Eastern Europe in the Twentieth Century and After

By R. J. Crampton | Go to book overview

16

THE RETREAT FROM STALINISM, 1953-6

THE ATTEMPTED ‘NEW COURSE’: EASTERN EUROPE, 1953-6

The emergence of the Yugoslav model

Whilst the east European communist lands were savaged by the ‘anti-titoist’ purges Yugoslavia’s communists sought their own road to socialism.

The split of 1948 had forced destalinisation upon them, but for the next three or four years Tito, acting through his security chief, Aleksandar Ranković, felt it necessary to maintain police controls against the cominformists. The Cominform gave him good reason to do so. The Soviet Union’s anti-Yugoslav propa-ganda continued remorselessly and Yugoslavia was intimidated in numerous ways; Soviet planes, for example, flew fifty or more flights per day across Yugoslav territory from bases in Albania to Bulgaria and other pro-Moscow countries. In August 1949 severe pressure was put on the Yugoslavs to return a number of White Russian refugees who had subsequently been recruited by the NKVD. When the Yugoslavs refused, troops were concentrated on the Romanian-Yugoslav border. Only then did Tito begin to relax his attitudes towards the west, accepting US aid in September 1949.

After the outbreak of the Korean war in June 1950 Yugoslav ties with the west increased because of Tito’s fear that Stalin would permit in the Balkans what he had already sanctioned in the far east, namely forward action by a Moscow-backed communist state. At the height of the international tension in the early 1950s Belgrade moved close to a Balkan pact with Turkey and Greece, both members of NATO. But the treaty of friendship and cooperation signed in Ankara in February 1953 and the subsequent military agreement concluded at Bled in August 1954 faded into insignificance as the international climate changed. By the mid-1950s Tito had established much closer links with India, Indonesia, and Egypt in what came to be called the non-aligned bloc.

The relaxation of attitudes towards the west brought relief to the Yugoslav economy. Until then Yugoslavia, ostracised by both east and west, had found its

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