Communist Power in Europe, 1944-1949

By Martin McCauley | Go to book overview
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13 Thirty Years After


This is going to be a very personal contribution based more on memories than on documents; and I shall begin simply by saying what I was doing at this time.

In the first year of peace from May 1945 to May 1946, I was a minor official sitting in an office in the Whitehall area, and information of all sorts from Eastern Europe came on to my desk. In the summer of 1946 I spent nearly three months as a correspondent for The Times and The Economist in Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia, Bulgaria, Romania and Hungary. Then again in the spring of 1947 five weeks for the same papers in Czechoslovakia and Hungary. During these journeys I had interviews with a number of prominent figures of those times. The Communist leaders in those days were only too delighted to talk at length to Western journalists, especially the Hungarians. I remember two fascinating conversations, two to three hours each, with Rákosi and Révai. In Romania there was the nominal Prime Minister, Petru Groza, an old friend of mine, not a Communist but a figure of some importance in those days, and I also spent some time again with Iuliu Maniu, former leader of the Romanians in Transylvania and twice Prime Minister, an old friend of my father, who had been very kind to me in my Romanian days between 1939 and 1941. In Bulgaria I had an hour's talk with Traicho Kostov, then deputy Prime Minister and a leading Communist, later executed in the 1949 purge; and with various Agrarian and more conservative figures. In Czechoslovakia in 1946 and 1947 I had several long talks with President Beneš and Jan Masaryk, both of whom, of course, I had met often in the past, thanks to my father. One meeting I had with Gottwald (who like Rákosi but in a rather different style, played the faux bonhomme with much gusto); another with Zápotocký; and several with Fierlinger, a man whom I must confess I didn't take much to, though he was extremely cordial to me. I made no written notes at the time. What I learnt, the essence of it, I put into my articles, but I still have memories of the personalities of those I have mentioned and of others. But of course, in a way more useful and more interesting were conversations with people who weren't prominent politicians, particularly in Yugoslavia and Romania, where I had (and to a lesser degree in Hungary also) friends from pre-war times.

From the autumn of 1946 for about ten years, especially in the first two or three, I did regular pieces for The Economist, and used to attend editorial


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