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Origins, processes, responses
Kevin McDermott

This chapter presents an overview of Stalinist repression in Czechoslovakia and examines briefly the historical development of the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia in the inter-war period, notably the process of 'Stalinisation' from the late 1920s. It analyses the mechanisms by which the Stalinist terror was perpetrated. The most infamous case of Stalinist terror in Czechoslovakia concerned the second-in-command of the communist system – Rudolf Slánský. A brief study of his show trial illustrates not only the stifling degree of centralised control exerted by the communist authorities, but also the multifarious responses and level of criticality exhibited by 'ordinary' citizens to the purges that rocked Czechoslovak political life. Elite purges and mass repressions in Stalinist Czechoslovakia were multifaceted processes with distinct, but closely inter-related, exogenous and indigenous origins and multiple politico-ideological and socioeconomic aim. The legacy of Stalinist terror in Czechoslovakia was far-reaching and long-lasting.

in Stalinist terror in Eastern Europe
From Communism to Pluralism

This book reassesses a defining historical, political and ideological moment in contemporary history: the 1989 revolutions in central and eastern Europe. It considers the origins, processes and outcomes of the collapse of communism in eastern Europe. The book argues that communism was not simply an 'unnatural Yoke' around the necks of East Europeans, but was a powerful, and not entirely negative, historical force capable of modernizing societies, cultures and economies. It focuses on the interplay between internal and external developments as opposed to an emphasis on Cold War geopolitical power struggles and the triumphalist rhetoric of how the 'freedom-loving' USA 'defeated' the 'totalitarian' Soviet Union. The book also approaches the East European revolutions from a variety of angles, emphasizing generational conflicts, socio-economic and domestic aspects, international features, the 'Gorbachev factor', and the role of peace movements or discourses on revolution. It analyses the peace movements in both parts of Germany during the 1980s from a perspective that transcends the ideological and geopolitical divides of the Cold War. The history of the East German peace movement has mostly been written from the perspective of German unification in 1989-1990. Many historians have read the history of the civil rights movement of 1989-1990 backwards in order to show its importance, or ignored it altogether to highlight the totalitarian character of the German Democratic Republic.

Elite purges and mass repression

Communism in Eastern Europe was consigned to the dustbin of history in the late 1980s. Stalinist purges and mass repression 'died' with their creator in the mid-twentieth century. Many scholars argue that state-sponsored terror represented the very essence of communist governance, not just in Stalin's Russia, but in modified form throughout the world wherever and whenever communist parties established themselves in power. The sheer scale of wartime and post-war Stalinist terror in the eastern half of the continent left few completely untouched. This book adopts an unusually broad geographical scope, including not only the nominally independent 'sovietised' lands lying between the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) and Germany (Poland, Czechoslovakia and Hungary), but also four regions that were incorporated into the Soviet Union in the 1940s: Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Moldavia. The term 'Stalinist terror' commonly refers to the murderous elite purges and mass repressions that engulfed Soviet officialdom and society in the late 1930s and beyond. It is intimately associated with the aims and actions of the Soviet dictator, Josef Stalin. 'Stalinist terror' denotes the conscious attempt by communist leaderships to crush civil society and its autonomous institutions primarily by means of mass arrests, forced labour, relocation of suspect peoples, police brutality and judicial and non-judicial executions.

Origins, processes, outcomes
Kevin McDermott
and
Matthew Stibbe

This introduction presents an overview of the key concepts discussed in the subsequent chapters of this book. The book aims to reconsider the origins, processes and outcomes of the collapse of communism in Eastern Europe. It considers the longue duree comparative methodology to contextualise the East European events through the lens of the revolutionary traditions and spirit of 1789, 1848 and 1917. The book provides a succinct overview of recent theoretical and social scientific writing on revolution. It demonstrates the vicissitudes of reform in Czechoslovakia. By the late 1980s there were indications that the contested language of perestroika itself was engendering a portentous fragmentation of communist hierarchies and a disintegration of the social consensus. The factors determining the course of events in 1989 have to be sought beyond the Soviet Union and the West, even if developments up to the autumn might be 'interpreted within the framework of perestroika'.

in The 1989 Revolutions in Central and Eastern Europe
Problems, perspectives and interpretations
Kevin McDermott
and
Matthew Stibbe

The term 'Stalinist terror' commonly refers to the murderous elite purges and mass repressions that engulfed Soviet officialdom and society in the late 1930s and beyond. It is intimately associated with the aims and actions of the Soviet dictator, Josef Stalin. Many of the methods and mechanisms perfected in Stalinist Russia in the 1930s were transposed to the infant communist regimes in Eastern Europe during and after the Second World War, culminating in the mass persecutions of the late 1940s and early 1950. 'Stalinist terror' denotes the conscious attempt by communist leaderships to crush civil society and its autonomous institutions primarily by means of mass arrests, forced labour, relocation of suspect peoples, police brutality and judicial and non-judicial executions, the overall aim being to entrench the parties' monopoly of power by eliminating alternative sources of authority and allegiance.

in Stalinist terror in Eastern Europe