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Reviewed by:
  • SSSR i formirovanie voenno-blokovogo protivostoianiia v Evrope (1945–1955 gg.)
  • Austin Jersild
Nina Bystrova, SSSR i formirovanie voenno-blokovogo protivostoianiia v Evrope (1945–1955 gg.) (The USSR and the Formation of Military-Bloc Confrontation in Europe [1945–55]). 584 pp. Moscow: Giperboreia, Kuchkovo pole, 2007. ISBN-13 978-5901679715.

In her study of the Cold War, or the emergence of "military-bloc confrontation" in Europe between the United States and the Soviet Union, Nina Bystrova contrasts the global ambitions of America with the more local security concerns of the postwar Soviet leadership. America's network of air and naval bases from the war developed into the "so-called 'base strategy'" on the frontiers of the Soviet Union, whereas Stalin during the war and after looked to secure a "sphere of influence" in East–Central Europe and other traditionally Russian zones of imperial interest (7–10, 26, 223).1 In contrast to historians who focus on the paranoia of Stalin, the autocratic character of Soviet politics, or Marxist-Leninist ideology as decisive factors in the evolution of the early Cold War, Bystrova directs our attention to the recent experience of the war and Russian fears of the revival of Germany (19–25, 107–10).2 As a "geopolitician," Stalin conducted himself "correctly in relation to the West," she writes (26). The Russians were still fighting the last war in the early years of the Cold War, and their primary interests in the region concerned security, reparations, the extraction of strategic resources, and the potential revival of German power.3

Soviet foreign policies and programs in Eastern and Central Europe were an outgrowth of the practices and norms of Soviet domestic postwar society. Bystrova draws effectively on the work of numerous Russian historians who [End Page 447] describe the disturbing return to the practices and norms of the 1930s in the postwar Soviet Union.4 There still remained, however, room for different "paths" to socialism, she argues, siding with a series of Russian scholars who remain fairly optimistic about the flexibility of the Soviet model before mid-1947 and about the potential for the evolution of the "people's democracies" (116–18).5 These comparatively hopeful views about the Soviet leadership and system leave her unable to ponder the significance and implications of the brutality brought by the Red Army and Soviet officials to the region. Even if we fault the Americans for needlessly provoking a Russia understandably sensitive about the prospect of foreign threats and potential invasions, one wonders how the emerging socialist world could possibly recover from the postwar Soviet practices described by recent historians.6 [End Page 448]

Bystrova concedes that the Soviet and American societies were vastly different in their practices and norms. American expectations about information and exchange crucial to the workings of the market economy were totally unacceptable to Soviet leaders accustomed to identifying and using resources as they saw fit in the "administrative-repressive regime" (52). The contrast and likelihood of conflict and misunderstanding were evident during the early postwar exchanges about credit, lend-lease, trade, and the new institutions created by Bretton Woods, well before the more famous refusal from Stalin and Molotov to allow the Czechoslovaks to participate in the Marshall Plan conference in Paris in July 1947 (62–63, 73, 143–48).7 Stalin's propaganda state promoted negative images of America to solidify support for the emerging state of confrontation with the United States, and heavy industry, the military, and the atomic bomb always took precedence over the well-being and needs of the citizenry (36, 52). The expanding Cold War meant new hardships for Soviet citizens, who were the unfortunate victims of Stalin's decision that the socialist bloc would rely "on its own strengths" (80). Foreign policy was a product of the domestic ordering of the two very different societies; and conflict was inevitable, she concludes.8

With Cold War tension shaping the international environment, the Soviets created stronger internal institutions to facilitate "bloc policy" after the summer of 1947. Bystrova describes the creation of Sovinformbiuro (the Cominform), TASS (the press agency), Radiokomitet, International Books, and VOKS (which included the "Friendship" societies). At the meeting to...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1538-5000
Print ISSN
1531-023x
Pages
pp. 447-452
Launched on MUSE
2010-04-30
Open Access
No
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