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Faustian Bargain: The Soviet-German Partnership and the Origins of the Second World War

When Nazi Germany invaded Poland on September 1, 1939, launching World War Two, its army seemed an unstoppable force. The Luftwaffe bombed towns and cities across the country, and fifty divisions of the Wehrmacht crossed the border. Yet only two decades earlier, at the end of World War One, Germany had been an utterly and abjectly defeated military power. Foreign troops occupied its industrial heartland and the Treaty of Versailles reduced the vaunted German army of World War One to a fraction of its size, banning it from developing new military technologies. When Hitler came to power in 1933, these strictures were still in effect. By 1939, however, he had at his disposal a fighting force of 4.2 million men, armed with the most advanced weapons in the world. How could this nearly miraculous turnaround have happened?

The answer lies in Russia. Beginning in the years immediately after World War One and continuing for more than a decade, the German military and the Soviet Union--despite having been mortal enemies--entered into a partnership designed to overturn the order in Europe. Centering on economic and military cooperation, the arrangement led to the establishment of a network of military bases and industrial facilities on Soviet soil. Through their alliance, which continued for over a decade, Germany gained the space to rebuild its army. In return, the Soviet Union received vital military, technological and economic assistance. Both became, once again, military powers capable of a mass destruction that was eventually directed against one another.

Drawing from more than 20 archives in five countries, including new collections of declassified Russian documents, The Faustian Bargain offers the definitive exploration of a shadowy but fateful alliance.


Praise for Faustian Bargain

"Johnson's book is a revelation and a triumph. It lays bare one of the least-known and least-understood of inter-war relationships – the odious pariahs' dance between Germany and the Soviet Union. Well-written and academically impeccable, it is an essential read for everyone interested in the period." -- Roger Moorhouse, author of Poland 1939: The Outbreak of World War II and The Devils' Alliance: Hitler's Pact with Stalin, 1939-1941

"Compelling, elegantly written, and based on meticulous excavation of the archives, Ian Ona Johnson's book forces a reckoning with the interwar continuity of relations between the Soviet Union and their German partners—Weimar and Nazi alike. It reveals in captivating detail how Germany's clandestine rearmament shaped the Nazi German Wehrmacht, the Soviet Red Army, and the ultimate destabilization of Europe." -- Jennifer Siegel, The Ohio State University

"Ian Johnson has done extraordinary research, drawing on twenty-three archives in five countries and three languages, which allows him to tell a highly original story: How the German-Soviet partnership of the early 1920s lay at the foundation of European politics in the two decades that followed, helping to determine Stalin's Terror, the German army's virulent contempt for Bolshevism, and ultimately the outbreak and conduct of the Second World War and the Holocaust. This is one of the most important and readable books in years on this critical period." -- Benjamin Hett, author of The Nazi Menace: Hitler, Churchill, Roosevelt, Stalin, and the Road to War

"Ian Johnson's compelling study is a major contribution to twentieth century history.Based on significant research, this study takes forward our knowledge of an important aspect of the background to World War Two." -- Jeremy Black, author of Rethinking Military History

"Adolf Hitler gets the blame for lighting the fuse of World War II, and for good reason. Yet Germany had a partner in Soviet Russia, not only during the infamous Hitler-Stalin Pact of 1939 but well before, starting with the Treaty of Rapallo in 1922. Without his enablers in Moscow, it's hard to imagine that Hitler would have dared go to war against the rest of Europe...

In "Faustian Bargain," Ian Ona Johnson shows how extensive Russia's help was.  Mr. Johnson, who teaches military history at Notre Dame, draws on American, British, German, Polish and Russian archives to describe a "secret school of war." The resulting book has an academic flavor, but it's consistently interesting."

-Daniel Ford, The Wall Street Journal

Boris Sokoloff, The White Nights: Pages from a Doctor's Notebook, edited by ian ona johnson

Boris Sokoloff, a doctor in Russia during the tumultuous years of the Russian Revolution and a survivor of the infamous Butyrki prison, has a remarkable story to tell. During his fascinating life he encountered nearly every major political and cultural figure in Russia between 1917 and 1920 and was an eyewitness of or participant in most of the major events of the period—the October Revolution, the Constituent Assembly, an assassination attempt on Lenin’s life, and the final collapse of the Northern Front. The White Nights is his story.

While The White Nights will engage the historically minded, it is as much a work of literature as it is history. Sokoloff consciously imitates a generation of great Russian authors, such as Anton Chekhov, the master of the Russian short story. Sokoloff gives his readers not a single narrative, but fifteen short stories, some of them murder mysteries, others romances or political thrillers. Each of these dramas has its own vivid cast of characters, its own play-like set, and its own heroes and villains. And all are depicted upon a vast stage: the anarchic, disintegrating Russian Empire.

The White Nights reads as a work of literary impressionism, with Sokoloff’s colorful, pointillist strokes filling in the canvas of the Russian revolutionary era. Most dramatically, Sokoloff challenges his readers with the moral problems inherent in a failed assassination attempt on Lenin in which he participated in the spring of 1918. In each instance, those in positions to do something failed. As the West finds its democratic values increasingly contested at home and abroad, it is a timely lesson to remember what happens when those who believe in freedom fail to act.

Praise for the white nights

"Absolutely fascinating read. Highly recommended for both scholars and general readers!"

Kurt Mason, review on Amazon

"One of the best books I've read in a while. Great for those interested in narrative history. This excellent memoir of Russia's October Revolution reads like a well-written novel, for those interested in historical fiction (although, according to the author and editor, almost, if not all, the events are true).
It's a very informative yet gripping read, with great editorial notes which help corroborate some of the author's accounts of major events of the Russian Revolution. It's a fascinating book profiling the rise of the USSR with lessons for democracy that are strikingly timely in the modern day. Will we heed the warnings of Dr. Sokoloff? Is democracy doomed? Is it possible to take the high road?"

-Anonymous, review on Barnes and

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