Week X:  Soviet foreign policy and the USSR in the Second World War.  

Readings:

 

Suny, Ch. 13  Be prepared to discuss ALL of these questions based upon information in Suny:

1.  What was the fascist/Nazi position regarding the USSR and communism, and did the USSR or the Communist International understand the threat of fascism in the 1920s? Explain.

2.  Why were the communists so slow to form anti-fascist coalitions in 1933-34? What was Stalinís view of the Nazi threat at this time?

3.  In what way did the USSR shift its foreign policy emphasis under Litvinovís leadership of the Commissariat of Foreign Affairs? What was "collective security" and when did the USSR adopt this policy?

4.  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? 

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

6. How did the Soviet leadership interpret British and French appeasement of Hitler and how did the Munich agreement effect Litvinovís policy of collective security?

7. Why didnít France and Great Britain agree to join the USSR in an anti-Nazi alliance in 1939?  Also, when, why, and by whom was Litvinov replaced, and what change in foreign policy resulted?

8. Exactly what did the USSR and Germany agree to on 23 August 1939? How did Molotov publicly explain this?  And what were the strategic reasons for signing a pact with Nazi Germany? Was it a strategic failure or a success? Explain.

9. When and why did Soviet foreign policy become overtly 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?  And when and why did the USSR "absorb" the Baltic states?

10.  What were the main sources of tension between the USSR and Germany in 1939-41?  And why did Hitler delay Operation Barbarossa until June 1941?

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Suny, Ch. 14  Be prepared to discuss ALL of these questions based upon information in Suny:

1.  Why was Stalin unwilling to go on full battle alert on 21 June 1941, why didnít he believe that Hitler would attack, and how did he respond to the 22 June 1941 invasion? 

2.  How does Suny explain German tactics in the summer 1941 invasion, why was Hitler fighting a "war of extermination" in the USSR, and how did the Nazis treat people in the Soviet territory they had occupied?

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

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

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

6.  How did the Soviet economy (industry and agriculture) withstand the German invasion?  And what role did Stalin play in military planning? Explain.  (According to Suny, did the war weaken or strengthen his personal power?)

7.  Why were the Battle of Stalingrad and the Battle of Kursk so important to the fate of the war?

8. When did relations between Stalin, Churchill, and Roosevelt begin to improve?  Why did Stalin dissolve the Comintern in May 1943?

9.  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.  And in general, how did Soviet soldiers behave in conquered territories?

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

11.  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.

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Kuromyia, ch. 6

After you finish the reading, write out a list of the 5 most important main points Kuromyia makes in this chapter. 

I don't mean things that you think are important--I mean the five points most crucial to the author's argument!

Be sure that you are ready to defend your selection of "main points" by providing evidence!

Below I list some of the questions that Kuromyia addresses in the chapter.  These are only a starting point for thinking about his main arguments... 

SO again, what do YOU think are his Five Main Points?

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Some questions Kuromyia addresses in this chapter:

How did Stalin's understanding of the connection between internal opposition to his policies and the external threat from Germany and Japan (and from other countries, as well)

What were Stalin's intentions in and what was his understanding of the 1939 Non-Aggression agreement with German?

What was the key difference between how Stalin and Hitler understood the significance of the Winter War?

Why didn't Stalin believe that Germany would go to war with the USSR in early summer 1941?

What was Stalin's personal role in shaping the Soviet response to the invasion?

What is significant about Stalin's approach to rallying the population behind the war effort?

Why was the USSR able to defeat the German-led invasion and what share of the credit rests with Stalin?

What did Stalin want out of a post-war settlement and what did he consider the greatest threats to his conception of the post-war order?