Stalin’s policy in Eastern Europe had a variety of motives geared mainly to two ideas, the spread of Communist Ideology and the extension of Russian power, the variety of motives are often conflicting and nevertheless in some of the interpretations it shows how these two aims are closely linked, however his policies in different Eastern European countries were evidently varied according to their situation. This may go some way to explaining the different interpretations viewpoints as they look at Soviet policy in a variety of countries and therefore cannot by their very nature be generically categorised, however they do tend to espouse general themes of Stalin’s policy.
Interpretation A defends the view that Stalin’s policy in Eastern Europe was motivated by spreading the communist ideology, this view is also in part implicated in Interpretation C, whereas Interpretation B and D are of the opinion that it had more to do with the extension of Russian power.
Interpretation A is of the view that Stalin aim was to spread communist ideology rather than seek Russian power, this is shown by the line where the author writes about a ‘new social stratum’, and that ‘a new economic and social system’ (Communism) is required for ‘any sort of national development’.
The interpretation is therefore advocating that Stalin had made Communism the only way forward for Eastern European countries. The interpretation doesn’t though refer to the strong outside influences that mean that countries like Czechoslovakia mentioned in the interpretation for their large growth in Communism due to Stalin, in fact were leaning towards Communism before Stalin got involved, as Communism seemed to be the natural progression from the virulent anti fascism present in Czechoslovakia because of the annexation of the Sudetenland by Germany in 1938. The interpretation also fails to clearly show that Communism may just have been a vehicle to promote Russian power, not an ideologically aim to create a ‘new social stratum’.
It also fails to recognise that many Eastern European countries supposedly believing that Communism was the only way forward, in fact attended a conference on the Marshall Plan and before Stalin used his power and influence, they were ready to subscribe to a more open economic policy in order to be eligible for loans from the USA, for example,Interpretation B on the other hand is presenting the view that Stalin’s policy in Eastern Europe was all about Russian power, this is demonstrated most obviously where the author states that ‘his ultimate objective was surely the establishment of the Soviet Union as the predominant European power’. This implies that any move towards Communism was merely a way of reinforcing Russian power; this undermines Interpretation A as even if Stalin did want Communism in the Eastern European countries, it can be explained as merely a power play by Stalin. He suggests the only reason for the Communist parties taking a ‘militant approach’ is because it would be ‘premature’, as it might incite the Americans to stay. This is backed up by the fact that the Communists taking to arms in Greece in the civil war legitimately kept the US in Europe for longer so allowing it to fall under a ‘non communist zone’ was merely a manoeuvre to quicken the US retreat.
The author’s sphere’s also have Russia putting all vital routes to Germany under Communist control, implied in this is that Stalin’s policy is mainly about security and protecting Russia from another European invasion. His policy being about security is also backed up by the fact that he wants an ‘intermediate zone’, if he was a true Marxist he would want the total spread of Communism around the world but instead he is happy to have a buffer zone that the author eludes to, this makes it hard to say that Stalin’s policy was motivated mainly by the spread of Communist ideology.Interpretation C does not directly relate to the question however it implies a link to support the view that Stalin was promoting the spread of Communist ideology for the Eastern European nations. This is backed up by the fact that the interpretation says that Russia ‘naturally sought to create friendly and in fact subservient regimes’, by saying in fact he implies that it was merely a product of a superpower being friendly with a smaller power that they became subservient and not a key part of Stalin’s policy.
Stalin wanting to create friendly regimes is backed up by his treatment of Tito. In Tito’s Yugoslavia, he didn’t try and get involved in Yugoslavian affairs after Tito had shown his dominance in enforcing Communism in politics even though it wasn’t the Soviet brand of Communism. The interpretation also talks about ‘the degree of complicity of East European Communists.’, it is only reasonable to suggest that this complicity was with Stalin and therefore that Stalin’s sphere of influence was based around the fact that East European Communists were only too happy to exploit the chaos of post war Eastern Europe and Stalin was there to back them up with the political nous to lever them into government, this shows that Stalin was not just interested in extending Russian power but instead was more interested in a general spread and nurturing of Communist belief, by having these friendly regimes that he effectively had set up he was not trying to exert Russian power but instead was waging an ideological war on the West.
The interpretation highlights this but it is in contrast to the very start of the interpretation which seems to contradict the rest of the interpretation or perhaps put it in a very different light, the author writes that the Soviet Union followed a single blueprint to create a series of client regimes in their sphere of influence, this would very much suggest a leaning toward Stalin’s policy being about Russian power and the degrading of Eastern Europe to mere puppets of the soviet union. This view is certainly backed up by some of the events of the time, for example the boycott of the Marshall plan by all East European communist bloc countries.Interpretation D is among the interpretations the greatest advocate of Stalin’s policy in Eastern Europe being about Russian power and more specifically about an imperial expansionist foreign policy. It explains ‘Soviet policy simply by looking at the policies of the Tsars’.
Its claim at the start that to understand the Communist regime in Russia, we have to first understand its ideological ambitions is then followed by suggesting that this ideological ambition was nothing to do with the Bolshevik doctrine the core of Communist expansionism but instead could be wholly understood by following a continuation from the imperial tsars of Russia, in making Russia a great empire, not only ideologically motivated as suggested by Interpretation A and C.The issue of defensiveness in Interpretation B is here also referred to as a character of Stalin’s policy, but also expanded upon not only to include military defensiveness but also economic defensiveness of Stalin’s policy. This is shown by his wish to consolidate Eastern Europe into a single economic area, in the form of Comintern, this was to combat the threat of Western capitalist exploitation and in doing this he ensured Soviet power and control of the Eastern European bloc. This defensiveness is shown also in Interpretation D which demonstrates how little the author thinks that Stalin’s policy had to do with Communism, by comparing it with fascist Nazi Germany’s policy in controlling the economies of central Europe in the 1930’s.
However this comparison between Nazi Germany and Stalin’s policy in Eastern Europe does not hold up to much scrutiny as the Soviet Union only annexed through political manoeuvring, unlike Nazi Germany which annexed countries through force, for example, the placement of troops in the Sudetenland, while it was still formally part of Czechoslovakia. The aggressive expansionism of Nazi Germany is also not mirrored in Stalin’s policy, which was more based around ideological infiltration in order to gain power. Therefore, the link between Stalin’s policy and Nazi Germany’s policies in the 1930’s is tenuous at best and not substantiated properly in the Interpretation other than to make the link between Nazi Germany and Russia being major trading partners with Central European countries. However, the Interpretation’s view that Stalin’s policy is akin to the Tsar’s policies on imperialism as Stalin was also known to idolise Alexander the Great and therefore it is unsurprising that his policy in Eastern Europe was similar to the Tsars.
However, this similarity also fails in that Stalin needed some form of government in place, Communism, shown by the imposition of the Soviet system and society, as opposed to the Tsars, who went for all out domination and allowing the diversity of societies much like the Nazi Germany.Interpretation A although advocating the spread of communist ideology as the primary objective of Stalin’s policy, also implies other motives by stating that this Communism was so that ‘Russian rulers’ could ‘gain total control over social life’, perhaps therefore also backing the view that Communism was merely a means of transition to make Soviet power over Eastern European society easier to manage and direct, as Interpretation C says the central state bureaucrat was the only way directing the chaos post war Eastern European society. Therefore in this respect Interpretation A and C provide evidence for Russian power being Stalin’s ultimate aim. However on the other hand Interpretation B suggest that Russian power brokering in Europe was merely a way of diverting the attention of the West, while Stalin sought to consolidate the process of ‘socialisation’ of Eastern Europe, indicating that in fact Stalin was not seeking power but instead subversively under the noses of the West, spreading Communism under the guise of defensive worries.
There is in all these Interpretations the assumption that Stalin actually has a plan and negates the possibility that in fact Stalin is taking a reactive approach to Eastern Europe. After World War 2, Stalin is left with the Red Army spread over a range of countries and as a Communist, it would be only natural to believe that this is the best system of government and therefore as his troops are in place he may have just taken the opportunities available to him and exploited the fact that he had, by virtue of the percentages agreement been handed over. It can also be argued post 1947, that his policies were simply a reaction to the aggressiveness of the Marshall Plan as it can be seen afterwards that he tries to consolidate the Eastern European bloc in economic and political terms with the creation of Cominform and Comintern. Thus Stalin although having a general plan of protecting Soviet economic and military interests may not have had an over arching political plan for Eastern Europe.
Thus, Interpretation A and C although promoting the idea of Stalin spreading Communist ideology, provide no significant evidence to battle off the claims that in fact this spreading of Communist Ideology was not just a method of transition to a more powerful and influential Russia. By the same token Interpretation B and D don’t take into account that it may just have been a reactive policy to the West trying to damage the Soviet economic and political position through the Marshall Plan. Therefore, it is hard to separate the idea of spreading the communist ideology from the extension of Russian power, as they are in a symbiotic relationship, whereby one will always feed into the other, on the other hand, the spreading of Communist power creating a large Soviet sphere of influence, put together with the fact that Stalin evidently had imperial expansionist ideas naturally leads to the conclusion that the extension of Russian power was almost certainly the dominant motive for Stalin’s policy in Eastern Europe.
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