The Communist Regimes in Eastern Europe: An Introduction

By Richard F. Staar | Go to book overview

Chapter 6 P0LAND:
Captive Eagle

THE U.S.S.R. accomplished a classic operation when it installed a puppet communist regime at Warsaw. All odds were against such a transformation. The countries of Eastern Europe were more receptive to democracy after the Second World War than they had been after the First.1 The populations had become completely disenchanted with semi-dictatorships and been disgusted by the ruthless Nazi and Soviet occupation forces. The Poles in particular, with their homogeneity and intense nationalism, craved such basic democratic attributes as self-government, freedom of speech, and private ownership. They also sought freedom to practice their Roman Catholic religion, an ideology diametrically opposed to the atheistic communist system that was being imposed upon them from the outside.

Given the foregoing factors, and assuming freedom of choice, Poland would seem to be the East European country least likely to fall under Soviet domination. Yet Poland so fell and remains even today under the control of a communist regime. The governmental structure is patterned, in all important aspects, after that of the U.S.S.R. Although two subordinate political organizations exist, there is no doubt as to who rules in Warsaw: the communist Polish United Workers' party (Polska Zjednoczona Partia Robotnicza--PZPR).

Historically, the Russians have maintained the belief that whoever controls the East European countries holds predominance in all of Europe. A corollary belief is that the power which holds Poland is in a key position throughout Eastern Europe. At the Yalta conference, in February 1945, Stalin agreed to a formula for establishing a Polish government through "free and unfettered elections as soon as possible on the basis of universal suffrage and secret

____________________
1
Hubert Ripka, Eastern Europe in the Post- War World ( New York, 1961), pp. 28-29.

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