The Establishment of Communist Regimes in Eastern Europe, 1944-1949

The Establishment of Communist Regimes in Eastern Europe, 1944-1949

The Establishment of Communist Regimes in Eastern Europe, 1944-1949

The Establishment of Communist Regimes in Eastern Europe, 1944-1949

Synopsis

The collaborative effort of scholars from Russia and the United States, this book reevaluates the history of postwar Eastern Europe from 1944 to 1949, incorporating information gleaned from newly opened archives in Eastern Europe. For nearly five decades, the countries of Yugoslavia, Poland, Albania, Bulgaria, Romania, Hungary, Czechoslovakia, and the Soviet zone of Germany were forced to live behind the "iron curtain." Though their experiences under communism differed in sometimes fundamental ways and lasted no longer than a single generation, these nations were characterized by systematic assaults on individual rights and social institutions that profoundly shaped the character of Eastern Europe today. The emergence of the former People's Democracies from behind the iron curtain has been a wrenching process, but, as this book demonstrates, the beginning of the communist era was equally as traumatic as its end. With the opening of the archives in Russia and Eastern Europe, the contributors have been able to get a much firmer grasp on Soviet policies in the region and on East European responses and initiatives, which in turn has yielded more satisfying answers to vexing questions about Soviet intentions in the region and the origins of the Cold War. Exploring these events from a new, better-informed perspective, the contributors have made a valuable contribution to the historiography of postwar Europe.

Excerpt

The general thrust of my thinking on the subject matter that concerns us here is to conceive of a society's experiences of war and occupation as if they were endogenous. This may not be a particularly original insight, but it departs from routinely adopted historiographical approaches in which states or societies drawn into war or put under occupation are studied primarily as objects exposed to external, imposed, circumstances. What this means in practical terms is that we are much more likely to find political histories of occupation regimes, than social histories of countries under occupation.

And yet all social systems, at all times, operate within sets of constraints that they do not control, or cannot anticipate. This is a trivial point again, and one should be reminded that in some historical circumstances (such as war between states, for example) these externalities might be uniquely non-negotiable and intrusive. But then, conversely, we might think of internal circumstances that are uniquely, so to speak, non-negotiable and intrusive. And the impact of some such factors would be no less decisive and disruptive on the course of -- [otherwise "normal"?] societal development. Pace assorted Marxist writings about the role of individual in history, no serious student of the 20th century would hesitate to list Hitler's willfulness as a major force shaping the destiny of Russia.

I would propose, accordingly, that the wartime history of Poland, for example, ought to be written within the same mind-set and methodological approach as the wartime history of, say, Germany. Even . . .

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