Because of the extraordinary importance of the World War II years, UPA has published in their entirety the Confidential Prints for Russia/Soviet Union, 1940-1945. These volumes cover a broad variety of subjects that affected the course of British-Soviet relations during the period. In addition to key topics from the Soviet-Finnish conflict, each volume covers at least some aspect of the Polish question during the war, as well as Soviet relations with Turkey, Japan, and China. The Soviet occupation of the Baltic States, the incorporation of Bessarabia and Bukovina, and Soviet policies toward the occupied eastern regions of Poland are topics of interest throughout. Volumes 4-6 contain illuminating information on the daily life of Soviet citizens in wartime conditions, the state of the economy, and Soviet postwar aims.
During the first half of the war, military considerations predominated in discussions with Soviet officials. As we now know, the Allies and the Soviet Union traded military intelligence throughout the war. Nevertheless, the Soviet Union remained an enigma to the Western democracies. Little was known about the economic transformation and the way in which the Soviet military had been affected by the purges of 1936-1937. The Communist Party's role during the Stalinist years was hardly understood. By the end of 1942 the question foremost in Western minds was that of the long-term objectives of the Soviet Union. Would the Soviets take advantage of postwar dislocations to foment revolutions in Central Europe? The general impression was that the Soviet leadership hoped to see
Allied cooperation continue beyond the war, but British policymakers were not entirely convinced.
Gathering information in the Soviet Union under wartime conditions was particularly difficult. Access to policymakers was restricted and unreliable. Few were granted the privilege of meeting Stalin. Molotov only occasionally made himself available to foreign diplomats. British officials complained that the Soviets were unwilling to engage in meaningful dialogue. Military and economic missions sent to the Soviet Union had to maneuver for months to obtain information, and none was allowed to visit the front.
Each of the volumes in Series A contains periodic assessments of information obtained from Soviet newspapers and interviews with high- and middle-ranking bureaucrats, as well as reports written by official British visitors to Moscow. To historians this is all useful in studying both the Soviet war effort and the transformation of the economic and social system under communism. The Confidential Print series provides an opportunity to trace in detail the dilemmas at the heart of British-Soviet relations. Documents recount both the prejudices of the British diplomatic staff and the genuine predicaments of the policymakers.