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At the end of this foray into the history of eastern Europe, certain observations come to mind. First, after a close examination of the diverse peoples in the region -- their origins, religious beliefs, traditions, and the political and economic forces they have been subjected to -- distinct and permanent cleavages between them appear. The dividing line between the Orthodox Balkan countries and the other eastern European countries with their western, Christian traditions, remains as clear today as it was in the past. The line is the same as the one which once divided the regions long under Ottoman domination from those that were directly or indirectly under the political and cultural influence of the Habsburg Empire.

A second observation arises from the first, namely the importance of religion as a factor in delineating and preserving the civilizations of eastern Europe, despite persecution of religious organizations throughout the ages. In the absence of political power, or when political power became oppressive, the Church spearheaded national struggles and served as a strong force in unifying peoples. The clergy were leaders in the efforts to retain national languages and cultures when these have been threatened. The best example today is the activity of the Catholic church in Poland.

Finally, although the countries of eastern Europe were united into the same political, military and economic bloc in 1945, it is striking to note that in the ensuing period the different nations have not only retained their cultures and national identities, but also their old antagonisms and rivalries. Despite the existence of a "fraternal community of socialist countries," nationalism, provincialism and ethnic interests are still very much alive. The surviving national minorities created by border divisions after World War II are as oppressed as they were during the interwar period. The Hungarians

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and Rumanians continue to quarrel over Transylvania, the Bulgarians and Serbs over Macedonia. The Czechs and the Slovaks still harbor age-old suspicions of one another despite the fact that they are now united into one political state; at the same time, they agree on the administration of the oppressed Hungarian minority under their authority since 1920. The Yugoslav federation's different nationalities continue to clash, while its Albanian and Hungarian minorities endure Belgrade's centralism with increasing discomfort. Hard feelings still exist between East Germany, Poland and Czechoslovakia over territory between them which has changed hands over the years as borders shifted.

Almost seventy years after the treaties of 1919-20 were signed, this part of Europe still suffers from the traumatic upset of the territorial revisions: national groups were separated from their respective "homelands," from countrymen, suddenly becoming minorities in states with different languages, traditions and historical ties. The harmful consequences of the treaties were aggravated by their rewriting after the Second World War, and the peoples and states of Eastern Europe are still living with the increased tensions and never-ending problems they created.

In the era of Communism in Eastern Europe, resistance movements became a force to be reckoned with after 1970, and their activities have escalated since Gorbachev took power in 1985. In the beginning, the effects of the different protest movements were limited because of the heavy-handed repression governments used against the people who participated in them. The lack of communication with and awareness of dissident movements in other countries forced them to act separately. Later, as the spirit of glasnost spread throughout most of Eastern Europe -- Albania and Rumania excepted -- it became a duty to criticize the past, delve into history and the mistakes committed by former dictators, and to find new directions for the future. The dissident movements began to move more openly, less fearful of the consequences of their actions. They began demanding more political freedom and greater participation in the political process without the requirement of membership in the Party. Could these groups work together and on occasion speak out in a unified voice, supporting each other across national boundaries? Such action has already been seen, as at the Solidarity Union Congress in September of 1981, when leaders declared that all workers in Albania, the GDR, Bulgaria, Hungary, Czechoslovakia and Rumania could count on the support of the Polish workers if they chose "the difficult route of fighting for an independent trade union." If protest movements are able to organize on an international level, they are in less danger of disintegrating because of fractures among their own ranks, apathy among the populace, or government assimilation.

For more than forty years, Eastern European nations have attempted to

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realize Marx,s vision of a socialist economy: a system motivated by ideological principles rather than incentives of individual profit, and all capital state controlled and owned. The serious economic crisis in Eastern Europe today has forced Communist leaders to acknowledge the failure of "Marxism" as it has been applied to Eastern European economic systems. Party reformers have attempted to reinterpret the ideology and have incorporated western ideas such as incentive systems to motivate workers, free-market competition of products and decentralization. There is no longer a lingering faith in the socialist economic system which Nikita Khrushchev predicted would "outstrip capitalism."

Gorbachev's ascension to power in the Soviet Union heralded a new age for Eastern Europe of radical transformations of Communist ideology and its organizational structures. Most of the new reforms contradict orthodox Marxist-Leninist principles simply by bringing in systems and ideas from the capitalist world: bankruptcy laws, personal income tax, stock markets, private enterprise for profit. Changing a system based on ideology drummed into the psyches of populations for decades carries with it enormous risks. Gorbachev's efforts could result in economic chaos throughout the Soviet Union and the Eastern Bloc, and spark a revolution within the Communist party. It would be a supreme irony if Gorbachev's ambitious policies of glasnost and perestroika were thwarted by the Eastern Europeans; his attempts to reconcile Communist authority with glasnost might unravel first in Budapest, Warsaw or Prague rather than in Moscow. Eastern European populations are confronted with collapsing economies, shortages of food and consumer goods, and energy-related troubles. They are frustrated at every turn from improving their situation by the daunting bureaucratic apparatus of the socialist state. As state repression eases, signs indicate that the populations will emerge from their passivity and despondency.

Communism's greatest failure in Eastern Europe was not its economic policy, but that Communist ideology was unable to win the hearts and minds of the people. The Parties in each country promised a new society based on equality with guaranteed food, shelter and employment; they issued ceaseless propaganda about the evils of the West, censured all publications to protect the people from corrupting information, and even resorted to force and terror. Yet they were unable to convince the masses to accept Marxist-Leninist principles or to create a new generation of "communists" The youth in Eastern Europe today was born after Communist rule was established. They were raised within the confines of the socialist state, taught the doctrines of Marxism-Leninism, and warned about the evils of Capitalism and religion. Despite their upbringing, they have turned away from Communist ideology, scorning it, towards alternative philosophies. They are the new voices for reform, for the Church, and against the regimes.

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Another disappointment for the Communist leadership was the realization that the greatest threat to their hegemony was the working class -- precisely those people who were supposed to be most benefited by Communism.

Under Gorbachev, the Brezhnev Doctrine has changed, but no one has yet tested its limits. The Soviet Union is engrossed in its own economic and political problems, and concerned with unrest between the non-Russian populations within its own borders. The Soviet leadership is tired of the financial burden of supporting the East Bloc countries and the responsibility of disciplining their internal affairs. An old system has been replaced with a new one in the Soviet Union, allowing Eastern Europeans greater security in their personal freedoms. However, the changes are a long way from producing true democratic structures complete with free, multi-party elections, and political and economic independence from Moscow. Gorbachev's reforms and the drastic changes he is trying to push through Soviet and East European societies are often misinterpreted in the West. It is doubtful that the Communist world has any intention of dissolving the Warsaw Pact or of allowing political pluralism to undermine the ultimate power of the Communist party.

The relationship of the Western states, especially Great Britain, France and the United States, with Eastern Europe has been critical and continues to be of importance. The tragic fate of the Eastern European nations in the 20th century began in 1945 at Yalta, when the superpowers agreed to let the Red Army occupy the eastern half of Europe to aid those ravaged countries in their postwar recovery. There has been much literature written about the agreement at Yalta, pro and con, but no nation in Eastern Europe would hesitate to accuse Roosevelt and Churchill of knowingly delivering them into Stalin's empire.

Since the Communist takeovers backed by Soviet occupying troops, Eastern Europeans have learned repeatedly that the words "self- determination" and "in the interests of the people" exist only in the vocabulary of western diplomats, not in actual plans for action. This bitter lesson was reinforced during the Hungarian Revolution in 1956, when the West was distracted by the crisis of the Suez Canal and the chaos of the world situation, and turned a deaf ear to the Hungarians, pleas for help. During the Prague Spring, and later during the Polish uprisings, promises of aid never materialized. The peoples of Eastern Europe realized that the West had relinquished its military right to interfere in what it perceived as the Soviet sphere of influence, and that any freedom they obtained would have to be won by their own power. Nevertheless, the diplomatic pressure of the Western countries on Soviet and Eastern European governments can continue to be influential in bringing the two Europes closer together.

It is well known today that neither Communist ideology nor the

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dictatorial power of the Soviet Union has been able to bring the countries of Eastern Europe together in friendly cooperation. Throughout this history, we have looked at differences characterizing the lives and ideologies of these people, differences which have been in place for centuries. Will Eastern Europe, after the trials of the 20th century, ever be able to stop the quarrels, prejudice and hatred among themselves to make economic and political peace -- possibly building a future together? Is there any chance that these diverse and individualistic nations can form a united Eastern Europe something like the European Community of the West? Lajos Kossuth, the spiritual leader of the Hungarian revolution in 1848, called on the people of the Danube valley to unite in a Danubian confederation; almost 150 years later, his imperative has become more critical than at any other time in history.


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Appendix A

Overview of

Eastern European Nations --1988


Area: 11,097 square miles (28,489 km2)

Population: 2.9 million

Ethnic groups: Albanian 95%, Greek 2.5%

Languages: Albanian, Greek

Religions: (historical) Muslim 70%, Orthodox 20%, Roman Catholic 10%

Major Cities: Tirana (Capital), 300,000; Durres, 130,000; Vlore, 90,000;

Shroder, 80,000 (1986 est.)

Government: Communist, 1976 Constitution

Political Party: Albanian Worker's Party

General-Secretary: Ramiz Alia

Economy: GNP $2.1 billion (1979)

Natural Resources: gas, oil, coal, chromium

Agriculture: wheat, corn, sugarbeets, cotton, tobacco

Industry: textiles, timber, fuels, semi-processed minerals

Member of the United Nations


Area: 42,823 square miles (110,912 km2)

Population: 8,990,000 (1986)

Ethnic groups: Bulgarians-Macedonians 85%, Turks 9%, Gypsies 2%

Languages: Bulgarian, Turkish, Greek

Religions: Orthodox 70%, Muslim 9%

Major Cities: Sofia (Capital), 1,100,000; Plovdiv, 310,000; Varna, 260,000

Government: Communist

Political Party: Bulgarian Communist party

General Secretary: Todor Zhivkov

Economy: GNP $25 billion (1985)

Natural Resources: lead, bauxite, coal, zinc, oil

Agriculture: grains, fruit, corn, tobacco, potatoes

Industry: chemicals, machinery, textiles, leather goods, vehicles

Member of the United Nations, Warsaw Pact, COMECON

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Area: 49,378 square miles (127,899 km2)

Population: 15.4 million (1983)

Ethnic groups: Czechs 64%, Slovaks 30%, Hungarians 5%, Germans, Poles

Languages: Czech, Slovak, Hungarian

Religions: Roman Catholic 65%

Major Cities: Prague (Capital), 1,900,000; Brno, 370,000;

Bratislava, 350,000

Government: Communist

Political Party: Communist Party of Czechoslovakia

General Secretary: Milos Jakes

Economy: GNP $83.9 billion (1984)

Natural Resources: coal, brown coal, timber, natural gas

Agriculture: potatoes, grapes, fruit, livestock

Industry: steel, machinery, textiles, paper, autos, chemicals

Member of the United Nations, Warsaw Pact, COMECON

EAST GERMANY (German Democratic Republic)

Area: 41,612 square miles (107,774 km2)

Population: 16.8 million

Ethnic groups: German

Languages: German

Religions: Protestant 80%o, Roman Catholic 11%

Major Cities: East Berlin (Capital), 1,140,000; Leipzig, 563,000;

Dresden, 515,000; Karl Marx Stadt, 316,000

Government: Communist, Constitution April 1968, amended 1974

Political Party: Socialist Unity Party (SED)

General Secretary: Eric Honecker

Economy: GNP $90 billion

Natural Resources: lignite coal, potash, uranium

Agriculture: grain, sugarbeets, potatoes, meat, dairy products

Industry: steel, chemicals, electrical and precision engineering products,

fishing vessels

Member of the United Nations, Warsaw Pact, COMECON

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Area: 35,921 square miles (93,036 km2)

Population: 10,685,000 (1983)

Ethnic groups: Magyar 93 %, Gypsies 3%, Germans 2.5%, Slovaks

Languages: Hungarian, German, Slovak, Gypsy

Religions: Roman Catholic 65%, Calvinist 20%, Lutheran 5%, Jewish 1%

Major Cities: Budapest (Capital), 2,070,000; Miskolc, 205,600;

Debrecen, 195,000

Government: Communist

Political Party: Hungarian Socialist Worker's party

General Secretary: Karoly Grosz

Economy: GDP $21 billion (1981)

Natural Resources: brown coal, bauxite, uranium

Agriculture: wheat, corn, wine, fruit, vegetables

Industry: electrical equipment, textiles, transportation equipment

Member of the United Nations, Warsaw Pact, COMECON


Area: 120,727 square miles (312,683 km2)

Population: 36,556,000 (1983)

Ethnic groups: Poles 98 %, Germans, Ukrainians, Bielorussians

Languages: Polish

Religions: Roman Catholic 90%, Protestants 1.5%

Major Cities: Warsaw (Capital), 1,620,000; Lodz, 820,000; Cracow, 710,000

Government: Communist, Constitution, 1952

Political Party: Polish United Worker's party

General Secretary: General Wojciech Jaruzelski

Economy: GNP $110 billion (1984)

Natural Resources: coal, copper, silver, zinc, sulfur, iron

Agriculture: grain, potatoes, sugarbeets, tobacco

Industry: shipbuilding, textiles, chemicals, wood products

Member of the United Nations, Warsaw Pact, COMECON

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Area: 91,699 square miles (237,499 km2)

Population: 22.4 million

Ethnic Groups: Rumanians 85%, Magyars 9%, Germans 2%, Serbo

Croatians, Gypsies, Ukrainians, Greeks, Turks

Languages: Rumanian, Hungarian, German

Religions: Orthodox 80%, Roman Catholic 9%, Calvinist, Lutheran, Jewish

Major Cities: Bucharest (Capital), 2.1 million; Constanta, 300,000;

Iasi, 285,000; Timisoara, 285,000; Cluj, 265,000

Government: Communist, Constitution, August, 1965

Political Party: Rumanian Communist party

General Secretary: Nicolae Ceausescu

Economy: GDP $116.5 billion (1980)

Natural Resources: oil, timber, natural gas, coal

Agriculture: corn, wheat, oil seed, potatoes

Industry: mining, forestry, metal production, chemicals

Member of the United Nations (IMF), Warsaw Pact, COMECON


Area: 99,000 square miles (256,409 km2)

Population: 23.1 million (1985 est.)

Ethnic groups: Serbs 36%, Croats 20%, Bosnian Muslim and Serbs 11%,

Slovenes 8%, Albanians 8%, Magyar 2%

Languages: Serbo-Croatian, Slovenian, Macedonian, Albanian, Hungarian

Religions: Orthodox 50%, Roman Catholic 30%, Muslim 10%

Major Cities: Belgrade (Capital), 1.3 million; Zagreb, 700,000;

Skopje, 400,000; Sarajevo, 400,000; Ljubljana, 300,000

Government: Federal Republic, Constitution, 1974

Political Party: Communist League of Yugoslavia

President/General Secretary: Stipe Suvar (1988), rotates every year

Economy: GNP $46.3 billion (1984)

Natural Resources: coal, copper, bauxite, timber, iron, chromium, asbestos

Agriculture: corn, wheat, tobacco, sugarbeets, livestock

Industry: wood, processed food, nonferrous metals, textiles

Member of the United Nations, COMECON (observer status) and OECD

(Nonaligned Movement)

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