Soviet policy in Eastern Europe during the final year and immediate aftermath of World War II had a profound impact on global politics. By reassessing Soviet aims and concrete actions in Eastern Europe from the mid-1940s through the early 1950s, Kramer’s essay touches on larger questions about the origins and intensity of the Cold War. The essay shows that domestic politics and postwar exigencies in the USSR, along with Iosif Stalin’s external ambitions, decisively shaped Soviet ties with Eastern Europe. Stalin’s adoption of increasingly repressive and xenophobic policies at home, and his determination to quell armed insurgencies in areas annexed by the USSR at the end of the war, were matched by his embrace of a harder line vis-à-vis Eastern Europe. This internal-external dynamic was not wholly divorced from the larger East-West context, but it was, to a certain degree, independent of it. At the same time, the shift in Soviet policy toward Eastern Europe was bound to have a detrimental impact on Soviet relations with the leading Western countries, which had tried to avert the imposition of Stalinist regimes in Eastern Europe. The final breakdown of the USSR’s erstwhile alliance with the United States and Great Britain was, for Stalin, an unwelcome but acceptable price to pay.
Mark Kramer is Director of the Cold War Studies Program at Harvard University and a Senior Fellow of Harvard’s Davis Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies. He has taught at Harvard, Yale, and Brown Universities and was formerly an Academy Scholar in Harvard's Academy of International and Area Studies and a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford University.
Professor Kramer is the author of Crisis in Czechoslovakia, 1968: The Prague Spring and the Soviet Invasion; Soldier and State in Poland: Civil-Military Relations and Institutional Change After Communism; Crisis in the Communist World, 1956: De-Stalinization, the Soviet Union, and Upheavals in Poland and Hungary; The Collapse of the Soviet Union; and Income Distribution and Social Transfer Policies in the Post-Communist Transition: Changing Patterns of Inequality. He is completing another book titled From Dominance to Hegemony to Collapse: Soviet Policy in East-Central Europe, 1945-1991, which, like his earlier books on the Soviet bloc, draws heavily on new archival sources from the former Communist world.
Co-sponsored by the Forum on Contemporary Europe and the Center for Russian, East European and Eurasian Studies.