“Sovietizing Eastern Europe, 1945-1948” abstract by Dónal O’Sullivan

Résumé de son intervention par Dónal O’Sullivan :

In fulfilling a dream hatched since the late 1930s, the Soviet Union turned from a regional pariah into a hegemonic power over half a continent in 1945. Following the “revolutionary-imperial paradigm”, the Soviet Union suddenly found itself responsible for administering societies with deeply seated anti-Communist and anti-Russian sentiments, where Communists were in the minority. Contrary to Marxist doctrine, the laboring classes had backed fascist or bourgeois leaders. Instead of the working class, the Soviet Red Army had been the catalyst for success. Some of the countries, like Romania and Hungary, had even participated in the Nazi invasion, and few elites greeted the new rulers with passionate support. Indeed, even in societies nominally on Moscow’s side – Poland and Czechoslovakia – support for Soviet-style reforms remained marginal. Therefore, Moscow had to proclaim the notion of ‘People’s democracies’ to placate fears of immediate Sovietisation.

Initially, the Soviets had to rely on exiled Communists who had been out of their respective countries for many years. However, it was obvious that they alone could neither be relied on for effective reconstruction nor for engineering a pro-Soviet attitude. Indeed, the returnees were seen as ‘Stalin’s puppets’, even adding to the low opinion of Communism in some societies, for example in Hungary and East Germany. In addition, their personal experience during the Stalinist purges made them unwilling to take responsibility or stand up to Stalin, slowing down the process of rebuilding and leaving the onus for important decisions squarely with Moscow. Newly available documents and recent studies provide a surprising look at the period of Sovietisation in Eastern Central Europe.

Quelques références bibliographiques relatives aux questions abordées

Anne Applebaum, Iron Curtain. The Crushing of Eastern Europe, 1944-1956. Doubleday, 2012

Wolkow, Wladimir K.: Die deutsche Frage aus Stalins Sicht (1947-1952), ZfG, 1/2000,

King, Robert: A History of the Romanian Communist Party, Stanford 1980

Starr, Frederick: Tsarist Government. The Imperial Dimension, in Azrael, Jeremy R.: Soviet Nationality Policies and Practices. New York: Praeger 1978

Émilien Ruiz

Assistant professor au Centre d'histoire de Sciences Po

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