A Failed Empire: The Soviet Union in the Cold War from Stalin to Gorbachev

By Vladislav M. Zubok | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 3
STALEMATE IN GERMANY,
1945–1953

All we need is a bourgeois Germany if it is peaceful.

—Beria, May 1953

How could a sober-thinking Marxist, one who stands on the
positions close to socialism or Soviet power, believe in a bourgeois,
peaceful Germany … that would be under the control of four powers?

—Molotov, July 1953

Germany’s division was one of the most striking outcomes of the clash between the Soviet Union and the Western democracies. But only recently has critical reassessment of Western involvement emerged.1 And the full extent of Stalin’s role cannot be documented even today. The details of many smaller-scale decisions and their implementation remain clouded: Stalin’s cipher cables and many records of conversations are still classified in the Russian archives. Nevertheless, the available documents reveal that many developments in East Germany had Stalin’s unique imprint and some of them would never have taken place without his explicit authorization. The top Soviet political commissar in East Germany, Vladimir Semenov, recalled in the 1960s the “subtle diplomatic moves” that Stalin made in pursuing Soviet policy on the German Question.2

An examination of East German and Soviet archives has convinced some scholars that Stalin would have preferred to build a united non-Communist Germany, not to create a separate East German satellite.3 Some experts believe that the Soviets had never intended the Sovietization of East Germany but rather stumbled into it in the chaotic process of improvisation.4 My conclusions in this chapter are just the opposite. Evidence shows that Stalin and Soviet elites never entertained the idea of a neutral Germany. At a minimum, the Soviets wanted to neutralize the part of Germany under Western control and build their own socialist Germany in their zone of occupation. From the ideological angle, building socialism in the Eastern Zone brought together the Bolshevik internationalist dreams of the 1920s and the acquisition of the empire during the 1940s.

From the economic standpoint, the zone became the source of an enormous

-62-

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