Show Trials: Stalinist Purges in Eastern Europe, 1948-1954

By George H. Hodos | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 1
INTRODUCTION

HISTORICAL BACKGROUND

It is not the purpose of this book to present a history of Stalinism, or even of the political terror that it unleashed against opposition movements in Eastern Europe. The scope of this work is limited to a history of the purges and show trials against communists that took place in the Soviet satellite nations during the early postwar years and that served as one of the main instruments by means of which the Soviet Union established domination over the satellite states and their communist parties, making them subservient to Stalin and his security services. 1 This work also establishes the connections, similarities, and differences among the events in the different countries without any attempt at a theoretical analysis of these events.

The historical background leading to the show trials is amply documented in the political literature dealing with those times. 2 But there is a need for a brief outline of the three elements that triggered the trials: the Cold War, Stalin's growing paranoia, and the Soviet-Yugoslav split.

At the end of World War II, the Soviet Union controlled all of Europe east of a line drawn from Stettin on the Baltic Sea, to Trieste on the Adriatic Sea. The West, led by the United States, was unwilling to accept total Soviet domination of this vast area and, fearing a further expansion of communism in Europe, countered with a "policy of containment." Step by step, the Cold War intensified; U.S. support for the Royalists in the Greek Civil War in 1946 was followed by the Truman Doctrine in March 1947, offering political, economic, and military aid to any nation threatened by communism. In June 1947, the U.S. proposed the Marshall Plan to rebuild Western Europe and enable it to withstand communist pressures from within. In June 1948, the decision was made by the Western powers to build up a strong, anti-Soviet West Germany, and in July 1949, NATO was forged out of the Brussels Union and thus completed the creation of a worldwide circle of strategic bases around the Soviet Union.

In the sphere of intelligence, President Truman in June 1948 broadened the role of the newly established Central Intelligence Agency ( CIA) to include covert operations against the Soviet Union and its satellites in the fields of "propaganda and economic warfare; preventive direct action including sabotage; subversion

-1-

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Show Trials: Stalinist Purges in Eastern Europe, 1948-1954
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • LIST OF ABBREVIATIONS ix
  • Preface xi
  • Chapter 1 - INTRODUCTION 1
  • Chapter 2 - PRELUDE IN ALBANIA 5
  • Chapter 3 - THE KOSTOV TRIAL IN BULGARIA 13
  • Chapter 4 - THE FIELD CONNECTION 25
  • Chapter 5 - THE ROAD TO THE RAJK TRIAL 33
  • Chapter 6 - PREPARATIONS FOR THE MODEL TRIAL 43
  • Chapter 7 - THE RAJK TRIAL 59
  • Chapter 8 - THE UNLEASHED TERROR IN PRAGUE 73
  • Chapter 9 - THE SLÁNSKÝ TRIAL 83
  • Chapter 10 - THE REINTERPRETED SHOW TRIALS IN ROMANIA 93
  • Chapter 11 - THE INTERRUPTED SHOW TRIALS IN EAST GERMANY 113
  • Chapter 12 - THE POLISH WAY OF SHOW TRIALS 135
  • Chapter 13 - CONSEQUENCES AND CONCLUSIONS 159
  • Notes 165
  • SELECTED BIBLIOGRAPHY 179
  • Index 183
  • About the Author 195
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