Eastern Europe in the Post-War World

By Hubert Ripka | Go to book overview

Foreword

THE NEED FOR A NEW EUROPEAN SETTLEMENT

The uprisings in Poland and Hungary in June and October 1956 drew the attention of the world once more to East Central Europe. They had all the explosive qualities needed to shake the free world into taking a new look at the Communist satellite states.

They caused surprise: who would have thought open revolt against a totalitarian power was even possible? They evoked astonishment: who would have believed that a small Hungarian nation would be able to keep on fighting for several weeks in desperate isolation against the overwhelming power of a Soviet army? They awakened the conscience of the world: for it is not easy to watch passively the brutal suppression of a nation fighting for freedom. They made us wonder whether the free nations should offer active support even though this would mean the risk of plunging the world into another catastrophic war, equally disastrous for the liberated as for the liberator.

The free world rejoiced because Soviet power was weakened by the heroic defiance of the Polish and Hungarian people, but this surge of hope was mingled with the fear that the Russians might avert attention from the crisis in which they found themselves by provoking a fight elsewhere in the world. For a time it seemed that war might be fanned in the same area in which the shots of Sarajevo in 1914 started the first great conflagration: and the same area in which Hitler's vain struggle began. Could history be prevented from repeating itself? it was asked.

We now realize that the First and Second World Wars could have been avoided. It was necessary to settle satisfactorily and in time the problems laden with risk of conflict. The Poles and

-xiii-

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