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The Cold War International History Project
EDITOR: DAVID WOLFF
ADVISING EDITOR: JAMES G. HERSHBERG
RESEARCH ASSISTANT: ANDREW GRAUER
Special thanks to: Benjamin Aldrich-Moodie, Tom Blanton, Monika Borbely, David Bortnik, Malcolm Byrne, Nedialka Douptcheva
The Cold War International History Project was established at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, D.C.
Cold War International History Project Bulletin
Issue 10 (March 1998)
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Photo on cover: From left to right: Anastas Mikoian, Nikita Khrushchev, Iosif Stalin, Georgii Malenkov, Lavrentii Beriia, and Viacheslav Molotov.
From Zubok, Vladislav and Konstantin Pleshakov, Inside the Kremlin's Cold War. Copyright © 1996 by Harvard University Press. Photo printed wid
“We (the CC CPSU Presidium members] were all stunned, though we knew much And now it all was verified and confirmed by documents.”
A. I. Mikoian Memoirs1
Leadership Transition in a Fractured Bloc :
On 1 March 1953, I.V. Stalin retired from a late night feast with Comrades Beriia, Bulganin, Khrushchev and Malenkov to read some top secret files. The first told him that the Soviet gold reserve had reached 2049 tons. The second was bad news: despite imaginative efforts, Soviet organs had failed to “rub out” (skovyrnut') Tito."
3 In the course of the following few hours, Stalin himself was laid low by a stroke. On 5 March 1953, with Stalin in a terminal coma, an emergency plenary session (plenum) of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CC CPSU) was called. The mood was somber and the final resolution focused on one point. 4
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In connection with Comrade Stalin's serious illness, which means his longer or shorter non-participation in leadership (duties), to consider the most important party and government task during Comrade Stalin's absence to be the unbroken, correct leadership of the country, which in turn requires complete leadership unity and the impermissibility of any kind of division or panic.
Party Congress on 25 February 1956 show the exclusively domestic concerns driving a decision that would have fateful consequences for the international Communist movement and, in particular, the Sino-Soviet relationship. The origins of the speech are documented with such important Russian sources as Malin notes6 and the Mikoian diary, while the Polish archives provide an impromptu “second secret speech” by Khrushchev to the Polish sixth party plenum in March 1956. Here Khrushchev describes in some detail Stalin's “persecution complex" and its dark consequences.
The Berlin 1953 section presents multiple perspectives from German, Russian and Hungarian archives on this earliest East-bloc uprising against Communist rule, quashed in a day by Soviet occupation forces stationed in Germany. Unlike 1956 in Hungary and 1968 in Czechoslovakia, no invasion was necessary. To broaden perspective even further, materials come from party, military and state sources. On the actual day of maximum unrest, June 17, coverage becomes almost hourly thanks to the frequent reporting schedule of the Russian military authorities repressing the “disorders.” Other highlights are Beriia's groveling, unheeded pleas from prison to old associates in the Presidium, following his arrest in late June (he was shot in December 1953) and the remarkable meeting, literally on the eve of the German uprising, between Soviet and Hungarian leaderships that shows reforms being suggested to Budapest that are in perfect parallel with the New Course pressed on Berlin. Soviet plans for internal change were bloc-wide in scope. 8
The Yugoslavia section examines the first fracture in the Communist bloc and the special role played by the Southern Slavs in both Stalinist and post-Stalinist international relations. Possibly, the most exciting materials in this section are Stalin's conversations with Yugoslav and Bulgarian leaders in 1946 and 1948, with detailed introduction and notes by Leonid Gibianskii. These Stalin conversations, together with others (Mao Zedong, Wilhelm Pieck, Kim Il Sung) published in previous CWIHP Bulletins, are part of a growing body of material on Stalin being assembled by CWIHP. It would be hard to pick any single individual more important to this period and yet remarkably little is known about Stalin as a Cold War statesman. Much material remains bottled up in the Presidential Archive of the Russian Federation. Control of Stalin's archive was considered a perquisite of highest office in Soviet times and the practice continues. It remains unclear, however, how much material there really is, since Stalin did not like note-taking. But he did like to talk. 9 As Averell Harriman said in Stalin's presence when escorting Harry Hopkins on a mission to convince the
Stalin did not tarry long, dying that very night at 9:50, but the succession crises, against which the plenum had warned, dragged on for years.
This period of collective leadership," as it was known, also defined a new era of the Cold War. Whether for reasons of state, matters of principle or simply convenient pretext, decisions on current foreign policy and interpretations of past decisions became linked to the personal political fortunes of a series of top leaders. The falls of Berija, Malenkov, Molotov, Zhukov, and finally Khrushchev himself are linked to such key Cold War topics as the German question, nuclear strategy, Yugoslavia, "Open Skies” and the Cuban Missile Crisis, respectively. With the West, hesitancy gave way to renewed hostility. Insecure and changing leadership in the Kremlin
5 was a poor base on which to try and build détente. Stalin was gone, but the nature of the succession to his autocratic regime guaranteed long life to the Cold War.
Several sections of this Cold War International History Project Bulletin 10 cover the immediate postStalin period from a variety of angles. The Plenums section presents excerpted transcripts from three gatherings of the CC CPSU at which bitter words of leadership disagreement were spoken in the interstices of foreign policy debate. In addition, new materials on Khrushchev's denunciation of Stalin in a “secret speech” to the 20th
versity). R 7stitute (