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Vladimir Tismaneanu Introduction Understanding the nature, dynamics, and consequences of Stalinism in Eastern and Central Europe remains an urgent scholarly and moral task. The present volume compiles the proceedings of the conference “Stalinism Revisited: The Establishment of Communist Regimes in the former Soviet Bloc” (29–30 November 2007, Washington, D.C., USA). The event was envisaged as an opportunity for synthesis and comparison under the favorable circumstances of temporal distance and new available sources. The two decades that have passed since the 1989 watershed brought about an archival upheaval1 and, consequently , a scholarly explosion within the field of communist studies. The result was an opportunity for reinforcing and/or retesting many of the assertions produced in academia throughout the years of both the Cold War and the immediate post-communist euphoria. Equally significant, a certain sense of closure and atonement at the local level, created new motivations for coming to terms with the first decade of communism’s existence in the area, one fundamentally defined by trauma and repression . The year 2007 symbolized a historical threshold that marked six decades since the establishment of communist regimes in Eastern Europe (though it can be argued that this process took place earlier in some countries, such as Bulgaria, and later in other, e.g., Czechoslovakia ). The experience of recent years shows that the 21st century is still following upon the footsteps of the previous one. In many respects, it is only a formal convention to speak of a new century. Once Daniel Chirot stated that in the 21st century “the fundamental causes of revo1  What Sheila Fitzpatrick defined as “an abrupt and radical transformation of the universe of sources and the conditions of access to information” in her “Introduction” to Stalinism: New Directions (London: Routledge, 2000), p. 3. i3 Stalin book.indb 1 10/15/09 9:47:15 AM 2 Stalinism Revisited lutionary instability will be moral.”2 If one concurs, then the study of Eastern Europe’s Stalinization remains an important source of pedagogically and cathartically rich examples for the present. The initial premise behind the above-mentioned event was that we are now better equipped for understanding and interpreting the complex circumstances behind the Stalinist expansion in Eastern Europe. We had in mind such dynamics as the early history of the Cold War, the Stalinist revolutionary project in the region, the participation of local communist elites, the impact of Titoism on these elites, the rivalries between “Muscovites” and “home communists,” and the first attempts at constructing, via the Cominform (the Information Bureau of the Communist and Workers’ Parties, founded in 1947), a Moscow-centered supra-governmental communist organization. Additionally, many contributors historiographically contextualized the problems singled out in their papers. The volume, subsequently, attained a retrospective facet as well. It familiarizes the reader with the domestic scholarly literature from the various Eastern European countries dealing with the aspects of the establishment of communist regimes in the region. One could also argue that this book discusses and revisits the main hypotheses regarding the inception of the Soviet Bloc as formulated in the classic work on the topic by Zbigniew Brzeziński.3 It should be noted, however, that our intention was not to produce a grand narrative about the first decade of the communist experience in Eastern Europe. We purposely chose to create a composite framework reflective of the fragmented discourse about the various political and historical issues discussed. The volume highlights the political, ideological, and personal variables that characterized the post-1945 decade. It emphasizes the complexities, ambiguities and contradictions which affected both the rationality of the actors involved and the predictability of historical events. Consequently, the volume embraces a multi-directional perspective, mirroring the tremendous diversity of domestic and international processes present in each of the cases in the individual papers. 2 Daniel Chirot, “What Happened in Eastern Europe in 1989?” in Vladimir Tismaneanu ed., The Revolutions of 1989: Rewriting Histories (London/New York: Routledge, 1999), p. 39. 3  Zbigniew K. Brzeziński, The Soviet Bloc, Unity and Conflict (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1967). i3 Stalin book.indb 2 10/15/09 9:47:15 AM 3 Introduction The comparative method is the common denominator for all contributions and a fundamental feature of the work itself. It is the direct result of the overall thesis, unanimously adopted by all the authors, namely, that there was no unique path to Stalinization in Eastern Europe . There was no master plan that was designed some evening in the Kremlin by...