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Foreword to the
English Edition

Sometime in 1978, while looking for source material for my books on Hungary, I discovered a dearth of serious, timely, comprehensive and objective books on the history of Eastern Europe. Millions of Americans have ancestors from the countries of Eastern Europe, yet the public, including the policy makers in Washington, D.C., show very little interest in what is happening behind the Iron Curtain. Only when some "event" has occurred -- a strike, an anti-Soviet demonstration or the breaking out of revolution -- do western officials and the mass media take notice.

Despite the fact that since 1945 Eastern Europe has played an important role in East-West relations, I have learned during my 20 years of involvement with an American college that, with a few exceptions, most college students know little or nothing about Eastern Europe and the Soviet occupation. They are not to blame; the interest to learn and to understand is there. The fault lies, rather, with an educational system in which history plays such a secondary role.

In 1982, my European friends called my attention to a new book written by Henry Bogdan, a professor of history in Paris. Published in France, the book was entitled From Warsaw to Sofia, (De Varsovie a Sofia, Histoire des Pays de l'Est) and covered the history of the entire Eastern European region from its origins to the present. I found the book very interesting, and a short time later met with Professor Bogdan. We agreed that the book should be published in English after being edited for the American public. Furthermore, we agreed that I would be responsible for bringing the book up

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to date, covering the historical events between the first publication in 1982 and the present, the Gorbachev era. Thus began our work on the English edition. The excellent translation from the French was made by Jean P. Fleming, and in editing and rewriting, I received indispensable help from my daughter, Krisztina Fehervary, whose studies at Brown University prepared her for the task. Here I would like to express my special thanks to her and to Jean. The maps were illustrated by Cynthia Hobgood.

Mr. Bogdan and I believe that this book will complete our goal of providing a comprehensive resource for those interested in history or politics, but also for anyone who would like to know more about the background of the peoples and nations of Eastern Europe.

Istvan Fehervary

SantaFe, 1988

Note on Spelling and Statistical Information

Place names and the names of historical persons often have various spellings: the spelling of the original language in the original alphabet, and then the spellings given those places and persons by other nationalities. Often, place names change over time or with the shifting of borders and ethnic groups. In the French edition, Professor Bogdan used the French spelling for all names; here, in the English edition, we have attempted to use spellings which would be easily recognizable to an English speaker without completely anglicizing them. We have excluded the accents and diacritical markings, and hope that those readers familiar with the languages in question will not be jarred by their absence. Where place names were in transition or might cause confusion, we have tried to include both, for example: Fiume (Rijeka).

Throughout the book, miles have been substituted for kilometers where possible. We have kept to the use of hectares in delineating land area, with one hectare corresponding to 2.5 acres.

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In the first few years after World War II, Eastern Europe became an easily defined entity. "Eastern European countries" was the prevalent ex- pression used to refer to the group of states directly or indirectly occupied by the Red Army during the last few months of the war. The states which subsequently became People's or Popular Democracies were defined by Andrei Zdanov -- a Soviet politician later killed during the Stalinist purges -- during a meeting of the Comintern as: "states where the power belonged to the people, where major industries, transportation, and the banks belonged to the state, and where the working class was the governing authority." Of course, Zdanov neglected to mention that the power held by the Communist parties was supported by the occupational Red Army. These states, which bordered the USSR, numbered eight and made up what was called the Soviet bloc or the Soviet satellite countries.

Defined and delimited this way, Eastern Europe essentially becomes a geopolitical concept: in Europe, but not belonging to the European community. The feeling that the West had little interest in liberating the peoples and nations of Eastern Europe became widespread. The Eastern European situation received publicity only when protests or revolutions broke out against the ruling Communist party or the occupying Soviet Army.

Eastern Europe, as we understand it throughout this work, bears little resemblance to what geographers traditionally call by that name. In fact, Eastern Europe is a political bloc which was created artificially by the superpowers at the Teheran and Yalta conferences. In his famous speech in Fulton in 1947, Winston Churchill was the first western statesman to call the boundary between the Western world and Eastern Europe the "Iron Curtain." Although the expression is officially considered inappropriate by

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the governments of Western nations and has been banished from diplomatic language in the name of détente, the Iron Curtain still exists as a very real border with mine fields, watchtowers, guard dogs, and all the other paraphernalia of a police state. It covers over 1 ,000 miles, from East German Lubeck to Italian Trieste, from the Baltic to the Adriatic. It continues to divide two worlds in spite of increased trade and immigration -- remaining a harsh reality which three million Berliners have the dubious privilege of observing every day.

Economically, Eastern Europe belongs to the Soviet organized and directed economic bloc, the Council for Mutual Economic Assistance (known as CMEA or COMECON). Founded in 1949 as a companion to the Red Army-led military bloc the Warsaw Pact, COMECON has since the 1960s encouraged national specialization in the production of industrial and agricultural products, and is a means of increasing Soviet leverage over its subject nations. The Warsaw Pact, in turn, places the Soviet Army in direct control of the national forces of the Eastern European nations, with the exceptions of Yugoslavia and Albania. Albania withdrew de facto in 1962 and de jure in 1968, following the severing of diplomatic ties with the Warsaw Pact nations.

In spite of appearances, the unity which characterized the countries of Eastern Europe for so many years seems more and more illusory. Differences and differing opinions abound in the Eastern Europe of today. Long hidden behind the veil of ideology, the ritual euphoria of official statements and the embarrassed silence of the media, national diversities and social and economic tensions are coming to light. Could they be merely coincidental phenomena isolated in time and space, or are they something more? We believe and will try to impress upon our readers that they are more a matter of long-term conditions linked to age-old problems that are resurfacing. In this case, we must seek the origins of the difficulties that the Eastern European governments are facing in the past as well as in the present.

If this hypothesis is correct, it means that after 40 years of socialist rule -- during which political, economic, and social structures, ways of thinking, educational systems, and spiritual values have undergone radical trans- formations -- the diverse nationalities and the cultural and religious traditions have remained intact, despite the dwindling numbers of those educated and raised before the Communist takeover in 1945-1948.


More than 45 years have passed since the Soviet Red Army occupied Eastern Europe and despite growing tensions, it may be as long again before

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it is free from Soviet hegemony. During the four decades that have elapsed, Eastern Europe has merited the attention of the world press on numerous occasions: a partial list includes the worker's revolt in East Berlin of June, 1 53, the Polish October and the Hungarian revolution of October, 1956, the Prague Spring of 1968 and the entry of Warsaw Pact troops into Czechoslovakia that followed, the Polish riots of 1970 and the Solidarity movement beginning in 1980. It comes as little surprise that the Hungarian Freedom fighters in 1956, Pope John Paul II in 1979, and Lech Walesa in 1 980 were named Men of the Year. In October, 1978, the world witnessed the election of the Polish Cardinal Wojtyla as Pope John Paul II -- a near-direct affront to the atheist Communist parties of the world. In June of 1979, the Pope publicly took a stand in favor of human rights and religious freedom, and followed his declaration with a triumphant visit to his native country.

The past eight years have witnessed the emergence of a new series of crises for the Eastern European regimes. May 1980 was marked by the death of Marshal Tito and the beginning of a difficult and complicated succession process in Yugoslavia. It is impossible to forget the beginning of a new social and political crisis in Poland in August, 1980; the official union evaporated and was replaced by the grassroots Solidarity Union, led by militant Catholic Lech Walesa. At the end of 1982, the Polish general Jaruzelski introduced martial law and outlawed Solidarity. The disturbances caused by the rapid changes of leadership in the Soviet Union itself hardly bear mentioning, as the policies of the State and Party leadership in the Eastern European nations are directly affected by decisions in Moscow.

Apart from sensationalist headlines, however, Eastern Europe is rarely examined in detail by the world press. We believe that this lack of interest is due not only to the overshadowing effect of events in Central America, Asia and the Middle East, considered to be more important to the United States, but also to a lack of knowledge of Eastern Europe's rich past and complex present. As Eastern Europe will be increasingly important both politically and economically in East-West relations, our intention in publishing this volume is to present a synthesis of Eastern European history incorporating precise documentation to the general public, journalists, teachers, students, and politicians. Our goal is to inform the reader about the real Eastern Europe -- its inhabitants, their early and recent history, their similarities and their differences.

Any historical examination can only be partial and imperfect; the authors should accordingly be the first to deplore this fact and to present an apology to the reader. While accepting this, we wish to note that our study is inspired by a sincere desire to approach the truth, even if this entails assailing some of the myths surrounding Eastern European history.

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Chapter 1

The Human Puzzle of Eastern Europe

More than 140 million inhabitants, eight states, at least a dozen languages, two alphabets in current use and six religions; these facts briefly illustrate the complexity of the human landscape in Eastern Europe at the end of its long history of invasions, civil and foreign wars, forced or voluntary population shifts, and territorial modifications and persecutions. Language is one of the principle criteria used to distinguish the peoples that inhabit the East European region, since in Eastern Europe, citizenship is an inadequate description of a population. In historical perspective, the existence of multinational states such as the Austro-Hungarian monarchy, as well as the partition of nations, has created a conflict between linguistic and state borders. The appearance and development of the concept of nationalism as a concept of international law in the l9th century did have an effect on the birth -- or rebirth -- of nation states, but the gap between ethnic and geographical borders still exists.


The great majority of peoples in Eastern Europe speak Indo-European languages. Among them, the Baltic languages of Latvian and Lithuanian and particularly the Slavic languages are the most prevalent. In 1987, 83 million East Europeans were estimated to be native speakers of a Slavic language, and it is also estimated that three East Europeans out of five are Slavic. There are also some 200 million Slavs from the Soviet Union in the immediate vicinity. While some Slavic peoples exist as scattered groups

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speaking dialects, the great majority of East European Slavs now live in coherent and homogenous groups. The Slavic peoples are divided into three major groups:

--the western Slavic group, consisting of the Poles, the Czechs, the

Moravians, and the Slovaks.

--the eastern Slavic group, made up of the Ruthenian minority (directly

related to the Ukrainians) who live in the Carpathian Ukraine.

--the southern Slavic or Yugoslavian groups that include the Slovenes,

the Goats, the Serbs, and the Bulgars. The latter were originally a

tribe of Turanian stock who settled in the Balkans in the second half of

the 7th century, and adopted the Slavic language of the more

numerous indigenous population. Although the Bulgars were the

conquerors, their severely diminished numbers encouraged the

linguistic adoption.

Several other Indo-European languages are spoken in Eastern Europe. The most important linguistic group after Slav is Illyro-Balkan, represented by Albanian and Rumanian. Rumanian has been traditionally classed among the Romance languages because it contains a large number of vocabulary words of Latin derivation. Recent studies on the origins of the Rumanian language, however, reinforce an old theory that Rumanian was born in the Balkans. According to these studies, the language can be considered an Illyrian language formed symbiotically with Albanian--as witnessed by the undeniable relationship between the vocabularies of the two languages. Rumanian clearly has been enriched by Latin and Slavic borrowings. Today, Rumanian is spoken by a little over 19 million people, and Albanian by over three million.

The third linguistic group is Finno-Ugric, originating from the eastern Ural-Baikal region. Completely unrelated to the Germanic, Slavic, and Indo-European languages, Finno-Ugric languages were introduced into central Europe at the end of the 9th century as a result of the long pilgrimage that led the Hungarian people from the confines of the Urals to the plains of the middle Danube. The settling of the Hungarians in their present location also separated the northern Slavs from their southern relatives. Today, Hungarian is spoken by over 15 million persons, of which only 10.5 million live in Hungary as defined by its present boundaries. The other Finno-Ugric language spoken in Eastern Europe is Estonian, spoken by about one million persons in Estonia, today occupied by the Soviet Union. Finnish is the third member of the Finno-Ugric family.

Finally, German occupies a special place in the linguistic geography of Eastern Europe. German is of course spoken by the inhabitants of East Germany, but it is more or less understood and spoken by many other East Europeans by virtue of long periods of cohabitation with Germans over the

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course of the centuries. German has more or less tended to retain its status as the lingua franca of Eastern Europe, although since 1945 the study of Russian has been mandatory in the schools and universities of most Eastern European countries.


The changes brought by recent history and the territorial modifications that followed the two World Wars, have both more than occasionally resulted in political borders that separate members of the same ethnic group. The obvious example is the German nation, divided after World War II to form two sovereign states: the western-oriented Federal Republic of Germany and the Soviet bloc nation the German Democratic Republic. The most symbolic representation of this artificial dichotomy is the city of Berlin, divided in two on August 1 3, 1961 by the infamous Berlin Wall. This recent division, however, gives an incomplete picture of how the regionalistic Germans have been separated for centuries. In addition to Austrian and Swiss Germans, enclaves of German minorities still exist in several Eastern European countries, now considerably reduced in number as a result of the massive expulsions of 1945-1946. More than 10 million Germans were transferred from Poland, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Rumania, and Yugoslavia to West Germany. In addition, thousands fled from Soviet occupied East Prussia and Poland to East Germany, and many continued from there to the West. Today, the number of Germans in Eastern Europe is not more than 0.5-0.1 percent of the population.

The Germans are hardly the only ethnic minority separated from their countrymen by the more or less arbitrary drawing of borders. As a result of the Treaty of Trianon in 1920, more than 30 percent of all Hungarians presently live in neighboring states outside the borders of Hungary. At present, concern for their welfare and treatment is an issue of national awareness in Hungary. At least 2.2 million live in Rumania, over 700,000 in Czechoslovakia, 450,000 in Yugoslavia, and nearly 200,000 in the Soviet Union. A great proportion of Albanians, about 1.7 million, live in Yugoslavian territory, and a limited number of Bulgars and Rumanians live in Yugoslavia. A minority Serbian population also exists in Rumania.


The relatively homogenous East European populations that have

succeeded in gaining national representation share territory with the

uprooted populations of once migrant peoples, who settled as foreigners in the regions their descendants now inhabit. These are the Armenians, the Gypsies, and the Jews.

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During the Byzantine period, and later at the height of the Ottoman Empire, small groups of Armenian settlers came to the Balkans from Turkey. Their descendants still live in communities that are vital and aware of their Armenian origins. In Bulgaria, they number 55,000, and a smaller number is found in Rumania. Particularly in the 17th century, other communities of Armenians preferred to take refuge in the Austrian Empire, where some settled in Transylvania and were completely assimilated by the local Hungarian population.

Before World War I, the Gypsies were present in all parts of Eastern Europe, particularly in the Balkan countries. Their numbers were noticeably diminished by forced deportations between 1942 and 1944, and a sad fact of which very little note is made is the killing of 500,000 Gypsies in German concentration camps during the second World War. 200,000 Gypsies still live in Bulgaria and Rumania, and over 100,000 live in Yugoslavia and Hungary. Elsewhere they are far less numerous. The Gypsy population remains very unpopular in Eastern Europe for both traditionally racist and ideological reasons, despite governments' efforts to settle and to integrate them into the population; it is clear that these efforts have achieved very little success.

Before 1939, the Jews made up a substantial percentage of the urban population in the Central and East European countries. They were most numerous in Poland with a population of over three million, about 10 percent of the total population. Rumania possessed a Jewish population of about 700,000, and Hungary of about 500,000; Jewish communities in other Eastern European nations were much smaller. Nazi persecutions practically annihilated the Jewish communities in Poland, Rumania, and Czechoslovakia. The Hungarian Jews were spared until March, 1944, and as a result nearly 250,000 survived the war. Along with approximately 200,000 Jews in Rumania, today they make up the largest Jewish community in Eastern Europe. Since 1945, tens of thousands of Jews have emigrated to Israel and the United States, further reducing the Jewish element of the population.


Religion is a very important factor in differentiating Eastern European populations, partly because historically the various nationalities have been so intolerant of each other. Today, in spite of the official policy of atheism, religion is very much alive. Although current statistics on religious belief and participation in Eastern Europe simply do not exist as the entire religious question is rather pointedly ignored, it is apparent that the extent of belief at least parallels that found in the West. In Eastern Europe, all of the major monotheistic religions are represented. Catholicism is present in two forms. Roman Catholicism is the religion of nearly all Poles, Slovenes, and Croats;

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85 percent of the Slovaks, 65 percent of the Hungarians, 60 percent of the Czechs, 10 percent of the Serbs, and 10 percent of East Germans are Roman Catholic. Greek Orthodox Catholicism (the Uniate Church) is actively practiced by the Ruthenian population in Slovakia, by several thousand Hungarians, and by about half the Rumanian population in Transylvania, despite an official ban by authorities in Bucharest in 1948.

Protestantism has attracted a majority in the German Democratic Republic in the form of Lutheranism. A minority in Czechoslovakia and Hungary adhere to Calvinism or Lutheranism, and in Rumania, a percentage of the German and Hungarian minorities in Transylvania are Protestant.

After four centuries of Turkish occupation, Islam took root among the Serbs of Bosnia-Herzegovina, and among the Bulgars of Rhodope (Pomoci). In Albania, it is the dominant belief with a percentage of 70 percent.

The attitude of the atheist and Marxist governments toward religion varies from one country to another, ranging from a tolerated freedom of religious teachings and practices in Poland to the total ban on all religious practices adopted by Albania in 1967. A variety of situations exists in between these two extremes. On the whole, the situation of Catholic and Protestant churches has improved from its precarious position in the 1950s. The Orthodox church in Rumania, Bulgaria, and Yugoslavia, for example, does not appear to be having any major difficulties in fulfilling its spiritual mission. And the election of the Bishop of Krakow, Karol Wojtyla, as Supreme Pontiff in 1978, followed by his triumphant tour of his native country during the following year, have had a considerable impact upon the population of Eastern Europe. Wojtyla's clear stance on matters of religious doctrine concerning human rights and religious freedom has also affected Eastern European believers and non-believers alike. The election of Wojtyla as Pope has also affected the national clergies, who have often been accused of being too willing to sacrifice the interest of their churches to their own personal comfort and safety.


In terms of birth and mortality rates, Eastern European demography followed a relatively homogenous pattern before World War II, with the exception of Germany. Both birth and mortality rates were relatively high. Although discernible patterns have appeared between countries since 1945, some common characteristics remain: a fairly sharp decrease in fertility and a decline in mortality, especially infant mortality.

The following examples illustrate some national differences.

-- Albania is a country with a strong natural growth rate due to a high

birth rate, on the order of 30 per 1,000, and a low mortality rate, less

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than 9 per 1,000. Accordingly, its population growth is the highest in

east-central Europe.

-- Poland, Rumania, and Yugoslavia have been able to sustain a natural

annual growth rate of close to 10 per 1,000 despite a slow but regular

decline in birth rate, because of noticeably lowered mortality rates and

in particular, lowered infant mortality.

-- The German Democratic Republic is a nation with a virtually

nonexistent growth rate. The birth rate is around 14 per 1,000 while

mortality is quite high, 13.9 per 1,000. This can best be explained by

its aging population, linked to both the low birth rate and the

consequences of massive emigrations of young people to the German

Federal Republic between 1950 and 1961.

-- In Bulgaria, Hungary, and Czechoslovakia, the natural growth rate is

low, due to a relatively low birth rate and a fairly high mortality rate,

again due to an aging population. Hungary has very recently

experienced popular protests due to what is perceived as governmental

policies leading to population decline; it is not unlikely that similar

protests will eventually spread to the more authoritarian regimes

practicing similar policies.

Eastern Europe has an average population density of almost 105 inhabitants per square kilometer; as a contrast, France has 98 inhabitants. The population densities of Bulgaria, Yugoslavia, Rumania, and Albania are lower than the average, as these are countries where mountainous terrain as well as a large agricultural population have discouraged highly concentrated living conditions. The four countries where the density is above average are those with plains and fertile interior basins, as well as the most highly developed industries. A considerable amount of variation also exists between regions within each country.

Similar variations exist in urban/rural population distribution. Urbanization has perceptibly progressed nearly everywhere in the course of the last thirty years, due to common policies of industrialization. As a result, urban populations now outnumber rural. The exceptions are Bulgaria, where urban and rural populations are roughly equal, and Albania and Yugoslavia, where only 44 percent of the population live in cities. A difference that should be noted, however, is that some countries have a long tradition of urban living while for others urbanization is more recent. The best example of the former is the German Democratic Republic, where city-dwellers make up over three-fourths of the population. A new type of urban center, which can be termed the "socialist city" because Marxist ideology was an element of its creation, has developed alongside the traditional cities that functioned originally as administrative or commercial centers. These new urban centers have mushroomed on rural sites and in trading regions because of the focus on heavy industry. Examples are Leninvaros and Dunaujvaros in Hungary, Nowa-Huta in Poland, Eisenhuttedstadt in the German Democratic

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Republic, and Hunedoara in Rumania. As an example, population density in Dunaujvaros is one of the highest in East or West Europe, despite its small size of under 65,000 inhabitants. Built in accordance with then-accepted Stalinist socialist principles, it was considered optimum to concentrate population in order to achieve the speedy creation of a "true" proletariat.

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