The Soviet Union and the International Brigades, 1936-1939

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The International Brigades are typically viewed as a fighting force whose impetus came from the Comintern, and thus from within the walls of the Kremlin. If the assumption is essentially correct, the broader relation between Stalin’s USSR and the IB has received little attention. This chapter constitutes an empirically-based study of the Soviet role not only in the formation of the IB, but of the Red Army’s collaboration with IB units, and Moscow’s role in the climax and denouement of the brigadistas’ Spanish experience. This study’s principal conclusion is twofold: First, that the creation and sustenance of the IB was part of Stalin’s goal of linking the Loyalist cause with that of the Soviet Union and international communism, a component of a larger geo-strategic gamble which sought to create united opposition to the fascist menace, one which might eventually bring Moscow and the West into a closer alliance. The second conclusion is that the IB, like the broader projection of Soviet power and influence into the Spanish theater, was an overly ambitious operational failure whose abortive retreat is indicative of the basic weakness of the Stalinist regime in the years prior to the Second World War.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)681-704
Number of pages24
JournalJournal of Slavic Military Studies
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2006


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