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Journal of Cold War Studies 3.2 (2001) 107-111

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Book Review

Die Sowjetunion und das kommunistische China 1945-1950:
Der beschwerliche Weg zum Bündnis

Dieter Heinzig, Die Sowjetunion und das kommunistische China 1945-1950: Der beschwerliche Weg zum Bündnis. Baden-Baden: Nomos Verlagsgesselschaft, 1998. xix, 710 pp. 148.00 Deutschmarks.

After the Soviet Union collapsed at the end of 1991, the Russian government opened some of the former Soviet archives for scholarly research. The status of those archives has been a constant source of frustration ever since. The most important repositories of documents on the Cold War--the Presidential Archive, the foreign intelligence archive, the state security (KGB) archive, and the main archive of the Ministry of Defense--have remained sealed. A handful of other repositories have been relatively open and accommodating, but, even at those archives, nettlesome problems have arisen. Although the partial opening of archives in Moscow has been a welcome change from the complete lack of access during the Communist era, scholars who were hoping that the archives would be fully opened after the demise of the Soviet Union have been sorely disappointed.

For a few select topics, however, the situation has been much more auspicious. The Russian authorities have been willing to release unusually large amounts of sensitive documentation about the Korean War, the Cuban missile crisis, Sino-Soviet relations in the first several years after World War II, and one or two other topics. Scholars focusing on these events have been able to draw on a much greater volume of high-level documentation than is available for other subjects. Many valuable books and articles on the "favored" topics have already been produced, and more are likely to be published soon. Perhaps the best of the studies to appear thus far is Dieter Heinzig's comprehensive survey of Soviet relations with the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) from 1945 to 1950. Heinzig's book will remain the definitive treatment of the subject for many years to come.

Heinzig has consulted a vast array of declassified Soviet archival materials, published Soviet records, and retrospective accounts by former Soviet officials in both memoirs and interviews. He has benefited greatly from documents released by Sergei Tikhvinskii and Andrei Ledovskii, two long-standing "China hands" in Moscow who were influential advisers during the Soviet era and enjoyed privileged access to closed archives in the 1990s. In addition to relying on new sources from Russia, Heinzig has [End Page 107] made extensive use of available Chinese sources and of many Western sources. Although the archives in Beijing are still sealed to foreign and most Chinese researchers, a large number of important first-hand accounts by former Chinese diplomats and party functionaries have appeared, and some official collections of declassified documents have been published. Moreover, some useful documents have surfaced from Chinese regional archives, which have been more accessible (at least for Chinese researchers) than the repositories in Beijing. Heinzig is well aware of the limits as well as the value of the Soviet and Chinese sources, and he makes judicious use of them, indicating where uncertainty and gaps remain. In writing his book, he has built on and gone well beyond recent works by Chen Jian, Michael Sheng, John Garver, Xue Litai, Sergei Goncharov, Yang Kuisong, Roderick MacFarquhar, Michael Hunt, and others who have drawn on newly available sources. Heinzig carefully points out where and why his own findings and conclusions differ from theirs, and he also takes due account of the secondary literature published in earlier decades, before the East-bloc archives were (partly) opened. The exhaustive research and meticulous weighing of evidence that went into Heinzig's book are truly impressive.

This massive volume--a 653-page text with more than 2,300 footnotes, a twenty-page documentary appendix, and a lengthy bibliography of sources in English, German, Russian, and Chinese--is the capstone to a long and productive scholarly career, which began in the late 1950s. In the late 1960s Heinzig edited the two-volume autobiography of Zhang Kuotao...