A VARIEGATED INSIGHT ON STALINISM AND DE-STALINIZATION OF THE EASTERN BLOC AND WESTERN EUROPE: A CASE STUDY OF THE POST WORLD WAR II ERA
Author-NNAJI JEHU ONYEKWERE - A PhD Candidate in Comparative Law and European Integration Processes at the Second University of Naples-‘Jean Monnet’ ,Italy February 11, 2010
Objective The objective of the research is to x-ray the communist style of government unleashed in Europe by Stalinism as well as examine the resistance and repudiation of this Post-World War 1 communist government pattern of ex-Soviet’s Joseph Stalin within the spectrum of Balkan region and its contiguous entities. Scope The scope of the research will seem to encompass the following dimensions: the ex-Soviet Union, Yugoslavia between 1946 and 1953, Hungary in 1947-1957, Czechoslovakia in the 50s and 60s and Western Europe, as in the case of Italy.
Joseph Stalin was the General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union’s Central Committee from 1922 until his death in 1953.His communist philosophy and style of government was exemplified in Stalinism and was the leader of Soviet Union after Lennin’s demise. He put in place a command economy that brought about rapid industrialisation and economic collectivisation.However, the agricultural sector was disturbed and this unleashed the Soviet famine of 1932-1933. Towards the end of the 1930s, Stalin campaigned and purged the Communist Party of people accused of sabotage, terrorism, or treachery.This is known in political circles as the Great Purge or "Great Terror".He often executed,imprisoned his victims or have them exiled and the minorities were deported.
He formed an alliance with Nazi Germany in 1939 when he failed in a bid to establish a general security system in Europe.Germany however violated this accord by invading Soviet Union in 1941. In response,Stalin was prompted to join the allied forces which brought about the defeat of Germany.On a comparative basis,the surrender of Germany was a Pyrrhic victory for Soviet Union as it sustained the highest deaths in the World War II as death toll climbed to over 23 million. Stalin made efforts to enhance his public image and in the process a cult of personality developed around him and he further established communist governments in most of Eastern Europe, forming the Eastern bloc thereby instituting a metaphorical ‘’Iron Curtain’’ with Western allies on one side and Soviet Union on the opposite side of the divide.This posturing attracted the indignation of United States and the western allies and marked the beginning of the Cold War which crumbled Soviet Union in 1991.
THE EX-SOVIET UNION
De-Stalinization of the Ex-Soviet Union
Stalin’s death in March 1953, put the reins of power in the hands of Nikita Khrushchev as General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU) and Georgi Malenkov as Premier of the Soviet Union. The duo declared amnesty for some prisoners incarcerated for criminal offences, announced price cuts, and deregulation on private plot. The process of DeStalinization also brought an end to large-scale forced labour in the economy.In his speech titled ‘’ On the Personality Cult and its Consequences to the closed session of the Twentieth Party Congress of the CPSU on February 25, 1956’’ Khrushchev rejected and repudiated Stalinism as dictatorship and totalitarianism and discountenanced the crimes committed by Stalin's closest associates.  Khrushchev’s ideologies and style of government impacted immensely on Soviet politics and boosted his power domestically.He thereafter eased restrictions by initiating economic policies that emphasized commercial goods rather than coal and steel production,thereby bringing about sustained growth and higher standard of living. This laissez faire system of government gave rise to resentment and widespread revolutions in Central Europe which jeopardized Soviet Union’s satellite interests.The Polish riots in the summer of 1956, and a wave of political turmoil which nearly prompted a Soviet Invasion of Poland but for the Warsaw Pact which was signed in 1955 which entailed among other things the
mutual non- interference in the affairs of a member state, respect for national sovereignty, and political independence.
FORMER YUGOSLAVIA BETWEEN 1946 AND 1953
The new constitution of Federal People's Republic of Yugoslavia, fashioned after the Soviet Union, was promulgated on January 31 1946 and it established six People's Republics, an Autonomous Province, and an Autonomous District that were part of SR Serbia. The federal capital was Belgrade. The Republics were : Socialist Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Socialist Republic of Croatia, Socialist Republic of Macedonia, Socialist Republic of Montenegro, Socialist Republic of Slovenia and Socialist Republic of Serbia, and the provinces were : Socialist Autonomous Province of Kosovo and Socialist Autonomous Province of Vojvodina. The attempted plan in 1947 by Yugoslavia and Bulgaria to form a union of two independent countries was stalled by Stalin. The period of Informbiro ushered in De-Stalinization in Yugoslavia.This period was from 1948-1955.Informbiro is the Yugoslav rendition of Cominform and was characterized by conflict and schism with the Soviet Union. The Tito-Stalin Split which was a conflict between the leaders of Federal People's Republic of Yugoslavia and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, resulted in the expulsion of Yugoslavia from the Communist Information Bureau -Cominform, in 1948. It was generally assumed to be caused by Yugoslavia's disloyalty to the USSR and its socialist style domination, but abundant evidence revealed that it had more to do with Josip Broz Tito’s personal ego and what may be termed a ‘gross insurbordination’ to to Joseph Stalin’s will.
HUNGARY BETWEEN 1947 AND 1957
After the multi-party elections of 1945 which was short lived, a political merger which produced Hungarian Working People's Party hinged on the Soviet style communist platform emerged and in 1949,the resultant government declared the People's Republic of Hungary. Hungarian government under the leadership of Mátyás Rákosi was among the most repressive in Europe. Police carried out purges of more than 7,000 dissidents who were branded western agents.Between 1950 and 1952,many people were tried,imprisoned in concentration camps, deported to the east or even executed.The deportees suffered malnutrition as they could not get meaningful jobs rather worked as slave workers.Many died as result. Russian language study and
Communist political instruction were made mandatory in schools and universities nationwide.Religious schools were brought under government ownership and in 1949 a Catholic Cardinal József Mindszenty was arrested given life imprisonment in an unsubstantiated count of treason.  Hungary was one of the Soviet satellite countries practicing Stalinist government but a demonstration organized by thousands of students gradually snowballed into a revolution which engulfed the whole country from 23 October to 10 November 1956. A student delegation which went to broadcast its demands via the air waves was detained and the demonstrators asked for the release but instead were fired at by the State Police.This unbridled use of firearm by men of the State Police brought about pandemonium in Budapest.This revolt spread through all parts of Hungary and the Stalinist government was brought to its knees while anarchy became the order of the day as prisoners were released and armed to help in destabilisng the government. The new government proscribed the State Police and stated its readiness to withdraw from Warsaw Pact.The normalcy which returned was transient as the Politburo made a volte face and decided to crush the rebellion.This was demonstrated when Soviet forces invaded Budapest and other regions amidst Hungarian resistance resulting in the carnage over 2,500 Hungarians and 700 Soviet troops with some 200,000 Hungarian refugees who fled the country. Hungary suffered immensely in the Post World War II era. Among the challenges were inability to obtain Marshall Plan aid, depreciation of the currency, trade ban with the West, reparations estimated as between 19 and 22 per cent of the annual national income totalling 300,000,000 million USD paid out to to the Soviet Union, Czechoslovakia, and Yugoslavia, and to support Soviet garrisons. For 4 decades, this communist style government brought untold hardship on Hungarians and Hungarian interests until the inauguration of the Third Hungarian Republic in 1989.
CZECHOSLOVAKIA BETWEEN 1950 AND 1969
Czechoslovakia did not have a de facto existence from 1939 to 1945, due to its forced division and partial incorporation into Nazi Germany. But the Czechoslovak government-in-exile nonetheless continued to exist during this time period.In the 1950s it existed as Czechoslovak Republic while in the 1960s after the promulgation of the national constitution on 11 July 1960,it existed as Czechoslovak Socialist Republic and fully operated the communist style of Government as opposed to the Soviet’s socialist ideologies. The process of de-Stalinization in Czechoslovakia had begun in the late 1950s and early 1960s, but had progressed slower than in most other socialist states of the Eastern Bloc. The pace of change, was sluggish; the
rehabilitation of Stalinist-era victims, such as those convicted in the Slánský trials took place in 1967. On the night of August 20 - August 21, 1968, the ‘’Warsaw Five’’ namely the Soviet Union, Bulgaria, the German Democratic Republic (East Germany), Hungary and Poland invaded the Czechoslovak Socialist Republic in order to halt Prague Spring political liberalization reforms.This invasion had as its aftermath hundreds of casualties on the Czechoslovak side. In the early 1960s, Czechoslovakia, underwent an economic downturn.The Soviet model of industrialization applied poorly to Czechoslovakia. Czechoslovakia was already quite industrialized before World War II and the Soviet model mainly took into account less developed economies. Restructuring the economy, spurred increased demand for political reform as well,causing the Czechoslovak Government to lose support. Once again, this vote of no confidence against the leadership of the Czechoslovakia,encouraged the invitation of Soviet leader, Leonid Brezhnev to Prague who upon arrival in Prague supported power change in favour of the socialist supporters. In Czechoslovakia, opposition to the invasion was expressed in numerous spontaneous acts of nonviolent resistance resulting on 19 January 1969, when a student Jan Palach immolated himself in a public Square to protest against socialist domination.The invasion was criticized and resisted in many countries as far as Finland,Romania,Italy,France,Paraguay,Denmark,United Kingdom,United Sates and on the streets of Soviet Union.
On 23 September 1943, Trieste was nominally absorbed into the Italian Social Republic.During the Nazi occupation of Italy, the only concentration camp on Italian soil was built in a suburb of Trieste, at the Risiera di San Sabba, on 4 April 1944. There was a strong Italian and Yugoslav partisan activity, and was a target of heavy Allied bombings. The Italian anti-Fascist National Liberation Committee (Comitato di Liberazione Nazionale, or CLN) of don Marzari and Savio Fonda, on April 30, 1945, created a formation of about 3,500 volunteers, whose main commission was to oust the German occupiers. On May 1, Allied forces of the Yugoslav Partisans’ 8th Corps arrived and took over most of the city, except for the courts and the castle of San Giusto, where the German garrisons refused to surrender to any force other than New Zealanders. The German forces capitulated on the evening of May 2 under the influence of the 2nd New Zealand Division, but were then turned over to the Yugoslav forces. The Yugoslavs held full control of the city of Trieste until June 12, a period known in the Italian historiography as the "forty days of Trieste".Former Fascists and Nazi collaborators,Italian
nationalists, and any opponents of Yugoslav Communism were interned in Yugoslav concentration camps in Borovnica, Slovenia, while others were secretly murdered and thrown into the potholes. During this period, hundreds of indigenes were arrested by the Yugoslav authorities, and some of them faced the harshest of consequences. The Yugoslav siege continued until after an agreement was reached by the Yugoslav and the British sides. The Yugoslav forces withdrew from Trieste, leaving the area under a joint BritishUnited States military administration. The end of the Trieste administration gave birth to Free Territory of Trieste brought about by the Paris Peace Treaty of September 1947 and was declared an independent city state under the protection of the United Nations .The territory of Trieste was divided between 2 administrations along a characteristic ‘Morgan Line’ with United States and Britain on the west side and Yugoslav forces on the east side.When in 1954 the Free Territory of Trieste was dissolved, the city of Trieste and its adjoining territories were ceded to Italy while the area under Yugoslav control was ceded to Yugoslavia. Trieste was officially integrated into Italy on 26 October 1954.The Treaty of Osimo in Italy on 10 November 1975 finally drew the demarcation line between Italy and Slovenia (its former Yugoslav neighbour).
1.Politburo- Political Bureau of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union known as the Presidium from 1952 to 1966, functioned as the central policymaking and governing body of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union 2. Stalinism is a term that refers to a "theory and practice of communism" utilised in the political system associated with Joseph Stalin, leader of the Soviet Union from 1928–1953 3. De-Stalinization refers to the process of eliminating the cult of personality and Stalinist political system created by Soviet leader Joseph Stalin. 4. Cominform -Communist Information Bureau 5. Comintern- Communist International 6. Informbiro-Yogoslav rendition of Cominterm
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