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Stalin’s Foreign Policy 1929-45. We will study his impact on the international scene in the following ways: Stalin’s approach to international affairs Soviet foreign policy in the 1930s The Nazi-Soviet Pact 1939-41 The Great Patriotic War 1941-5. Stalin’s Approach to International Affairs

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stalin s foreign policy 1929 45

Stalin’s Foreign Policy1929-45

We will study his impact on the international scene in the following ways:

Stalin’s approach to international affairs

Soviet foreign policy in the 1930s

The Nazi-Soviet Pact 1939-41

The Great Patriotic War 1941-5


Stalin’s Approach to International Affairs

A. Fear of Western encroachment was a long-standing feature of Russian foreign policy.

1. Traditional anxiety intensified by foreign interventions in USSR in the early 1920s

a. Interventions overcome, Russia internationally isolated

B. Lenin became determined nation must secure OWN defense.

1. Lenin’s plan was not to provoke capitalist nations but to play on their differences.

a. exploit differences to prevent anti- Communist alliance be built up.

b. That compromise rather than confrontation guiding principal for Stalin’s foreign policy


B. Stalin continues Lenin’s policy by adopting defensive attitude towards the outside world.

1. There is an important distinction to be made between the theory & practice of Soviet foreign policy under Stalin

a. Judge by its propaganda

b. In practice, the Bolsheviks didn’t regard Soviet Russia as being strong enough to sustain a genuinely revolutionary foreign policy.

i. this meant that whatever its aggressive poses & claims may have been, the primary purpose of the Comintern was to safeguard the existence of Soviet Russia.

ii. Under Stalin, Comitern’s role was limited to protecting the USSR


2. Foreign Communist parties that wished to affiliate to the Comintern had to swear absolute obedience to the line dictated by the Soviet Union.

a. The Comitern became a branch of Soviet foreign office.

summary diagram stalin s approach to international affairs
Summary diagram: Stalin’s approach to international affairs

Lenin’s legacy


Accepted Lenin’s defensive policies

“Socialism in one country”

Meant subordination of foreign affairs to domestic issues

Cominterm’s essential role to defend interests of Soviet Union

  • Realism in foreign affairs
  • Soviet Union surrounded by hostile states
  • Soviet Union not strong enough to lead international revolution
  • Therefore, defensive approach based on exploiting “contradictions in the capitalist world”

Soviet Foreign Policy in the 1930s

Specifically: 1929-33

A. Most governments in W. Europe regarded USSR w/ suspicion.

1. Many on the political left wanted to believe the best of Stalin’s Russia

a. Believed Russia’s poor image was a deliberate distortion by the capitalist controlled Western press

B. Stalin’s victory over the Right coincided w/ his adopting a tougher approach towards other countries.

1. Communist parties in other countries were not allowed to form alliances w/ non-Marxist parties of whom Moscow disapproved of.

a. “Social-Fascists” denounced.

b. Real fascism (Nazi Germany) largely ignored


C. Stalin’s massive collectivization & industrialization program coincided w/ the onset of the Great Depression in N. America & Europe.

1. Contrast between Soviet success in economic planning & the Capitalist crisis in the West could be evidence of USSR superiority w/ their system?

a. reduced need to cultivate links w/ non-communist parties. Could continue its policy of direct contact w/ capitalist governments, playing upon their weaknesses & exploiting the contradictions between them.

D. Long term, USSR to pay dearly for Stalin’s failure to grasp what was happening in Germany.

1. Stalin mislead by their title. Accordingly, it made sense for the KPD (German Communist Party) to co-operate w/ the Nazis.


2. Stalin’s miss-read prevented him from seeing the need to organize an alliance of the German centre & Left against Nazism.

a. KPD’s obedience to Kremlin’s command not to ally w/ Social Dem’s destroyed the one real chance of creating political barrier to Nazi power in Germany.

E. Soviet Foreign Policy 1933-9 (What was Stalin’s Foreign policy in these years intended to achieve?)

1. After Hitler came to power in 1933, Stalin still slow to read the signs.

2. Tried to maintain 11 yr old alliance (Treaty of Rapallo April 1922)

3. Took certain events to convince Stalin Germany was a menace:

a. violent Nazi attacks on the KPD

b. open discussion by German diplomats about expansion into Russia.

c. Signing in 1934 of a German-Polish treaty

4. The USSR’s greatest fear-isolation-returned


F. Next 6 yrs Soviet policy was find allies to nullify German danger. (Stalin had no choice)

1. After 33’ pro-German policy no longer possible. Germany now #1 threat

a. League of Nations: provided platform for Russia to not be isolated.

i. Max Litvinov (New Foreign Commissar) called for Collective security.

ii. Fruits of this: an agreement between USSR, France, & Czechoslovakia promising “mutual assistance”

iii. 1935 also 1st year diplomatic contact was made between US & USSR


G. Turnabout:

1. Comitern reverses policy of non-alignment w/ the Left, 1935.

a. Now appeal for “popular front” in Europe. True Turnabout of policy too late.

2. new Constitution (1936) introduced; basically propaganda aimed @ convincing outside world USSR Free & Democratic society.

a. Gains in Foreign policy superficial.

i. France & Britain not prepared to risk war to uphold principal.

3. USSR claims France & Britain lost their resolve to act as upholders of European security:

a. Mussolini invaded Abyssinia. France & Britain seek was to stop it from becoming international crisis.

b. Hitler ignores Versailles Treaty, sent forces to re-occupy Rhineland. Britain & France offer formal protests & that’s it

4. 1936, very black year for USSR’s hopes for shelter under collective security

a. In addition to German aggression & Anglo-French weakness, year saw creation of international alliance, Anti- Comintern Pact

b. Led Stalin to double efforts to obtain reliable allies

i. problem was USSR not trusted


H. The Spanish Civil War

1. Stalin’s pursuit of alliances w/ capitalist counties alienated Soviet sympathizers.

2. Fight between the republican Left & the Fascist Right.

a. Stalin keeps w/ his anti-fascist “popular front” policy & sends agents into Spain to organize a pro republican alliance.

i. Motives & policies were mixed. Putting focus on Spain could deflect from purges

ii. Sending military equipment to Spain, in return, most of gold reserves sent to USSR

iii. “Popular Fronts” also required all republican allies to put themselves under Moscow’s control.

3. Spanish Left resented Stalin’s attempt at domination & questioned if Stalin wanted a victory.

a. Stalin was not happy to see a major victory for Marxism in Spain.

i. Stalin feared that if Communism was installed in south-western Europe, it would frighten France & Britain, that they would react by forming anti-soviet fronts w/ Germany & Italy.


I. The Munich Settlement

1. Hitler demands Sudetenland become part of Germany. Threatens invasion.

a. Another Versailles Treaty violation but France & Britain don’t act.

b. They grant Hitler all his demands in the Munich Settlement.

c. Earlier in 1938, Hitler got the Auschluss, another Versailles Treaty violation.

i. Munich becomes further example of Hitler’s ability to get his way.

2. Stalin saw Munich as a gathering of the anti- Soviet nations of Europe, intent on giving Germany a free hand to attack a diplomatically isolated USSR


III. The Nazi-Soviet Pact 1939-41

1. August 1939, Hitler/Stalin reach formal agreement

A. Both pledged peace w/ each other for 10 years

B. “Secret Additional Protocol” agreed that USSR would take over Baltic States of Estonia, Latvia & Lithuania.

a. Poland would be divided later. Four weeks later Germany began to occupy Poland. They then divided it.

C. Stalin acted of the idea of, if you can’t beat them, join them. This is what Stalin saw as his only move that international circumstances still allowed.


2. Results of the Pact

A. USSR grabs eastern half of Poland

B. Germany free to conduct its war w/ France & Britain in the West

C. In the East, USSR forcibly took hold of the Baltic States, Southern Finland, & Bessarabia- Bukovina

a. USSR had now gained all its territory lost after WWI

3. Stalin claimed Nazi-Soviet pact had safeguarded USSR from western attack. Stalin hailed as hero. He began to believe his own propaganda.

A. Hitler’s ultimate aim was invasion and occupation of Russia.

the nazi soviet pact
The Nazi-Soviet Pact



Hailed as diplomatic triumph for Stalin

Lulled him into false sense of security

Gave Germany free rein in Western Europe

Left Soviet exposed to German attack in June 1941

  • 10 year non-aggression agreement
  • Secret clauses over Baltic States and Poland

IV. The Great Patriotic War 1941-45

1. Operation Barbarossa 1941: Hitler’s plan to attack Russia in June 1941

A. Invasion was so HUGE it could not be hidden.

a. 1 week before the attack, Kremlin received word from an Comitern agent in Japan attack about to happen on Western Russia.

b. Stalin, “this is German disinformation”

c. Day before the attack Stalin gets another confirmation (from source in Luftwaffe) on eminent attack. Gets angry & dismisses it again.

B. Why Stalin refused to see the truth defies explanation

a. On the 1st few days of the invasion; Stalin refused to talk to anyone or give instructions.

1. 1st week of WWII the eastern front, German forces overran a Soviet Union who was w/out leadership or direction


2. Failure of Barbarossa explained w/ 3 factors:

A. Stalin pulled himself together & began to show the leadership he became renowned for the rest of the war.

B. The lateness of the launching of Barbarossa, meant by autumn of 1941 Moscow nor Leningrad (they were besieged) had not fallen.

C. Fate intervened on USSR’s behalf. It was 1 of the most severe winters in Russia memory. Slowed Germany to a crawl. Russia’s troops able to regroup & counterattack.

3. Striking aspect of Barbarossa:

A. Along front many in Soviet population welcomed the invaders @ 1st

B. Some even willing to join the German army

a. Germany failed to see the benefit of this

b. instead they treated the area w/ savagery. Causing the Bolsheviks & the Russian nationalists into a common front against Germany.

c. Germany was so brutal of their treatment of the Russians that the Russian people commit themselves to a struggle for survival. This earned it the name The Great Patriotic War.

*Note: In pushing into eastern Germany in the closing stages of the war, the Red Army subjected the civilian population to the same ferocity that the Soviet people had suffered.


4. The Character of the War (why was the war on the eastern front so bitter and destructive?)

A. War of attrition: Russia able to overstretch German army making them vulnerable

B. Two battles in particular illustrated the character of the Soviet resistance & explained Germany’s defeat:

a. Battle of Stalingrad 1942-3. Germany besieged Stalingrad when moving south-eastward to seize oil fields.

b. In response to Stalin, Hitler orders all males in the city killed.

1. The German army is overrun in Stalingrad. Hitler’s generals beg for a retreat.

2. German forces battered (deprived of supplies) & starved into submission

3. They surrender on 31 Jan. 1943. This was a bitter blow to which they NEVER recovered.

b. Soviet forces themselves suffered terribly. In the battle that occupied the winter months of 1942-3 over a million Soviet troops killed.

a. Stalingrad proved Hitler’s armies were not invincible. Gave promise of final victory to the Western allies.


5. The Battle of Kursk July 1943

A. Hitler tries to gain back prestige of his army. Backs a plan from his Generals to attack Kursk.

B. Operation Citadel began on 5 July 1943. Largest tank battle in history. Russia pores troops into Kursk very quickly.

C. After 12 days of attack & counterattack Germans still not broke through. Mindful of Stalingrad, Hitler decides to call off entire operation.

D. From this point forward Russia went on the offensive. Attacking and driving Germany back and eventually invading Germany. Germany surrendered in the spring of 1945.


6. The impact of the war on the USSR

A. everything in Russia subordinated to the sheer necessity of survival.

B. Stalin’s 13 yrs of putting Russia’s economy on a war footing began to show benefits.

1. Centralized authority very helpful when it come to organizing for a war.

2. Hardships the people had labored under for last 13 yrs prepared them for hardships of life during war

a. The Soviet people suffered very much during the war.


7. Wartime reorganization

A. Reason for early catastrophe was under FYPs Soviet industrial expansion had been west of Urals

1. Extraordinary efforts made to transfer whole sectors of industry to safer eastern USSR

2. All adults not involved with “essential” war work were drafted

a. 4 million died first yr of war. This forced woman & children to have to work in factories

3. By 1942 over ½ of national income went to military expenditures

a. pre war production levels could not be kept under these circumstances

4. 1942 lowest economic yr for USSR. After 42’production goes up, so does economy.

a. Lend-lease program bolstered the Soviet’s home produced supply of weapons & motor transport.

b. railway system rebuilt


8. The suffering of the Soviet people:

A. 5 mil. of the 25 mil. That died during the war were a result of starvation.

9. The end of the war:

A. Stalin gave orders that his role in the victory be given highest place.

B. Paintings of him as a great military leader were put on all buildings

the great patriotic war 1941 45
The Great Patriotic War 1941-45

Operation Barbarossa

Stalin caught out

No leadership given

German attack almost succeeds

USSR saved by timing of attack & weather conditions

Germany loses chance to exploit anti-Stalinism of Soviet peoples

The Character of the War

Savage war of attrition



Fall of Berlin

The impact of the war on the USSR

War & German occupation require reorganization of Soviet economy

Acute suffering for the Soviet people throughout the war

The deportation of nationalities

Prodigious Soviet efforts * Stalin still more entrenched after

Huge losses successful end of the war