- Editor’s Note
This issue begins with an article by Andrei Lankov, who discusses the famine that devastated North Korea in the winter of 1954–1955 and the impact it had on Soviet– North Korean relations. The famine was mainly the result of North Korea’s efforts to enforce agricultural collectivization, emulating the Stalinist model in the Soviet Union. The North Korean regime kept all information about the famine highly classified and prevented anything about it from being disclosed outside official circles in the Communist bloc. Soviet leaders, who were moving toward a denunciation of Iosif Stalin and a partial rapprochement with the West, were dismayed by the magnitude of what occurred in North Korea and urged Kim Il-sung to adopt a more liberal “new course” of economic reform akin to the programs they had pressured the East European countries to pursue in 1953–1955. Although Kim Il-sung did, at Soviet behest, implement some significant reforms, his rivals in the Korean Workers’ Party sought to oust him in August 1956 after the debacle of the famine. The failure of that attempt to remove him, which had been carried out with Soviet knowledge, changed Soviet relations with North Korea from then on.
The next article, by Una Bergmane, examines Western reactions to the Soviet Union’s violent crackdowns in Lithuania and Latvia on two successive weekends in January 1991. The violence came at a time when Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev seemed to be backing away, at least temporarily, from his drastic reform programs of perestroika and glasnost. The hardline backlash had begun in September 1990 and reached its height in January 1990, when Gorbachev (as intercepted communications show) ordered the operations in Lithuania and Latvia but then called them off halfway through, before they had achieved their goals. Bergmane contends that the alarm expressed by Western governments at the time reflected their nervousness that perestroika and glasnost were coming to an end. Gorbachev, by contrast, saw the crackdowns as a necessary retreat so he could rally his reform-minded supporters and move more boldly in the future. The severity of Western reactions to the violence was one of the factors that induced Gorbachev to end the operations in the Baltics sooner rather than later and to move back toward liberalization and democratization—moves that antagonized the hardliners in his cabinet who were intent on restoring order, if necessary through force and repression.
The next article, by Carlo Patti and Matias Spektor, discusses how U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger scrambled to curb Brazil’s nuclear weapons development program in the wake of India’s detonation of a nuclear explosive in mid-1974. Kissinger had long seen Brazil, the largest country in Latin America, as a key anti-Communist ally for the United States in the Western Hemisphere. He had been working since his first days in office as Richard Nixon’s national security adviser in 1969 to forge close [End Page 1] and cooperative ties with the Brazilian military junta. Nonetheless, the Indian nuclear detonation jolted Nixon (soon replaced by Gerald Ford) and Kissinger, and the secretary of state worked the rest of his time under Ford to persuade the Brazilians to abide by the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. Kissinger moved to curtail the shipment of dual-use technologies to Brazil for the enrichment of uranium, and he tried to convince the Brazilians that the United States would do all it could to meet their civilian nuclear energy needs. At the same time, the esteem Kissinger had for the alliance with Brazil made him wary of pushing too hard on the matter, creating a situation in which he could not always avert tradeoffs.
The next article, by Rosario Forlenza, explores the images of Communists and Communism in early postwar Italy. The Italian Communist Party (PCI) was the largest and most influential Communist party in Western Europe after World War II, and it became a major focus of competing political forces. The battle over how to define the status of PCI members and the nature of the party proved important in shaping Italy’s role in the Cold War. The cultural and emotional dimensions of Italy’s political competition...