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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 11

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Chapter 15, pages 337-362

Chapter 16, pages 363-384


Ch. 15, pp. 337-362

Suny describes two schools of historical thought on the origins of the Cold War, the "orthodox" and the "revisionist."  Explain the major arguments made by both schools.

What seems to be Suny's main point about the origins of the Cold War?

Suny breaks the history of Soviet foreign policy during the early stages of the Cold War into two phases.  What are these?

Who were the "Big Three" and what had bound them together?

What position did each of the Big Three powers take on the matter of "spheres of influence"?

What made Poland such a tense issue between the Big Three?

What was the "percentages agreement"?

Explain why "Yalta marked the peak of the Grand Alliance."  What did the Big Three agree to at the  February 1945 Yalta conference?

How did the July-August 1945 Potsdam Conference differ from the Yalta conference?

Why was the Atomic Bomb such an important issue in US-Soviet relations?

Explain the "balance of power" in Europe when WWII ended.

How does Suny describe the Communist parties of Eastern and Western Europe in 1945-46?   Did the USSR dictate that all Communist parties (especially in Eastern Europe) follow identical policies in the immediate post-war years?  Explain.

What question does Suny say was central to understanding Stalin's policies towards Eastern Europe in the post-war years?

Why was the question of US aid to eastern Europe such a touchy matter in US-Soviet relations?

What "three important statements" in 1946 shaped the Cold War?  Explain the main points of Stalin's pre-election speech, Kennan's "Long Telegram," and Churchill's "Iron Curtain" speech.

What examples does Suny give of the US and the USSR misunderstanding each others' intentions in 1946?

What was the Marshall Plan, and why did the USSR see it as a threat?

When and why was the Cominform created, and how did it mark a turn in Soviet strategy?

When and under what circumstances did the Communist Party establish a dictatorship in Poland?

When and under what circumstances did the Communist Party establish a dictatorship in Czechoslovakia?

When and under what circumstances did the Yugoslavian Communists break with the USSR?

What was "Finlandization"?

When was Soviet control over Eastern Europe formalized?

When did it become clear that Germany would be divided into two different states?

When and why did Soviet authorities impose a blockade on Berlin?  How did the US respond, and what were the results?

SO....was the Cold War inevitable?  And who was to blame?


Ch. 16, pp. 363-384

(the "Big Questions" are in italics)

After WWII ended, what needed to be restored or reconstructed in the USSR?

How did the USSR respond to post-war labor shortages?

How had the war changed conditions in rural areas?

Suny says that the peasants "paid for" the post war recovery (p. 365)--what does this mean?

Why did the rural population fall from 1950?

Was Soviet agriculture sufficiently productive in the first few years after the war, and what impact did this have on food supply in the USSR?  In the rest of Europe?

Did agriculture recover quickly in Ukraine?  Explain.  What other problems did the party face in Ukraine?

When was rationing ended, and what was the reason for (and effect of) replacing the "old" currency?

What were the aims of the Fourth Five Year Plan (1946-50)?

Why do old people now look at the late Stalin era "as a golden age of peace, low prices, and strict, predictable order" (367)?

How had the war changed the Communist Party?

Does Suny think that the concept of Totalitarianism is a useful way of understanding the "late" Stalinist era?  Explain.

Was there a liberalization of cultural policy after the war?  Explain.

What was the Zhdanovshchina?

Give some examples of artists or works of art that were attacked by Zhdanov and co. 

How did Stalinist ideological controls effect the scholarship and the sciences in the late 1940s and early 1950s?  Give some examples

Was the party or the government of the USSR officially supportive of anti-Semitism before WWII?  How did the official attitude towards Jews change after the war? 

How does Suny explain Stalin's growing antipathy towards Jews?  And what was the "anticosmopolitan" campaign?  What was the 1952-53 Doctor's Plot affair?

What do historians mean by the term "Big Deal" to describe soviet social policy in the post-war years?  Was this conservatism a brand new phenomenon?   Explain.

When did the Eastern European states get Soviet-style constitutions, and what was so significant about the concept of the "People's Democracy"?

Is it fair to say that Stalin ruled Eastern Europe by terror in 1949-52?  Explain.

Which proved more economically dynamic in the post-war decade, the USSR or the "People's Democracies"?

Suny suggests that the seeds for the Eastern European revolutions of 1989 were planted in 1949.  Explain why.

What developments improved the "balance of power"  for the USSR in 1949?

The US feared an international Communist monolith after the Chinese Communist victory in 1949.  Was there really such a monolithic Communist bloc?  Explain.

How had Stalin been involved in the June 1950 North Korean invasion of the South?   Was Stalin eager to escalate that war?  Explain.

How did Stalin take advantage of US losses in Korea in late 1950-early 1951?

Did Stalin believe (ideologically) that war between the capitalist and socialist countries could be avoided?  Explain.

Briefly summarize Suny's explanation of the aims of the US and the USSR during the Cold War.

Suny says the USSR had really already lost the Cold War by 1952.  What does he mean?

What probably happened to Stalin's health soon after the war?  What about his psychological state?

How would you describe the maneuvering and jockeying for position of Stalin's main subordinates in the years after the war?  What was the "Leningrad affair?"

What signaled that Malenkov and Khrushchev were the party's most important leaders (besides Stalin of course!) in fall 1952? 

Explain the main idea of Stalin's comments to the Central Committee on 16 October 1952 (p. 382), which we might consider his "last wishes."

When and how did Stalin die?