A - Grand Strategy and the Small State:

The Great Powers, the German Assault and Norwegian Wartime Alliances

Since the 1980s, the so-called «traditional» topics in the history of Norway in the Second World War – grand strategy, defence policy and war fighting – have been marginalized in academic teaching and research. During the same decades, international scholarship has developed new methodological approaches integrating ideological, military and economic objectives in the study of policy formulation, and has also benefitted from newly available archives, especially in EasternEurope. This WP sets out to explore how Norway positioned itself within the changing configuration of great and small powers in Northern Europe from the late 1930s, and how these changes affected Norwegian security thinking. More specifically, it aims to cover subjects not addressed by previous research, such as Soviet policy and the far north as an area of incipient Great Power rivalry, a pattern which later became evident during the Cold War.

Despite the fact that the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact created the overall diplomatic framework for the first two years of the war, Soviet policy towards Scandinavia and its interaction with German and Allied intentions has hardly been taken into consideration. After Barbarossa, Finnmark was drawn into hostilities on the Northern Front and the Soviet Union became an ally. The Norwegian government in London was forced to balance national interests against the overall objectives of the wartime alliance, as well as relations with neutral Sweden. From 1942, Norwegian interests in the far north were challenged and the region came to play an increasingly important role in government policy. Relations with the Soviet Union became more complex. Renewed Soviet interest in the Svalbard archipelago, alleged Soviet interest in free harbours in Northern Norway and the prehistory and the aftermath of the Soviet move into Eastern Finnmark in October 1944 directly affected national sovereignty and can be seen as precursors of the Cold War. Consequently, the WP explores to what degree the issues arising in the north during the war are among the formative factors behind the fundamental shift in Norwegian security thinking that took place in the years leading up to the signing of the Atlantic pact in April 1949. The programme will finance the following projects:

A1:  “The Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, the Great Powers and Scandinavia 1939–41”

Professor Rolf Hobson

This research project will utilize Russian archival material and result in a peer-reviewed article. The project will seek to evaluate the impact of the Nazi-Soviet Pact on the strategic situation of Scandinavia prior to the invasion of April 1940, and subsequently on Russo-German relations in the north during the year between the German occupation and the attack on the Soviet Union in June 1941. Hobson has previously worked in Russian archives and will cooperate with Professor Alexey Komarov at the Institute of World History at the Russian Academy of Sciences.

A2/A3/A4: “The formative exile”

Associate Professor Stian Bones (A2) and Professor Hallvard Tjelmeland (A3). Bones will cooperate closely with Peder Roberts and Dag Avango (A4) at the partner institution, the Royal Institute of Technology (Stockholm)

The projects will result in peer-reviewed articles and will reconsider the evolution of Norwegian war policies relative to the challenges that arose in the far north, based on Norwegian, British, Swedish and American sources not available to previous scholars. The extent to which the complex of specifically northern issues influenced Norway’s relations to other Western powers, and the long term consequences this may have had, has not been systematically addressed in previous scholarship.

A5: “Perceptions of the Norwegian War Contributions to the Grand Alliance”

Professor Tom Kristiansen

This project will investigate how the Americans and the British considered the totality of Norwegian war contributions. Regardless of the fact that Norway was a small country, the merchant navy provided a geyser of revenues that enabled the government in exile to establish an array of capacities. The sum-total of these achievements has previously not been comprehensively analysed. The study will be carried out by the academic leader of the project and result in a peer-reviewed article.

A6: “The military and economic importance of Petsamo/Pechenga 1939–1947”

Senior Researcher Lars Rowe (the Fridtjof Nansen Institute)

This project discusses the strategic importance of the Pechenganikel combine. While earlier studies have tended to highlight the military strategic importance of the Petsamo/Pechenga territory, this study will analyze economic importance of the Pechenganikel combine – of immediate importance especially to Germany and the Soviet Union, but also to other belligerents.

Externally funded projects

The following three externally funded and related projects will be attached to the WP:

A7) A PhD project on the Narvik campaign

A8) A PhD project on Finnmark from War to Peace–May 1944 to September 1945

A9) The PI’s biography of the chief of defence during the campaign, General Otto Ruge.