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Saber and Scroll

Abstract

Traditionally, scholarly discussion of Josef Stalin’s plans for post-war Eastern Europe has revolved around a sharp dichotomy: Stalin was either an ideologically motivated Marxist-Leninist bent on Communist revolution (the orthodox interpretation), or he was a security-starved pragmatist motivated by Realpolitik rather than revolutionary fervor (the revisionist claim). The “new Cold War historiography” has in many ways revived these sterile terms of debate. An examination of the Stalinist worldview, however, reveals that there is no necessary conflict between the imperatives of Stalin’s “ideology” and “national security.” The two antimonies actually merged in the dictum of “socialism in one country,” which enabled the Soviet dictator to equate the narrow interests of the Soviet state with that of the Communist movement as a whole. An ideologically motivated Stalin, therefore, was not necessarily a revolutionary Stalin. Indeed, Soviet wartime planning documents, the National Front strategy, and the actual course of sovietization demonstrate that Stalin placed the demands of Soviet security interests and the maintenance of cordial relations with the West ahead of any penchant for Communist revolution. In the mid-1940s, Stalin did not plan for Communist takeovers in Eastern Europe; such takeovers were instead the product of significant changes in the post-war security landscape.

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