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Driving the Soviets up the Wall:
Soviet-East German Relations, 1953-1961
Hope M. Harrison

Winner of the 2004 Marshall Shulman Book Prize, American Association for the Advancement of Slavic Studies

Paperback | 2005 | $52.50 | £44.95 | ISBN: 9780691124285
368 pp. | 6 x 9 1/4 | 3 maps.
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eBook | ISBN: 9781400840724 |
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The Berlin Wall was the symbol of the Cold War. For the first time, this path-breaking book tells the behind-the-scenes story of the communists' decision to build the Wall in 1961. Hope Harrison's use of archival sources from the former East German and Soviet regimes is unrivalled, and from these sources she builds a highly original and provocative argument: the East Germans pushed the reluctant Soviets into building the Berlin Wall.

This fascinating work portrays the different approaches favored by the East Germans and the Soviets to stop the exodus of refugees to West Germany. In the wake of Stalin's death in 1953, the Soviets refused the East German request to close their border to West Berlin. The Kremlin rulers told the hard-line East German leaders to solve their refugee problem not by closing the border, but by alleviating their domestic and foreign problems. The book describes how, over the next seven years, the East German regime managed to resist Soviet pressures for liberalization and instead pressured the Soviets into allowing them to build the Berlin Wall. Driving the Soviets Up the Wall forces us to view this critical juncture in the Cold War in a different light. Harrison's work makes us rethink the nature of relations between countries of the Soviet bloc even at the height of the Cold War, while also contributing to ongoing debates over the capacity of weaker states to influence their stronger allies.


"Harrison has turned over every archival rock in reconstructing the tense relationship between the Soviet Union and Walter Ulbricht's East Germany, from Stalin's death until the construction of the Berlin Wall.. . . Harrison is not alone in teaching us that third parties played a significant role in shaping the Cold War, but hers is a particularly striking example."--Foreign Affairs

"A smoothly written, clearly organized, and massively documented account . . . [which] deserves to be read by every serious student of post-war Europe."--W.J. Lavery, History: Reviews of New Books

"This aptly entitled book makes an outstanding contribution to what has become known as 'the new Cold War history.' Lucidly written and fascinating to read, it demonstrates how, under a unique set of circumstances, a satellite state in the depths of existential crisis could manipulate a superpower."--Peter Grieder, Central European History

"Harrison has written a thoughtful, fluent, and meticulously researched study of Soviet-East German relations between 1953 and 1961. Driving the Soviets Up the Wall is a fine example of the new scholarship on the cold war that has emerged since 1991 and a rewarding read for anybody interested in finding out exactly how and why the Berlin Wall came to be built."--Alan McDougall, Journal of Modern History


"Hope Harrison's book is a truly distinguished example of new Cold War scholarship. As an account of Soviet-East German relations from 1953 to 1961, it is likely to be definitive. As a case study of how a small power can manipulate a super-power, it is sure to become a classic. As both multi-archival history and international relations theory, therefore, Driving the Soviets up the Wall is a remarkable accomplishment indeed."--John Lewis Gaddis, Yale University

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Table of Contents:

List of Maps ix
Preface xi
Acknowledgments xv
Abbreviations xix
Introduction: The Dynamics of Soviet-East German Relations in the Early Cold War 1
Chapter One: 1953: Soviet-East German Relations and Power Struggles in Moscow and Berlin 12
Chapter Two: 1956-1958: Soviet and East German Policy Debates in the Wake of the Twentieth Party Congress 49
Chapter Three: 1958-1960: Khrushchev Takes on the West in the Berlin Crisis 96
Chapter Four: 1960-1961: Ulbricht, Khrushchev, and the Berlin Wall 139
Conclusion 224
Notes 235
Note on Sources 311
Bibliography 315
Index 337

This book has been translated into:

  • German


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