I am offering the reader a rather small book about a very large subject, a thousand-year-long history of the East-Central European region. The idea was borne from long reflections on my short life connected to this small unhappy part of the world. The impulse for my previous book about postwar Stalinist terror ( Show Trials, Praeger, 1987) came from the bitter five years spent in Hungarian prisons on concocted political charges. How and why could this have happened, I asked myself. How and why could it have happened that my father, my grandmother, all my aunts, uncles, and cousins perished in the Holocaust? How could I have believed, in October 1956, that the dream of my youth, a democratic socialism, could be made possible? Why was this belief crushed in November by Soviet armed intervention that led to my immigration to the West? Was all that only the doing of Hitler and Stalin, or do I have to dig much deeper?
The search for answers led me further and further back in the history of East-Central Europe and ultimately to writing this book. The roots of German fascism and Stalinist communism reach back to the fifteenth century -- to refeudalization of Prussia and the introduction of state serfdom in Muscovy. The shattered socialist