The Sword and the Shield: The Mitrokhin Archive and the Secret History of the KGB

By Christopher Andrew; Vasili Mitrokhin | Go to book overview

FIFTEEN
PROGRESS OPERATIONS
Part 1: Crushing the Prague Spring

The KGB and its predecessors had played a crucial part in the creation of the Soviet Bloc after the Second World War. Throughout eastern Europe, Communist- controlled security services, set up in the image of the KGB and overseen--except in Yugoslavia and Albania--by Soviet "advisers," supervised the transition to so-called "people's democracies." Political development in most east European states followed the same basic pattern. Coalition governments with significant numbers of non- Communist ministers, but with the newly founded security services and the other main levers of power in Communist hands, were established immediately after German forces had been driven out. Following intervals ranging from a few months to three years, these governments were replaced by bogus, Communist-run coalitions which paved the way for Stalinist one-party states taking their lead from Moscow.1

The German Communist leader Walter Ulbricht announced to his inner circle on his return to Berlin from exile in Moscow on April 30, 1945: "It's got to look democratic, but we must have everything under our control."2 Because a democratic façade had to be preserved throughout eastern Europe, the open use of force to exclude non- Communist Parties from power had, so far as possible, to be avoided. Instead, the new security services took the lead in intimidation behind the scenes, using what became known in Hungary as "salami tactics"--slicing off one layer of opposition after another. Finally, the one-party people's democracies, purged of all visible dissent, were legitimized by huge and fraudulent Communist majorities in elections rigged by the security services.3

During the early years of the Soviet Bloc, Soviet advisers kept the new security services on a tight rein. The witch-hunts and show trials designed to eliminate mostly imaginary supporters of Tito and Zionism from the leadership of the ruling Communist Parties of eastern Europe were orchestrated from Moscow. One of the alleged accomplices of the Hungarian Minister of the Interior, László Rajk, in the non-existent Titoist plot for which Rajk was executed in 1949, noted how, during his interrogation, officers of the Hungarian security service "smiled a flattering, servile smile when the Russians spoke to them" and "reacted to the most witless jokes of the [MGB] officers with obsequious trumpetings of immoderate laughter."4

Even after Stalin's death, any Soviet Bloc intelligence officer of whom the KGB disapproved became a marked man. Among them was Ernst Wollweber, head of theEast German Stasi

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