Grand Delusion


This important book draws on vital new archival material to unravel the mystery of Hitler's invasion of Russia in 1941 and Stalin's enigmatic behavior on the eve of the attack. Gabriel Gorodetsky challenges the currently popular view that Stalin was about to invade Germany when Hitler made a preemptive strike. He argues instead that Stalin was actually negotiating for European peace, asserting that Stalin followed an unscrupulous Realpolitik that served well-defined geopolitical interests by seeking to redress ...
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This important book draws on vital new archival material to unravel the mystery of Hitler's invasion of Russia in 1941 and Stalin's enigmatic behavior on the eve of the attack. Gabriel Gorodetsky challenges the currently popular view that Stalin was about to invade Germany when Hitler made a preemptive strike. He argues instead that Stalin was actually negotiating for European peace, asserting that Stalin followed an unscrupulous Realpolitik that served well-defined geopolitical interests by seeking to redress the European balance of power.

Gorodetsky substantiates his argument through the most thorough scrutiny ever of Soviet archives for the period, including the files of the Russian foreign ministry, the general staff, the security forces, and the entire range of military intelligence available to Stalin at the time. According to Gorodetsky, Stalin was eagerly anticipating a peace conference where various accords imposed on Russia would be revised. But the delusion of being able to dictate a new European order blinded him to the lurking German danger, and his erroneous diagnosis of the political scene-colored by his perennial suspicion of Great Britain-led him to misconstrue the evidence of his own and Britain's intelligence services. Gorodetsky highlights the sequence of military blunders that resulted from Stalin's determination to appease Germany-blunders that provide the key to understanding the calamity that befell Russia on 22 June 1941.

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Editorial Reviews

Anthony Beevor
[A] fascinating and important book.
Victorino Matus
An excellent new history.
Peter Clarke
Gorodetsky's book is a landmark in establishing a convincing historical interpretation. Based on prodigious archival research, its forte is to bring the evidence from hitherto inaccessible Soviet sources to bear upon many disputed points in this story.
Sunday Times, London
Donald Cameron Watt
Gabriel Gorodetsky is a distinguished Israeli historian who has made the study of Russian foreign policy in this period his own. He has been rewarded by a degree of access - not only to Soviet political and diplomatic records, but also to selected records of the NKVD and Soviet military intelligence - which ought to make other historians green with envy. He has now produced a work which probably goes as far as any can to answer the question: why did so clever and suspicious a man as Stalin take a mixture of German disinformation and muddle for reliable intelligence...
Independent, London
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Gorodetsky's diplomatic history of the period immediately preceding WWII effectively refutes the argument, made most popular by Viktor Suvorov's Icebreaker, that Stalin authorized the Nazi-Soviet nonaggression pact of 1939 because he was preparing to bring revolutionary war to Europe and wanted to neutralize Hitler. Having examined recently opened Soviet archives, Gorodetsky, a professor of history at Tel Aviv University, shows that, while Stalin feared a German attack, he thought he could work out a traditional balance-of-power arrangement with Germany that established recognized spheres of influence. The reason Stalin succumbed to this delusion, according to Gorodetsky, was that he distrusted Britain more than he feared Hitler. He loathed the idea of becoming Britain's pawn, believing (not without reason, as it turned out) that a Soviet-British alliance would make cannon fodder of the poorly prepared Red Army. Gorodetsky reveals that Stalin both courted and bullied the leaders of Bulgaria and Turkey in hopes of gaining control of the Bosphorus and then using that control as a bargaining chip when striking a balance of power in the region. As for the contention that Stalin planned to export revolution by war, Gorodetsky, like many before him, observes that Stalin's purges of the officer corps had rendered the Red Army ill-prepared for a defensive war, much less an attack on Nazi Germany. Though stiffly written in some places, this thorough analysis of Soviet diplomatic brinksmanship makes it more than clear that Stalin was ultimately driven more by a combination of paranoia and realpolitik than by Bolshevik ideology. (Sept.) Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
The latest work from Gorodetsky (history, Tel Aviv Univ.; Stafford Cripp's Mission to Moscow, 1940-42) approaches the 1940-42 period in an exhaustive detail that has never before been possible. Making extensive use of recently opened Russian archives, Gorodetsky reexamines the events surrounding Hitler's 1941 invasion of Russia. Drawing on the files of the Russian foreign ministry, the general staff, the security forces, and personal diaries, he gives as complete a picture as possible of this most tumultuous time, giving the reader new insights into the war's tense negotiations and key players' political motivations. This book will dispel many of the long-held myths about the start of history's most written-about war. No historical collection can afford to be without this book; highly recommended for both academic and public libraries.--Mark E. Ellis, Albany State Univ., GA Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
This literary sensation is an enthralling narrative and an outstanding historical investigation.
Anthony Beevor
[A] fascinating and important book.
Daily Telegraph
Victorino Matus
An excellent new history.
American Spectator
Richard Overy
[A] scholarly triumph. Gorodetsky scrupulously reconstructs the months leading up to the debacle, using a wide range of newly available Soviet sources...There is a refreshing originality about Gorodetsky's approach...
The Times Literary Supplement
Sunday Telegraph
This really is a classic of the new, post-Cold War history. It renders a whole shelf-full of books obsolete.
—Niall Ferguson
Kirkus Reviews
An intense, and densely written, study of the strategic and diplomatic reasons for the German invasion of Russia in WWII and of why Stalin wasn't better prepared to defend the country. Gorodetsky (East European History/Tel Aviv University, Israel) draws on a wealth of Soviet materials previously unavailable, as well as on material from German and British archives, to argue that this lack of preparation until just weeks before Germany launched its attack was not motivated by political naïveté but rather by Stalin's own brand of realpolitik—a hope for European peace on terms dictated by Germany, terms in which Stalin would have a part, as an ally of Hitler's through the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact. Gorodetsky looks carefully at the various corespondences and examines the aims that blinded Stalin to the dangers that were building as Germany deployed its troops closer and closer to the Russian border. In addition, Gorodetsky also examines the effect that the Stalinist purges of the 1930s had in Russia's attempts to formulate a strategic response to the German buildup of troops without provoking the Wehrmacht into further action. Gorodetsky's arguments are clear once the reader has managed to unearth them from the mounds of dense, jargon-filled prose in which they are buried. There are few sentences shorter then a full paragraph, and the book is more than twice as long as it needs be. Gorodetsky's concluding chapter, a concise 7 pages, sums up all the 300 pages that precede it. Alas for the reader that this chapter comes at the book's end rather than at its beginning.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780300084597
  • Publisher: Yale University Press
  • Publication date: 3/1/2001
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 434
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.97 (d)

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations and Maps viii
Preface ix
Introduction: The Premises of Stalin's Foreign Policy 1
1. 'Potential Enemies': London and Moscow at Loggerheads 10
'The Truce of the Bear' 10
'He Who Sups with the Devil' 13
Cripps's Mission to Moscow 19
2. The Scramble for the Balkans 23
Soviet-Italian Collusion 23
The Soviet Seizure of Bessarabia 29
British Schemes for the Balkans 35
The Vienna Award: The German Encroachment in the Balkans 39
Clash over the Danube 44
3. On a Collision Course 48
Drang nach Osten: The Initial Plans 48
Soviet Intelligence and the German Threat 52
The Bulgarian Corridor to the Turkish Straits 57
4. The Road to 'Barbarossa' 67
Molotov's Visit to Berlin 67
Hitler Opts for War 75
Postscript: Preventive War? 86
5. The Curtain Falls on the Balkans 89
The British Perspective: Co-operation or Embroilment? 89
Bulgaria Turns to the Axis 95
The Urge for the Straits 102
6. The Red Army on Alert 115
The Soviet Defence Plans 115
The Bankruptcy of the Military 124
The Gathering Clouds 130
7. At the Crossroads: The Yugoslav Coup d'Etat 137
8. Churchill's Warning to Stalin 155
British Intelligence and 'Barbarossa' 155
The 'Cryptic' Warning 159
Rumours of War and a Separate Peace 170
The Bogy of a Separate Peace 173
Aftermath 176
9. Japan: The Avenue to Germany 179
10. 'Appeasement': A New German-Soviet Pact? 202
11. 'The Special Threatening Military Period' 227
On the Alert 227
Emergency Deployment 237
12. The Flight of Rudolf Hess to England 246
The Conspiracy 246
The Mission 248
Fictitious Negotiations 254
'Running the Bolshevik Hare' 262
Hess as Perceived by the Kremlin 267
13. On the Eve of War 275
'Mobilization Is War!' 275
A Middle East Diversion: The Flaw in British Intelligence 281
The Tass Communique 287
14. Calamity 294
Self-Deception 294
London: 'This Avalanche Breathing Fire and Death' 301
22 June 1941: The Long Weekend 306
Conclusion 316
Notes 324
Bibliography 382
Index 394
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