Soviet Takeovers: The Role of Advisers in Mongolia in the 1920s and in Eastern Europe after World War II

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The Soviet Union's post-war takeover of Eastern Europe has been the subject of articles and books sufficient in number to fill a small library. Thus, it is puzzling that the role of Moscow's advisers in the USSR's newly acquired "sphere of influence" has been a neglected topic. Virtually no pertinent information has been published on this question in either the Soviet Union or in the East European states. What is accessible -- a few paragraphs and scattered references at best -- has been published almost exclusively by emigres, diplomats, and scholars in the West.(1) This essay attempts to start filling this gap.

Soviet advisers in Eastern Europe fulfilled an important mission within the context of Moscow's subjugation of these societies. As able executors of Soviet policy they came into direct contact with thousands of East Europeans to whom they symbolized not only "ruthless oppression" but also the Russian people about whom the people of the region had so little firsthand knowledge. Their activities can teach us a great deal about the dynamics of Soviet takeovers in the region and illuminate the reasons for the deepening aversion of East Europeans to communism. Studying the region's history of the immediate post-war period one cannot but learn to appreciate the eerie accuracy of Orwell's 1984 and Koestler's Darkness at Noon even more.

The main objective of this paper is to compare the role of Soviet advisors in the Mongolia of the 1920s and in the Eastern Europe of the 1940s. More specifically, my contention is that the Soviet subjugation of Mongolia was in many respects similar to that of Eastern Europe. I also argue that while there were analogies between the sovietization of East European states, the Kremlin learned from the lessons of the Mongolian "expedition" and dealt with individual countries in different manner. To support this reasoning, I offer a brief analysis of two cases, Hungary and Poland. This approach, I think, may teach us about the mechanisms of Soviet takeovers in general, and about the roles of Moscow's advisers in particular.

The first section of this paper will briefly discuss the tools of the sovietization process, as evinced in Eastern Europe from the end of the war until 1953, the year of Stalin's death. Part II argues that Moscow's subjugation of Outer Mongolia in the early 1920s served as a useful source of experience to draw on in Eastern Europe a quarter of a century later. The balance of this study examines and contrasts the role of Soviet advisers in Hungary and Poland in 1945-1953. The choice of these two states seems justified by the Kremlin's extensive -- albeit different --utilization of advisers and the relative availability of sources. I use the term "adviser" rather liberally throughout, to denote not only individuals assigned to East European states in a strictly advisory capacity but Soviet ambassadors, embassy staffs, as well as military and secret police personnel.

I. The "Adviser" As a Tool of Soviet Influence

In the aftermath of World War II, the Kremlin leaders sought to establish a politically obedient, economically dependent, and militarily weak Eastern Europe. What Moscow wanted most of all was control over the polities, economies, and military establishments of these states that were in many ways more advanced than the USSR itself. The firmness of Stalin's resolve, furthered by the onerous military and secret police presence, did not fail to yield the desired results. By 1948 all of the East European states were under Moscow's relentless domination. To be sure, the countries of the region narrowly escaped the fate of the three Baltic states and were not formally incorporated into the Soviet Union proper and retained the symbolic accoutrements of national sovereignty.(2) For all practical purposes, however, they were treated as Soviet republics until 1953.

Moscow needed all the resources it could marshal for the submission of Eastern Europe since support for Soviet-type communism was only marginal in Hungary, Poland, and Romania, although the "liberators" were genuinely welcomed by a significant portion of the population in Bulgaria and Czechoslovakia. …