme Soviet described the act as an ‘aggressive act’ and decided to take the matter before the UN Security Council.
He demanded an apology from President Eisenhower and the punishment of those involved.
Khrushchev refused to attend the summit conference in Paris and revoked the invitation earlier made for Eisenhower to visit Russia.
In November, JFK became president and in a letter of congratulations, Khrushchev seemed remarkably conciliatory. “We are convinced that there are no insurmountable obstacles to the preservation and consolidation of peace.”
In June 1961, Khrushchev met the new president in Vienna demanding an immediate settlement to Berlin.
Kennedy refused to be bullied and the meeting achieved nothing.
On the 13th August 1961, the East german government used barbed wire to seal the border between East and West Berlin and five days later the construction of the Berlin Wall began.
Continuity or change?
Poland-Strongly nationalist-predominantly Roman Catholic-ruled by Wladyslaw Gomulka
Gomulka’s ambition- independent road to socialism for Poland- but he was removed from office and imprisoned
After Stalin’s death- he returned to power- released large number of political prisoners
1956-serious riots broke out in Poznan- workers protested against low wages and living standards
After a stormy meeting between Gomulka and Khrushchev- Russian tanks were used to clear the streets
Since 1945-Hungary was under the oppressive rule of a Communist regime led by the hard-line Stalinist, Matyas Rakosi
1953-Rakosi removed from office, replaced by reformer Imre Nagy who promised to give priority to improving living standards
Due to poor harvests and shortages of food/fuel in 1956-Students dismantled a statue of Stalin
Unrest spread-Khrushchev gave way to pressure and allowed Nagy to return
Further demonstrations-people demanded reforms and release of political prisoners
Move to withdraw Hungary from membership of the Warsaw Pact - Khrushchev ordered Russian tanks back into Budapest
Uprising with savage street fighting - Hungarian army fought with the country’s freedom fighters - over 20,000 Hungarians killed
Janos Kadar replaced Nagy - arrested and secretly executed by Soviet authorities
In a letter to Khrushchev, British PM Anthony Eden wrote: “The world knows that for the past three days Soviet forces in Hungary have been ruthlessly crushing the heroic resistance of a truly national movement for independence” which “proved that it had been no threat to the security of the Soviet Union.”
Khrushchev’s decision to crush the Hungarian uprising badly damaged his reputation -Soviet embassies were besieged
-Thousands of Communists resigned from their party in protest
Significant consequences:- Hungarian people enjoyed greater freedom - Khrushchev now aware of unreliability of Warsaw Pact allies
The Cuban Missile Crisis 1962
Russian missiles was not capable of striking the United States as it is out of range
To remedy this, the Soviet Union, in April 1962, sought to build sites in Cuba, a Communist country led by Fidel Castro, capable of launching intermediate-range rockets.
Castro sought to obtain close ties with Russia after an attempted American invasion of Cuba, the Bay of Pigs incident
Khrushchev’s offer of missile sites appealed to Castro since it provided a way of defending cuba from any future American attack
The crisis began on the 15th of October 1962 when American spy planes returned from Cuba with photos showing missiles sites under construction.President Kennedy spoke on television and explained his intentions to withdraw all offensive weapons in Cuba- acting in this way through preventing the arrival of more Soviet missiles and imposing a naval blockade on Cuba- any nuclear missile launched from Cuba would be seen as an attack on the US by the Soviet Union
Khrushchev agreed to remove the missiles if the USA would promise not to invade Cuba and then later demanded the removal of all NATO missiles in Turkey- America agreed to the first demand but ignored the second.
Historians’ view- Khrushchev’s action was an act of “considerable statemanship” since it saved the world from nuclear war
“Hot Line” established between Moscow and Washington for communication
Both leaders agreed SALT treaty to ban any testing of nuclear weapons
The relaxation that came from Khrushchev’s more liberal policies at home had repercussions in the Eastern European satellites still largely under Stalinist regimes. East Germany were forced to pay large reparations to Russia.
In 1953, Grotewhol, a staunch Stalinist, he outraged many when he increased workers’ norms and this caused strikes and demonstrations in East Berlin and the hated Communist secret police lost control.
Russian tanks appeared in the streets and restored order
In November 1958 Khrushchev first publically challenged the rights of Western Powers to remain in Berlin when he stated ‘The Western powers no longer have any legal, moral or political basis for their continued occupation of West Berlin.’
Khrushchev demanded that West Berlin became a demilitarised, free city. Western powers ignored the Soviet Union’s demand and everything remained the same.
The total number of Eastern refugees rose from 199000 during 1960 to 207000 in the first six months of 1961. The problem for the new East German leader, Ubricht, was that this massive ‘exodus’ included extremely qualified and educated people.
Ubricht tried to encourage Khrushchev to forcibly occupy West Germany but Khrushchev was far too aware of the risks. Ubricht then urged Khrushchev to enter into a Peace Treaty with the GDR, however, Khrushchev alternatively chose to build a wall and on the 13th of August 1961, the East Germans began to take the necessary steps to isolate West Berlin. This was seen by the Soviet Union as an act of security.
However, the Berlin Wall separated friends and families and became a symbol of the ‘face of communist tyranny.’
Even with the existence of the Berlin Wall many people still took risks by crossing the so called ‘death strip’ and attempting to scale the wall. Some succeeded in doing so but most failed and were shot by East German ‘frontier guards.’
In June 1963 to put fears of being abandoned by the West to rest, President Kennedy visited West Berlin. He stated that Berlin showed the ‘real face of communism’.
JFK told his German hosts that to be a citizen of West Berlin was the proudest boast of a free man and they should take pride in the words ‘I am a Berliner’.
• With the death of Stalin, the Soviet Union was faced with opposition from capitalist powers but also the need to consolidate its hold on communist regimes in Eastern Europe. This was reflected in a series of military and diplomatic events during the leadership of Khrushchev
• It is essential to consider the impact of the ‘secret speech’ and Khrushchev’s clear and evident desire to avoid conflict, reflected in his remarks about there being only two paths that the world’s foremost powers could take: ‘peaceful co-existence or the most destructive war in history’.
• Foreign policy under Khrushchev was motivated by security and that this is evident in his attempts to improve relations with the West, as shown by the withdrawal of Soviet troops from Austria in 1955, his willingness to engage with US Presidents and his attempts to find a solution to the question of Berlin
• There seemed to be recognition of the status quo in Europe and expansionist desires seemed limited. Yet, security was to remain a considerable factor.
• The creation of the Warsaw Pact in 1955 demonstrated that the USSR was determined to maintain the Iron Curtain. The 1956 Hungarian uprising was crushed to prevent states in Eastern Europe from leaving the alliance.
• Equally, while the Berlin crisis of 1961 can be considered from different angles, it is plausible to argue that the economic threat to the viability of the East German regime was also centrally about fears of a reverse domino effect, where if one communist state was to collapse the rest would follow.
• These events could thus be presented as examples of Soviet determination to maintain its own security and a fear that any break in the Eastern Bloc would endanger that security. As Evans and Jenkins have suggested: ‘In many ways the foreign policy aims of Khrushchev differed little from those of Stalin’.
• The building of the Berlin Wall in 1961 can be viewed as an essentially defensive act in so far as it was attempting to preserve the integrity of East Germany
• The Soviet Union sought a more conciliatory approach to relations with the US dominated capitalist West i.e. the Geneva Conference of 1955 and the withdrawal of troops from Austria
• It could reasonably be argued that building the Berlin wall was aggressive, most notably to the German population. However, as Evans and Jenkins have argued, there was a noticeable difference between Khrushchev and his predecessor: “If his aims were much the same as those of Stalin, Khrushchev differed in his approach”.
• Despite the break with Stalin, the years in question still witnessed the creation of the Warsaw Pact in 1955, the brutal suppression of opponents to communism in Hungary in 1956 and the building of the Berlin Wall in 1961.
• The cost of the Cold War was certainly a concern for Khrushchev, as it would be for other subsequent leaders of the Soviet Union.
• Economic concerns did matter to Khrushchev and this is evident in his desire to reduce the size of the Soviet armed forces and develop a defence policy based on increased missile capacity. Equally, we may point out that the construction of the Berlin Wall was not without an economic basis due to the persistent migration of skilled workers from East Germany, the famous “brain drain.”
• With the death of Stalin it appeared that Soviet foreign policy took on a more conciliatory tone. This may be analysed from a number of angles: it could be considered a return to the pragmatism of the Lenin years, a return to “peaceful co-existence,” as Khrushchev expressed it, a reaction to the economic problems the country faced or merely a policy designed to placate the West, while remaining ruthlessly aggressive within Eastern Europe.
• The Warsaw Pact can be seen as an example of maintaining control or as a response to the existence of NATO and the inclusion of West Germany in its structures. Equally attention could be given to Khrushchev’s break with Stalinism but also his subsequent repressive actions in response to the Hungarian Uprising in 1956.
• Once again, the concern with maintaining control over Eastern Europe was evident with regard to the building of the Berlin Wall in 1961 and this could be contrasted with the more positive diplomatic developments that ensued in the light of the Cuban Missile Crisis.
• One line of analysis may seek to emphasise that Khrushchev essentially sought to revert to a Leninist style of “peaceful co-existence” and as such the was less about promoting the revolution, but rather about consolidating the status quo. Indeed, Khrushchev himself argued that “there are only two ways: either peaceful co-existence or the most destructive war in history”.
• We could also draw a distinction between the security concerns that influenced Khrushchev’s decisions with regard to Hungary and the Eastern Bloc and his desire to see improvements in relations with Western states.
• The 1956 Hungarian uprising was crushed to prevent states in Eastern Europe from leaving the alliance. Once again this could be presented as an example of Soviet determination to maintain its own security and a fear that any break in the Eastern Bloc would endanger Soviet security. Alternatively this could be presented as a determination on behalf of the Soviet leadership to maintain its empire.
• It is possible to argue that the emergence of Khrushchev marks a clear break with Stalinism. For example, the “Secret Speech” and Khrushchev’s denunciations of Stalin would appear to indicate a clear break with the previous regime.
• However, we can refer to the creation of the Warsaw Pact in 1955 and subsequent invasion of Hungary in 1956 as further examples of continuity rather than change. Such policies could be considered in a similar light to the Russo-Polish War, the Nazi-Soviet Pact and Stalin’s manipulation of elections to establish control of Eastern Europe after the Second World War.
• The Berlin crisis of 1961 could be considered in the same vein. However, we could also suggest that the Soviets were merely reacting to events as they unfolded. They had consistently sought a resolution of the German question since 1945 and that to present it as a further example of Soviet aggression, and thus another example of continuity, is incorrect.
• The Khrushchev era seems to suggest a clear break and a different set of aims being brought to the fore. With the denunciation of Stalin and Stalinism and the attempts to improve relations with the Geneva Conference in 1955, it would appear that the Soviet Union was determined to employ diplomatic methods in the pursuit of stability and peaceful co-existence.
• It would be fair point out that this was in effect what Lenin had sought in the early twenties and we should also distinguish between the methods and aims that were applied to Western Europe in contrast to Eastern Europe.
Deterioration in relations between countries
World revolution vs peaceful co-existence
Disagreements over CMC, India, atomic weapons, Albania.
New Cold War
Poland - solidarity
•Before World War II, Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos had all been part of the French colony of Indo-China- after 1945, the French went to war against the Viet-Minh, an army fighting for independence led by Ho Chi Minh
•War ended by the Geneva Agreement in 1954, partitioning Vietnam into the Communist Republic of North Vietnam and the non-Communist Republic of South Vietnam•The US strengthened South Vietnam to prevent further Communist expansion into Southeast Asia- the Viet Cong, a guerilla army dedicated to uniting the country into entire Communist control, became prominent in South Vietnam and a civil war rapidly developed, with American involvement
•The USSR kept a low profile regarding the war, but this changed as soon as the US started bombing North Vietnam- started supplying Viet Cong with large quantities of weapons and military advisers
•USSR aim- to defeat American-backed South Vietnamese and ensure Chinese Communists did not intervene and replace their influence in the area
•War ended with Communist victory and withdrawal of US troops
•Arab-Israeli War 1967- Soviets backed the Arabs but provided little military assistance, which caused a backlash against Russian Jews
•Second Arab-Israeli War 1973- USSR backed Arabs again-this conflict may have became more serious as the US heard rumours that Soviet troops were being sent into the Middle East, making President Nixon place the US forces on high alert
•1971- Soviets and Americans supported opposite sides during a war between India and Pakistan over the region Kashmir
•USSR became involved in civil wars in Africa and Central America
•1961-Soviets supported the liberation of Angola against America-backed national union for Angola’s total independence
The Prague Spring- the Czech crisis, 1968 (ER)
•In January 1968, Antonin Novotny was replaced as First Secretary of the Czech Communist Party by Alexander Dubcek, after growing discontent.
•Once in power, Dubcek introduced a series of major reforms - freedom of the press and civil liberties restored, toleration of political prisoners from Novotny’s era…. This was known as ‘socialism with a human face’
•Whilst it was enjoyed by the Czech people, this ‘Prague Spring’ gave rise to concern, as it appeared that Dubcek’s loyalty to communism was withering- there was also a fear that the Czech leadership would leave the Warsaw Pact.
•As a result, military manoeuvres were staged along the Czech border.
•Brezhnev claimed that Czech communists needed Russia to intervene to deal with this ‘serious danger for the future of socialism’, as well claiming that American agents were active in that country.
•The Prague Spring came to an end on the 20th of August when Russian and other Warsaw Pact forces invaded the country- Dubcek and other reformist leaders were flown to Moscow and forced to accept Brezhnev’s demands.
•In retaliation, the Czech people offered passive resistance by protesting and chanting slogans.
•Dubcek returned from Moscow, admitting that what he had hoped to achieve was lost- he was later demoted, expelled from the party and sent to work as a forestry official.
•The USSR’s actions were condemned by the West, as well as other Communist countries such as Romania, Yugoslavia, Albania and Communist China.
•Brezhnev Doctrine- Brezhnev claimed socialist states only had limited sovereignty and the Soviet Union had the right to intervene in the affairs of other socialist countries
•It was a stark reminder of what might befall other Communist bloc countries tempted to follow the same line as Czechoslovakia
•Romania and Albania courted the friendship of Communist China. Poland- Solidarity Movement occurred
•Czechoslovakia- popular demand for change brought Dubcek to power
•1969- SALT talks between USA and USSR-aimed at limiting the arms race
•Agreement reached- Limiting defensive anti-ballistic missile systems
•SALT 1- sought to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons to countries not yet possessing them
•1972-President Nixon visited Moscow-agreement to co-operate in space exploration
•American-Soviet relations improved-marked ‘a new era of détente’
•Brezhnev hoped to win acceptance of terms of a treaty with West Germany-finalising the existing of European frontiers
•1972-Status of Berlin agreed by USSR, USA, Britain and France
•1974-Second round of SALT talks
1975-Symbolic link-up of Soviet and American spacecraft
The Helsinki Conference and Accord 1975
•July 1975-delegates from 35 countries met in Helsinki Finland.
•Aims- Reduce international tension, discuss European security, economic cooperation between the East and West and to settle human rights issues.
•Some progress was made to prevent crises between the two powers and closer collaboration.
•Acceptance of the agreement caused the Soviet Union embarrassment and difficulty. Were to form basis of demands made by human rights activists and dissidents.
The invasion of Afghanistan
•Soviet Union kept an eye on Afghanistan as it was near Middle Eastern oil and was a way Islamic fundamentalists might infiltrate USSR.
•1978- Government overthrown by pro Russians but nationalists and the Majaheddin harassed new government and rural areas fell into rebel hands
•Dec 1979-Soviet forces moved into Afghanistan to help the government. This was denounced by Iran and Pakistan. Reagan and Thatcher urged a boycott of the Moscow Olympics and ended the SALT II talks.
•Afghanistan was known as Russia’s Vietnam. More than a million servicemen sent out, 5,000 casualties and the economic cost of the war added to the problems facing USSR. Lasted 8 years.
•Result- many young demoralised soldiers turned to drug abuse and crime. The USSR lost friends in the Third World and non-aligned countries.
•The tensions were increased after December 1981 when the Polish Government imposed martial law in an attempt to stop the growth of the independent Solidarity trade Union movement
•The USSR ruled out direct military intervention but Moscow still put pressure on the Polish leadership for a tough response under fear if Poland could develop a more democratic system others would follow
•Poland was also an important part of the Warsaw Pact as in all, the combined NATO armed forces totalled 4.9 million while the combined figure for the Warsaw Pact was 4.7 million
•he USA responded by imposing economic and Trade sanctions on both Poland and the Soviet Union which they wanted west European states to apply as well.
•This conflicted with many of the states because they still wanted trade and détente with the soviet union.
•Also some were alarmed by the star wars project and others were unhappy about the implications of Reagan’s belief that all unrest in the world was the work of the USSR
•The response led the USA to increase its support of ‘reliable’ right –wing dictatorial or repressive regimes and to support various terrorist groups especially in Central America
Relations between the Soviet Union and Communist China
•In 1965, the Soviet leader went to Beijing but the Russians annoyed their host by wanting to discuss Communist unity.
•Embarrassment was further caused when Soviet police and soldiers had to restrain a crowd of Chinese students attacking the US embassy in Moscow.
•Cultural Revolution – a campaign by Mao Zedong aimed at restoring enthusiasm of the Chinese for revolution and Marxist doctrine.
•Relations got so bad the Russians used radio broadcasts to encourage the Chinese to turn against their leader.
•1969 fighting between Russian and Chinese troops over the ownership of Damansky Island
•Diplomatic relations were restored when Kosygin visited Mao Zendog in Beijing on return from Ho Chi Minh’s funeral
Analysis of Brezhnev
• One could equally interpret events in Czechoslovakia in 1968 and the Brezhnev Doctrine as a desire to maintain that security which had been so elusive in the pre-war years.
• Détente, it may be suggested, was merely the latest expression of co-existence and thus was defensive in character.
• The 1975 Helsinki Accords were signed by the Soviets, partly to gain recognition from the West, thus enhancing Soviet security.
• The Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979, which led to the end of détente and was justified by the Soviets on the ideological grounds of the 1968 Brezhnev Doctrine, could be presented as a determined effort to maintain Soviet security in view of the US-backed Islamist threat.
• Further analysis could suggest that it was not Soviet actions that brought an end to détente but the emergence of a new regime in Washington which adopted a highly aggressive and ideological foreign policy towards the Soviet Union.
• it appears that the Brezhnev regime was not so much concerned with promoting the revolution but rather ensuring Soviet domination over Eastern Europe. Within Europe there was little attempt to export communism beyond its existing confines.
• The Brezhnev years could also be presented as an example of the willingness of the Soviet Union to seek peaceful co-existence with capitalist powers as an attempt to protect the revolution.
• With regard to the former, Mason has argued that it should be viewed as an attempt by the Soviet Union to “minimise tensions and avoid dangerous crises”. Most notably this is evident with regards to Ostpolitik and later détente.
• Brezhnev himself stated in 1971 that “we stand for the dismantling of foreign military bases. We stand for a reduction of armed forces and armaments in areas where military confrontation is especially dangerous, above all in central Europe”.
• The events in Czechoslovakia in 1968 and the subsequent announcement of the Brezhnev Doctrine, can be seen examples of aggression and could hardly be characterised as defensive in character.
• After the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968, the Brezhnev Doctrine revived the potential influence of ideology in Soviet foreign policy by stressing that the USSR would protect and maintain any states which had become communist.
• The Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979 could be presented as a further example of Soviet aggression and the desire to impose communist governments against the democratic wishes of the Afghan people to have a theocratic state. Indeed, President Carter regarded it as the ‘greatest threat to world peace since World War Two
• The Soviet Union remained ideologically committed to communism and improvements in relations were thus designed to maintain communism if not export it.
• Coexistence with the west through détente, such as the SALT agreement of 1972, was partly pursued due to the stagnation of the Soviet economy, which could not sustain high levels of spending, while the 1975 Helsinki Accords were signed by the Soviets for the economic and technological gains on offer.
• The motivating forces behind such relations were in large part economically driven, whether as a result of the need to curtail excessive military spending or through a desire to increase domestic productivity.
• The impact on domestic policy of the vast military expenditure certainly influenced Brezhnev to seek improved relations with the West. Equally, improved relations would have the side benefits of greater trading possibilities and technological improvements that would further enhance the economic development of the Soviet Union. Evidence for détente is most obviously apparent in the signing of diplomatic treaties such as Salt I, Salt II and also the Helsinki Final Act.
• Brezhnev maintained an aggressive policy in Eastern Europe, most notably with the crushing of the Prague Spring in 1968 and the creation of the Brezhnev Doctrine of the same year. One could argue that such events were the result of either ideology or security but it would be plausible to argue that economic concerns were not entirely absent from those drafting Soviet foreign policy at the time. Indeed, Hoffman has emphasised the importance of the Czechoslovakian economy to the Soviet Union.
• The end of détente emerged as a result of the Soviet engagement in Afghanistan. This was presented to the world by the United States as Soviet expansionism and led Reagan to argue that the Soviet Union was “the focus for evil in the modern world”.
• The emergence of détente and the series of military and economic agreements that characterise the 1970s would seem to hint at a less aggressive Soviet Union and one that had taken its place in the family of nations.
• However, this is open to challenge and once Soviet interests were threatened in Afghanistan, the whole détente edifice came crashing down and the “evil empire” was revealed for what it was. Indeed, some historians assert that, while there was détente in terms of relations with the West, there was no similar thawing of relations with states in the Eastern Bloc
• It could also be suggested that Brezhnev was attempting to limit Islamic fundamentalism from spreading to the Soviet Union and thus undermining the revolution, rather than promoting it. However, his actions could also be understood in the context of what has been termed the Second Cold War which gave the appearance of an aggressive Soviet Union seeking to expand its influence beyond its borders once more.
continuity or change?
• On the face of it, it is possible to argue that initially Brezhnev marked a change from Khrushchev and a return to a more Stalinist approach. However some may argue that, although the style was different, Brezhnev’s approach and concerns were remarkably similar to previous leaders
• . On the one hand, the willingness of the Soviet Union to achieve some form of accommodation with its opponents was evident in Brezhnev’s rule. This is most notably the case with regard to détente. The series of treaties regarding both military and economic matters have clear echoes of the Lenin years, Stalin’s efforts to work with capitalist states in the 1930s and Khrushchev’s talk of “peaceful co-existence.”
• Equally, the invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968 and the creation of the Brezhnev doctrine are in some ways similar to the actions of Khrushchev and Stalin before him. Whether you argue that this type of continuity was the result of security concerns or was ideologically motivated or merely pragmatic responses to unfolding events, is a matter of choice.
• However, one could challenge this approach and argue that Brezhnev inherited a particular set of circumstances, especially with regard to the economy, that necessitated a distinctive approach from that of his predecessors. As Kennedy-Pipe has argued: “Brezhnev demonstrated a clear break both in style and substance from his predecessor.”
• The introduction of Brezhnev would appear to see the maintenance of the Soviets’ basic position with regard to Eastern Europe and indeed its reinforcement with the introduction of the Brezhnev doctrine in 1968. However, there was a change in tone and tenor of relationships with the emergence of Ostpolitik and détente.
• This could be seen as an example of a change in methods but not in aims – as détente was seen as guaranteeing or assisting Soviet security concerns.
Collapse of Sattelite States
Collapse of Soviet Union
Glastnost & Peresroika
•Mikhail Sergeyevich Gorbachev, born 1931 in Provolone, the son of an agricultural mechanic who worked on a collective farm
•Michael McAuley, historian, wrote,”If Lenin was the founder of the Soviet Union, then Gorbachev was its grave digger”
•Grandfather arrested by NKVD and charged with being a Trotskyist,spent several years in a labour camp- events said to have dramatically impact Gorbachev’s life
•Joined the Communist Party while he was a law student in Moscow
•Worked for the Young Communist League, Komsomol, then worked his way up through the ranks of the party
•Protégé of Yuri Andropov, he joined the Politburo and became Secretary for Agriculture-it made him aware of the flaws in the collective system
•Established a good reputation through his opposition of corruption and inefficiency and succeeded Chernenko as General Secretary of the Communist Party
•Main aims- to revitalise the Soviet economy and introduce measures that make government more democratic and improve efficiency of the bureaucracy
•“Gorbachev is the man who brought freedom and democracy to Russia,”-Margaret Thatcher
•Glasnost, meaning openness,was the term for the measure by Gorbachev to overcome corruption, prevent the abuse of privilege and allow greater freedoms such as freedom of speech, the press, dissent and the ability to criticise the government
•Although still dedicated to the Soviet system, he believed the only way to achieve his economic aims was to push ahead with a modernisation programme- greater use of technology, encourage more worker productivity and prune the bureaucracy to make it more efficient.
•Perestroika, meaning restructuring, in a way that would make the economy more efficient- the response to his reforms were negative, so he pressed on with more changes
•New administrative system set up allowing greater freedom- media was allowed to report and comment without restraint and political prisoners were released
•Introduced measures to make the parliamentary system more democratic, allowing a choice of candidates and secret ballots for elections
•Following his election as chairman of the Supreme Soviet in 1989 and backed by Boris Yeltsin, he ended the Communist Party’s monopoly of power and set about changing the structure of the old soviet system, replacing it with a democratic, representative government based on a free multi-party system
•He held firm belief to a command economy, an economy planned and controlled by the government, and resisted any moves towards a capitalist-style market economy
•Economy spiralled out of control- falls in productivity, food prices, hoarding of goods- Gorbachev realised his reconstruction needed even greater freedoms to be granted to be successful
•He gave greater freedom to those involved in the management of industry and encouraged a limited introduction of a free enterprise market economy by granting private ownership to some Soviet industry and agriculture
•Measures passed that decentralised the economy and permitted several enterprises to enter trade agreements with other countries- this lead to the dismantling of the Soviet-style command economy
•December 1987-Third summit meeting,as a result of Gorbachev’s concession
•Result- Signing of the INF Treaty which agreed that all land-based intermediate and shorter range nuclear missiles would be withdrawn from Europe
•First arms agreement to be signed since 1979
•Historically important- Both sides accepted verification procedures- including access to data and the witnessing of weapons destruction
Arms race was reversed by the INF Treaty
•February 1988- Gorbachev announced that the Soviet Union would withdraw its forces from Afghanistan- thus easing tensions
•April 1988 -International conference in Geneva. Result- agreement to end all foreign involvement in the Afghan Civil War
•February 1989-Last units of the Red A