1929 The start of the Great Depression Capitalism shattered, class conflicts on the rise everywhere


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  • 1929

  • The start of the Great Depression

  • Capitalism shattered, class conflicts on the rise everywhere

  • Revival of hopes for world revolution

  • The Comintern goes on the offensive against both the Right and the Center

  • Radicalization of right-wing forces

  • Political polarization

  • Global retreat of liberal democracy

  • In international relations – growing anarchy, return to traditional power politics



Deep conviction that the international environment is hostile, and that the Soviet Union will be attacked

  • Deep conviction that the international environment is hostile, and that the Soviet Union will be attacked

  • Solution: rapid modernization by totalitarian methods

    • Extreme centralization of political power
    • Replacement of market economy by command economy:
      • 5-year plans from 1928 on
      • Collectivization of farming (93% of all farms by 1938)
      • Industrialization of the Soviet Union (growth of industrial production, 1928-1940: 10-16% a year, machine tool production: 26% a year)
    • The Cultural Revolution – mass literacy campaign loaded with ideological indoctrination
    • Mass repressions and slave labour
    • Stalin’s personality cult
    • Militarization of economy and society
    • Nationality policy: from federalism to empire


  • March of Enthusiasts:

  • http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sq2XBZ_up1M



  • The human toll of Stalinism

  • Excessive deaths, 1927-38:

    • 10 mln. people
      • 8.5 mln. in 1927-36 (most died of hunger)
      • 1.5 mln. in 1937-38 (executed or died in camps)
  • Incarcerated for “counterrevolutionary activities”, “treason”, “espionage”, 1920-1953:

    • 3.4-3.7 mln. people
  • Total number of camp deaths, 1930-1956:

    • 1.6 mln.


  • A shift in foreign policy

  • From wariness of the West – to active engagement in world-order politics

  • Less ideology, more pragmatism

  • Non-aggression pacts

  • Development of trade and economic relations with all countries

  • After Hitler’s coming to power – campaign for collective security





  • The rise of Nazism

  • http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6B4l9g0wqjs&feature=related

  • Anti-Communism

  • Ultranationalism

  • State capitalism packaged as “national socialism”

  • Militarism

  • Aggressive racism

  • Establishment of a totalitarian state









  • From Roosevelt’s inaugural address, January 20, 1933:

  • “Rulers of the exchange of mankind's goods have failed through their own stubbornness and their own incompetence, have admitted their failure, and have abdicated. Practices of the unscrupulous money changers stand indicted in the court of public opinion, rejected by the hearts and minds of men. True they have tried, but their efforts have been cast in the pattern of an outworn tradition. Faced by failure of credit they have proposed only the lending of more money. Stripped of the lure of profit by which to induce our people to follow their false leadership, they have resorted to exhortations, pleading tearfully for restored confidence....The money changers have fled from their high seats in the temple of our civilization. We may now restore that temple to the ancient truths. The measure of the restoration lies in the extent to which we apply social values more noble than mere monetary profit”.



  • Roosevelt decides to recognize the USSR

  • Motives: geopolitical

    • Containing Germany and Japan
  • Sends a signal in October 1933, Soviet Foreign Minister Maxim Litvinov arrives in Washington for talks

  • 3 issues:

    • Russian debt from WWI
    • Suppression of religious and legal rights in USSR
    • Soviet aid to American Communists
  • A “gentleman’s agreement” is reached

  • Nov. 1933: diplomatic relations are restored



The geopolitical triangle: Axis powers (Germany, Italy, Japan), USSR, Western democracies (WDs)

  • The geopolitical triangle: Axis powers (Germany, Italy, Japan), USSR, Western democracies (WDs)







  • Fascism and Communism as sworn enemies

  • Both sides tried to win allies

    • Hitler: I am crushing communism and protecting Western civilization (ideological). It was in his interest to downplay geopolitics
    • Stalin: I am trying to stop Hitler’s aggression (geopolitical). It was in his interest to downplay ideology
  • Both succeeded to some extent:

    • Hitler managed to overthrow the Versailles constraints, rebuild Germany’s military power, and expand German borders
    • Stalin gained US recognition and a degree of respectability in the West with his advocacy of “collective security” agreements against fascist powers


  • Stalin’s first choice:

  • Policies of collective security (alliance with democracies to stop Hitler)

  • After the failure of this option -

  • A non-aggression pact with Hitler to stay out of the coming war and extend Soviet borders westward





  • The Spanish Civil War

  • Can democracy be sacrificed to defeat the Left?

  • Foreign intervention on both sides

  • Splits between forces of the Left, blunders of the Left

  • Victory of the Right, abetted by liberals



  • Brigadas Internacionales:

  • http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GMe-IaK3cH0&feature=related



  • Hitler publicly and repeatedly pledged to destroy the Soviet Union, presenting himself as saviour of the West from communism

  • As a state committed to world revolution, Russia was viewed as a threat by Western elites – including those of Western democracies

  • The rise of fascism was partly a response to the threat – and anticommunism was one of the motives of Western appeasement of Hitler

  • http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TAmKGzYyVLI&feature=related



  • Appeasement of Hitler and his allies by Britain and France:

  • Allowing Germany’s rearmament

  • Accepting Hitler’s territorial claims

  • Betraying democracy in Spain

  • The Munich Accord of 1938

  • Motives for appeasement

  • ideological

  • geopolitical





  • British PM Neville Chamberlain in Munich:

  • http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xQIJkgpP1hg

  • http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FO725Hbzfls&NR=1



  • Britain and France hoped to channel Hitler’s aggression to the East, toward conflict with Russia – reluctant to fight Germany

  • Hitler was determined to prevent Western democracies and USSR from joining forces: beat them one by one

  • Stalin was determined to avoid war with Germany as long as possible – but convinced that such a war was inevitable

  • 1939: A divergence of interests between USSR and Western democracies – and a convergence of interests between Germany and USSR

  • The unexpected deal was logical – but only temporary





      • Text of the Stalin-Hitler (Molotov-Ribbentrop) Pact
      • http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/mod/1939pact.html
































  • 1939-1941: Stalin’s Western expansion

  • Western Ukraine, Belorussia

  • Invasion of Finland

  • Annexation of Bessarabia and Bukovina from Romania

  • Classic geopolitics: pushing the borders forward, reclaiming Russian imperial heritage



  • 1939-1941: growing tensions between USSR and Germany

  • Germany’s unexpected triumph in the West emboldens Hitler

  • Hitler’s strategic goal of conquering the USSR was never abandoned – for geopolitical and ideological reasons

  • All resources of continental Europe are now available to Germany



  • By 1941, Stalin’s fear of German power became the overwhelming factor

  • He was appeasing Hitler – and preparing for war against him - at the same time

  • Each of the two intended to strike first

  • Hitler outfoxed Stalin and delivered a crushing blow



  • 1939-1941: Lowest point in US-Soviet relations since 1933

  • Roosevelt denounced Stalin

  • USSR viewed as an accomplice to the Nazis

  • Soviet annexation of the Baltic states and invasion of Finland condemned

  • The German invasion of Russia changed everything



  • Operation Barbarossa:

  • http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JhXKlYnSWjA



  • Hitler’s goals:

    • Total destruction of the Soviet state
    • Colonization of the Soviet territory, together with allies
    • Turning the territory into a resource base for the Third Reich
    • Annihilation or enslavement of the population
  • An existential challenge to Russia



  • Hitler explaining the coming war against Russia, March 1941:

  • “It is a struggle between two ideologies… Communism presents an enormous danger for the future. A communist has never been and never will be our comrade. It is a struggle for annihilation. If we think otherwise, then, even if we should crush the enemy, the communist threat will rise again in 30 years…”

  • From the diary of General F. Halder, Chief of Staff, Land Forces, Germany:

  • This war will be vastly different from the one in the West. In the East, brutality is a benefit for the future. Commanders must be ready for sacrifice and overcome their doubts.”



  • Hitler’s allies in the war against Russia:

  • Italy

  • Romania

  • Hungary

  • Finland

  • Slovakia

  • Croatia

  • Serbia

  • Montenegro

  • Bulgaria

  • Albania

  • Spain



























  • In the first 10 days, German armies moved 550 km into Soviet territory

  • In the first 20 days of the war, the Red Army lost 1/5 of its manpower – 600,000 men

  • By July, 20 mln. Soviets found themselves under occupation. Nazi terror began.

  • Still, despite the chaos and panic:

    • Fierce resistance slowing the German offensive
    • Evacuation of population
    • Redeployment of industry to the East


































  • The Battle of Moscow

  • Sept. 1941 – Jan. 1942

  • 98 days

    • 2.25 mln. men
    • 2.700 tanks
    • 21.600 artillery pieces
  • Casualties:

  • 250,000 – 400,000 German

  • 600,000 – 1,300,000 Soviet













  • The Siege of Leningrad

  • Sept. 1941 – Jan. 1944

  • 871 days

  • Soviet casualties:

    • Military – 3.4 mln.
    • Civilian deaths – 1 mln.
  • German casualties – no data




















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