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  • Gleichschaltung unter Stalin? Die Entwicklung der Parteien in östlichen Europa, 1944–1949
  • Norman M. Naimark
Stefan Creuzberger and Manfred Görtemaker , eds. Gleichschaltung unter Stalin? Die Entwicklung der Parteien in östlichen Europa, 1944–1949. Paderborn, Germany: Ferdinand Schöningh, 2002. 468 pp.

This is a valuable and interesting compendium of articles on the Soviet takeover of Eastern Europe after the Second World War. The authors are a mix of German and East European specialists, who are well versed in the historiography of the period and in the recently declassified documents. Central to many of the contributions are the recently published diaries of Georgi Dimitrov, the document collections edited by Jochen Laufer and G. P. Kynin on the German question, and the four volumes of documents edited by T. V. Volokotina and her associates on Soviet policy in Eastern Europe after the war. The use of these and other newly available materials ensures that the quality of the contributions is generally high. In fact, American scholars, who are feeling the pinch of the costs of scholarly publication, will feel a bit envious of the editors, who are able to put out an elaborately footnoted and carefully edited compendium of this size (468 pages), including an excellent bibliography and an index.

The book leads off with two fine conceptually-oriented pieces by the senior German scholar Gerhard Wettig and by his junior colleague, Donal O'Sullivan. Wettig focuses on the German question in the post-1945 period, but he keeps the rest of Eastern Europe clearly in view. O'Sullivan looks at Soviet plans for Eastern Europe as a whole, including the German question. Both authors make clear that Moscow had not devised a "master plan" for the region. The Sovietization of Eastern Europe, they [End Page 170] argue, was not preordained and was instead the product of two factors: (1) the lopsided competition between Soviet leaders and their counterparts in Eastern Europe (including the Soviet Occupied Zone of Germany, or SBZ) to control political developments in the region, and (2) the resistance of indigenous non-Communist forces, who received intermittent (and not especially helpful) backing from the West. Both chapters usefully review the plans devised by Maksim Litvinov and Ivan Maiskii for postwar European development, emphasizing once again the important connections in Soviet policy between the German question and the fate of Eastern Europe.

The central theme of the book is Gleichschaltung, a concept of political leveling and the elimination of opposition that comes out of the study of Nazism. But the editors and authors do little in the way of comparing Eastern Europe with the Nazi case. Instead, they demonstrate that the Soviet Union's promotion of a National Front in each of the "People's Democracies" (in German they pedantically refer to them as the "so-called People's Democracies") was no more than an effort to grind down political opposition and boost the fortunes of the Communists. This is evident from the book's contributions on Poland (Harald Moldenhauer), Romania (Ulrich Burger), Bulgaria (Marietta Stankova), Yugoslavia (Jerca Voduŝek Starić), Albania (Peter Danylow), the SBZ (Monika Kaiser), Czechoslovakia (Jiří Kocian), and Hungary (Janos M. Rainer). When one examines the strategies and tactics of the Communist seizure of power in each of these countries, the conclusion is clear: Every case has a different and "special" quality, yet each ends up with pretty much the same result—a "new democracy" under Soviet-style Communist rule and an indigenous form of the "dictatorship of the proletariat." As Creuzberger and Görtemaker correctly observe: "The transferal of this strategy [of the National Front] into practice took place in genuinely heterogeneous fashion" (p.423). But if the strategy was as obvious and transparent as the editors indicate, why did so many "bourgeois" politicians and Social Democrats in the region participate in it? Why did the West play along for so long?

The most innovative contribution of the book is its inclusion of excellent chapters about Finland by Ruth Büttner and Austria by Oliver Rathkolb. These two cases are important in understanding the historically contingent origins of the Soviet bloc. After all, both Finland and Austria were under direct Soviet influence...


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