Driving the Soviets up the Wall

Driving the Soviets up the Wall: Soviet-East German Relations, 1953-1961

Hope M. Harrison
Copyright Date: 2003
Pages: 368
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  • Book Info
    Driving the Soviets up the Wall
    Book Description:

    The Berlin Wall was the symbol of the Cold War. For the first time, this path-breaking book tells the behind-the-scenes story of the communists' decision to build the Wall in 1961. Hope Harrison's use of archival sources from the former East German and Soviet regimes is unrivalled, and from these sources she builds a highly original and provocative argument: the East Germans pushed the reluctant Soviets into building the Berlin Wall.

    This fascinating work portrays the different approaches favored by the East Germans and the Soviets to stop the exodus of refugees to West Germany. In the wake of Stalin's death in 1953, the Soviets refused the East German request to close their border to West Berlin. The Kremlin rulers told the hard-line East German leaders to solve their refugee problem not by closing the border, but by alleviating their domestic and foreign problems. The book describes how, over the next seven years, the East German regime managed to resist Soviet pressures for liberalization and instead pressured the Soviets into allowing them to build the Berlin Wall.Driving the Soviets Up the Wallforces us to view this critical juncture in the Cold War in a different light. Harrison's work makes us rethink the nature of relations between countries of the Soviet bloc even at the height of the Cold War, while also contributing to ongoing debates over the capacity of weaker states to influence their stronger allies.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-4072-4
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Maps
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Preface
    (pp. xi-xiv)
  5. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xv-xviii)
  6. Abbreviations
    (pp. xix-xxii)
  7. INTRODUCTION The Dynamics of Soviet–East German Relations in the Early Cold War
    (pp. 1-11)

    The two states that emerged from the defeated Germany were central to the development of the cold war. Rapidly evolving from defeated objects of Four Power policy, the two Germanys became important actors in their own right on the front line of the cold war. Both superpowers initially treated their part of Germany as war booty to be plundered and kept weak, but as the cold war developed, they would each come to see their part of Germany as an essential ally whose needs were intertwined with their own. For political, military, economic, and ideological reasons, the superpowers engaged in...

  8. CHAPTER ONE 1953: Soviet–East German Relations and Power Struggles in Moscow and Berlin
    (pp. 12-48)

    Our story begins with the pivotal six months from Stalin’s death in March to the East German leaders’ official visit to Moscow in August 1953. The developments in these months in Soviet policy vis-à-vis the GDR and in East German and Soviet domestic politics set the stage for much of the remainder of the GDR’s existence. This chapter will introduce the key dynamics and issues in Soviet–East German relations to be examined in this book: (1) Soviet vacillations about what policy to follow regarding the GDR; (2) Ulbricht’s resistance to alleviating his harsh socialist policies; (3) the East German...

  9. CHAPTER TWO 1956–1958: Soviet and East German Policy Debates in the Wake of the Twentieth Party Congress
    (pp. 49-95)

    Prior to the GDR uprising and Beria’s ouster, the Soviet leadership backed a more accommodating, gradual form of socialism in the GDR, which might have led to different developments in the GDR and in Germany as a whole than in fact took place. This chain of events occurred again in 1956 in the aftermath of the CPSU Twentieth Congress and Khrushchev’s secret speech denouncing Stalin. Just as the relaxation of policies in the GDR in 1953 encouraged a popular uprising, so the de-Stalinization policies of Khrushchev in 1956 opened the gates to revolts in Poland and Hungary, with the latter...

  10. CHAPTER THREE 1958–1960: Khrushchev Takes on the West in the Berlin Crisis
    (pp. 96-138)

    A bold initiative by Khrushchev and the reaction it provoked again takes center stage in this chapter. Yet Khrushchev’s initiation of the Berlin Crisis was very different from his de-Stalinization campaign and emphasis on peaceful coexistence at the Twentieth Congress described in the previous chapter. Khrushchev’s accommodating style toward the West became coercive in the fall of 1958. How and why did Khrushchev change his approach, and why did he decide to focus his foreign policy on Berlin and Germany? What was the role of Ulbricht in the crisis? This chapter and the next will examine these questions. The present...

  11. CHAPTER FOUR 1960–1961: Ulbricht, Khrushchev, and the Berlin Wall
    (pp. 139-223)

    Khrushchev’s procrastination in transferring to the GDR control over the access routes to West Berlin was a source of great frustration for Ulbricht. After watching from the sidelines for almost two years as Khrushchev negotiated with the West, Ulbricht activated his own Berlin policy in the fall of 1960. Consequently, Khrushchev found himself with narrowing room to maneuver between Western intransigence and Ulbricht’s unilateral moves to close the border in Berlin. In generating the Berlin Crisis, Khrushchev had unwittingly given his East German ally an instrument to exert pressure on Soviet policy. Khrushchev had served public notice that he would...

  12. Conclusion
    (pp. 224-234)

    This book has examined an important and insufficiently studied aspect of the cold war: Moscow’s complicated alliance relations, focusing on East Berlin. It was not just Washington that experienced difficulties controlling its allies; Moscow did as well. This work has portrayed three cases of the East German leadership resisting, hindering, and changing Soviet policies. In 1953 Ulbricht resisted the SovietNew Courseand ousted its East German proponents Zaisser and Herrnstadt. In 1956 and 1957 Ulbricht countered the more liberal view of the implications of the Soviet Twentieth Congress and the Hungarian uprising for the GDR, and he removed from...

  13. Notes
    (pp. 235-310)
  14. Note on Sources
    (pp. 311-314)
  15. Bibliography
    (pp. 315-336)
  16. Index
    (pp. 337-346)