Operation X: Soviet Russia and the Spanish Civil War

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4 Citations (Scopus)


This article offers a critical reassessment of the Soviet role in the Spanish Civil War, based on recent scholarship and declassified official documents. The author interrogates the broad historiographical consensus that reduces Soviet intervention in Spain to a sinister and nefarious force. Stalin's ignominious reputation vis-à-vis the Loyalist side is present in nearly all Western scholarship on the war, whether specialized studies by Nationalist sympathizers or Republicans in exile, or general treatments of European history written in England or America. It would be difficult to locate even a brief overview of the Civil War published outside of Russia that does not in some fashion demonize the Soviet dictator and the Soviet military assistance, code-named ‘Operation X’. The author argues that the basic error in the wide-ranging literature of this topic has always been to approach Stalin's position in Spain as one based on strength rather than weakness. If framed within the context of failure, Stalin's long-standing reputation as the villain of the Civil War may appear in a strikingly different light, and Soviets’ overall contribution to the Loyalist struggle therefore deserving a nuanced revision. The author also explores the multiple strands of the Soviet-Spanish relationship, which included not only military aid but also diplomatic, cultural and humanitarian facets.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)159-178
Number of pages19
JournalBulletin of Spanish Studies: Hispanic Studies and Researches on Spain, Portugal and Latin America
Issue number1-2
Publication statusPublished - 24 Jan 2014

Bibliographical note

Volume 91, Issue 1-2, 2014
Special Issue: Spain's Agonía republicana and Its Aftermath: Memories and Studies of the History, Culture and Literature of the Spanish Civil War. Edited, with an Introduction, by Susana Bayó Belenguer


  • Spanish Civil War
  • Soviet Union
  • Comintern
  • Stalin
  • Spanish Republic
  • Interwar Europe


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