Cover image for Grand delusion : Stalin and the German invasion of Russia
Grand delusion : Stalin and the German invasion of Russia
Gorodetsky, Gabriel, 1945-
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
New Haven [Conn.] : Yale University Press, [1999]

Physical Description:
xvi, 408 pages, 8 unnumbered pages of plates : illustrations ; 25 cm
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Central Library D754.S65 G67 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

On Order



A history of the German invasion of Russia in 1941, in the light of archival material. It challenges both the Russian cult of the Great Patriotic Struggle and the distorted Western version created during the Cold War, arguing that the clash was caused by the struggle for the mastery of Europe.

Author Notes

Gabriel Gorodetsky holds the Samuel Rubin Chair of Russian and East European History at Tel Aviv University

Reviews 4

Booklist Review

Stalin's role and motives in the Molotov Ribbentrop nonaggression pact and the subsequent German invasion of the Soviet Union remain a subject of dispute among diplomatic historians. Gorodetsky, a professor of Russian and East European History at Tel Aviv University, has utilized newly available material from Soviet archives to reach a sensible, if noncontroversial, conclusion. He rejects the currently fashionable view that Stalin had his own plans to invade Germany, "forcing" Hitler into a preemptive strike. He also rejects the "Stalin as victim" thesis, which suggests that Stalin forged the pact with Hitler only after his desperate efforts to form a united front with Britain and France were rebuffed. Rather, Gorodetsky marshals considerable evidence to show Stalin as pragmatic, cynical, and wholly devoted to advancing the Soviet Union's national interest, with little regard for the world revolution. Of course, Stalin's deep, almost pathological suspicion of Britain and France is quite evident. Conversely, his "trust" in Hitler as a fellow rogue with whom he could negotiate was a tragic delusion. --Jay Freeman

Publisher's Weekly Review

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.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

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.ÄMark E. Ellis, Albany State Univ., GA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Choice Review

Gorodetsky (Tel Aviv Univ.) has written a masterful account of Stalin's foreign policy in the year leading up to the German invasion of Soviet Russia in June 1941. He uses an array of new archives and material to show that Stalin was neither an ideological zealot, planning to attack Hitler in July 1941, nor a fool, totally oblivious to the mounting danger of the Nazi invasion. However, his argument that Stalin was simply a geopolitician is off the mark. As many historians have shown, including this author in his Caught between Roosevelt and Stalin: America's Ambassador to Moscow (CH, Jul'98), Stalin was committed to both ideology and realpolitik. One or the other was primary, depending on circumstances, but Stalin always returned to Marxism-Leninism to comprehend the world. The book has a useful bibliography. Upper-division undergraduates and above. D. J. Dunn; Southwest Texas State University

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations and Mapsp. viii
Prefacep. ix
Introduction: The Premises of Stalin's Foreign Policyp. 1
1. 'Potential Enemies': London and Moscow at Loggerheadsp. 10
'The Truce of the Bear'p. 10
'He Who Sups with the Devil'p. 13
Cripps's Mission to Moscowp. 19
2. The Scramble for the Balkansp. 23
Soviet-Italian Collusionp. 23
The Soviet Seizure of Bessarabiap. 29
British Schemes for the Balkansp. 35
The Vienna Award: The German Encroachment in the Balkansp. 39
Clash over the Danubep. 44
3. On a Collision Coursep. 48
Drang nach Osten: The Initial Plansp. 48
Soviet Intelligence and the German Threatp. 52
The Bulgarian Corridor to the Turkish Straitsp. 57
4. The Road to 'Barbarossa'p. 67
Molotov's Visit to Berlinp. 67
Hitler Opts for Warp. 75
Postscript: Preventive War?p. 86
5. The Curtain Falls on the Balkansp. 89
The British Perspective: Co-operation or Embroilment?p. 89
Bulgaria Turns to the Axisp. 95
The Urge for the Straitsp. 102
6. The Red Army on Alertp. 115
The Soviet Defence Plansp. 115
The Bankruptcy of the Militaryp. 124
The Gathering Cloudsp. 130
7. At the Crossroads: The Yugoslav Coup d'Etatp. 137
8. Churchill's Warning to Stalinp. 155
British Intelligence and 'Barbarossa'p. 155
The 'Cryptic' Warningp. 159
Rumours of War and a Separate Peacep. 170
The Bogy of a Separate Peacep. 173
Aftermathp. 176
9. Japan: The Avenue to Germanyp. 179
10. 'Appeasement': A New German-Soviet Pact?p. 202
11. 'The Special Threatening Military Period'p. 227
On the Alertp. 227
Emergency Deploymentp. 237
12. The Flight of Rudolf Hess to Englandp. 246
The Conspiracyp. 246
The Missionp. 248
Fictitious Negotiationsp. 254
'Running the Bolshevik Hare'p. 262
Hess as Perceived by the Kremlinp. 267
13. On the Eve of Warp. 275
'Mobilization Is War!'p. 275
A Middle East Diversion: The Flaw in British Intelligencep. 281
The Tass Communiquep. 287
14. Calamityp. 294
Self-Deceptionp. 294
London: 'This Avalanche Breathing Fire and Death'p. 301
22 June 1941: The Long Weekendp. 306
Conclusionp. 316
Notesp. 324
Bibliographyp. 382
Indexp. 394

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