What were the external threats facing the Soviet Union in the 1930s?

  

Please read the General Descriptions and Primary Documents. Time willing, try to sample some of the scholarly analysis. Then discuss what you feel to be the greatest external threats facing the Soviet Union in the 1930s and how the Soviet Union reacted to these threats.As in the domestic sphere, it is difficult to separate the practical and ideological when looking at Soviet foreign policy in the 1930s. The Soviets were capable of hard-headed recognition of State interests but could not help letting ideological tendencies creep into their analysis of diplomatic affairs. In addition to the stresses of national rivalries, the Soviets assumed that the “bourgeois” states were intent on toppling the lone communist power. Conversely, all of the Soviet Union’s rivals and potential allies could not overlook the Bolsheviks’ revolutionary ideology when formulating their own policies.Despite the retreat from internationalism inherent with the policy of “socialism in one country,” Stalin and the Soviet leadership were not able to seal off the country from the rest of the world. Possessing the largest land mass of any country in the world afforded the Soviet governments with great advantages, particularly in natural resources, but also posed the challenge of how to defend the extended borders.In addition to being a great power, in the traditional sense of military prowess, the Soviet Union also was the de facto head of an ideological movement that aspired to upend the political status quo in the most powerful countries of the world. Although we know that Stalin deemphasized the task of international revolution, this was not well understood by contemporary observers who continued to view the Soviet Union as a sponsor of subversive activity everywhere.Technically, the cause of promoting communism abroad belonged not to the Soviet state but to the Communist International (Comintern) that formed in the aftermath of the Bolshevik Revolution. Technically, again, this was a stand-alone, autonomous entity, but the Comintern was headquartered in Moscow and many of its leading, non-Soviet officials were refugees subject to arrest in their native countries, so the Soviet government was in a position to influence, if not dictate, Comintern policy and activity.Several key events during the 1930s influenced Soviet international behavior more than others, the first being the Nazi takeover of Germany in 1933. For the previous decade the Soviets and Germans had enjoyed a cooperative relationship as fellow “outcasts of Versailles.” But the Nazis almost immediately identified anti-Bolshevism (which they closely associated with Jews) as the unifying principle of their foreign policy. Moreover, the circumstances with which the Nazis so easily dismantled the Weimar regime represented the failure of Comintern policy which forbade the German Communist Party, which rivaled the Nazis in influence and paramilitary force, from cooperating with more moderate socialist parties.In the wake of the Nazi takeover, Comintern adopted a new strategy of the “popular front,” whereby communists were encouraged to work in collaboration with other left-wing parties to prevent fascism. This policy was put to the test when the Soviets intervened to defend the Republican government during the Spanish Civil War of 1936-38. This proved to be a fiasco, as the Soviets proved incapable of unifying the pro-Republican forces and quickly became more preoccupied with repressing rival socialists than with fighting Franco’s Falange movement.The third event, to which the Soviets were mere bystanders, was the Munich Agreement of 1938, where the Western leaders notoriously sacrificed Czechoslovak territory to appease Hitler. The Soviets were not invited to the conference, although they had mutual assistance treaties with both Czechoslovakia and France. Before Munich, the Soviets were engaged in negotiations with Great Britain and France on forming a grand anti-Nazi alliance. But Munich convinced the Soviets how untrustworthy the French and British were in fulfilling their commitments. It also seemed that the Western powers were banking on directing Hitler’s aggressive impulses eastward. Munich set in motion a reassessment of Soviet diplomacy which resulted in the German-Soviet Non-Aggression Pact of August 1939.General Descriptions:http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/world/russia/cccp-forrel-stalin.htmhttp://www.country-data.com/cgi-bin/query/r-12453.htmlhttp://spartacus-educational.com/RUScomintern.htmPrimary Documents:Soviet Foreign Minister Maxim Litvinov’s speech to the League of Nations (1935):http://www.greatspeeches.net/2013/05/maxim-litvinov-league-of-nations.html”France-U.S.S.R.: Treaty of Mutual Assistance.”The American Journal of International Law30, no. 4 (1936): 177-80.Scholarly Articles:Alastair Kocho-Williams, “The Soviet Diplomatic Corps and Stalin’s Purges”The Slavonic and East European Review(1993) Vol. 86, No. 1, pp. 90-110.Daniel Kowalsky, “Operation X: The Soviet Union and the Spanish Civil War”Bulletin of Spanish Studies(2014) Vol. 91, Nos. 1-2, pp. 159-178.Igor Lukes, “Stalin and Benes at the end of September, 1938: New Evidence from the Prague Archives”Slavic Review(1993) Vol. 52, No. 1, pp. 28-48.Robert C. Tucker, “The Emergence of Stalin’s Foreign Policy”Slavic Review(1977) Vol 36, No.4, pp. 563-589.

Introduction:
The 1930s was a tumultuous period for the Soviet Union, which faced numerous external threats. The country struggled to defend its extended borders and ideology against rival powers that viewed the Soviet Union as a sponsor of subversive activities everywhere. The Soviet Union was a de facto head of an ideological movement that sought to upend the political status quo globally. This article examines the external threats facing the Soviet Union and how the country reacted to these threats.

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Description:
The Soviet Union’s foreign policy during the 1930s was influenced not only by practical considerations but also by ideological tendencies. The country perceived the “bourgeois” states as being intent on toppling the lone communist power. Conversely, other nations could not overlook the Bolsheviks’ revolutionary ideology when they formulated their policies. Although the policy of “socialism in one country” indicated a retreat from internationalism, the Soviet leadership failed to seal the country off from the rest of the world.

The Soviet Union’s status as the world’s largest country made it advantageous, particularly in terms of natural resources. However, it also posed a challenge of how to secure its extended borders. Their revolutionary ideology, although deemphasized by Stalin, continued to be viewed as subversive, impeding the Soviet Union’s goals of promoting communism abroad. The Communist International (Comintern), which was in charge of promoting communism abroad, was an autonomous entity, but the Soviet government was in a position to influence, if not dictate, Comintern policy and activity.

Several key events in the 1930s affected Soviet international behavior, with the Nazi takeover of Germany in 1933 being a significant event. The Nazis considered anti-Bolshevism synonymous with Jews and identified it as the unifying principle of their foreign policy. Furthermore, the Nazis’ ability to dismantle the Weimar regime represented the failure of Comintern policy, which forbade the German Communist Party from cooperating with more moderate socialist parties. In response, the Comintern adopted a new strategy of the “popular front,” urging communists to work in tandem with other left-wing parties to prevent fascism. This strategy was put to the test during the defense of the Republican government.

Objectives:
– To understand the role of ideology in Soviet foreign policy in the 1930s
– To examine the challenges faced by the Soviet Union in defending its borders
– To analyze the impact of key events on Soviet international behavior during the 1930s

Learning Outcomes:
– Explain how ideology influenced Soviet foreign policy in the 1930s
– Evaluate the advantages and challenges faced by the Soviet Union in defending its borders
– Analyze the impact of key events, such as the Nazi takeover of Germany and the adoption of the popular front strategy, on Soviet international behavior during the 1930s

Greatest External Threats Facing the Soviet Union in the 1930s and Reaction:
I believe the greatest external threats facing the Soviet Union in the 1930s were the national rivalries and the spread of fascism throughout Europe. The Soviets assumed that the “bourgeois” states were intent on toppling the lone communist power, which made them wary of any diplomatic relations with non-communist nations. Conversely, other nations could not overlook the Bolsheviks’ revolutionary ideology when formulating their own policies. The Nazi takeover of Germany in 1933 further escalated the threat to the Soviet Union, as the Nazis identified anti-Bolshevism as the unifying principle of their foreign policy. Moreover, the circumstances with which the Nazis so easily dismantled the Weimar regime represented the failure of Comintern policy which forbade the German Communist Party, which rivaled the Nazis in influence and paramilitary force, from cooperating with more moderate socialist parties. As a result, Comintern adopted a new strategy of the “popular front,” whereby communists were encouraged to work in collaboration with other left-wing parties to prevent fascism. The Soviets intervened to defend the Republican government in the Spanish Civil War, as they saw the rise of Franco’s fascist regime as an extension of the Nazi threat to the Soviet Union. The Soviet Union also took measures to strengthen its borders and modernize its military to counter any potential external threats.

Solution 1: Soviet Union’s Reaction to External Threats in the 1930s

The Soviet Union faced a number of external threats in the 1930s, including perceived plots by “bourgeois” states to topple the communist regime and opposition from rival nations. In response, the Soviet leadership adopted a policy of “socialism in one country” and focused on building up its military and natural resources. The Comintern, a stand-alone entity that operated out of Moscow, promoted communism abroad and was subject to influence by the Soviet government.

One key event that greatly influenced Soviet international behavior was the Nazi takeover of Germany in 1933. This marked a turning point in the Soviet relationship with Germany and led to the adoption of the “popular front” policy by the Comintern. Soviet intervention to defend the Republican government during the Spanish Civil War was a test of this policy, and the Soviet Union continued to prioritize its own strategic interests throughout the 1930s.

Solution 2: Addressing External Threats Faced by the Soviet Union in the 1930s

In order to address the external threats faced by the Soviet Union in the 1930s, the Soviet leadership focused on building up its military and natural resources while also promoting communism abroad through the Comintern. The Nazi takeover of Germany in 1933 was a key event that prompted a shift in Soviet policy towards the “popular front,” which sought to collaborate with other leftist parties to prevent fascism.

To defend its extended borders, the Soviet Union also worked on expanding its diplomatic ties and military alliances with other nations. However, the Soviet government was still subject to suspicion and opposition from rival nations due to its revolutionary ideology. Despite this, the Soviet Union continued to prioritize its strategic interests throughout the 1930s and remained a powerful player in international affairs.

Suggested Resources/Books:
1. “Stalin’s Wars: From World War to Cold War, 1939-1953” by Geoffrey Roberts
2. “The Comintern: A History of International Communism from Lenin to Stalin” by John Earl Haynes and Harvey Klehr
3. “The Soviet Union and the Origins of the Second World War: Russo-German Relations and the Road to War, 1933-1941” by Geoffrey Roberts
4. “Soviet Foreign Policy, 1917-1991: A Retrospective” by Richard Sakwa
5. “A Failed Empire: The Soviet Union in the Cold War from Stalin to Gorbachev” by Vladislav Zubok

Similar asked questions:
1. How did the Soviet Union’s ideology influence its foreign policy in the 1930s?
2. What were the challenges that the Soviet Union faced in defending its extended borders in the 1930s?
3. How did the Nazi takeover of Germany influence Soviet international behavior in the 1930s?
4. What was the Communist International (Comintern) and how did it relate to Soviet foreign policy?
5. How did the Soviet Union react to external threats during the 1930s, both practically and ideologically?

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