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Thread: The Die is Cast: The Soviet Union & The Cold War

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    Colonel Dr. Gonzo's Avatar

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    The Die is Cast: The Soviet Union & The Cold War

    The Die Is Cast
    The Soviet Union & The Cold War




    October 1945. The Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, after four gruelling years of war against the forces of fascism and reaction, stood bloodied yet victorious. From Dresden to Sakhalin, from Petsamo to Tehran, the Red Army had weathered the most vicious of storms. However behind the pomp of Red Square and the medal-choked breasts of heroic soldiers, the Soviet Union was all but crippled. 20 million lay dead, while millions more were left homeless and hungry. Farms, factories, mines, mills, railways, roads, towns, villages, cities all destroyed across a thousand miles of apocalyptic battlefield. Iron production was at 27% of pre-war levels, steel at 45%, electricity output at 66%. In Baku and across the Urals, oil refineries untouched by war were left unmanned as valuable trucks, resources and engineers were poured into the war effort. The Ukrainian SSR had lost one in six of its population, the ‘Hero City’ of Leningrad, over a million. Across the once occupied western regions fighting still raged between loyalist partisans and thousands of nationalists, fascists and opportunists who had sided with Hitler’s invaders.


    Domestically, the cost of the war had had a massive effect on Soviet society. In 1941, the Communist regime had been shocked by the joyous response the Germans had received in the Ukraine and former Baltic States. Seeing their armies crumble before the Nazi onslaught of Barbarossa, only the vastness of the steppe and the coming of a bitter winter had saved Moscow. Reduced mentally and physically to a shadow of his former self, Stalin had turned away from the internationalism and rigid dogma of Marxist-Leninism in order to rally a desperate people. Soon it was not the global proletariat under the hammer and sickle being lauded in the posters and film reels but the Russian nation and the cross, as patriotism and the Orthodox Church, once anathema, were drafted into the Soviet war effort. Meanwhile as vast swathes of industry were uprooted and re-established in the Russian heartlands, only the material and financial aid of the decadent United States bolstered the USSR in the dark days of 1942 and 1943. Even in the fields, the collective farm system, Stalin’s controversial pet project, was relaxed in order to appease the much-maligned peasant population.


    Now with the war at an end, a new global balance of power had established itself. Long gone were the days of Lend-Lease and the amiable President Roosevelt. In their place stood the staunchly anti-communist Truman, leader of the most powerful nation on earth, and arbiter of the atomic bomb. The man who had praised the Nazi-Soviet war as a chance to kill off both, he held grave suspicions of Stalin and his intentions in Europe and the Far East. While the President’s less cynical advisors, such as Secretary of State James Byrnes, looked forward towards an international era of peace and democracy, epitomised by the UN Charter and Bretton Woods, Stalin saw his wartime gains as a concrete sphere, apart from the Americans and their allies. Already the establishment of a communist government in Poland in June had vindicated Truman in his own eyes. The implications were obvious. Following Japan’s surrender in August, the Soviet Union had been denied an occupational zone in the Home Islands, while in Korea, tensions between the Soviet north and US-administered south were already starting to show. Within only months of victory, it seemed a new bi-polar world was beginning to form.


    The chaos and turmoil of the war had left the autocratic Stalin an exhausted man. Faced with the grand task of rebuilding the nation for a second time in twenty years, a devastated population, vast new tracks of land in Eastern Europe and Asia to administer, and the returning spectre of ‘capitalist encirclement’, the generalissimo’s health deteriorated. Already living with a severe case of atherosclerosis due to heavy smoking and a poor diet, Stalin had suffered a minor stroke in May 1945, shortly following VE Day. On 9th October, after a late night of drinking and American cowboy films at his private dacha, the dictator had retired for bed. He never made it. The following morning he was discovered by an NKVD bodyguard, face down on his bedroom floor, still in uniform, having suffered a fatal heart attack. By the time doctors had arrived, it was far too late.

    Stalin was dead.


    ---------------------------------------------------------

    Author's Note: All the stuff relating to Stalin is true, 1945 did see him suffer several strokes and heart attacks. He even loved Westerns, though relied on an interpretor due to a lack of subtitles on the stolen films.
    Last edited by Dr. Gonzo; 01-03-2012 at 16:54.

  2. #2

  3. #3
    Swastika alert.

    Nice opening, although Stalin had abandoned internationalism quite some time before 1941.

    It will be interesting to see what becomes of the Soviet Union after 1945. Stalin always seemed to be rather cautious in his foriegn policy and mostly concerned with protecting the Soviet Union. Depending on whether the hawks or the doves take control over the USSR we could have a very different Cold War.

  4. #4
    Father of the Nation Woody Man's Avatar
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    Nice to see you back again, certainly a well written opening!
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  5. #5
    Quote Originally Posted by ATTACK77 View Post
    Swastika alert.
    There is no swastika in that picture.

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    Pantomacatalasecesionanis ta

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    Quote Originally Posted by Dr. Gonzo View Post
    He even loved Westerns, though relied on a live interpretor due to a lack of subtitles
    Live would be pretty simple if subtitles appeared under our chin as we spoke

    Great line.
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    Quote Originally Posted by ATTACK77 View Post
    Swastika alert.

    Nice opening, although Stalin had abandoned internationalism quite some time before 1941.

    It will be interesting to see what becomes of the Soviet Union after 1945. Stalin always seemed to be rather cautious in his foriegn policy and mostly concerned with protecting the Soviet Union. Depending on whether the hawks or the doves take control over the USSR we could have a very different Cold War.
    Quote Originally Posted by Battle bunny View Post
    There is no swastika in that picture.
    Yes there is, Dr. Gonzo has already contacted me and he will be removing it.
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  8. #8
    Incredibly interesting, can't wait to see another alternate history Soviet Union.

  9. #9
    So I take it tomorrow belongs to the past then?
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    In no way or form may a swastika be shown on this forum, whether it is only 1/2 or 3/4 of the image. It is not allowed.

    It is not a grey area, it is actually very clearly defined.
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  11. #11
    No Stalin? I'm sure the Cold War will be over by Christmas

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  13. #13
    First Lieutenant Patukov's Avatar

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    Who will lead the USSR?Beria?Molotov?Zhukov?

  14. #14
    Colonel Dr. Gonzo's Avatar

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    ATTACK77: Well yes but the 'practicality' of Socialism in One Country is certainly different from dissolving the Comintern and accepting Patriarch of Moscow's blessing.

    I hope to explore alternatives in Soviet foreign policy. You're right, Stalin seemed interested in little more than gaining Tsarist Russia's sphere of influence circa 1914. I think hawk and dove are bit simplistic for some of the ideas and motivations floating around the Politburo in 1945 but we shall we.

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    Last edited by Dr. Gonzo; 28-03-2011 at 05:13.

  15. #15
    Colonel Dr. Gonzo's Avatar

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    Chapter .1
    The Duumvirate




    Following the discovery of Stalin’s body by NKVD agents, unsurprisingly it was their chief, Lavrentiy Beria, who was first of the Soviet leadership to be informed. The dictator’s death was well-timed for Beria. Although no evidence has ever surfaced suggesting foul play, papers from the state archives reveal Stalin was preparing for the break-up of Beria’s intelligence empire and the removal of his Georgian clique from power[1]. Regardless, the power hungry Beria capitalised on his knowledge, leaving the Politburo and Council of People’s Commissars unaware of the situation for five crucial hours. Beria, despite his power, was politically isolated[2], and used the time gained to move against his main rival, Andrei Zhdanov. A relative newcomer to Stalin’s inner circle, Zhdanov had risen to notoriety for his political leadership during the Siege of Leningrad. Since then he had been charged with directing Soviet cultural development, becoming the USSR’s de facto chief of propaganda in the process, as well holding the position of Second Secretary of the Communist Party.


    Zhdanov was not only powerful politically. Rare amongst the Soviet leadership, Stalin had shown genuine warmth towards Zhdanov, lavishing him with praise and paternal affection. All in all these facts made him the obvious heir apparent within the Party apparatus and beyond. By the time an emergency meeting of the Politburo had been assembled late on October 10th, Zhdanov, along with several of his Leningrad protégés, had been detained on grounds of Trotskyite agitation. The charges stemmed from practical measures the City’s defenders had implemented regarding party democracy and the commissar system during the war[3]. Although not officially arrested, Zhdanov was unaware of Stalin’s death while he was questioned at Lubyanka. As the Soviet leadership met without the late dictator’s favourite, the first order of business was to assign a successor to the premiership.


    Vyacheslav Molotov, People’s Commissar for Foreign Affairs, was the next in line as Deputy Chairman of the Council, and indeed had held the position of Chairman for several years prior to the war. However on hearing of Stalin’s death, Molotov had been wary to succeed him. Known as something of a grey eminence, “the best filing clerk in Russia”, went the popular phrase, Molotov was well aware that he lacked the charisma and presence to dominate the government as Stalin had. Prior to the meeting however, Beria had been in contact regarding the allegations against Zhdanov before pledging his full support behind Molotov. The implications clear to the seasoned diplomat, Molotov wearily accepted Beria’s support, before later accepting the Chairmanship, as was Politburo custom, via unanimous acclamation.



    Stalin's would-be successors (l-r): Lavrentiy Beria, Andrei Zhdanov, Vyacheslav Molotov, Georgy Malenkov


    Following Molotov’s ascension, Georgy Malenkov, one of Beria’s few allies outside of the security services, called on the Politburo to deny Zhdanov the Party leadership. Given the sudden turn of events many were suspicious of the junior member’s motivations, with Vasily Popov demanding the release of the Second Secretary before such talks began. Things changed however when Malenkov nominated Andrei Andreyev for the position of General-Secretary. Andreyev, leader of the Supreme Soviet[4] and considered one of Stalin’s right-hand men during the war, was both a fierce rival of Zhdanov and second in line for the position. When Popov again questioned the irregularity of Zhdanov's absense, Beria openly threatened to have him join the Second Secretary for questioning. Uncomfortable with the charismatic Leningrader holding any major posts, the new Chairman seconded the motion. Popular and uncontroversial, and fearful of gaining Beria's ire, the Politburo quickly swung behind a pleasantly surprised Andreyev. Stalin’s death saw other promotions as well, with Nikolai Bulganin succeeding him at the Defence Commissariat, while the noted diplomat and Old Bolshevik Anastas Mikoyan took over from Molotov in foreign affairs.


    Despite the image of collective leadership touted at the meeting on October 10th and across the pages of Pravda, the Soviet Union had entered the period of the Molotov-Beria duumvirate. In return for accepting his dominance over the security services and being granted a say in government, Beria struck out to secure Molotov’s dominance in the Politburo. Zhdanov, still technically Second Secretary of the CPSU, was summarily tried and executed by the NKVD in November for treason. However at the insistence of Molotov, his talented lieutenants, the young technocrats Kosygin, Rodionov and Voznesensky suffered only temporary demotions. Zhdanov’s post filled by Malenkov, efforts were turned towards curtailing Andreyev’s powers within the Party. Technically, thanks to Stalin’s methodical rise to power, the position of General-Secretary had come to overshadow the Chairmanship as the prime seat of power within the Soviet Union. However much of this had been down to Stalin’s personality and connections. Despite his experience in the legislature, Andreyev had virtually no allies within the Party structure.


    Led by Malenkov, Molotov’s supporters within the Party pressed for ‘democratic’ measures. Isolated, by February 1946 Andreyev had suffered a major loss of powers to the Central Committee, and with them was granted the more modest title of First Secretary[5], effectively making Malenkov political chief in all but name. While the new regime swiftly neutered opposition within the Soviet upper echelons, a liberal approach was taken elsewhere. The system of Stalinist repression established in the 1930s had been overwhelmingly based on the late dictator’s will and whims. Now faced with re-building the devastated USSR and putting a stamp on their new era, the duumvirate looked to reconciliation over reprisals. The first sign of change came on 2nd November 1945 with the rescinding of General Order No. 270. Proclaimed by Stalin in August 1941, No. 270 declared surrender to German forces a traitorous offence.



    Millions of Soviet troops surrendered during the lightning German advances of Operation Barbarossa


    By the war‘s end, millions of former Soviet POWs were being held in filtration camps to decide their fate. Although most had escaped criminal charges, by the time of Stalin’s death some 564,000 soldiers had been deemed guilty and designated for the penal battalions, or worse, hard labour in the infamous Gulags. The policy was unpopular with many, particularly the Red Army, who saw it as punishment for the debilitating military purges enacted by Stalin and his subordinates. Beria, as much to blame as anyone, was keen to ingratiate himself with the powerful Marshal Zhukov. Meanwhile the cold but logical Molotov rightly saw half a million men as a valuable commodity in the post-war economic recovery and ignored protests from diehard Stalinists such as Andreyev and Kaganovich[6]. Alongside soldiers, the filtration camps were also processing millions of civilians press ganged into the German war effort as slave labour, the so-called Ostarbeiters.


    The number of Soviet civilians forced to work in German factories is unknown, with estimates ranging from 3 to upwards of 5.5 million. However due to the chaos of war and the high mortality rates suffered through poor rations, brutal discipline and Allied bombing, the true figures may never be known. Regardless, Stalin had viewed the ’traitorous’ Ostarbeiters as equal to POWs in his contempt and plans were already in place for over 80% to be removed to remote labour colonies in Siberia and Central Asia. Their fate of no interest to Zhukov, Beria continued to support the mass relocations, as they would only strengthen his influence through the NKVD’s vast political prison system. Molotov and Malenkov however touted the economic ramifications. Well over half of the slave labourers had come from the Ukrainian SSR, by far the most devastated region of the Soviet Union.


    Her fields the breadbasket of the nation, the Agricultural Commissariat was already warning of famine in 1946 if massive labour shortages were not combated. Mikoyan too criticised Beria’s wishes. With his department working non-stop to repatriate hundreds of thousands of Soviets from the Allied Occupation Zones in western Germany, the Foreign Commissar saw the possible net result of no more than an increase in the Gulag prison population to be an insult to his efforts. Faced with such broad opposition, the secret policeman relented. Ultimately however some 100,000 Ostarbeiters, those who supposedly had voluntarily migrated to Germany in late 1941, would be sent to Beria’s camps, while the millions directly repatriated to the fields of Ukraine and Byelorussia would suffer sporadic discrimination as traitors and war-dodgers, for well over a generation[7].



    Female Ostarbeiter at the IG Farbenwerke Auschwitz 1943



    [1] In 1946 OTL, just this happened. Beria retained a ministerial position, but the new MVD and MGB were put under the control of men outside of Beria’s security cabal.

    [2] As the head inquisitor of the purges, few Party members cared for Beria. Even Stalin held him in low regard (arguably how he survived for so long) and passed him over for medals and honours time and again.

    [3] In 1948 OTL, following Zhdanov’s death due to alcoholism, his influential clique was attacked by Beria on these grounds, known as the Leningrad Affair. No paranoid Stalin and Zhdanov’s standing mean the reprisals will me moderate but only comparatively.

    [4]
    The USSR’s bicameral legislature, divided between the lower Soviet of the Union, and the upper Soviet of Nationalities.

    [5] A title used for most of the 1950s and early 1960s IOTL, before Brezhnev reverted to the title of General-Secretary.

    [6] IOTL The surviving victims of General Order No. 270 would finally be pardoned during de-Stalinisation in 1955.

    [7] IOTL Millions of Ostarbeiters were imprisoned following the war, and even after serving their sentences suffered official persecution as citizens of “questionable loyalty” well into the 1960s. The negative economic ramifications were argued by many in 1945, though obviously not to Stalin’s face. Here no such state-sponsored blackballing is done, but that doesn’t stop ordinary citizens spreading rumours of fascist sympathies or claims of palatial living in Germany while patriots died on the frontlines.

    Last edited by Dr. Gonzo; 01-03-2012 at 16:53.

  16. #16
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  17. #17
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    I second mon camarade and eagerly await further updates concerning the future of the true victor of the war against Fascism.

  18. #18
    In reference to my previous comment, wasn't your last AAR "Tomorrow Belongs To Me?"

    Just to avoid any further moderator comments, though, I might suggest that the returning Ostarbeiter "volunteer for service with the Chief Administration of Corrective Labor Camps" or some other polite rephrasing of "hard labour in the infamous Gulags."
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  19. #19
    Great stuff, but where's Kruschev?

  20. #20
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    Wonderful! Subscribed.

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