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Lethbridge Herald Newspaper Archives

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Lethbridge Herald, The (Newspaper) - March 14, 1973, Lethbridge, Alberta March 14, 1973 THE IETH6RIDCE HEXMD -49 Eastern Europe 20 years after Stalin's death Tanks are gone. but the Soviets are still there (EDITOR'S NOTE: The author is a close observer of Soviet and Eastern Europe affairs and has travelled widely behind the Iron Curtain. Her father, who now lives in the United States, was the last Czechoslo- vak charge d'affaires in Stock- holm under the non-communist Benes government.) By HANA UMLAUF NEW YORK move briskly down Vaciavske Namesti, the main shopping tiwroughlare in Prague. The shops are busy and merchan- dise is plentiful.- At rush hour the crush oE traffic is horren- dous. In Warsaw's Rozycki bazaar an old woman does a thriving private business selling trink- ets, used clothing and fresh produce. A visitor in East Berlin is struck by the preponderance ol American films Bat lou" and "Hello and the efficient, well-stocked sup- ermarkets. Men are bearded end long-haired; genuine blue jeans are a status symbol. All over Eastern Europe Weslern influence is striking It's a much different pictun than the one encountered 21 years ago. At Stalin's death in 1953, hi: legacy In Eastern Europe witr the exception o! Yugoslavia was a tightly controlled bloc of sat- ellites which responded in mp'et-fashion as he pulled heir strings. Soviet experts and advisers were abundant; satellite lea- derships closely consulted with he Soviet leadership; and the iron curtain effectively isolated the bloc from (he West and From each other as well. In 1947. the creation of the Cominform (Communist Infor- mation Bureau) assured an ide- ological coherence. But, since Stalin's death the story has been markedly dif- ferent. Ghita lonescu, an East European scholar, describes what followed as "the story of its (East European empire) progressive disintegration and the unchecked (iec'ine or Rus- sian authority within it." such a disitii'-gration should blossom is h" What Stalin envisions: a.: Mild- ing socialism was, in fact, for- ced labor, heavy industrializa- tion, expropriation of land, mass trials and deportations, all for the benefit of the Soviet Union. Add to this the demo- cratic traditions and sopliisti- cated economics which existed ia many of the Eastern Euro- pean countries before the sec- ond world war. Inherited legacy KiMta Khrushchev Inherited Stalin's legacy. Faced with the problem of salvaging a crumb- ling empire, he did not dis- card Stalin's basic policy, but rather eliminated terror, did not demand slavish obedience, dismantled the Cominform and denounced the "cull of the per- sonality" which bad sprung up around Stalin. last was probably the catalyst in the disintegration process. The pronouncement of the doctrine of diversity follow- ed shortly Soviet doctrine cow held that there could be "different roads to commun- ism." The first significant stirrings were In Poland in 1956. Inspir- ed by Georgi Malenkov's "new intellectuals, econo- mists and writers both, intro- duced revisionist ideas. They asked themselves what a fjen- uinely Polish Communist ime would be like? The questions, followed by riots in Poznan, led to an in- creasingly revolutionary sifua lion which brought the Soviet Politburo to Poland bearing the threat a Soviet invasion Wladyslaw Gomulka, returning t.n Poland from political exile as Communist- party secretary I Also In 1956, in Hungary, sim- ilar discontent led to a com- Meted, if ultimately unsuccess- :ul, revolution. Before Soviet intervention, the anti Com- munist forces had won. They were set to withdraw from the Warsaw Pact and demand the expulsion of all Soviet presence. On Oct. 30, 1958, the Soviets announced a new definition for relationships with the East European bloc. The Stalinist empire became a socialist com- monwelath: members would be treated as sovereign members provided they remained loyal to the Warsaw Pact and re- mained a socialist or peoples' democracy. Hungai-y had clearly over- stepped the line. The Soviets intervened, bringing Hungary bsck into the commonwealth. Czechoslovakia r e m.aftied quiet during the '50s. Under the leadership of arch Stalinist An- tnnin Novotny, the satellite showed no signs of unrest. Then, beginning in the early '60s, the economists began to talk of breaking out of the Stalinist pattern of forced heavy indus- try. The wrilere soon began lo debate strict censorship. The burgeoning dissatisfac- tion led lo the downfall of No-' saved the situation, lie was votny, opening the way un f< ?ble _to convince the Soviets j the "Prague Spring, In I960: a renaissance under Alexander Dubcek in thinking about what truly "humanist Marxism" tn j Czechoslovakia could mean. tions; it, he told the Soviets, ivas the only way lo keep Po- Itr.d in the bloc. Not questioned Potential relations and Irade with tha West were discussed, but socialism itself was not questioned. The crucial element in Czechoslovakia was Dub- inability to convince the Soviet politburo that he would keep Czechoslovakia in the so- cialist commonwealth, soms- thing Gomulka was able to ac- complish earlier in Poland. The sha'low of Hungary hung heavily over Czechoslovakia. The Soviet intervention was precautionary and at Ihe same signalled the fragile na- ture of the Soi-iel hold on Czechoslovakia and the re- of Eastern Europe. Actual military presence was needed. They could bargain for no less. Today, though Czechoslovakia Is quiet, the Soviet presence is strong and resented. The Czechs are suffering for their Prague Spring. While their standard of living is not bad, (hey cannot travel outside ol their country and must daily I play Ihe role of conforming to j the Soviet big brother. i In the rest of Eastern Eur- parent. Under Janos Kadar in Hungary Ihe very same eco- nomic reforms the Czech New Economic Model envisioned arc slowly being implemented. Kadar succeeds because be pays strict lip service to the Soviet definition of behavior within a socialist common- wealth. And elscwlxiic, trade rela- tions with the West are being explored, East Germans are talking to West Germans, party boss Edward Gierek tolerates minimal private enterprise fa Poland, fl works because every- thing is being conducted in such a way to convince the So- viels that (heir commonwealth is whole. Rut should someone else overstep the line, what then? 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