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

By George H. Hodos | Go to book overview
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CHAPTER 10
THE REINTERPRETED SHOW TRIALS IN ROMANIA

The Stalinist purges in Eastern Europe were dictated from Moscow down to the smallest detail: place, timing, victims, and charges were selected on the order of the Soviet MVD. However, there were deviations from the prescribed scenario; the apparent monolith of the Soviet empire had cracks that even Beria's terror machine could not bridge over. Perfect obedience was, in fact, achieved only in the model trial in Hungary and, apart from the flaw of Kostov's last-minute retraction of his confession, in Bulgaria. In Czechoslovakia, after a promising beginning, the process suddenly ground to a halt, but was restarted and ran its full bloody course without further mishaps. In Poland and East Germany, however, personal factors, world history, and political geography combined to delay the pace and change the depth of the schedule until, with the death of Stalin, the purges had to be interrupted and remained unfinished.

Romania was also a special case, though for quite different reasons. Factional disputes enabled the secretary-general of the Romanian communist party, Gheorghiu-Dej, to manipulate his Soviet masters and use the purge weapon handed to him in his own quest for power. The Stalinist principle of reinterpreting facts and events in the show trials was developed further by the Romanian party leader; he reinterpreted the show trials themselves.

In 1948, Stalin signaled the start for the preparation of satellite show trials against Titoists. Gheorghiu-Dej did not wait for stage directions from Moscow; he arrested Patrascanu and thus rid himself of one of his competitors for power in the land. In 1952 came the order to extend the purge to Zionists. Again, Gheorghiu-Dej did not hesitate. He chose his victims himself and, by purging Vasile Luca and Ana Pauker, rid himself of a "Moscow faction," the final obstacle on his way to unrestricted rule. He succeeded in changing the Stalinist concept of show trials from an instrument to secure Soviet hegemony over the satellites into one that secured his own hegemony in Romania. He was extremely careful never to put in doubt the authority of his master. Again and again, he demonstrated his servile allegiance to the Soviet Union and, since his plotting and scheming did not seem to endanger Soviet aims, Stalin and Beria allowed him to have his head. Romania became the only satellite in which the concept

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