Above: Participants of the 2016 Workshop on Authoritarian Regimes
On July 27th, Norman Naimark, a senior fellow at the Hoover and Freeman-Spogli Institutes and Robert and Florence McDonnell Professor of Eastern European Studies at Stanford, delivered a talk entitled "Before the Cold War: Europe and Stalin, 1944-49." Professor Naimark's talk was the keynote address of the Hoover Library & Archives 2016 Workshop on Authoritarian Regimes, which brings together scholars from across the world who use Hoover collections to study dictatorship and the global effects of totalitarian states. Naimark, who has researched at Hoover for nearly fifty years, claimed Hoover to be "the most interesting archive in the world." He thanked the Hoover Archives staff for their years of assistance during his career at Stanford, citing in particular the help of archivist Irena Czernichowska, a specialist in Polish and Russian materials at Hoover.
During his talk Professor Naimark outlined the content of his forthcoming book about Joseph Stalin’s foreign policy, Stalin’s post-war interventions in countries such as Denmark, Finland, Albania, Poland, and Italy, and the means by which confrontations between Russia and smaller countries in Europe developed the ideologies and policies that brought forth the Cold War. Naimark stated that due to the fact that many post-war Russian archives have not yet been declassified, there are gaps in what historians know about Stalin’s foreign policy. Overall, Naimark’s research has lent a picture of Stalin as competent, able, intelligent, and possessing a personality given to micromanaging with an intense focus on cost/benefit analyses. Defying other historians’ portrayals of Stalin as a sociopathic and/or inept leader, Naimark argued that many of the lesser-studied interactions between Stalin and the governments of small European nations in the 1940s proves that Stalin often took small, logical steps toward socialist revolution, and was capable of containing aggression when in the national interest. Naimark also took issue with historians who claim that the “Iron Curtain” descended immediately upon the end of World War II; his research reveals that Europe experienced a great deal of flux in the late 1940s, with the political alignments of many countries in question well into the 1950s.