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Chapter 24

The Age of Stalin

For the people of Eastern Europe, the five years that elapsed between the winter of 1947-48 and the death of Stalin comprised the darkest and most difficult period after the end of the war. Internationally, these years were marked by the cold war and by the establishment of close ties between the Eastern European countries and Moscow. Only Yugoslavia managed to break these ties with the Soviet Union. Internally, dictatorial systems were put in place during these years just after the war reached its zenith; opponents of the new regimes were put on the defensive and became victims, as were many Communist leaders themselves. Economically, the years 1948-1953 witnessed the irreversible establishment of the planned socialist economic system.


The establishment of popular democracies in Eastern Europe coincided with the cold war in the international arena. After 1946, the entente between the allies of the Second World War, which had prevailed up until then despite some localized friction, began to deteriorate as relations cooled between the leaders of the Western and Soviet blocs, or the US and the USSR. The causes for the cold war are linked primarily to the differences in political and economic tenets of the two blocs. During the war, these differences had been discreetly set aside in the interests of confronting a

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common enemy; once peace returned, however, they reappeared with a vengeance, especially since President Roosevelt's successor, Harry S. Truman, seemed much less disposed than his predecessor to grant further concessions to the Soviets. In addition, the means by which the Communists had come to power in Eastern Europe provoked serious reservations in western countries accustomed to pluralistic parliamentary democracy. The Western powers quickly came to the conclusion that Stalin had got the better of them at Yalta.

President Truman's clearly stated intention of containing the Soviets provoked a hardened reaction -- notably revealed in the organizational meeting of the Cominform in September, 1947. Considering Eastern Europe indispensable for security reasons, the Soviets decided to close it off to the exterior world. Accordingly, the Soviet leaders prohibited Eastern European countries from making any political or trade agreements directly with Western countries. Czechoslovakia's refusal, following orders from Moscow, to accept aid from the Marshall Plan, clearly illustrated Moscow's desire to keep the upper hand in Eastern European foreign affairs. Moreover, the USSR hurriedly concluded an economic agreement advantageous to Czechoslovakia. Other trade agreements were signed in the months that followed with other popular democracies. Even though these countries had previously traded mainly with Western Europe, the USSR was to become their primary trading partner. At the same time, trade agreements were signed among the popular democracies. For a country like the German Democratic Republic, which had always been part of the vast economic ensemble of Germany, the new orientation necessitated a radical overhaul of economic activities in order to meet the needs of the new trading partners.

These economic agreements were matched by political treaties of alliance, friendship and mutual assistance that reinforced each country's links with the USSR as well as with each other, strengthening the bonds of the "Soviet bloc." These treaties provided for instructors and technical experts to be sent to each country by the USSR, and gave the Soviet military the responsibility of reorganizing the armed forces in each country. The ultimate goal was to form a group of countries united among themselves and definitively bound to the Soviet Union--as both the center of world communism and as a state. The principle of these privileged ties with the USSR, based on the strict adherence of all Communist parties to the party line from Moscow, was solemnly confirmed at the Szklarska-Poreda conference. By the end of 1947, the countries of Eastern Europe had begun to resemble a homogenous bloc with close ties to the Soviet Union, which was militarily present in Hungary, Poland, Rumania and in the German Democratic Republic. At this time, Yugoslavia under Tito appeared to all as closest to the USSR politically and ideologically. It was undoubtedly for this

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reason that Belgrade was chosen as the seat for the Cominform. However, less than one year later, on June 28, 1948, the Cominform condemned Tito's policies and called upon the Yugoslav Communist party to change directions.

The Yugoslav Schism

The break between Yugoslavia and the Soviet bloc in the summer of 1948 caused the first serious crisis in the socialist world. It was difficult to imagine that the most Stalin-like of the Eastern European leaders would suddenly turn rebellious. Tito had faithfully based Yugoslavia's institutions on the Soviet Union's, and the Yugoslav constitution of 1946 strangely echoed Stalin's constitution of 1936. The secret police, the UDBA, under the direction of Alexander Rankovitch, had used Stalinistic zeal when they eliminated various opponents. In foreign policy as well, Yugoslavia had always been aligned with the USSR in attacking American imperialism, and furthermore, was actively supporting Communist guerrillas who were waging a veritable war on the Greek government. Weren't these signs evidence enough of Tito's unswerving loyalty? The leaders in Moscow didn't think so, finding aspects of Tito's behavior disquieting. First of all, since Tito's own armies had liberated most of Yugoslavia's national territory, Tito felt less dependent on the Soviets than other Eastern European leaders. This Yugoslav nationalism didn't seem to bother the Soviets until early 1948. Affairs became more complicated when Tito began planning a Balkan federation under the direction of Belgrade, gathering Albania and Bulgaria around Yugoslavia. Since the end of the war, Yugoslavia had been conducting an intense political and economic campaign in Albania, resulting in an agreement of cooperation and mutual assistance, signed in July, 1946, and reinforced by a customs and monetary agreement in November of the same year. The two countries decided to dispense with customs and adopt a single monetary unit. Simultaneously, hundreds of Yugoslav technicians, both civilian and military, descended upon Albania. The presence of these Yugoslav instructors, who often behaved arrogantly toward the local populations, provoked violent disagreements within the Albanian Commun- ist party. Some Albanian leaders were under the impression that Tito intended to make Albania the seventh republic of the Yugoslav federation. The leadership of the Albanian Communist party insisted on maintaining close ties with Yugoslavia up until early 1948, when Tito tried to place the Albanian armed forces under Yugoslav control and station his troops in Albania "to defend Albania from the threat of Greek monarchist-fascists". Enver Hoxha, despite a large pro-Yugoslav faction within the Albanian Communist party, decided to take action and notified Moscow of Tito's intentions. By May, 1948, relations between Tirana and Belgrade had begun to deteriorate.

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Moscow was doubly alarmed by Tito's expansionist views, since Bulgaria was also targeted. Relations between Belgrade and Sofia had been cordial since the meeting between Tito and Dimitrov and the agreement of Euxinograd on November 27, 1947, in which Yugoslavia gave up demands for Bulgarian reparations in exchange for Bulgarian withdrawal of claims to Macedonia. Plans for a Balkan federation were also discussed. Then, in early January, 1948, Dimitrov mentioned the possibility of such a federation-- which could include other Eastern European countries like Hungary, Poland, Czechoslovakia and even Greece--and was criticized on January 28, by the Soviet government newspaper Pravda. He retracted his words a few days later. All this was too much for Moscow; if Tito wanted to annex Albania and group the Balkan and Danubian countries around him, it could eventually threaten Soviet hegemony in the area. Moscow tried to obtain a self-criticism from the Yugoslavs and appeared to be succeeding on February 11, when Yugoslavia signed a document in Moscow agreeing to consult the USSR in all matters regarding foreign affairs. In spite of this apparent show of good will, Tito had no intentions of relinquishing control. The central committee of the Yugoslav Communist party met on March 1, and adopted a firm line regarding the Soviets. Moscow retorted on March 18, by recalling Soviet military advisors from Yugoslavia on the pretext that they had been poorly treated and were under close surveillance by the Yugoslav secret police. Tito retaliated in a long letter to Soviet Minister of Foreign Affairs Molotov, justifying the surveillance of the Soviet advisors -- who had been engaged in espionage. Step by careful step, Yugoslavia was heading for a break, but no one except select insiders knew what was going on. The USSR made a last attempt to bring Tito into line by asking the anti-Titoists in the Yugoslav Communist party, Colonel General Joujovitch and Andre Hebrand, president of the Planning Committee, to denounce the Party's policies. The maneuver failed; Joujovitch and Hebrand were expelled from the Party in April, then arrested. Tito, with Party leaders Djilas, Kardelj, and Rankovitch all firmly behind him, stubbornly stood up to Moscow, and in so doing had the unanimous support of the Party. After expelling the Joujovitch-Hebrand group from the Party, Tito still attempted to justify his actions to Moscow. In a letter dated April 13, addressed to the leaders of the Soviet party, he reminded them that "inaccurate and slanderous information ` about the Yugoslav party and its policies had been furnished by Joujovitch and Hebrand, who had been expelled for their attempts to splinter the party. Tito spelled out in detail his position on relations with the USSR, emphasizing the fact that "whatever love each of us may have for the USSR, the leader of socialism, we do not love our own country -- which also honors socialism--any less."

Until that moment, the rank-and-file members had no idea what was

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taking place. The first public indication of the crisis occurred on May 17, 1948, on the celebration of Marshal Tito's birthday. Neither the USSR nor Albania sent the traditional congratulatory messages. Tito, on his part, had just refused the Kremlin's proposal of arbitration by "brother parties." When the Cominform convened in late June, 1948, the leaders condemned Tito's policies. In their resolution of June 28, they denounced the nationalists' takeover of the Yugoslav Communist party and called upon the "authentic Communists" of Yugoslavia to "impose a new political direction." Immediately, the central committee of the Yugoslav Communist party called upon militants and members of the People's Front to continue the work of enlightened socialism.

Positions had been taken, and the break came quickly. On July 1, Albania was the first of all the Eastern European countries to renounce treaties signed with Yugoslavia. Then, on July 4, Yugoslavia was expelled from the Cominform. In Yugoslavia itself, Tito had the firm backing of the Fifth Party Congress and refused to budge; he denied all accusations of deviation and nationalism directed at the leadership of the Yugoslav Communist party, and appealed to the entire population to support its leaders.

The USSR made a last ditch effort, attempting a military coup against Tito. The Soviets could count on the chief of staff, General Jovanovitch, but the army did not seem inclined to follow the plot leaders. Jovanovitch decided to flee the country, but on August 11, he was shot down by the militia as he was about to cross the Bulgarian border. His accomplices were arrested shortly thereafter.

Yugoslavia was immediately quarantined; the "brother countries" practically set up an economic blockade. Socialist countries' ambassadors posted in Belgrade were recalled, leaving only the deputies in the Yugoslav capital. Simultaneously, Moscow reinforced its hold on the faithful Eastern European countries. In 1949, in order to tighten its hold on the popular democracies, the Soviet Union created a Council of Mutual Economic Assistance (COMECON), designed to establish close economic cooperation between member countries through multilateral treaties. However, COMECON was slow to become effective; it was only after the death of Stalin that it became a reality. Regular meetings of the ministers of foreign affairs in the Eastern European countries were organized, and military cooperation was strengthened under the strict control of the Soviet Union. There was no question of allowing another Yugoslavian experiment to develop. When the Polish leadership seemed to hesitate, Poland was placed under the sharp surveillance of Marshal Rokossowsky -- a man of Polish origin, but a Soviet citizen and marshal in the Red Army -- who was named head of the Polish army as well as Minister of Defense. The Yugoslav schism brought about a

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definite hardening of positions within the popular democracies and rigorous alignment with Moscow.



Government Organization

All the Eastern European countries have been governed by popular democracies since 1948. The Communist party rose to power everywhere, imposing its political objectives on the populations and making communist ideology the inspiration for new legislation. The Soviet constitution of 1936 was the model for constitutions adopted by Rumania in April 1948, Czechoslovakia in May of the same year, by Hungary in August 1949, and by the German Democratic Republic -- East Germany -- in October. Constitu- tions already in force in Albania and Yugoslavia since 1946, and in Bulgaria and Poland since 1947, were all based on the Soviet example. The Yugoslav constitution most closely resembled the Soviet model because of its six federated republics and two autonomous territories; like the USSR, the popular assembly was composed of two houses, the Federal Council, made up of deputies elected proportionately one for each 50,000 inhabitants, and a People's Council which represented the different nationalities. This Popular Assembly, which was analogous to the Supreme Soviet of the USSR, voted on laws, appointed governmental officials and elected the presidium -- the collective leadership of the state in which the president, in this case Marshal Tito, held major powers.

In the other non-federated popular democracies, power was held by a single assembly (the Chamber of the People in East Germany, the Diet in Poland, the Great Assembly in Bulgaria and Rumania, the National Assembly in Hungary and in Czechoslovakia, and the Popular Assembly in Albania); the government and the presidium, also sharing in power, were elected by the assembly. The president of the presidium was the head of state in each country. All representatives, local and regional counselors and assembly members, were elected by a suffrage of men and women over 18 on a direct and secret ballot (although what took place in the polling sites was suspect) through a single list of candidates. The lists were drawn up before the elections by the leadership of the popular or patriotic fronts gathered around the communist parties, and the unions and other mass organizations linked to the Party. In principle, the voter could choose to approve the list, or turn in a negative or blank ballot, or abstain from voting. The system was so well organized that the total of blank or negative votes never exceeded five percent of the registered voters! All of the constitutions claimed in one form

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or another that the popular democracy was the "state of the workers and peasants," and most of them clearly mentioned the leading role of the Communist party. The constitutions officially guaranteed the principal freedoms: freedom of the press, of assembly and of religion. The gap between theory and practice, however, was large.

At least until the mid-1950s, all of these provisions were only theoretical formulas. In fact, the real power lay with the Communist party, or more precisely with the leaders of the Communist party who were in constant contact with the leaders of the Soviet Communist party. The true power holder was the Communist party's secretary general, a position which was frequently combined with head of state or of government. Thus, Matyas Rakosi was both secretary general of the Hungarian Worker's party and prime minister; Walter Ulbricht was both president of the State Council of East Germany and first secretary of the United Socialist party, just as in their respective countries Enver Hoxha and Tito headed both the state and the Party. After being elected president of the Republic, Klement Gottwald ceded leadership of the Party to Rudolf Slansky, but retained a supervisory role. In a similar fashion, the leadership of state and of the Party in Poland were separate. In all of these countries, Party bureaucracy always took precedent over the state.

The communist state's absolute power was reinforced by the unions and mass organizations, and was propped up universally by a political police force which practically constituted a state within a state -- charged with ferreting out opponents both within and outside of the Party. The all-powerful political police introduced an atmosphere of mistrust and suspicion, infiltrating all levels of society.

Political Purges in the Eastern Bloc States

Following the Yugoslav schism, Soviet leaders called upon the leadership of the various Eastern European communist parties to increase their vigilance against any infiltrating "class enemies," or anyone whose behavior could be interpreted as pro-Tito. By summer, 1948, communist parties had all begun to scrutinize the activities and attitudes of every active member, particularly those in high positions. It was an enormous undertaking, since the ranks of the Party members had swollen greatly after the establishment of popular democracies; many opportunists had joined for reasons of self-protection or ambition. Thousands of members were expelled, officially for pro-Titoism or anti-Sovietism, but more often for demonstrating slight tendencies of thinking independently about Party matters. Taking all the Eastern European countries into consideration, it has been estimated that nearly a quarter of the parties were expelled or stricken from the rolls, and seven to eight percent of these former members were later arrested.

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Dismissal from the Party carried serious consequences at the time, adversely affecting the victim's employment opportunities and social life. The overall effect of these purges on the countries involved was considerable. The Yugoslavian people were not spared either, but there, the pro-Soviet elements were flushed out. Throughout Eastern Europe, public attention was focused on the large public trials, often broadcast over the radio, during which high-ranking Party officials, feared or respected by those around them, were accused of a series of crimes ranging from simple treason or espionage for the imperialist countries, to trafficking in foreign currency. To the public's amazement, the accused, pale and contrite, willingly confessed to the crimes they were accused of and more.

The Polish Communist party was the first to attack prominent members, and the earliest and most famous victim of their purges was Wladislaw Gomulka, secretary general of the Polish Worker party since 1943. Accused of "nationalist and rightist" deviation during the meeting of the Polish central committee in September, 1948, Gomulka was immediately replaced by Boleslaw Bierut, a true Stalinist who was already chief of state. Gomulka was dismissed from the Party in November, 1949, at the same time as the long-standing leader of the Popular Army, General Spychalski, was dismissed. Spychalski's arrest in May, 1950, on charges of attacking the security of the state, followed by Gomulka's the next year, did not result in the type of large show trial becoming customary in the other countries.

Elsewhere in Eastern Europe, large show trials were staged to impress the public and to bolster Party support. Typical of these trials was the trial of Laszlo Rajk and his codefendants, which took place in Budapest from September 16 to 24, 1949. The accusation was:

"Rajk and his followers intend to tear Hungary away from the

defenders of the peace..." and are accomplices "of Tito, who with his

cohorts has deserted socialism and democracy...and has made

Yugoslavia into a satellite of the imperialists.... Behind Rajk's work,

there is American imperialism which has already assembled its pack of

ringleaders in the zone of Austrian occupation -- the officers of the Arrow

Goss, fascists, Horthyists, and former gendarmes -- who hope to bathe

in the worker's blood...."

These accusations were outrageous given that Rajk and his principal codefendant, Palffy-Oesterreicher, had been among those who had played particularly decisive roles in the Communists' rise to power in 1947-1948, and were personally responsible for the establishment of the repressive apparatus now being used against them. Rajk and two of his companions were condemned to death and executed; the others were given heavy prison sentences. Rajk's trial was in reality a trial of Tito, and his confession

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instigated a chain reaction in the other popular democracies.

In Czechoslovakia, a first wave of purges struck certain Slovak Communist leaders accused of "bourgeois nationalism and deviationism." At the instigation of Rudolf Slansky, acting in concert with the Soviet security forces, a group of government officials was arrested in February, 1951, including the minister of foreign affairs, Clementis, the president of the Slovak Commissary Council, Gustav Husak, the commissioner of education, Novemesky, and the commissioner of culture, Holdos. Soon afterward, Rudolf Slansky was himself targeted; he was relieved of his functions as head of the Party in September of the same year, and arrested on November 24 in company with other prominent personalities -- most of whom were also of Jewish origin. The trial took place behind closed doors in November, 1952. Slansky and those he had had arrested were seated side by side on the defendants, bench. Eleven of the 14 defendants, including Clementis and Slansky, were condemned to death and executed. Two of the survivors, Arthur London and Eugene Loebl, later spoke of the physical and moral coercion suffered by the defendants. All of the accused first claimed innocence and loyalty to the Party, but during the interrogation, they were promised their lives would be spared in exchange for the confessions necessary for the Party to unmask the true enemies of socialism. They all agreed to betray their best friends in the interests of the Party or to save their own skins.

Besides the Slansky and Rajk trials, dozens of other trials were held in Hungary and Czechoslovakia. Men like Janos Kadar of Hungary and Gustav Husak in Czechoslovakia, who later held high offices in their respective countries, were condemned and tortured in Stalin's prisons. Ironically, it was at the request of the Soviets that these men took over leadership under dramatic circumstances: Kadar after the revolt in Budapest was crushed in 1956, and Husak after the failure of the "Prague Spring" in 1 968. Why, after their treatment during the purges, these men agreed to do this is hard to explain, except perhaps out of unconditional loyalty to the Party and to the Soviet Union. Albania, Bulgaria and Rumania also conducted purges which victimized persons who had made contributions to the consolidation of Communist power in their countries; Traiko Kostov in Bulgaria, Lucretiu Patrascanu and Anna Pauker in Rumania, and Koci Xoxe in Albania had all been long-time Party activists who were then put on trial.

The victims of these widespread purges had a common trait; they were more nationalistic and less devoted to Moscow than those who eliminated them. Some, like Slansky or Anna Pauker, were Jewish; almost all of them had fought in the resistance inside or outside of their countries; and others had served in the international brigades during the Spanish civil war. It was because of contacts that they might have made outside their countries that

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they appeared less dependable to the Kremlin, regardless of proof of their loyalty. All had participated in, though perhaps not personally organized, the elimination of opponents of the new political order. And paradoxically, men like Rajk and Slansky were later decorated as martyrs, though they were in reality the first victims of the repressive system which they themselves had worked so hard to create. Outside of the automatic outcry raised by Western journalists, it is doubtful that the thousands of innocent people thrown into prison by Rajk, Slansky and others, seriously bemoaned the fate of their one-time prosecutors.

Besides the well organized, propagandistic "show trials ", there were millions of victims of the Stalin era whose trials and misfortunes were fairly unknown. Only after the 20th Party Congress in 1956, where Khrushchev openly admitted the police brutality and injustices committed against millions, did the world learn what had actually taken place in the years 1948-1956 in all the Eastern European states after the Communists seized power.

Following the Soviet precedent, a man-hunt began for so-called "reactionaries, fascists, capitalists, conspirators, counter-revolutionaries, spies and for any enemies of the proletariat." Millions were arrested, tortured in the cells of the secret police and, in most cases, sentenced in secret trials to hard labor in prison or in camps. Thousands were executed for "political crimes." In many cases, the accusations were based on false denunciations; in others, the secret police fabricated conspiracies and plots which the accused first learned about during their interrogation or in their trial. The treatment of those arrested was so barbaric that many died from torture, from beatings during interrogation, or simply from hunger. In Hungary in the years 1948-1956, not less than 400,000 people were arrested and sentenced, and over 1500 were executed or tortured to death -- solely for political reasons.

The victims at the beginning were mostly from the former ruling classes and others whose loyalty to the order of things was suspect: officers, military personnel, former government employees, intellectuals, priests, landowners, businessmen -- members of the middle class. Later they also victimized workers, peasants and students who had started to protest against the terror and the tumultuous economic situation.

Although millions were sent to jail, thousands of these "undesirables" were exiled from the cities and sent to the country or to forced labor camps. They were picked up by the secret police at night-time, given one hour to pack their most needed belongings -- I00 pounds per person -- and had to leave everything else, home and possessions, behind forever. In Hungary, in May-June, 1951, nearly 100,000 of these undesirables were evicted from Budapest and deported to collective farms in the east of the country. Similar

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methods were used in Czechoslovakia at about the same time, and numerous opponents of the Rumanian regime were assigned to forced labor on the Danubian delta.

The Struggle Against the Church

The attitude of the Communist power toward religion and the church varied from country to country. In Bulgaria and Rumania, where the populations were primarily Orthodox, the new power tried to bring church leaders over to the cause, playing on a long-standing antagonism with Rome and on the necessity of siding with the patriarch of Moscow, who was devoted to the Soviet state. From the beginning, the Serbian Orthodox clergy adopted a submissive position towards Tito's regime. Everywhere the recalcitrant members of the Orthodox clergy were removed from their parishes with the cooperation of church hierarchy and relegated to monasteries where they became virtual prisoners. The Orthodox church became one of the main forces behind the regime, and as such, reaped the benefits. In Rumania, the government forcefully brought the Catholic Uniates back into the fold as a recompense. The Uniate Church had been separate since the end of the seventeenth century, and its abolition in 1948 was deeply resented by its followers and clergy, who continued their practices secretly, often under persecution.

In the Catholic countries, the situation was different. The Catholic church was a force to be reckoned with because of its ties to Rome and its centralized structure. Unless neutralized or at least controlled by the state, it was seen as a potential rallying point for dissidents. As early as 1945-1946, numerous priests and monks as well as prominent Catholics were arrested and sentenced for "collaboration" and "anti-Soviet activities." Officially, the church as such was not targeted, although under the pretext of "collaboration" such well-known personalities as Josef Stepinac, the archbishop of Zagreb, were eliminated. Similarly, the agrarian reforms that affected church property were not specifically directed against the church, but by depriving it of its patrimony, the church became dependent on the state for survival. Where Catholics were a minority, as in Albania, the church was eliminated by 1945, but elsewhere, persecution did not begin until 1945-1947. The Catholic press was dismantled step by step beginning in 1946, with the exception of Poland, which was granted a reprieve until 1949. By that time, the independent Catholic press was essentially eliminated in the rest of Eastern Europe. Next came nationalization of educational institutions operated by the church and abolition of mandatory religious instruction, measures which were in effect everywhere but Poland by 1948. All Catholic associations, youth and adult, and all Catholic action movements were dissolved. These actions were protested by the local church officials, often

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accompanied by demonstrations by followers. The ruling powers retaliated through the Communist press, violently attacking the Vatican "agent of American imperialism" and the bishopric. More insidious procedures were also employed; the state might encourage minority movements of Priests for Peace, led by "progressive" priests on friendly terms with the communists -- men like Father Horvath in Hungary and Father Plohjar in Czechoslovakia. The state also openly supported Catholic movements receptive to new ideas; one such movement was the Pax group in Poland, led by a former leader of a far-rightist party before the war named Count Boleslaw Piasecki, who had been arrested by the Soviets in 1944, then liberated as a Communist. Attempts were made to play the lower clergy against the higher clergy, but with only limited success. As an example, the "open mind and cooperative attitude" of Cardinal Stefan Wyszynski in Poland was contrasted with his "reactionary" colleagues, Cardinal Mindszenty in Hungary and Father Beran in Czechoslovakia, who were both accused of being agents of the Vatican -- called the "center of international fascism" by the Orthodox Council held in Moscow in July, 1948.

Repeated public protests by the Catholic church against the attacks on religious freedom, against the encroachment of the temporal upon the spiritual and against the abuse of power by the regime, led to the physical persecution of numerous priests in late 1948. The Communist state grew increasingly intolerant of this moral force commanding such a large audience. The thousands of Hungarians who crowded in to hear sermons by Cardinal Mindszenty and the hundreds of thousands of Poles who thronged around the sanctuary at Czestochowa, only strengthened the Communist leaders' resolve to strike quickly. Cardinal Mindszenty was arrested on December 26, 1948, and accused of plotting against the Republic, of spying, and of dealing in foreign currency. His appearance in court, physically broken, and his faltering confession of his "crimes" for which he was condemned to prison for life, provoked a wave of protest in the country. In order to avoid a serious uprising, the Hungarian bishopric capitulated; on April 30, Archbishop Grosz agreed to sign an agreement with the government which officially guaranteed freedom of religion and financial aid to the church, in exchange for the church's recognition and pledge of loyalty to the socialist state. The agreement was in fact blatant deceit. One week later, the Hungarian government dissolved nearly all religious orders: over 10,000 priests and nuns were dispersed, many of them sent to work camps. At the beginning of the following year, Archbishop Grosz was arrested in turn and sentenced to 1 5 years in prison . In the same year in Czechoslovakia, the bishops that had not been arrested in 1950 were rounded up, including Archbishop Beran of Prague on March 10, 1951. In Poland that year, the police arrested Bishop Kaczmarek of Kielce, and the former archbishop of

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Lvov, Basiak. Also that year, every Catholic bishop remaining in Rumania was imprisoned. The high clergy was not the only victim of these physical persecutions; the lower clergy vas continually harassed, as priests were arrested and seminaries closed. In the early 1950s everywhere in Eastern Europe, the Catholic church had become a "church of silence." Poland remained the only fortunate exception, but not for long. Cardinal Wyszynski, who had gone ahead and signed an agreement with the government despite the serious reservations of the Holy See, was targeted anyhow and restricted to his quarters in September, 1953.

While the hierarchy was being dismantled, the state assumed greater control of the church by creating an Office for Ecclesiastical Affairs in all Catholic countries, responsible for the assignments and nominations of all priests made by the bishops who remained. With the ability to veto or approve certain candidates for certain posts, the Communist state was in fact in full control of each diocese. In addition, when a bishop died, his Rome-appointed successor could not take office without prior government approval. Because of their opposition to the government, many appointed bishops were not allowed to carry out their duties and their dioceses were placed under the direction of apostolic administrators chosen by the government.

The Protestant churches in general experienced fewer difficulties, with the exception of East Germany where the Protestant majority posed a potential threat. In other countries, Protestants were in the minority, so the state's only tactics were to eliminate troublesome pastors and bishops considered to be hostile, and to attempt to pit the Protestant minority against the Catholics. Protestants often joined the government, as did Janos Peter, a Hungarian Protestant bishop, when he became Minister of Foreign Affairs. More commonly in these Catholic countries, a Protestant would be appointed head of the Office of Ecclesiastical Affairs.

Economic and Social Transformations

At the end of the war, the new governments in Eastern Europe instigated bureaucratic reorganizations that would lead, several years later, to the establishment of a planned socialist economy. The first steps taken concentrated on agriculture, with the object of definitively eliminating large private landholding in Eastern Europe. The agrarian reforms first set a maximum limit on private property, limits which ranged from five hectares in Albania, to 20 hectares in Bulgaria (except for a 30 hectare limit in the Dobrudja), 45 hectares in Yugoslavia (with a maximum of 20 to 35 hectares for arable land according to region), 50 hectares in Rumania and Czechoslovakia, 57.5 hectares in Hungary, 50 to 100 hectares in Poland according to region, and 1O0 hectares in the German Democratic Republic.

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Land reclaimed in this way was redistributed among small farmers or to landless peasants. The largest property transfers took place in Poland and in East Germany. In Hungary, over 2,900,000 hectares, or 34.6 percent of the land, was divided among some 642,000 farmers, most of whom had extremely small plots. In Poland, 4,500,000 hectares reclaimed in the ex-German western provinces were given out in lots of seven to 1 5 hectares to 440,000 peasant families, while in the older provinces, 1,100,000 hectares filled out the small plots of 440,000 families. In East Germany, the large aristocratic estates of the Prussian junkers disappeared; 559,000 beneficiaries shared 2,190,000 hectares, 40 percent of which was distributed in lots of seven hectares to agricultural workers. Part of the confiscated land was not redistributed, and formed the first state farms modeled on the Soviet sovkhozes.

As soon as the popular democratic regimes were firmly in place, the leaders encouraged the peasants to form collective farms modeled on the Soviet kolkhozes. In 1945, the Bulgarian government began encouraging cooperative work farms, which by 1948 already numbered 579 and covered 190,000 hectares. Yugoslavia and Albania had adopted identical policies in 1945. Elsewhere, collectivization of land was delayed in order to avoid upsetting rural order. 1 949 was a decisive year in agricultural collectivization; landholdings were pooled, supposedly by voluntary contributions from the farmers, but actually accomplished by the same type of coercion used in the USSR in the 1930s. The tensions caused by the land collectivization surfaced as passive resistance by the peasants, or, in East Germany, by massive emigration to the Federal Republic of Germany (West Germany). By 1953, the process of collectivization was well underway. Yugoslavia had given the peasants some choice fairly early, but in 1953 lowered the maximum size of individual farms to ten hectares. Collectivization in the other countries was complete in the 1960s, with the exception of Poland where the peasants were able to leave the cooperatives after the events of 1956 -- which most of them did.

In other sectors of the economy, changes went deeper and were more radical. During the years 1945-1958, the banks were nationalized, as were foreign trade, mining, transportation and basic industries. In some countries like Albania and Bulgaria, industries were totally nationalized from the beginning. Other countries accomplished nationalization in stages, beginning with companies with over 500 employees, then in companies with over 100 workers, until in 1949 nearly the entire industrial sector and even some craft sectors were nationalized. Retail trade was also affected by nationalizations, although in certain countries like Hungary, East Germany and Yugoslavia, part of the retail business remained in the private sector.

These changes completely upset social structures. The independent

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worker, the artisan, the businessman and the small shopkeeper, all became salaried workers in a production cooperative. The medical professions were bureaucratized and the pharmacies nationalized. Other liberal professions, like notaries and court clerks, were bureaucratized, while lawyers were organized into professional cooperatives. In order to more effectively erase the past and open certain "noble" professions to the new rising classes, entry into institutions of higher learning was restricted to students from only the worker and peasant classes -- a policy which had drastic implications for the countries. All the major alterations which took place in the Stalin era were at first instituted by force, and later maintained with more flexibility.

The entire economic system in the Eastern European countries was determined by rigorous mandatory plans, plans with more emphasis on production than on consumption and revenues. Beginning in 1950, after the initial short-term plans aimed at postwar reconstruction were concluded, five year plans were universally adopted. As in political matters, Eastern European leaders followed the Soviet model in drafting their economic plans. Heavy industry and equipment took priority over consumer needs. Urbanization accompanied industrialization, and workers began to outnumber peasants everywhere except in the less economically developed countries like Albania, Bulgaria, Rumania and Yugoslavia. The push to develop heavy industry required massive investments possible only through great sacrifice on the part of the people; the production of consumer goods was sharply limited, leading to market shortages of many basic items. These scarcities, combined with problems in the system of distribution and insufficient family incomes at the lower levels -- despite the increase in women workers -- fostered an atmosphere of discontent which lay dormant, waiting for the right moment to explode.

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