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Part III: The Long Peace: 1939 to 1951
The forties, or, more specifically, the period from 1939 to 1951, is often referred to as the Long Peace. Coming off the heels of the thirties, with the German Civil War and the Second Russo-Japanese War, and coming right before the tumultuous fifties and sixties, it was comparatively peaceful. However, there were a number of world events that impacted the lives of millions, and many people suffered and died throughout this period.
1. AFTER THE SECOND RUSSO-JAPANESE WAR: THE SOVIET UNION, JAPAN AND CHINA
Stalin and many Communists around the world try to portray the outcome of the Second Russo-Japanese War as a victory for the Soviet Union. They maintain that the USSR survived an assault by the capitalist powers, and, despite the loss of territory, still preserved the spirit of the Bolshevik Revolution and World Communism. The truth, of course, is concealed from rest of the world as the Soviet Union is faced with many internal crises in 1939 and 1940.
The first series of problems comes from the many different minorities within the Soviet Union. Nationalist revolts break out both during and after the war. Areas where violence and civil upheaval are most common are in Central Asia and the Ukraine. The Soviet military, already strained by its losses during the Purges and the War, are constantly putting out fires of rebellion and guerrilla activity throughout the country. As soon as one is put out in one place, another arises elsewhere.
In addition to violence from ethnic minorities, different groups of Soviet citizens who have become disaffected economically and politically express discontent with the Stalin regime. There are even previously unheard-of outbreaks of protests and demonstrations. Many of the people involved in these activities are quickly arrested and disappear into the gulags, but the government cannot hide the knowledge of their occurrence.
The final difficulty for Stalin is within the Communist Party itself and within the military. Many within the Party feel that Stalin has become too powerful and that authority needs to be delegated and decentralized amongst the Central Committee. The military, meanwhile, feels that Stalin has far too often attacked them and thus weakened the ability of the Communist state to defend itself. Some brave voices advocate that the military should have more of a separate, independent role, that it is too important to be so controlled by the whim of the Party.
Stalin manages to withstand all of these challenges except for the last one, on which he is forced to compromise. The nationalist uprisings by ethnic groups, while often organized and coordinated, cannot muster up enough resources to defeat the vast Soviet state. By contrast, the social riots and demonstrations are too disorganized and isolated to have much consequence. Communist Party members are too busy fighting each other internally to present a united candidate that might supplant Stalin. Only the military is able to persevere and carve out a more autonomous role.
In fact, the compromise Stalin makes leads to a vast expansion of the Soviet military during the forties. Coming off the heels of the crash industrialization program of the twenties and thirties, Stalin now pushes the expansion of the Soviet military, in all sectors, the Army, Navy and Air Force. Many of the resources of the Soviet Union go into the military and by the end of the decade, the Soviet Union has easily the largest military in the world.
The effectiveness of this force is still often questioned, though. During the early part of the forties, on both the western and eastern frontier, the Soviet Union faces challenges from a new White Russian force. It consists mostly of soldiers captured by the Japanese who decided not to return to the Soviet Union. Many of them instead settled in Europe and Japan's new territory. They launch raids across the border into the Soviet Union, attacking military targets and even occasionally killing civilians. For the most part, they have little impact, and often face suppression by many of their host European countries, especially the Baltic League nations. They do however fuel the continuing paranoia of the Soviet state and its arm race.
For most Soviet citizens, though, the forties are little different than the rest of Stalin's rule. After the hardships of the war with the Japanese and the USSR's defeat, things return to terrified normality. The gulags still fill with unfortunate people, Stalin still rules only now with the help of the military, and the Soviet Union continues to grow economically but very few of the ordinary people ever see any benefit from it.
Japan and China