During the peak years of the Cold War, when the inscrutability of the Kremlin's agenda left many Western observers fearing imminent nuclear war, Americans could only speculate about what Soviet leaders might be thinking and planning. What were the Soviet's true intentions? Did they have a comprehensive strategy in their confrontation with the West? Was there a Communist blueprint for every action, or were they engaging in the same cautious "realpolitik" that leaders in the West practised as well? Using archival materials, personal interviews and a broad familiarity with Russian culture, two young Russian historians have written an interpretation of the Cold War as seen from the Soviet shore. Covering the volatile period from 1945 to 1962, Zubok and Pleshakov explore the personalities and motivations of the key people who directed Soviet political life and shaped Soviet foreign policy. They begin with the figure of Joseph Stalin, who was driven by the dual dream of a Communist revolution and a global empire.
They reveal the scope and limits of Stalin's ambitions by taking us into the world of his closest subordinates, the foreign minister Molotov and the Party's chief propagandist, Zhdanov. The authors expose the machinations of the secret police chief Beria and the party cadre manager Malenkov, who tried but failed to set Soviet policies on a different course after Stalin's death. Finally, they document the motives and actions of Nikita Khrushchev, who overturned many of Stalin's policies with strategizing on a global scale. The authors show how, despite such attempts to change Soviet diplomacy, Stalin's legacy continued to divide Germany and Europe, and led the Soviets to the split with Maoist China and to the Cuban missile crisis. Zubok and Pleshakov's work reveals how Soviet statesmen conceived and conducted their rivalry with the West within the context of their own domestic and global concerns and aspirations. The authors demonstrate that the Soviet leaders did not seek a conflict with the United States, yet failed to prevent it or bring it to conclusion. They also document why and how Kremlin policy-makers triggered the crises of the Cold War in Korea, Berlin and Cuba.
Zubok and Pleshakov present portraits of the men who made the West fear, to reveal why and and how they acted as they did.
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(235mm x 155mm x 26mm)
Harvard University Press
Publisher: Harvard University Press
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US Kirkus Review »
An important book by two members of a new generation of Russian historians. Using newly (but somewhat arbitrarily) declassified files, they have set out to explore the "background, psychology, motives, and behavior of Soviet rulers" from Stalin to Khrushchev. Zubok (Senior Fellow/National Security Archive, Washington) and Pleshakov (Director, Pacific Studies/Institute of US and Canada, Moscow) do not offer any major new interpretations of the period but give instead an infinitely more nuanced understanding of the forces that shaped Soviet policy. Among the surprises: the role played by Stalin in the Korean War, when, after succumbing to Kim Il Sung's pleas to sanction an attack on South Korea, he forced Chinese intervention by being prepared to accept Kim's defeat. Another is the bold policy advocated by Beria (once described by Stalin as "our Himmler") after Stalin's death: He was willing to throw over East Germany to secure detente with the West. The authors suggest that the opposition to such moves was partly generational, and that Khrushchev - the "last true believer" - was in turn overthrown by a new generation "yearning for personal security" and led by a group more cynical than revolutionary. Not all of their interpretations are as persuasive: They view Roosevelt and Churchill as helping "to soothe Stalin's ego," providing him with "an important psychological motive that pushed him in the direction of postwar cooperation." That push propelled Stalin, if at all, for a very short time. But their analysis of the group that surrounded Stalin and succeeded him - some well known in the West and others (like Zhdanov, Beria, and Malenkov) less so - is vivid and acute. The most careful, comprehensive, and balanced assessment yet of what Wellington once called "the other side of the hill." (Kirkus Reviews)
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Author Biography - Vladislav M. Zubok
Vladislav Zubok is Professor of History at Temple University Constantine Pleshakov is a writer who lives in Moscow.