In the Shadow of Russia: Eastern Europe in the Postwar World

In the Shadow of Russia: Eastern Europe in the Postwar World

In the Shadow of Russia: Eastern Europe in the Postwar World

In the Shadow of Russia: Eastern Europe in the Postwar World

Excerpt

The seven states presented here, Poland, Rumania, Bulgaria, Jugoslavia, Albania, Hungary, and Czecho-Slovakia, may seem remote; yet in our generation their vicissitudes have fatefully involved America and the whole world.

When, in 1914, a Jugoslav fanatic killed the successor to the throne of the Hapsburgs, he fired the first shot in World War I. Hitler's tanks rumbled into Poland in 1939 and World War II began.

These countries are wedged between the two great powers, Germany and Russia. The Germans forced them into their orbit in two world wars. In the years between the wars their territory served as a cordon sanitaire isolating the Soviet Union from capitalist Europe, saving both from ideological contamination. The Russians brought them under their sway when they reversed the German tide in 1944- 1945 and turned the area into a zone of transition between the two political and social systems. Moscow coined the name People's Democracy for the states in the Soviet orbit, admitting both public and private ownership and a measure of parliamentary democracy.

Apart from Czecho-Slovakia, the people's democracies dislodged no democratic regimes but merely replaced royal cliques of military and civilian bureaucrats. Actually, the Soviet-initiated republics for a time infused the nations and their governments with the untapped creative energies of the broad masses. The fervor displayed in the reconstruction of the war-ravaged countries and a genuine cultural efflorescence testified to a national rebirth. The Communist parties paraded as champions of nationalism since Stalin deemed nationalism indispensable as an incentive to the . . .

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