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Kritika: Explorations in Russian and Eurasian History 3.2 (2002) 348-355

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Sovershenno sekretno:
Moskva - Berlin 1920 - 1933. Voenno-politicheskie otnosheniia mezhdu SSSR i Germaniei

Sergei Alekseevich Gorlov, Sovershenno sekretno:
Al´ians Moskva - Berlin 1920-1933 gg. (Voenno-politicheskie otnosheniia SSSR-Germaniia)

Sergei Alekseevich Gorlov, Sovershenno sekretno: Moskva - Berlin 1920 - 1933. Voenno-politicheskie otnosheniia mezhdu SSSR i Germaniei. Moscow: Institut vseobshchei istorii Rossiiskoi Akademii Nauk, 1999. 364 pp. Appendix, index, bibliography. ISBN 5-201-00535-7.
Sergei Alekseevich Gorlov, Sovershenno sekretno: Al´ians Moskva - Berlin 1920-1933 gg. (Voenno-politicheskie otnosheniia SSSR-Germaniia). Moscow: OLMA-Press, 2001. 352 pp. Appendix, index, bibliography, illustrations (82 photographs). ISBN 5-224-01943-5.

The special relationship between the Soviet Union and Weimar Germany after the Rapallo Treaty of 1922 was an important feature of European interwar history. In the 1950s, memoirs, eyewitness reports, and German archives began to shed light on the origins of the Rapallo period in Russian-German relations. Recently, the opening of the Russian archives has further enriched our knowledge on the Soviet-German military cooperation. Thanks to Sergei Alekseevich Gorlov, a Russian diplomat 1 and specialist (kandidat istoricheskikh nauk) on Russian/Soviet-German relations, we now have a vivid presentation of the ties between the Red Army and Reichswehr. Gorlov's work also shows the importance of German investments in Russia for the emerging Soviet military-industrial complex, and he gives a detailed description of the political, diplomatic, and military links between the two international "outsiders" in the 1920s-early 1930s. Gorlov presents much new knowledge based on scrupulous research in Russian archives, including political, diplomatic, military, and foreign-trade repositories. He makes good use of published German and other documentaries on foreign policy, and proves familiar with the Western literature in the field.

Gorlov initially published his book in 1999 with the Institute of General History of the Russian Academy of Sciences, presumably in a very limited edition. The same work is nicely presented in an illustrated 2001 edition, in which the text differs slightly - certain footnotes have been removed, others moved into the main text. The OLMA-Press edition has a first print run of 5,000 copies, which is a nice example of how scholarly literature may once again reach the [End Page 348] reading public at large in Russia. However, scholars may wish to consult the Academy of Sciences edition, because references are easy to grasp at the bottom of the page, and the historiographical background is more detailed.

Traditionally, there have been two main approaches to the topic of Soviet-German secret military cooperation. One the one hand, scholars have asked how important the secret training stations in Russia were for the covert rearmament of Germany and the subsequent rise of Nazi military might. On the other hand, commentators have been concerned with the other side of the relationship: did the Red Army benefit from its secret ties with the Wehrmacht and German industry? Both approaches can be given an ideological twist, as was the case in the West during the Cold War and in Russia during the first post-Soviet years. However, Gorlov's study represents a striving towards objective, balanced assessments. The book is strictly historical, i.e. it strives to present actors and their world-views and goals. Both the Soviet leadership under Lenin and Trotskii in the early 1920s and the German military around general Heinz von Seeckt are described without superfluous moralizing. This is something often difficult to avoid given our knowledge of the unintended final results (Stalinism and the Great Terror, on the one hand, and Hitler's unleashing of World War II, on the other) of this daring, innovative cooperation between apparent opposites. Gorlov's scattered understatements draw enough attention to the cynical Realpolitik that governed both partners during this period.

Europe's post-World War I establishment, the Versailles Peace system, was shaken by the Rapallo agreement of 16 April 1922 between...


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