Hungary in the Cold War, 1945-1956: Between the United States and the Soviet Union

By LÁszlÓ Borhi | Go to book overview

INTRODUCTION

The victorious country demands to assert its rights
for the reason that the vanquished country
started war against it.”

(Vladimir Dekanozov, Deputy Commissar
of Foreign Affairs, April 1949)

Whenever a country achieves
the conditions for the liberation of the proletariat
or for socialism this will be carried out.”

(Mátyás Rákosi, May 1946)

“Hungary cannot…ask or receive
our aid in the Greek manner.
They are parallel tragedies,
but cannot have parallel treatment.”

(Senator Arthur Vandenberg, June 1947)

After World War II the United States believed that it could retain Soviet– American cooperation on a liberal basis and preserve a politically pluralistic, economically open Eastern Europe at the same time. The Soviets made a similar judgement of error. They too hoped to continue cooperating with the West, albeit on their own conditions: an exclusive sphere in Eastern Europe with Stalinist systems of government. What resulted was the worst of all worlds, a Stalinist Eastern Europe and Soviet–American hostility.

In the next four decades the U.S. tried to undo the mistaken policies of the first few postwar years, but the restoration of European unity was ultimately the function of Soviet policy just as drawing the Iron Curtain on Eastern Europe had been Stalin's responsibility. For the East European nations the iron curtain that descended between Stettin and Trieste was not a figure of speech but a real experience, a real barrier that kept the East Europeans in, and the people, goods and ideas of the Western world out. Communist propaganda portrayed the Soviets as liberators who delivered the East European nations from fascism and led the people onto the road towards a better society, Socialism. But the high political and human principles on which Communist ideas were founded were rapidly compromised by the Soviet practice of Communism. People were deprived of their basic freedoms, even murdered in the Communist campaign for the imagined perfect society. After only a brief experience under Soviet rule few doubted that the goal, if it ever existed, was not worth the sacrifice. For many East

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