"How to Live After the War?": The Conflict of Expectation and Reality
The war changed the face of world politics. The common threat brought nations together, postponed their usual quarrels, and turned national pride and ethnic antagonisms into unwanted handicaps. The worldwide cataclysm diverted the nations from the usual posturing about the superiority of one political system or another and encouraged them to embrace the priority of common human values and the idea of global unity. At the end of the war this idea seemed about to materialize, conciliating the conflicts among recent allies and damping the ardor of the diehard revanchists. Even the genesis of the Cold War, followed by the atomic psychosis, could not entirely scotch the idea of a Common European Home. Of course, merely beginning to turn this idea into political reality required the passage of several decades and the change of several political generations. The postwar leaders continued to think in terms of the old categories of confrontation: one side feared the spread of communist contagion, and the other guarded itself against bourgeois influence. The iron curtain descended between East and West Europe. Thereafter Soviet citizens could only guess at what was going on in the world, until they realized with bitter surprise that the defeated enemy had quickly regained his feet and laid the foundations of a new and vigorous life, while they themselves were subsisting on meager rations and blaming their misery on the consequences of the war.
But it did not have to be so. The victory offered Russia the opportu-