Date of Award
Bachelor of Arts
Dr. Martin Ryle
R.G. Collingwood concludes his book, The Idea of History, with a powerful statement. He says, "We ought by now to realize that no kindly law of nature will save us from the fruits of our ignorance." Collingwood argues that the only way to overcome ignorance is to have a solid understanding based on historical thought. The job of the historian is to search through existing evidence and the theories of other authorities and to present what she believes is the historical truth.
After reading Collingwood and always having had a strong interest in the Cold War, I was inspired to examine the origins of the Color War beneath the popular facade. The Cold War has intrigued me because I have believed that I, along with the American public, never knew the whole story. I believed that the best way to increase my understanding of the Color War is to study it from the Russian perspective. Nikolai V. Sivachev, a Soviet scholar, also suggests that the best way to learn how foreigners view and deal with the United States is turn to to non-American scholars of distinction for their country's perception of relations with the United States.
My research is of great value because it attempts to understand the thoughts and actions of a society with a very different social and political system from that of the United States. My research can dissolve many of the misconceptions about the Soviet Union and can also provide a deeper understanding of our own society. As Collingwood has stated, "... misconceptions are a constant peril to historical thought." My research has proven that misconceptions have not only influenced historical thought but also world leaders and national policies.
As soon as World War II was over (some scholars argue that even before World II was over), the Soviet Union and the United States went from allies to enemies almost overnight and hence the Cold War began. The arguments and numerous works written about the Cold War from 1945 to the present is not the focus of my thesis. My paper attempts to understand the motives and relationships of the Soviet Union during World War II and how these factors led to the Cold War with the United States. My analysis ends with President Truman taking office because that is when the Color War becomes inevitable. Although tension existed between the Soviet Union and the United States before and during World War II, I do not believe that it was inevitable that these two great powers would become vicious rivals. The Russian perspective sees the United States instigating the Cold War from a position of strength after World War II. My thesis seeks to prove that the Russians have a valid argument. I do not claim to prove that the Russian perspective is correct but I do believe there is a great deal of historical truth to their perception.
The purpose of my introduction is not only to describe the objective of my thesis but also to acknowledge the credibility of my sources. Many of my primary sources are books written in the Soviet Union. In doing my research I have been very sensitive to obvious propaganda and bias that must exist in these sources; however, they remain valuable sources. These works are instrumental in answering one of the major question in my paper: What is the perspective that the Russian government portrays to their people? Furthermore, much of the information in the Russian books surprisingly correlates with some of the American sources. I think it is important to recognize that Western research is often sunk in bias and strict analysis is also required in determining the validity and truth of these sources.
Through my research and studies, I have learned that history is not universal. Events are universal but the history of those events are often extremely different. Any good historian must search for all historical perspectives before he can claim to truly understand the history. My goal is to enhance my knowledge and the knowledge of others in order to bring us closer to a historical truth regarding the origins of the Cold War.
Cowan, Robin J., "From allies to enemies" (1988). Honors Theses. 448.