East Central Europe and the World: Developments in the Post-Stalin Era

By Stephen D. Kertesz; Karlis Kalnins et al. | Go to book overview

3: POLAND

Oscar Halecki

In Poland, as elsewhere among the Soviet satellites, the death of Stalin in 1953 failed to bring the hoped-for relief some optimists had confidently expected. On the contrary, both the internal sovietization of the country--which had started immediately in 1944 when the Red Army entered her territory, and which reached its clearest expression in the constitution of 1952--and her integration with the whole Soviet bloc in international affairs continued to make steady progress in the first years after Stalin's death.

One year later, in March 1954, Stalin's main agent in Poland, Boleslaw Bierut gave up the premiership, but kept the leading position of First Secretary of the Central Committee of the United Workers (Communist) Party. That change followed the Soviet pattern, in that it now seemed advisable to avoid the holding of both offices by the same person. Furthermore, it was evident that the general policy of the Stalinist period would remain unaltered. The man who from the outset had controlled that policy from behind the scene, Jakob Berman, was now made for the first time one of the vice-premiers; and the new Premier, Jozef Cyrankiewicz, simply returned to the position which he had occupied in the decisive years 1947-1952.

Toward the end of 1954 Cyrankiewicz led the Polish delegation to the Moscow Conference of the satellite states which discussed the general problem of European security and prepared for a similar, much more important conference. This conference, which significantly enough, was held in Warsaw five months later, concluded the so-called Warsaw Pact of May 14, 1955. Conceived as a counterpart to NATO, the Warsaw Pact made it clearer than ever before that communist-controlled Poland was definitely part of the Eastern bloc. It was a twenty-year treaty of friendship, co-operation, and mutual assistance, under the leadership of the Soviet Union and with the participation of Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Rumania, Bulgaria, Albania, and the German Democratic Republic ( East Germany).

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