On Interpreting 'East European' History Reflections on Gale Stokes' Three Eras of Political Change in Eastern Europe1

Anna M. Cienciala

Despite the extraordinary changes in what used to be called Eastern Europe, and the coming expansion of NATO into part of this region, few American university students know much if anything about it and history courses offered are few. Key reasons for this state of affairs were given by Alex Kurczaba in the September issue of the Sarmatian Review.2 Since it is clearly in the interest of the nations involved that Americans should know more about them than the fact that after the collapse of communism they can eat at MacDonald's almost anywhere, historians should work out a consensus on how to teach and write about this history. The following comments on a recently published book have this goal in mind.

Gale Stokes, Professor of History at Rice University since 1968, is a specialist in modern Serbian and Yugoslav history. He has published over forty articles and six books, the more recent of which are: From Stalinism to Pluralism: A Documentary History of Eastern Europe since 1945 (second edition, Oxford 1996), and The Walls Came Tumbling Down: The Collapse of Communism in Eastern Europe (Oxford 1993). His newest book, Three Eras of Political Change in Eastern Europe, is designed for use in courses on East European history. However, as stated in the publisher's summary: 'his interpretations of East European history, as well as his optimistic assessment of the region's future, are sure to provoke debate.' Indeed, while his optimism about the future seems justified, some of his interpretations of the 'East European' past are either misleading or controversial and thus call for a lively debate.

First of all, there is no clear definition of what the author means by the term 'Eastern Europe.' Sometimes he applies it to the whole area, at other times he seems to limit it to Southeastern Europe. Still, though he uses the terms 'Eastern Europe,' 'East Central Europe,' and 'Southeastern Europe,' as well as 'Eastern Europe,' interchangeably throughout the book, he declares at the outset that 'Eastern Europe is a distinct historical entity, perhaps divided into northern and southern parts, with its own identifiable characteristics.' (3) The word 'perhaps' is debatable to say the least, though it is true that there is as yet no consensus on how to call the region and its different parts. Hopefully the term Central Europe, long used by its denizens and now sanctioned by the United States State Department, will find general acceptance. By this definition, Central Europe consists of Austria, Germany, Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, and Hungary, though some scholars would also include the Baltic States and western Ukraine (former East Galicia), for they have always been more Western than Russia. As for the term East Central Europe, which used to mean Poland, Czechoslovakia and Hungary but has been used to denote these three countries as well as the Balkans, it is now applied to Ukraine and Belarus, while Eastern Europe is sometimes used with respect to these two countries and European Russia. The terms: the Balkans, or Southeastern Europe, are not controversial; they have been used for a long time to mean Romania, Bulgaria, Albania, and the republics, now states, of former Yugoslavia. The inclusion of Greece is, however, debatable, since it is generally viewed as a Mediterranean country, and was also the only noncommunist state in the region between the end of World War II and 1989. Thus, one of the tasks facing scholars of the whole region is to agree on how to name it, as well as its different parts.

The author is not troubled by terminology, and he has his own definite interpretation of the region's past. He states in the introduction that in his view 'confronting economic backwardness has been the fundamental theme of modern East European history.' (xi) Of course, the same can be said of large parts of the world outside the United States and Western Europe. Stokes writes that since his first visit to the region (Yugoslavia) in 1954, 'I have centered almost all of my work on the question of how East Europeans, Yugoslavs, and specifically Serbs have coped with the great transformation from agrarian to industrial societies.' (ibid.) He acknowledges that in discussing this process, he has excluded Poland, but does not explain this omission. In the articles written between 1990 and 1995 which constitute this book, one would expect equal treatment of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, but he barely mentions the inter-war period and does not deal with the traumatic experience of World War II, or the equally traumatic Stalinist terror in the region. Finally, his interpretation of the background to the 1989 revolutions is interesting but not original. He should be congratulated for emphasizing the fact that in the processes leading to revolution and during revolution, people with ideas were more important than economics, and that people with ideas make history (162), though this seems to contradict his view that modern 'East European' history was determined by economic factors.

Returning to the author's definition of 'Eastern Europe' as a distinct historical entity, it should be noted that he sees the following unifying factors for the whole region: (1) its peripheral location with regard to Western Europe, hence the 'derivative' character of its political thought, institutions, and culture, and (2) various degrees of economic backwardness. These views are not new, for the peripheral theory of economic development was first formulated by Emmanuel Wallerstein, and has come to be generally accepted by historians who have also extended it to politics and culture.3 However, while some European countries clearly led the way in cultural, political and technological development as compared with others, it can be argued that all countries are 'peripheral' to some particular center at any given time. Thus, all countries were peripheral and derivative from fifteenth-century Italy as the center of the Renaissance, which was itself derivative from ancient Greece and Rome. Likewise, Lutheranism derived from some sixteenth- century German states as the center of the Protestant Reformation. The France of Louis XIV was the model for culture, government, and military science for much of seventeenth- century Europe, and Paris was the cultural center of eighteenth- and nineteenth-century Europe as well as the center of revolutionary thought and revolution, beginning with the French Revolution of 1789-99 and ending with the Paris Commune of 1871. As far as economic development is concerned, the poverty of Portugal, Spain, and southern Italy, which are clearly Western, placed them until recently in the economically backward category, and some of their regions can still be so described today. Thus, it might be safe to say that the one obvious factor defining Europe as a whole is that it forms a distinct geographical unit stretching East-West from Ireland to the Urals, and North-South from the tips of Norway and Finland to Greece. Other factors such as culture and political thought extended from the west to include Central Europe, as well as parts of Southeastern Europe and East Central or Eastern Europe, though most of the countries of the last two to three areas have adapted Western models to their own traditional politics and culture. As for economies, it is true that these have been historically less developed east of the Elbe River than west of it, but they have always been more developed in Central than Southeastern and Eastern Europe.

It is surprising that Stokes does not mention another recognizable characteristic of the region, that is, long foreign domination and the struggle against it, especially in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. This struggle inspired and shaped the national consciousness of its different peoples and influences them to this day. It is debatable, however, whether the term 'postcolonial' can be applied in modern times to all the countries of 'Eastern Europe.' 4 Thus, Hungary and Austrian Poland in the period 1867-1914 can hardly be seen as Austrian colonies, nor can Bohemia though it did not enjoy similar status, for it was the industrial workshop of the Empire. The term might apply to Slovenia under Austrian and Croatia under Venetian, then Austrian rule, also to the Balkan states conquered by the Ottoman Empire. As for the Soviet period, the 'East European' satellites of the USSR might, except for Czechoslovakia in 1945-48, be categorized as colonies in the period 1945-56, but after that most of their communist leaders managed to became partners rather than puppets of Moscow, even though none of them was able to go as far as Josip Broz Tito who an independent communist state in 1948.

After these general remarks, it is time to get down to details. The book is divided into three roughly equal parts: I. The Origin of East European Politics; II. The Rise and Fall of Yugoslavia. III. 1989: Prologue, Lessons, Prospects. The author has, however, much more to say about his special area, Serbia/ Yugoslavia, than about other countries. This deprives the countries of Central Europe of their due share of attention before 1989. This gap is most visible in Part I, Chapter 1. Stokes does a good job of describing 'Eastern Europe's Defining Fault Lines,' that is (1) the religious differences: Catholic and Protestant in Central Europe on the one hand, and Orthodox, Eastern Catholic, and Muslim in the Balkans (except for Catholic Slovenia and Croatia) on the other; (2) the cultural differences between Western or Austro-German influence on Central Europe on the one hand, and the long era of Ottoman rule in the Balkans on the other; and (3) the economic fault line that runs east of the Elbe river and south to Trieste. However, one looks in vain for some description of the cultural-political differences between the Balkans and Central Europe, such as the remarkable development of parliamentary institutions by the nobility and gentry of Poland, Hungary and the Czech lands, the last two cut short by Ottoman and Habsburg conquests respectively, also their cultural achievements, and the significant development of their medieval towns and trade.5

Stokes admits in the Introduction that he does not deal with Poland in Part One, but makes some brief and misleading comments. Thus, the reader learns that the Polish landowning class succeeded 'in establishing its rights and privileges over against those of the king,' and that while Poland's neighbors, especially Prussia and Russia 'were becoming more powerful by rationalizing their military and administrative structures, the Polish nobility kept their king weak and their administration minimal.' Therefore, the Polish nobles ruled an increasingly weak state which was partitioned at the end of the eighteenth century, so that there was no Polish state at all by the time of Napolean (p.12, emphasis added, spelling as in text). This is misleading in a major way. The Polish 'noble republic' was the opposite of its two strongest neighbors, Prussia and Russia, which 'rationalized' their administration by establishing militarized, absolutist states. (Stokes omits the Austrian Empire, presumably because it was less successful.) One might wonder whether, according to this theory, Britain failed to 'rationalize' itself in the early modern age because it did not develop a strong military and administration. Indeed, after the strong governments of the Tudors, the English made Yugoslavia, had a Civil War (1640-49) and even beheaded a king (Charles I). Furthermore, in 1688, the English nobles carried out the 'Glorious Revolution,' dethroning James II, crowning William of Orange, placing the control of the budget in Parliament - that is, in their own hands - and issuing a charter of rights. It is not generally known that by 1572, Polish nobles achieved most of the above, plus religious toleration. Perhaps the 'unruly' English nobles avoided foreign intervention thanks to the English Channel?

Thus the reader remains unaware of the fact that the Polish parliamentary system worked well as long as the crown was financially strong under the Jagiellonian dynasty, but began to fail during the devastating wars in which Poland was involved for most of the seventeenth century, the wars that soon bankrupted the crown. Thus, the Elective Monarchy and the liberum veto were less the causes than the symptoms of the decline of royal power to the advantage of the nobles. Nor does the author mention the enlightened reforms carried out between the first and second partitions in 1772-1793, culminating in the Constitution of 3 May 1791, or the second written constitution in the world (after the United States) voted in by a parliamentary assembly.6 (The French constitution was voted in in August 1791). It was this reformed state that Russia, Prussia and Austria partitioned in 1793, and eliminated altogether in the third partition of 1795. As for the economy, the reader is told that Poland - which provided grain to Western Europe in the fourteenth to seventeenth centuries after the discovery of America shifted European trade to the Atlantic - 'saddled' itself 'with a backward social and agricultural system that greatly widened the already economic gap between it and Western Europe (14). The reader, especially the student reader, may think that the landlord-serf system was a Polish choice, though the author admits elsewhere that it was characteristic of all agrarian societies.

Among various controversial statements in this chapter, one deserves special attention. The author justly says that in the inter-war period 'East Europeans' had no control over the international [and] economic situation due to the rise of Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union, and so should not be blamed for being unable to focus on policies that might have brought stability to the region. But he also says that 'the inter-war years in Eastern Europe were dominated by several conflicts the East Europeans could have controlled if they had found the wisdom.' (19) The author does not specify, but it may be said that most were inevitable for the peoples on both sides of each conflict were just emerging from long foreign rule and therefore passionately opposed to leaving any of their countrymen outside their borders. In this psychological context, public opinion in each state claimed the disputed territories on combined ethnic and. historical grounds. In any case, wisdom is the product of experience, which requires time, and this was not vouchsafed to these countries in the short inter-war period. (Stokes returns to the nationalist theme later in Chapter 8.) Finally, in this section the author should know better than to say that in [March] 1939 'the British unilaterally guaranteed the integrity of Poland..' (21) It was not the territorial integrity but the independence of Poland that was guaranteed, for the British government aimed to deter Hitler from further aggression and persuade him to obtain his demands from Poland peacefully, with her assent, which would have made her dependent on Berlin.7 The Poles did not, however, agree to become the vassals of Germany and Hitler attacked Poland, thus beginning World War II.

Stokes then goes on to discuss the social origins of East European politics (Chapter Three). The reader who might be hoping for some discussion of the development of national consciousness and political parties, will find instead a discussion of Barrington Moore's paradigm of European political systems as set out in his Social Origins of Dictatorship and Democracy (Boston 1966). In the author's able summary of Barrington Moore, modern politics are the outcome of the relationship between three main classes when a given society confronts industrialization. Thus, if there is a strong capitalist - or bourgeois - class, it seizes power and the result is democratic capitalism. If there is no such class, or if it is not strong enough, the landed class sponsors the commercialization of agriculture while taking control of the state, and the result is fascism. If the landed class fails to commercialize agriculture before industrial relations affect the countryside and if the peasant-landlord relationship is weak, the likely result is a peasant revolution. The last case is likely to produce a communist society headed by the intellectual elite which organized the peasant revolution. (37) In Barrington Moore's view, the first case is exemplified by Britain and France, the second by Germany and Japan, and the third by Russia and China.

Stokes does not discuss the fact that this seemingly brilliant paradigm does not really fit the nations concerned. Thus, Britain had a strong middle class by the late eighteenth century and was the premier country to industrialize, but the landed class dominated the House of Commons until after the First World War, and did so despite a large and dynamic middle class with which it intermarried to some degree. In France, the nobles who together with high-born churchmen made up about two percent of the population began the revolution, but were crushed by the 'Terror.' Nevertheless, as in Britain, French noble families still set the tone of society and held important posts in diplomacy and the army until the turn of the nineteenth century. As for Germany, its growing middle class did not ensure full democracy before 1914, nor prevent the establishment of the Third Reich in 1933. In Russia, the beginnings of parliamentary government in 1906, growing industrialization, and the agrarian reforms under Stolypin which began at that time, were all cut short by the outbreak of World War I, which caused the breakdown of the Russian economy and led directly to revolution in 1917. China was even more backward than Russia; here again, the war with Japan, which broke out in 1937, cut short the reforms begun by Chiang Kai-shek. In both countries, the 'liberators' of the peasants subjected them to a serfdom as bad, and sometimes worse than what had existed before the 1917 revolution in Russia, and the 1949 communist victory over the nationalists in China.

Stokes admits that in inter-war 'Eastern Europe,' the previously noble-dominated societies of Poland and Hungary evolved toward authoritarian rule but not fascist dictatorship, while the largely peasant societies of the Balkan States saw varying degrees of authoritarian government in both the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The author chose five countries: Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria and Serbia to demonstrate the inapplicability of the Barrington Moore paradigm to the region - but not Poland, even though it provides the most striking negation of this paradigm. Indeed, Polish history is full of paradoxes which defy paradigms. Similar to late eighteenth-century France, it was a noble-led state, whose King, enlightened nobles, and some high churchmen worked to reform it, only to be crushed - the French nobles in the 'Terror' launched by Robespierre, and the Poles by the military might of their neighbors. In the nineteenth century, Polish nobles - mostly gentry - led the two great revolts against Russia in 1830-31 and 1863-64. In Russian-occupied Poland, the period 1864-1914 saw the development of industrialization, urbanization, also a small Polish middle class and a working class, but not freedom and democracy, though the reforms which began in the Russian Empire in 1906 might have improved their chances, given time. In this period in the Polish lands occupied by Austria and Prussia, Polish nobles succeeded in working out a modus vivendi with Austria but not with Prussia-Germany. There, however, the Polish gentry-intelligentsia led a successful struggle to develop mass national consciousness. The Hungarian nobles and gentry played a similar role in their country; the enlightened gentry struggled for the country's self-government and then led the revolution and war of independence in 1848-49.8 In the inter-war period, Poland was ruled by gentry-descended intelligentsia, though there was also a peasant Prime Minister, Wincenty Witos. The country experienced a chaotic multi-party parliamentary system followed by an authoritarian one - but it was an anomaly because of the legal existence of opposition parties and a free press. Thus, the omission of Poland in this chapter leaves a gaping hole in the panorama of nineteenth- and twentieth-century 'Eastern Europe.' Furthermore, even the history of the countries discussed is presented within the Barrington-Moore paradigm, that is the narrow context of industrialization or lack thereof, and of their political systems. Thus there is no significant discussion of the development of nationalism, political thought, and culture except for the Serbs and, to some extent other Balkan peoples. As for Central Europe, Stokes notes only that the Czech part of former Czechoslovakia came very close to approximating Barrington Moore's bourgeois-democratic model, while the Hungarian magnates came close to the landowner-dominated German [imperial] model. He should have added that in the period 1867-1914, the latter can also apply to Austrian Poland, then called Galicia.

Stokes points out that in the Balkan countries it was the modern state which shaped their political life. (66) Yet even here there is an exception. Stokes quotes Barrington Moore's view that Romania, despite its landowning class, showed democratic tendencies after World War I, both because the 'boyars' (magnates) had failed to take control of the state before 1914, and because there was a promising urban class, especially members of the free professions and state employees who constituted the liberal intelligentsia. The conclusion is, however, that: 'Unable or unwilling to find a way to change the peasants into something else than smallholding sharecroppers, the Romanian state bureaucracy simply left them for the post-World War II regime to digest, which it found extremely difficult.' (57) One may well wonder how the Romanian state, as well as other states in the region, could have accomplished in the twenty year inter-war period the task of transforming peasants into landowners or urban dwellers, a process that took about a century in Western Europe and did not succeed everywhere, as witness Portugal, Spain, and southern Italy. In fact, except for the Czech lands, parts of the Kingdom of Hungary, also to some extent in the Russian-occupied part of Poland and Slovenia, the peoples of the whole region that Stokes calls 'Eastern Europe' missed out on the key nineteenth-century developments of Western Europe and Germany, that is: industrialization, intensified urbanization, and the experience of parliamentary government. It is true that the latter existed in restricted forms (as compared with France and Britain) in the Austro-Hungarian Empire after 1867, Imperial Germany after 1871, and in the Russian Empire after 1906, but it did not give equal benefits to all of their peoples.

The best part of the book deals with "The Rise and Fall of Yugoslavia" (Part Two), for most of it is based on the author's proven expertise in this area. It consists of five short chapters (pp. 67-154) which are written clearly and concisely and can be recommended as readings for students who know little or nothing about these topics, provided they are interested in political history as distinct from today's fashionable trends such as 'Gendered' or Women's History and Environmental History. Chapter Four ("Nineteenth Century Serbia: So What?") traces the development of the Serbian state and concludes that it acted not as a mediator between social entities (classes?), nor as a surrogate for one of them, 'but as an actor in its own right, one that behaved a good deal like a dominant class.' (82) This is certainly true, for the Serbian state was staffed by educated bureaucrats who formed a class of their own; but what other kind of state could be expected in a poor, agrarian country lacking either a noble or a middle class? Chapter Five ("Yugoslavism in the 1860s") deals with the rise of Yugoslavism, that is, the idea that the southern Slavs (Yugoslavs) formed one nation. Unfortunately, as Stokes points out, the Serbs believed the future Yugoslav state should be dominated by them, while Croat nationalists believed that they should rule it. Also, the Serbs thought the Croats were really Serbs gone wrong, and vice versa. In this chapter, moderate Croat politicians get the short end of the stick, though they get their due in Chapter Six ("The Role of the Yugoslav Committee in the Formation of Yugoslavia"). This is a fine piece of diplomatic history and should delight its embattled aficionados, who are downgraded nowadays as 'elitists.' Here Stokes writes sympathetically about moderate Croat politicians who hoped for a real federation along the lines of the Austro-Hungarian monarchy, but united with the Serbs in the struggle for a South Slav Kingdom during World War II. In this essay, originally published in 1980, the author concludes that as the war was coming to a close and the National Council (narodno vijece) came into being in Zagreb, the Yugoslav Commitee made up of Croats and Slovenes could have offered the new Yugoslav state its military forces and formal recognition. He thought this would have resulted in either two South Slavic states, or the Croats could have used their assets to secure a mutually satisfactory agreement on equal terms instead of a Serbian-dominated Yugoslavia. (107) However, Stokes changed his mind in a chapter included in a book published in 1993, reprinted here as Chapter Seven ("The Devil's Finger: The Disintegration of Yugoslavia"). Here he offers a more realistic conclusion, namely that the National Council of Croats and Slovenes in Zagreb had little choice but to link up with the Serbs 'since the alternative was to create an independent country, which would have faced powerful Italian claims, a victorious Serbian army, and none too-sympathetic Great Powers.' And so, 'Late in November 1918, the delegates from various councils gathered in Belgrade, and on December 1, 1918, King Alexander of Serbia announced the formation of the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes.' (111)

In this chapter, Stokes barely mentions inter-war Yugoslavia. He focuses on the disintegration of the country, beginning with Tito's decentralization or devolution of power to the republics in 1966-76, which was the prologue to the events of the 1990s. He justly blames Slobodan Milosevic for his manipulation of Serb nationalism, beginning with the abolition of Kosovo's status as an autonomous region in 1987, and going on to the use of the Yugoslav (really Serb) army to support the goal of a large Serbia in wars against Croatia for Serb possession of Krajina, and then against the Muslims for possession of all of Bosnia-Hercegovina. This chapter is an excellent concise presentation of a very complex piece of history, but one may dissent from the author's view that what made war inevitable was international recognition, sparked by Germany, of Slovenian and Croatian sovereignty in December 1991. (42) From all that is known about both Milosevic and other Serb nationalists, this recognition probably just hastened their military support of the Krajina Serbs against Croatia. They did not really try to crush Slovenia.

Part Two concludes with a broad discussion of nationalism, responsibility, 'the concept of people as one,' and possibilities for peace in the former Yugoslavia (Chapter Eight, first published in 1994 and titled "Nationalism, Responsibility, and the People-as-One: Reflections on the Possibilities for Peace in the former Yugoslavia"). This is rather too much for one chapter to cover, especially for students unfamiliar with the region's history. It also includes some statements that are misleading or controversial. Thus, Stokes writes of the death of perhaps as many as 1.7 million Germans during their 'expulsion' from former German territories awarded to Poland (147). In fact, most of these poor people died while fleeing ahead of the Russian armies, and only a small number lost their lives during the organized expulsion that took place just after the war. At that time, conditions were so disordered that expelled Germans, traveling on trains going west, were often attacked by bandits who robbed and sometimes killed. Also, some Germans were imprisoned, mistreated and killed in Polish concentration camps by Poles who sought revenge for the ruthless, almost six-year-long German occupation of Poland.

In this chapter, Stokes writes again about nationalism in the inter-war period. In his view, once East European 'nationalists' gained power (late 1918), 'in every East European country the dominant national group used its position to confront enemies and benefit its own members.' (150) This blanket condemnation of inter-war 'Eastern Europe,' as if all the countries were characterized by extreme nationalism, blots out the great difficulties faced by governments and some real achievements. It should be borne in mind that all of the states in this region, except Hungary and to some extent Bulgaria which had a small Turkish minority, still there today, had very mixed ethnic populations. While in most countries ethnic minorities were ill-treated, one should mention the very liberal treatment of these minorities in the Czechoslovak Republic. In Poland, where some 65-69% of the population was ethnically Polish, the German, Ukrainian, Belarusian and Jewish minorities did suffer various degrees of discrimination, but were free to develop their cultural life to a greater extent than ever before and incomparably more so than in the USSR.9 Furthermore, like most Western historians, Stokes seems to underestimate the pernicious effects of state-sponsored germanization and russification policies on the non-German and non-Russian peoples of Central and East Central Europe, also of magyarization on non-Magyar peoples in Hungary in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Resistance to these policies nurtured a strong nationalist response, which carried over into the insecure conditions of inter-war 'Eastern Europe.' In Yugoslavia, of course, the Serbs ruled the roost, stoking up the anger of non-Serbs, especially the Croats. The author writes that Nazi and Soviet invasions cut short the nationalists' rule, and so permitted them to 'evade responsibility for their errors.' Later, unlike the Germans and West Europeans, who had time to reassess their nationalist sins, he writes that the 'East Europeans' had no 'zero hour' (stunde null, 151). This is not really true. First of all, the drastic changes in social, economic and political structures forced on the countries by communist regimes, coupled in some with great devastation, were in many ways similar to the stunde null, or Germany in 1945. Secondly, the Germans did not begin to confront their past, particularly the Holocaust, on any significant scale until the late 1960s and early 1970s. Thirdly, vociferous communist condemnation of nationalism at first met with broad approval in Poland and Hungary, and the same seems to have been true at least of educated people in Southeastern Europe, especially in Yugoslavia, which had seen dreadful internecine strife between Serbs and Croats. The problem was that even people who agreed with this condemnation in principle, soon began to see their national cultures repressed or distorted under communist rule, and thus began to resent the policy of the latter in this regard, as in others.

Stokes praises the Poles who, after the collapse of communism, concluded treaties with their neighbors, thus putting behind them 'one of the underlying causes of instability in Eastern Europe throughout the twentieth century.' (148) This is welcome praise, but such a policy is possible mainly because Poland is now an ethnically homogeneous country and has no territorial quarrels with her neighbors. It is true that there is a nagging concern for the Polish minority concentrated in the Vilnius region, Lithuania, and occasional tension with a vocal Ukrainian minority over church property and monuments to Ukrainian national heroes in southeastern Poland, but these are minor problems. Above all, Poland and the Czech Republic do not now have their sizable prewar German minorities, which Hitler claimed for his own in order to undermine and then destroy Germany's eastern neighbors. The Hungarian minorities in Slovakia, Romanian Transylvania, and Yugoslav Voevodina are still irritants in relations between those countries today, though unlikely to cause war. The Russian minorities in two of the Baltic States, Latvia and Estonia, can be manipulated by Moscow to serve its own ends. Bosnia still requires United Nations supervision while the Yugoslav/Serb oppression of the Albanians in Kosovo is a time bomb that could set off war in the Balkans. All in all, however, most of the region called 'Eastern Europe' is much more stable now than it was in the interwar period.

While Stokes's condemnation of extreme 'East European' nationalism, both in the interwar period and today is justified, the same cannot be said for his view of the beneficial effects of the American system of government. He claims that the American constitution abandoned the monistic concept of the 'People-as-One' in favor of limited government with sovereignty apportioned among various public entities (149). As is well known, however, the American constitution and system of government did not prevent the genocide of the Indians in the nineteenth century, nor the emergence of a White, Anglo-Saxon, Protestant (WASP) ruling elite in both federal and state government, as well as in big business. It is only recently that WASP domination has given way to the concept of equal rights for ethnic minorities in the job market and entrance to universities (affirmative action, quota systems) and to 'multiculturalism' in education. Both concepts have now reached extremes in their implementation provoking a backlash, as witness California legislation against affirmative action and the growth of 'Aryan' and other racial groups throughout the country. Alex Kurczaba's article cited earlier is a good illustration of the effect that a distorted application of multiculturalism in American universities has on Polish Studies, as well as studies of other 'East European' countries except Russia.

"1989: Prologue, Lessons and Prospects" (Part Three), is the weakest of the three parts of the book. Stokes is right to say in the Introduction to this part that the existence of a civil society is only a partial explanation for the upheavals of 1989, for it works best for Poland and applies to some extent to Hungary but not to other 'East European' countries. He is also right that economic failure was a significant but not decisive factor (157). However, Chapter Nine on "Modes of Opposition leading to Revolution in 'Eastern Europe'" is rather disappointing. Can one really call Polish Solidarity a 'self-activating workers' movement (162), when it owed so much to intellectual dissidents, especially KOR (Komitet Obrony Robotników)? Three previous worker revolts: in 1956, 1970, and 1976 were, indeed, self-activated and due to economic grievances, but not the great revolt of August 1980 which saw the birth of Solidarity. Indeed, at the end of the same paragraph, Stokes says the political mobilization of the masses in the early 1990s 'proceeded not primarily by means of the self-activization of individuals forming primary groups but through appeals to the citizenry to join this or that political party formed and led by elites.' (ibid.) This also applies to the work of the Polish dissident elites in the period 1976-89, although they were seconded and supported by workers' revolts. The idea of an independent trade union was not, as Roman Laba claims and Stokes believes, first invented by the dock workers of Szczecin in January 1971 (171). He really ought to know better, since he selected the Kuro-Modzelewski Open Letter to the Party [late 1964 rather than early 1965] as one of the documents in his earlier book, From Stalinism to Pluralism. Toward the end of this Letter, the authors wrote: 'The possibility of [workers'] defense must be guaranteed by trade unions absolutely independent of the state with the right to organize economic and political strikes.10 As for the tactics of the occupation strike and the interfactory strike committees characteristic of Solidarity in 1980, the Szczecin leaders did not invent them in 1971, since sit-down or occupation strikes were used in Italy in 1920 and at least once in the United States in the 1930s, though it is not clear whether they knew this and if so, whether this knowledge played a role in their strategy. Thus, the one new feature in the Szczecin strike was probably the interfactory strike committee, replicated in Gdask and elsewhere in August 1980. It should also be mentioned that the Baltic and Silesian 'Free Trade Unions' which arose as underground organizations in the late 1970s were headed by dissident intellectuals who taught workers how to organize themselves and distribute their literature. Thus it is not surprising that 'Solidarity's position was also the position of the intelligentsia,' (171) for the dissident intelligentsia helped train worker leaders including Lech Wa´sa. The dissidents realized that political change could only come with mass support. This was not a new idea, for it had been espoused by Józef Pisudski when he was a leader in the PPS (Polska Partia Socjalistyczna) founded in 1892. He published a newspaper for the workers titled Robotnik which was distributed illegally in Russian-occupied part of Poland. Interestingly enough, KOR also published a paper with the same name for Polish workers.

Stokes is right that the movement for political reform in Hungary had little or nothing to do with the growth of alternative forms of ownership that opened up its internal market, and to foreign trade, both of which furthered its 'embourgeoisement (162). The movement for political reform in Poland and Hungary was, as the author rightly claims, a matter of men and ideas and not economics, for 'It is people with ideas who make history, not the ideas themselves.' (163) Of course, the Gorbachev factor played a key role in 1989, but can one say that without his reform program in the USSR and his forbearance the 'East European' revolutions would have been unlikely? (163) After all, Gorbachev was not in power in 1980, and yet Solidarity was born and existed for a period of 14 months. It was crushed not by Soviet troops but by Polish forces on the orders of general Wojciech Jaruzelski. (It is still debated whether he did this to prevent a Soviet invasion or simply to stay in power.) As for Poland in 1989, the people showed their rejection of communism in the elections of 4 June. It is clear that a Soviet invasion would have meant the collapse of Gorbachev's carefully constructed 'détente' with the United States, and probably a renewal of the Cold War. Furthermore, the events in Hungary, East Germany and Czechoslovakia, also Bulgaria and finally Romania, showed that the process was unstoppable once the threat of Soviet intervention was removed, as it was by public Soviet statements. Gorbachev could have crushed it with large-scale military action, but he was in no position to use force because, as mentioned above, he did not want a renewal of the Cold War with all its consequences. He seems to have hoped that more popular communist leaders would come to power who could loosen the reins but retain control of their countries. Poland was most likely to be the laboratory for this experiment but it failed there, though it worked in Bulgaria and Romania where reform communists came to power and held it for a considerable time. Certainly Gorbachev helped the collapse of communism in the region by not intervening with force, but given the limitations and dangers he was facing, could he have done otherwise?

As mentioned earlier, Stokes does not discuss the immediate postwar period which was characterized by brutal repression. Instead, he writes that not only communists welcomed the charge to transform 'Eastern Europe,' thereby implying at least some popular sanction for the new regimes. In support of this view, he quotes two American scholars of Hungarian origin: Charles Gati (who claimed that about 50 percent of the Hungarian electorate was ready for radical change), and G.M. Tamas (who said that people were ready for communist dictatorship). (164) One should note, however, that in Hungary the one radical reform people wanted above all was land reform. After that, the Hungarian Communist party only won 17 percent of the vote in the election of November 1945, the one truly free election held in the whole region. Furthermore, despite terror tactics, the communists won only 27 percent of the vote in Hungary in 1947. In Poland, the January 1947 'elections,' held in an atmosphere of terror, were won by the independent Peasant Party led by Stanisaw Mikoajczyk but, as some Polish communists admitted even before 1989, the ballots in its favor were removed and destroyed. Thus, while people in Poland and Hungary wanted some radical reforms, including socialist ones, they wanted them within a democratic system. Even in Soviet-friendly Czechoslovakia, the communists won only 35 percent of the popular vote in the first postwar election, though this constituted the largest single bloc of votes. However, the coalition governments in which they held key positions lasted only as long as they suited Stalin and communism was imposed on the country in February 1948. As for the Romanians and Bulgarians, they had no say regarding Soviet-imposed communism, while Tito imposed communism by force on Yugoslavia before he found out that independent communism was not to Stalin's taste. There is, in fact, overwhelming evidence that in 1945 to 1948, widespread desire for radical change in 'East European' countries did not mean a desire for communism, and Stokes can be faulted for not explaining the difference.

The author does discuss Poland in the postwar period but fails to appreciate some significant factors. Thus, when discussing the 'Polish October' of 1956, he should have emphasized that it marked a real break from Stalinism and the beginning of a process of liberalization that would continue with ups and downs over the next three decades until it reached fruition in 1989. He should have discussed the role of the Church and the intelligentsia in opposing the regime before 1976. His theory that there were two main traditions, that is, the tradition of opposition and the tradition of survival (162), does not explain the background of the dramatic events of 1989 in the whole region, for these two traditions have always existed and continue to exist in countries with oppressive governments. Nor should political passivity be equated with complicity in the actions of governments. The fact that most people found ways to live under oppressive regimes did not mean, as the author writes, that they became 'complicit in the totalitarian project.' (192) As the author admits elsewhere, a non-political existence was often the only way to live an honest life, and anti-politics can also be a devastating form of opposition (170).

In speaking of the social roots of political parties and movements, it would be appropriate to note that the tradition of active or armed opposition was strongest in the formerly noble-led societies of Poland and Hungary. Thus, in summer 1981, Solidarity adopted the motto of the Polish nobles who used it in defending their rights against the King: 'Nothing about us, without us,' that is, the government should not make policy without their consent. Indeed, if one looks for the social roots of Polish and Hungarian revolutions of 1989, as well as of contemporary Polish and Hungarian politics, the influence of the old noble-gentry model should be given its due. Some of its ethics code and language, taken over by the Polish and Hungarian intelligentsia, trickled down through them to the working class of these two countries. This was certainly evident in part of the Solidarity Program of 1981, as cited by the author:

What we had in mind were not only bread, butter, and sausage, but also justice, democracy, truth, legality, human dignity, freedom of convictions, and the repair of the republic....Thus the economic protest had also to be simultaneously a moral protest. (171)

Much more could be said about the book's last chapters, but this would take too much space, so this review will conclude with a few brief remarks. One may well wonder why the 'East Europeans' should be criticized, as they are by Furet and presumably by Stokes, for the lack of 'new ideas.' (185) Most of them wanted freedom, which they equated with western democracy, so why should they try to invent something else? Furthermore, the reader should not be left with the impression that all these peoples just went back to their 'old ideas' (ibid.), presumably meaning extreme nationalism, for this really applies to former Yugoslavia. It is strange for Stokes to claim that, 'The primacy of the cold war paradigm...hindered the development of investigations in the West that were not overtly political or economic' (161) and that the [American] academic community was preoccupied with cold war concerns in regard to the USSR and 'Eastern Europe.' (185) Some scholars no doubt fit this category, and it is true that the Cold War led to federal support for developing centers of Slavic, then Russian and East European Studies. However, their teachers and graduates produced a great deal of valuable, objective scholarship, including that of Gale Stokes, which were far more important than a few typically Cold War productions.11 It is true that research on certain aspects of communist societies was either very difficult or simply unfeasible, but this was due to political constraints imposed by the governments of Soviet-occupied countries. Lech Wa´sa did not conduct a politics of accommodation when he was President; nor is it true that 'The Soviet troops simply got on their trains and went home.' (188) Wa´sa did much to fragment the Solidarity movement which brought him to power, while lengthy negotiations were needed, especially in Poland, before the Red Army entrained for Russia.

The author's conclusion on the extraordinary events of 1989 is hardly original: 'The basic lesson of 1989, then, is that the twentieth century is over, with both antirationalism and hyper- rationalism having proved to be political, economic, and moral dead ends.' (189) The twentieth century is chronologically drawing to a close everywhere, though much of the world has yet to experience its achievements. The use of the term 'irrationalism' for Nazism or Fascism is acceptable, but the use of 'hyper-rationalism' for Soviet-style communism begs the question. After all, the pursuit of the planned, centralized, economy even when it brought ever diminishing results, was the result of dogma which is contrary to rationalism, while the semi-religious cult of Lenin and Stalin had nothing to do with rationalism, hyper or otherwise. The author is to be congratulated for being optimistic about the future of 'Eastern Europe.' though he is surely wrong in insisting that the region is not in 'transition.' (202) It may not be in transition as far as politics is concerned, but it certainly is so in economics, for the change from a communist to a truly free market economy clearly requires more time than the nine years that have elapsed since the revolution of 1989, and this is true even of the more developed states of Central Europe.

In conclusion, Gale Stokes' essays on 'East European' history provide as many useful insights as misleading statements and interpretations. The chapters and parts of chapters dealing with Yugoslavia can be useful to undergraduate students, but other parts of the book are unreliable and unbalanced. A particularly glaring omission concerns Poland. Historians of Central Europe (Poland, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary) and of South Eastern Europe (the Balkans) usually keep to their own regions of expertise. A really good history of the whole region demands collaborative work. Let us hope this will come soon.



1New York-Oxford. Oxford University Press. 1997. xiii + 240 pages.

2 "East Central Europe and Multiculturalism in the American Academy," SR, XVIII:3 (September 1998), 563-567.

3 Immanuel Wallerstein, The Modern World System: Capitalist Agriculture and the Origins of the European World Economy in the Sixteenth Century (New York 1974); Daniel Chirot, ed., The Origins of Backwardness in Eastern Europe. Economics & Politics from the Middle Ages until the Early Twentieth Century (Berkeley, CA 1989).

4 The term is discussed in relation to literature by Roumiana Deltcheva, "The Difficult Topos In-Between: The East Central European Cultural Context as a Post-Coloniality," SR, XVIII:3 (September 1998), 557-562.

5 For a broad survey of all European parliaments to 1789, see A.R. Meyers, Parliaments and Estates in Europe to 1789 (London 1975). For the best comparative history of the peoples of East Central or Central Europe, see Piotr S. Wandycz, The Price of Freedom. A History of East Central Europe from the Middle Ages to the Present (London-New York 1992).

6 Samuel Fishman, ed., Constitution and Reform in Eighteenth Century Poland. The Constitution of 3 May 1791, (Bloomington, IN 1998), and Adam Zamoyski, The Last King of Poland (London 1992). See also: Andrzej Walicki, The Enlightenment and the Birth of Modern Nationhood. Polish Political Thought from Noble Republicanism to Tadeusz KoÊciuszko (Notre Dame, IN 1989). Walicki argues persuasively that the Polish nobles developed a modern national consciousness in the late eighteenth century, and that the republican KoÊciuszko bridged the Enlightenment and the Romantic periods of Polish history.

7 Anna M. Cienciala, "Poland in British and French Policy in 1939: Determination to Fight - or Avoid War?" The Polish Review, 34/3 (1989), 199-226; reprinted with abbreviations in Patrick Finney, ed., The Origins of the Second World War, Arnold Readers in History (London- New York- Sydney 1997), 413-434.

8 Stefan Kieniewicz, "The Revolutionary Nobleman: An East European Variant of the Liberation Struggle in the Restoration Era," in: Jaroslaw Pelenski, ed.., The American and European Revolutions, 1776-1848: Sociopolitical and Ideological Aspects (Iowa City, IA 1980), 268-286; Istvan Deak, "Progressive Feudalists: The Hungarian Nobility in 1848," in Ivo Banac and Paul Bushkevitch eds., The Nobility in Russia and Eastern Europe (New Haven, CT 1983), 123-136.

9 Jan T. Gross points out that despite the systematic polonization of the school system and various degrees of discrimination, the material, spiritual, and political life of the national minorities in interwar Poland was richer and more complex than ever before or since.' He also points out that they had incomparably more cultural freedom than their brothers and sisters in the Soviet Union. In interwar Poland, there were numerous Ukrainian, Belarusian, Jewish (Yiddish and Hebrew), and German publications. In Wilno (Vilnius) alone, 30 periodicals were published in 1931 in Belarusian, Yiddish, Hebrew, Russian, and Lithuanian, while 68 were published in Lwów (Lviv) in Ukrainian, Yiddish and German. Jan T. Gross, Revolution from Abroad: The Soviet Conquest of Poland's Western Ukraine and Western Belorussia (Princeton, NJ 1988), 6-8.

10 Gale Stokes, From Stalinism to Pluralism. A Documentary History of Eastern Europe since 1945, 2nd ed. (Oxford 1996), 114. Italics in text.

11 Robert F. Byrnes, A History of Russian and East European Studies in the United States: Selected Essays (Lanham, MD 1994), especially Chapter 12 on Gerald T. Robinson, founder of Columbia University's Russian Institute who is a particularly striking example of an objective approach to Russian studies.

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