IN THE COURSE of the Second World War the Soviet Armies entered a number of countries in Europe and stayed in them some months or years. These are Poland, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Rumania, Bulgaria, Yugoslavia, the Soviet Zones of Germany and Austria. A study of the conditions of the hundred million people inhabiting this region is of great interest in itself; it gains even more from the fact that such a study throws light, from a new vantage point, on the Russian reality. Napoleon said: “Une armée dehors, c’est l’Etat qui voyage”, and the study of the influence of the Soviet “armée dehors” teaches us about the essence of the Soviet State itself. The fact that there are more chinks in the “Iron Curtain” between the satellites and the rest of the world than between the older and better preserved curtain shutting out Russia, facilitates the study of the nature of Stalin’s regime through the prism of conditions in the satellite countries. These conditions must be comprehended in the dynamics of their change, the dynamics of the rise and consolidation of the rule of the Communist Parties.
Although the same Party rules in the Soviet Zone of Germany, I have not thought it advisable to cover this area in the present study, as it is impossible to survey this Zone without covering Germany as a whole, which is in itself a wide and complicated question. Another Communist-dominated State I have omitted is Albania, the reason being the scarcity and poverty of information regarding this tiny country.
A study of current history is always fraught with the risk that the absence of distance tends to endanger accuracy of knowledge and scientific detachment; the risk exists that a more unified impression is given than knowledge of the subject warrants, and that conclusions are coloured by personal values. The only counter to this is scientific scrupulousness. While the difficulties in the way of the study of current history must be borne in mind, the study itself is not to be avoided, as it is part of history itself, and the effort to understand and criticize historical phenomena is, however imperfect, an agent of its very transformation.
In the preparation of the book I have used mainly official sources – the Governmental and Communist Party publications of the Eastern European countries – and in this regard the diplomatic representatives and information services of these countries have been of great assistance to me.
I am greatly obliged to the librarians of the British Museum and Chatham House for their ready assistance. I owe a big debt to a number of exiles from Eastern Europe, who gave me books, pamphlets and papers on the subject, many of them otherwise unobtainable, and who read and advised me on the whole or part of the typescript, particularly Mr. A. Ciolkosz, Mr. L. Slutsky and Mr. S. Vaslev. I wish to make it clear that while they have assisted me very much with their advice and criticism they are in no way responsible for any error of judgment or fact which may be found in the book. I also wish to thank Dr. O. Sheehy-Skeffington of Trinity College, Dublin, for thoroughly revising the style of the book, and my wife for preparing the manuscript for print and arranging the Index.
Last updated on 18.4.2004