A New Historiography of Stalin and the Spanish Civil War: 2000-2020

Hosted by the Cañada Blanch Centre for Contemporary Spanish Studies

Graham Wallas Room, 5th Floor, Old Building


Dr Daniel Kowalsky

Dr Daniel Kowalsky

Queen's University Belfast


Professor Paul Preston

Professor Paul Preston

London School of Economics

Daniel Kowalsky, one of the principal international experts on the subject, examines the controversial role of the Soviet Union in the Spanish Civil War in the light of the opening of Russian archives.

The principal rationalization for the July 1936 generals' uprising was the alleged Sovietization of the Spanish Republic. Central to the creation of the myth of antebellum Soviet intervention in Spain was a lavishly illustrated, in-depth report produced in Nazi Germany and overseen by Joseph Goebbels. Das Rotbuch über Spanien (1937) was only the shrillest of a steady stream of publications that situated the Spanish Civil War in the context of Soviet and Communist aggression. George Orwell's Homage to Catalonia (1938) tweaked the formula to assert that the Republic's fortunes in the war were sabotaged by a reign of Stalinist terror. This paper will explore how, over the past twenty years, a new historiography on the Soviet Union in Spain has allowed scholars to leave behind Goebbel's insidious lies and Orwell's equally unfounded thesis. The new historiography emerges from the declassifications of post-Soviet archives in the 1990s and the dedicated research of a handful of international scholars whose work first appeared at the turn of the millennium. In the intervening two decades, the field has become one of the most rapidly expanding in modern European history. The organization of colloquia and conferences and the publication of monographs, anthologies and special journals have provided a platform for a new generation of researchers who are rewriting the history of Stalin and the Spanish Civil War.

Dr. Daniel Kowalsky, lecturer in European Studies at Queen's University, Belfast, is the author of numerous books and articles on the civil war in Spain, including La Unión Soviética y la guerra civil española (Crítica, 2003), Stalin and the Spanish Civil War (CUP, 2004), and History in Dispute: The Spanish Civil War (St. James Press, 2005). Between 2005 and 2010, he was editor of British Documents on Foreign Affairs. Series A: Russia/The Soviet Union. Part V, 1951-1956. In 2010, he was invited to join Robert Capa's Mexican Suitcase project, which has been exhibited across the Americas and Europe. His work has appeared in Film History, Archivos de la Filmoteca, the Bulletin of Spanish Studies, the Journal of Slavic Military Studies, and Dictatorships and Democracies, among others. His most recent publications include "Exporting Soviet Commemoration: The Spanish Civil War and the October Revolution, 1936-1939" in Jean-François Fayet, Valerie Gorin, and Stefanie Prezioso, eds., Echoes of October: International Commemorations of the Bolshevik Revolution 1918-1990 (London, 2017) and "From Marginalization to Mobilization: The Soviet Union and the Spanish Republic, 18 July-31 December 1936," in Raanan Rein and Joan Maria Thomas, Spain 1936: Year Zero (Sussex Academic Press, 2018). He is a contributor to the project "Russia's Great War and Revolution", and his chapter in the volume The Wider Arc of the Revolution (Slavica Publishers) appeared in the end of 2019.

The Cañada Blanch Centre for Contemporary Spanish Studies runs a series of lectures, seminars and debates in order to disseminate and encourage knowledge of contemporary Spain. It also sponsors the publication of an important series of books on contemporary Spain.


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