In This Review

Stalin and the Fate of Europe: The Postwar Struggle for Sovereignty
Stalin and the Fate of Europe: The Postwar Struggle for Sovereignty
By Norman M. Naimark
368 pp, Belknap Press, 2019

After the defeat of Nazi Germany in 1945, Communists grew in strength in many European countries. Stalin relentlessly tried to expand his control over parts of Europe, including in Albania, Austria, Finland, and even a Danish island. In this captivating historical account, Naimark picks several episodes from the early postwar period to show that some of Europe’s eventual Cold War divisions were not inevitable. Some European leaders were able to guide their countries out from under Soviet domination by drawing on their diplomatic savvy. Austria, for example, did not extract itself from Soviet occupation until 1955; Karl Renner, its first postwar leader, succeeded in building a broad antifascist coalition and maintaining a multiparty democratic system while still demonstrating loyalty to Stalin. In 1946, after careful bargaining, Denmark’s government managed to put an end to the occupation of the Danish island of Bornholm, which the Red Army had seized in 1945. Finland secured domestic independence by sacrificing military and diplomatic sovereignty to the Soviet Union. The Albanian leader Enver Hoxha took advantage of the Soviet-Yugoslav split to free Albania from the hold of Tito’s Yugoslavia, and later on, he broke with the Soviet leadership, too, to become his nation’s sole ruler, unrestrained by foreign powers.