False Optimism on the Eve of Hitler’s Victory

  • Jonathan Haslam
Part of the Studies in Soviet History and Society book series (SSHS)


The anxieties of early summer had given way to an autumn of illusions. But this became apparent only with the traumatic reawakening caused by Hitler’s unexpected ascent to power at the end of January 1933. For two inversely related sets of events conspired to delude the Soviet leadership — distracted by a crisis within the Party over the famine and eager for good omens from any quarter1 — into the belief that “the balance of forces in the international arena” had “altered” to their “advantage”.2 Firstly, the threat of German revanchism sufficed to cajole both Poland and France into a final settlement of their differences with the USSR; and, secondly, those who had always held strong reservations about the unalloyed utility of extreme nationalist sentiment in Germany, because of its close association with fierce anti-Bolshevism, had their fears assuaged by the abrupt decline in Nazi electoral appeal.


Foreign Policy Foreign Minister Final Settlement European History Abrupt Decline 
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Notes and References

  1. 1.
    The grave crisis in Soviet agriculture led directly to a questioning of Stalin’s leadership and there were rumours that Stalin offered his resignation. The evidence on this is only circumstantial but comes from various sources, all of whom were in Moscow at the time: V. Serge, Portrait de Staline (Paris, 1940), p. 95; N. Basseches, S TALIN (London, 1952); and Strang (Moscow) to Simon (London), 11.10.32: FO 371/16322. The resultant disciplinary measures taken by the regime against the embryonic opposition within the Party early in October may not have been as severe as Stalin would have liked, thus leaving him still in a state of insecurity. He was then hit by the death of his wife on the 8 November, an event which appears to have left him incapable of making clear decisions for a number of weeks. A report from the British embassy in Moscow dated the 12 December gives some indication of the paralysis now gripping the counsels of state: Affairs are now going so quickly from bad to worse that they dare not tell the truth to Stalin. Stalin, who, since his recent domestic tragedy, is reported to be more morose and silent than ever, is said to be living in a void no one dare enter with the truth on his lips. — Ovey (Moscow) to Simon (London), 12.12.32: FO 371/16324.Google Scholar
  2. 4.
    “Does Hitler still exist?”, asked Léon Bailby, in L’Intransigeant on the 29 September: cited in J-B. Duroselle, La Décadence 1932–1939 (Paris, 1979) p. 58.Google Scholar
  3. 12.
    G. Cioranesco et al., Aspects des relations russo-roumaines (Paris, 1967) pp. 128–9.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Jonathan Haslam 1983

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jonathan Haslam
    • 1
  1. 1.University of BirminghamUK

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