Soviet Policy toward East Germany Reconsidered: The Postwar Decade

Soviet Policy toward East Germany Reconsidered: The Postwar Decade

Soviet Policy toward East Germany Reconsidered: The Postwar Decade

Soviet Policy toward East Germany Reconsidered: The Postwar Decade

Synopsis

This new study analyzes Soviet political and economic policies toward East Germany from 1945 to 1955, focusing on the transition from ambivalence to support. In her introduction Phillips outlines the postwar situation and reviews differing interpretations of Soviet policy. She reviews the issues of postwar settlement relating to East Germany and describes the conflicts within the Soviet leadership over German policy. Discussing Soviet economic exploitation of Germany and the harsh reparations policy, she contrasts these developments with the relatively moderate Soviet policies of socialization implemented in the same period, including improved consumption, economic aid, and toleration of private trade and production. She analyzes the factors that undermined the stability of the Ulbricht regime and culminated in the June 1953 uprising, creating an abrupt change of direction in Soviet policy toward the German Democratic Republic and East European bloc that existed prior to 1953. She argues that Soviet policies during the immediate postwar period were ambivalent, serving a mix of political and economic goals that were often incompatible, and that the Soviet commitment to incorporate East Germany into the Soviet bloc was not evident until after mid-1953.

Excerpt

This study analyzes Soviet political and economic policies toward East Germany from 1945 to 1955, focusing on the transition in Soviet policy from ambivalence to support. Soviet policy toward East Germany was intimately intertwined with the evolution of Soviet goals in Germany as a whole within the postwar international environment. The main hypothesis of this work is that the Soviet Union pursued an ambivalent policy toward East Germany between 1945 and 1955 because of the unclear relationship among the World War II Allies sharing the joint occupation of Germany and because of competing and often contradictory goals pursued by the Soviet Union in Germany. The Kremlin did not settle on a policy of commitment to the continued existence of the German Democratic Republic (GDR) until 1955, fully a decade after the end of the war and almost six years after the official establishment of the two German states. The ambivalence of Soviet policy during that period was apparent in the contrasting policies of economic extraction on the one hand and the moderation in socialist transformation on the other, which served a mix of political and economic goals that were often incompatible. The dynamic interaction of the burgeoning conflict between the Soviet Union and the West, Soviet national security requirements, and opportunities for expanding Soviet influence in Germany produced the experimental policies which set East Germany apart from the East bloc during the postwar decade. The study will focus on the shift in Soviet policy and the complex of political and economic factors contributing to the change.

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