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Volume III examines the most well-known century of genocide, the twentieth century. Opening with a discussion on the definitions of genocide and 'ethnic cleansing' and their relationships to modernity, it continues with a survey of the genocide studies field, racism and antisemitism. The four parts cover the impacts of Racism, Total War, Imperial Collapse, and Revolution; the crises of World War Two; the Cold War; and Globalization. Twenty-eight scholars with expertise in specific regions document thirty genocides from 1918 to 2021, in Europe, the Middle East, Africa, Asia, and Latin America. The cases range from the Armenian Genocide to Maoist China, from the Holocaust to Stalin's Ukraine, from Indonesia to Guatemala, Biafra, Bangladesh, Cambodia, Bosnia and Rwanda, and finally the contemporary fate of the Rohingyas in Myanmar and the ISIS slaughter of Yazidis in Iraq. The volume ends with a chapter on the strategies for genocide prevention moving forward.
Both Sheila Fitzpatrick and Anne Applebaum are fine historians who have made important contributions to the historiography of the Soviet Union. Applebaum works as a journalist and writer. But that is no reason to sniff at her contributions as ‘popular history’ or ‘history light’. In the books I have read, Gulag: A History (2003), Iron Curtain (2012) and Red Famine (2017), she has always strived to document her assertions, present logical and well-honed arguments and use archival and other documentary material where possible to forge new paths. One might not always agree with her conclusions, but that is a different question. If only more of our colleagues could write as well as Applebaum, think as clearly and attack important subjects the way she does, we would have a richer historiography as a result.
The second volume of The Cambridge History of Communism explores the rise of Communist states and movements after World War II. Leading experts analyze archival sources from formerly Communist states to re-examine the limits to Moscow's control of its satellites; the de-Stalinization of 1956; Communist reform movements; the rise and fall of the Sino-Soviet alliance; the growth of Communism in Asia, Africa and Latin America; and the effects of the Sino-Soviet split on world Communism. Chapters explore the cultures of Communism in the United States, Western Europe and China, and the conflicts engendered by nationalism and the continued need for support from Moscow. With the danger of a new Cold War developing between former and current Communist states and the West, this account of the roots, development and dissolution of the socialist bloc is essential reading.
The great Soviet victories at Stalingrad (January 1943) and Kursk (July 1943) reversed the tide of the war against the Nazis and made it likely that Soviet armies would occupy vast stretches of territory in Europe. Allied conferences at Teheran in November 1944 and Yalta in February 1945, and the notorious “percentages agreement” between Iosif Stalin and Winston Churchill in October 1944, confirmed that Eastern Europe, initially at least, would lie within the sphere of influence of the Soviet Union. Communists in the region also assumed that their countries would fall under Soviet sway in one form or another. Milovan Djilas famously recorded Stalin’s assertion during a wartime conversation: “This war is not as in the past: whoever occupies a territory also imposes on it his own social system. Everyone imposes his own system as far as his army can reach. It cannot be otherwise.” Georgi Dimitrov, head of the Soviet Central Committee’s Department of International Information, noted in late January 1945 that Stalin expected a war with the capitalist world within two decades of the Nazi defeat, and therefore it would be necessary to maintain a strong alliance among the Slavic countries of Eastern Europe to counter that aggression.
Yet there is very little evidence that Stalin had firm notions in 1944–45 about developing some sort of Communist bloc in Eastern Europe after the war. Instead, he probably shared many of the suppositions of two of the major policy-planning documents to emerge from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs during World War II, Maxim Litvinov’s “Memorandum” of January 11, 1945, and Ivan Maisky’s “Note” of January 10, 1944. The Litvinov document was prepared in association with the Yalta Conference and explored the possibility of establishing an agreement about three spheres of influence on the continent. Linked to the Soviet Union would be a zone in the east and north, including Finland, Sweden, Poland, Hungary, Czechoslovakia, Romania, Yugoslavia, Bulgaria, and Turkey.