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Journal of Cold War Studies 1.3 (1999) 180-182

Book Review

The Soviet Union and Europe in the Cold War, 1943-53

Francesca Gori and Silvio Pons, eds., The Soviet Union and Europe in the Cold War, 1943-53. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1996. xxv + 448 pp.

This impressive volume consists of papers originally written for a conference in Cortona, Italy in September 1994. It thus is based on archival research conducted by West European and Russian scholars in the initial period of openness following the collapse of Communism, when documents were more readily available. The book covers three main topics: the Soviet Union and the postwar European order; the Communist Information Bureau (Cominform) and the consolidation of a Soviet bloc; and relations between the Soviet Union and Western Europe. Italy is heavily represented, both among the authors and in the subjects of individual chapters, but the approach [End Page 180] is comprehensive. There are solid chapters on Norway and Denmark, Germany, Finland, Poland, the Balkans, and Greece.

The book does not deal explicitly with the well-researched U.S.-Soviet dimension of the early Cold War, but in the introduction Francesca Gori and Silvio Pons relate the book's findings to the different schools of American Cold War historiography--orthodox, revisionist, and post-revisionist--and conclude that "the tendency is to opt for the first or third of these schools, which place more weight on the effects of Soviet policy." Many of the essays demonstrate that Stalin had far-reaching objectives in Europe and was seeking to extend Soviet influence by transforming the European countries along socialist lines. At the same time, the authors also stress the instances of restraint in Soviet policy. They present evidence that Stalin sought to avoid premature conflict with the West, especially in countries outside the Soviet sphere of influence in East-Central Europe. Even within that sphere, he initially tried to moderate the pace of Sovietization to avoid alarming Western governments and alienating potential non-Communist allies.

Aleksei M. Filitov's chapter, analyzing Soviet planning for the future of Europe, draws on the files of the commission headed by Ivan Maisky and Maksim Litvinov, which Filitov was able to examine (in part) in the archive of the Russian Foreign Ministry. Filitov points out that a memorandum written by Maisky on 11 January 1944 set forth two fundamental aims for Soviet policy in the postwar period: (1) to establish a long period of peace in which the Soviet Union would become sufficiently strong to deter aggression from any power or combination of powers in Europe and Asia; and (2) to ensure that Europe, or at least continental Europe, became "socialist, thereby excluding the possibility of wars occurring in this part of the world" (p. 47). Filitov believes that the first of these objectives was to be accomplished over a 10-year period, the second in 30-50 years.

Like the other authors, however, Filitov is cautious in drawing conclusions about how ideas translated into policy. Time and again, the authors provide insights drawn from the words and actions of government and party officials, planning documents, and conversations involving Stalin and other leaders, but they stop short of drawing definitive conclusions about the decision-making process within the Soviet leadership. Such conclusions must await further research in archival sources not yet available. Elena Aga-Rossi and Victor Zaslavsky conclude in their chapter on the Soviet Union and the Italian Communist Party that the existence of Soviet minimum and maximum programs for postwar Europe "seems to have found its documentary confirmation" (p. 191). Still, more evidence is needed to complete the picture and establish definitively how Soviet leaders made concrete policy choices relating to these programs.

Most of the chapters are based on material from the Soviet archives, but several that focus on Western policy draw exclusively on new Western sources. The essay by Georges-Henri Soutou on General Charles de Gaulle and the Soviet Union from 1943 to 1945, which focuses on the December 1944 Franco-Soviet pact, is one...