In September 1945 the Soviet Union emerged victorious but battered from its four-year war with Nazi Germany. Stalin’s Russia lost twenty million dead and 128 billion dollars’ worth of industrial capital in the conflict, but its losses were not only physical. In the face of a determined invader Stalin had had to liberalise many aspects of the political system he had built up in the 1930s. In Soviet culture during the war nationalist feelings were allowed to emerge; western influences and even religious sentiments were encouraged in order to spur on the war effort. On the economic front a degree of private enterprise, especially on the part of the collective farm peasantry, had to be encouraged to feed a starving population and army. The central political structures in Stalin’s repressive system, the secret police and the Communist Party, found their roles redefined and the ranks of their membership diluted in wartime. In foreign policy Russia surrounded herself with a series of most unlikely capitalist allies. In terms of both policies and political structures the Soviet system had become markedly more liberal during the war.
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