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Study questions on Ronald Grigor Suny, The Soviet Experiment:  Russia, the USSR, and the Successor States (New York:  Oxford University Press, 1998)  

Week 10

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Chapter 13, pages 291-308

Chapter 14, pages 309-336


Ch. 13, pp. 291-308

What was the fascist/Nazi position regarding the USSR and communism?

Did the USSR or the Communist International understand the threat of fascism in the 1920s? Explain.

Explain the meaning of the terms "Third Period" and "social fascists" as used in the resolutions of the 1928 6th Congress of the Comintern.

Did the "Third Period" policy of the Comintern support building anti-fascist coalitions? Explain.

According to Suny, what were the results of the "Third Period" policies?

In what way did the USSR shift its foreign policy emphasis under Litvinovís leadership of the Commissariat of Foreign Affairs? Was Litvinov pro-German? Explain.

Why did Stalin give Litvinov so much leeway in foreign affairs until 1939?

Why were the communists so slow to abandon the "Third Period" policies and form anti-fascist coalitions in 1933-34? What was Stalinís view of the Nazi threat at this time?

How did Litvinov lessen the USSRís isolation in 1933-35?

What was "collective security," and when did the USSR adopt this policy?

What was the "popular front" strategy and when did the Comintern adopt this strategy? Was the Soviet communist party the leader or the follower in this policy?

Why does Suny call the late 1930s a "golden age" for the Left?

Were Great Britain and France eager to join with the USSR in a collective security agreement? Explain.

According to Suny on p. 299, was Stalinís foreign policy guided by ideology or by power politics? Explain.

How did the Soviet leadership interpret British and French appeasement of Hitler?

How did the Munich agreement effect Litvinovís policy of collective security?

Why didnít France and Great Britain agree to join the USSR in an anti-Nazi alliance in 1939?

When, why, and by whom was Litvinov replaced, and what change in foreign policy resulted?

Exactly what did the USSR and Germany agree to on 23 August 1939? How did Molotov publicly explain this?

What were the strategic reasons for signing a pact with Nazi Germany? Was it a strategic failure or a success? Explain.

When and why did Soviet foreign policy become expansionist? Explain. How did Stalin justify invading Poland? Why invade Finland?

What happened in the 1939-40 Russo-Finnish War, and what lesson did this send to Stalin?

According to Suny, was the Red Army ready for war in 1941? Explain.

What effect did the Nazi-Soviet pact have on communist parties outside the USSR?

Had the USSR successfully broken its diplomatic isolation by 1940, or had it found itself again isolated? Explain.

When and why did Stalin "absorb" the Baltic states?

What were the main sources of tension between the USSR and Germany in 1939-41?

Why did Hitler delay Operation Barbarossa until June 1941?


Ch. 14, pp 309-336

Why was Stalin unwilling to go on full battle alert on 21 June 1941?

Why didnít Stalin believe that Hitler would attack?

How did Stalin respond to the 22 June 1941 invasion?

When did Stalin finally address the nation about the invasion, and how did he describe the conflict?

In what ways and why was the USSR unprepared for war in 1941?

How does Suny explain German tactics in the summer 1941 invasion. Were they successful?

Why was Hitler fighting a "war of extermination" in the USSR?

How did the Nazis treat people in the Soviet territory they had occupied?

How does Suny describe the fighting on the "Russian Front."

Explain what became of Leningrad during the war.

According to historians, what big mistake did Hitler make in the 1941 campaign?

How did the fate of Moscow differ from that of Leningrad? Explain.

In what ways did Stalin try to mobilize public support for the war effort? What is significant about these appeals?

Why does Suny call the war on the Russian Front a "war of attrition"?

How did the Soviet economy (industry and agriculture) withstand the German invasion?

What role did Stalin play in military planning? Explain. Did the war weaken or strengthen his personal power?

Why was the Battle of Stalingrad so important to the fate of the war?

When did relations between Stalin, Churchill, and Roosevelt begin to improve?

Why did Stalin dissolve the Comintern in May 1943?

Discuss the attitudes of Soviet citizens towards the war and towards Stalinís appeals to tradition and nationalism.

Why was the Battle of Kursk (July 1943) so important?

Why did the Red Army delay entering Warsaw in August 1944? Many historians say that Stalin did this deliberately in order to let the Nazis crush the Polish resistance. Does Suny agree? Explain.

How did Soviet soldiers behave in conquered territories?

What were the "total costs" of the war to the USSR in terms of lives lost (see pp. 331-333)? What were the economic costs (see pp. 333-334)?

Historians debate whether Stalinism helped the USSR survive the war or whether it weakened the country and made the war more costly. Be ready to take a position in this debate.

My professor in college used to tell students "If your father or grandfather survived World War Two in Europe, it was because some soldier in Russia died in his place." Explain the reasoning behind this statement.

Why did the War become a "central moment" in Soviet history?


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