The Export of Communism - And the Missionary of Central Europe

Term Paper (Advanced seminar), 2002
16 Pages, Grade: 1,0 (A)


Table of Content


1. Introduction

2. Terminology and Definitions
2.1 Marxism
2.2 Leninism
2.3 Marxism-Leninism and Communism/Socialism

3. Communist Ideology and Panslavism

4. The “Missionary” of Central Europe
4.1 War time efforts
4.2 Post-war area

5. Conclusion


Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

1. Introduction

I remember November 9, 1989, listing the East German news. The preceding weeks and months left a smell or at least some doubts that something is going not the „socialist“ way, which it is supposed to do. It began in the summer of this year in Hungary, was followed by the occupation of several embassies of the Federal Republic of Germany throughout the so-called East block. It was finally caricatured by the ceremonies to the 40th anniversary of the proclamation of the German Democratic Republic, while the presence of Gorbatschow was perceived as the visit of a future liberator rather than the ruling head of the suppressing and dominating “Great Brother”. As a child, raised and taught in the socialist way, I had the opportunity to witness this truly historical event. The Iron Curtain, symbolised in East Germany through the existence of a white painted wall, fell at 6:57 p.m.1. Rather accidentally, it was broadcast in a news conference all over East Germany. Today, November 9, 2001, twelve years later, I am sitting in Kraków enjoying the opportunities the „new“ and formerly alien system has bought with it.

Hence, it seems time for me to reconsider - though limited - the experiences I could make. Therefor I would like to elaborate what the “socialist” or better Marxist-Leninist system was, how this ideology developed during several periods in history, and whether or how it moved after the World War II from the Soviet Union to the occupied or conquered regions of Central and Eastern Europe.

2. Terminology and Definitions

To discuss the export of communism in the next chapters it seems to be necessary to clarify and define several terms used in the literature. The pure existence of significantly different perceptions of one term reveals the difficulties I was faced doing my research. The reader therefore should be aware that the author’s background consist of eleven years of “socialist” and another twelve years of so-called Western influence. In the case a question concerning the quotation marks occurs I use to mark forms of the term so cialistic, we face the first probably unclear phrase.

What was perceived socialistic in the East is commonly considered as communistic in the West, and therefore stands as a synonym for the evil in the world. However, the ide- ology that dominated huge areas throughout Central and Eastern Europe after the World War II shall rather be characterised as Marxism-Leninism. This term itself is an artificial construction, representing the official philosophy of the Soviet Union and all attached countries2. It was created initially by Marx, later adapted through Lenin, and, one can say, finally interpreted and implemented by Stalin.

2.1 Marxism

Marx, who wrote his dissertation at my university, the Friedrich Schiller University of Jena, refers in his extensive writings to the dialectical approaches of history of Hegel3, who was a student of the University of Jena as well. Yet, what shaped the Marxist theo- ries and made them evident not only to the elite were its economic arguments, which appears as a further development of Ricardo and Smith’s ideas4. Accordingly, Marx’s major economic drawings, the Critic of Political Economy, argue that the behaviour of people is determinate by the socio-economic framework - and not vice versa. Hence, the anatomy of the civil society is to be found in its political economy5. This involves a form of the society that is usually dominated through the class of the wealthy. The con- tradictions between the exploited working majority and the prospering minority implies conflicts among the classes of a society, caused by the permanent accumulation of capital on one side and further exploitation on the other. The history of men may then perceived as a sequence of class struggles resulting out of enduring and culminating inequalities. Upon certain maturity, this revolutionary situation necessarily will lead to an overthrow of the old system. Thus, Marx predicted the necessity of the dismantling of capitalism and its replacement through an equal and social form of the society, domi- nated by the formerly suppressed majority, the proletariat6. The goal is a uniform soci- ety without any class7.

2.2 Leninism

Both, literature from the East and sources from the West evaluate Marx’s approach more or less in the same way. Significant differences between arise only in portraying Lenin’s ideas and the interpretation of Marx’s philosophy.

Though Marx’s writings kept only fragmentary, his believers, among them Lenin, tried to complete his work. In particular Lenin was eager to adapt the philosophical, eco- nomic and political thoughts of Marx to the special circumstances of the Russian Em- pire in the beginning of the 20th century; and to apply its revolutionary elements. Al- though the industrial development of Russia in these days did not reach the magnitude of the western neighbours and therefore did not meet Marx preconditions, Lenin consid- ered the state of affairs maturing to overthrow the crusted tsarist regime. The Russian Empire appeared to Lenin as the most weakened part in the chain of all capitalistic countries. From this point, an overall revolutionary situation may affect all other capi- talistic societies and finally lead to a process, turning all countries in the admired new, equal and uniform proletarian society. An elite within the proletariat shall initiate the revolutionary process itself. This avant-garde will later on unify, integrate and harmo- nise all (remaining) classes, i.e. the proletariat or working class, the intelligentsia and the peasants. But this revolutionary elite will then also constitute the new governments. The emphasis of the need of the necessarily revolutionary situation, and overthrow as a precondition of the inevitable world revolution, distinguish Lenin’s from Marx’s ap- proach. Finally, this requires a centralised or even autocratic form of strongly hierarchic structure of the monopolistic state party and its attached government8.

2.3 Marxism-Leninism and Communism/Socialism

The term finally is a further development of the initial Marxist ideas under the influence of Lenin and its application and adaptation to the utterly revolutionary situation in the ceased Russian Empire 1917 and after. Indeed, the term was coined by Stalin himself, who declared, that Leninism is a further development of Marxism in an epoch of imp e- rialism and the analogous proletarian revolution9. Hence, Marxism-Leninism assumable ought to be the extract of the writings of Marx, Engels and Lenin, but particularly was modified and “corrected” by Stalin. It served to explain the necessary struggle against the imperialistic or capitalistic rest of the world, urge people to believe in the leading position of the monopolistic Communist Party. An eastern dictionary ultimately stresses that the Socialism and Communism will consistently and inevitable eliminate the capi- talistic system in its historic mission under the principal of the Marxist-Leninist party and its supervision10.

3. Communist Ideology and Panslavism

Stalin manipulated the philosophy of his predecessors to such an extent that the revolution may basically succeed already in one country, the Russian Empire11. Stalin was eager to accomplishing his country’s mission to complete the world revolution by establishing a leading role of it, and demanding a later continuation as an inherent legitimacy in form of a natural law to fulfil12.

There are no doubts that Stalin, though a Georgian by birth - which on the other side is illustrative for the imperial character of both, the tsarist and the Bolshevik Russia - praised to the Panslavic doctrine. In this regard, Schewardnaze made a rather bizarre comment, when he received his honouree doctorate at the Friedrich Schiller University Jena in 1999 arguing that a Georgian divided Europe after the World War II. And it took another Georgian to unify the cont inent again13.

Until the Conference of Yalta Stalin successfully concealed his real intentions by argu- ing that the Soviet interest in (inner) security and stability, and its heavy losses during the war will certainly require compensations. But these claims are not coupled with any expansionary or even revolutionary tendencies of the Soviet Union. The following “So- vietisation” of the exhausted area of Central Europe was conducted under the pseudo- nym of “Democratisation” of the formerly often authoritarian regimes or dictatorships in the region. The sheer presence of the Red Army and the activation of Panslavic thoughts supported this14.

Another curiosity is that Marx himself, in the then consolidated Soviet Union consid- ered as an unimpeachable icon, refused or better denied any Panslavic thoughts. On at least one occasion he even derides such ideas. An article was published shortly after the Panslavic Congress in Prague, stating that some Slavic dilettantes of the social science demand an absurd and anti-historic motion, aiming to subjugate the civilised world un- der the barbarian East. Marx even identifies behind this - in his words - foolish theory the crucial reality of the Russian Empire, which claims with each of its actions the whole Europe being a domain of the Slavic race. Only Poland refrains from trapping in this Panslavic manoeuvres15. This text is later hardly found in the amount of publication of Marx’s writing.

However, the question is, what led to the dominating role of the Soviet Union and the expansion of its sphere of influence. Though, both, Panslavism and Commu- nism/Socialism represent contrary views of the world, both dogmas match in the opin- ion of the author in some few, but crucial aspects. Both - one can say - ideologies pre- dicted and demanded a leading and expanding role of the new to establish state, go v- ernmental structure and its institutions, or a rather monopolistic party. While the Pan- slavic movement is eager to create a confederation of the Slavic people(s) without stressing on internal organisation, the Communist movement provides exactly this in- ternal apparatus and its theory. So one can say, that both attitudes became complimen- tary and somehow coherent in the case of the transformed Russian Empire/Soviet Un- ion. It is hardly scientific to ask, what would had happened, if for example a Communist style regime had became established first in Germany, hence not accomplished by any Panslavic idea.

A matter of fact is, that Marxism-Leninism touched the ground first in Russia. Its tradition in the Panslavic struggle did not suffer under the cleansing from the old tsarist system. Later on, both ideologies became evidently coherent under the reign of such a patriarchal leader like Stalin.

4. The “Missionary” of Central Europe

In the following chapter I try to elaborate, how the export of communism was con- ducted in the context of the Sovietisation of huge areas of Central Europe and linked Panslavic sentiments. Although there are no obvious differences between war time and post-war period I like to distinguish discussing the period from 1941 to 1945, and the time after the Potsdam Peace Conference. Yet, the Sowjetische Besatzungszone (SBZ) - the occupied zone of the Soviet Union on the territory of Germany - was merely popu- lated by Slavic minorities, this region played a significant role in establishing the Com- munist regime in Central Europe. Therefore the later part of this chapter shall be de- voted to the installation of Communism in the areas which were to become the German Democratic Republic.

4.1 War time efforts

Yet to stress a side-note: According to the cooperation of Soviet Union and the German Third Reich, it seems more than bizarre that there ever had been a common sense among the dominating ideologies of Germany and the Soviet Union concerning Central Europe; eventually owed to sheer geopolitical considerations16. Hitler pointed out, that he saw in the defeat of the Russians the defeat of Slavedom, which in his opinion was threatening Germany and all Germans seriously and in their very existence17. Stalin in contrast emphasised in his speech on the occasion of the anniversary of the October Revolution that Germany will never succeed since the German amendment (“Neuord- nung”) of Central Europe is based on an “ unreliable hinterlands ” (i.e. the occupied countries between Russia and Germany). This buffer zone, consisting of the Baltic States, Belorussia, Ukraine, etc. will become a vulcano, which will erupt as soon as the “Hitlerian fools” shall established their version on Europe. It is debatable why Stalin in this particular speech doesn’t mention Poland as one of these apparently fragile, dan- gerous, and suspicious countries18.

However, signing the Atlantic Charter, both, Roosevelt and Churchill declared that the post-war order may not determined by any territorial changes on the continent without taking into consideration the self-determination of the particular European peoples. Aiming primarily on an anti-Hitler-coalition, the Soviet Union joining the Charter in September 1941 already signalised that especially the question of self-determination might not be applicable to her further manoeuvres in “ liberating ” Central Europe19. KISSINGER in this regard points out, that Stalin’s intention reflected both, the funda- mentally revolutionary communist ideology and the traditional imperial Russian foreign policy: “He strove to cash in on his country’s victory by extending Russian influence into Central Europe. And he intended to turn the countries conquered by Soviet armies into buffer zones to protect Russia against any future German aggression”20. Instead of this he declared publicly, that the Soviet Union does not have any war aims like im- pinging Russia’s will on the suppressed Slavic peoples. But if they ask for help, the So- viet Union’s support will be assured to them21. Yet, behind the scene he very much de- termined the after war conditions. Already in December 1941, when Moscow was just escaped its defeat22, he suggested but rather demanded from a British envoy more than the Allies could even dream of. Stalin hinted at the future treatment of Germany, its borders, and the drawing of the other boundaries throughout Central Europe, further the re-establishing of independent Austria and Czechoslovakia, including the Sudeten areas and finally the restoration of all countries under German occupation or incorporated in the Reich. The differences to all liberal minded statesmen of that time became apparent, when it was to decide of the future of all areas gained by the Soviet Union through the Hitler-Stalin-Pact, but also the new shape of Poland. Stalin considered the “genuine” border along the Curzon line, leaving about 3 million of not necessarily ethnic Poles to the faith of the Soviet Empire, but fulfilling his Panslavic/imperial mission23. The occu- pied German territories should in contrast later serve to meet the Soviet reparation claims24. Yet, the willingness to negotiate honestly with the Allies decreased significantly form that point on when Stalin could be sure, that the war would be in favour with him. Its outcome provided him with the most of the territories his Red Army could reach25.

4.2 Post-war area

Except for Poland, the German occupation, its resistance, but also the liberalisation through the Red Army caused in most of the countries of Central Europe a vacuum of power, often resulting from the total lack of any governmental (underground) struc- tures26. The “liberators”, in accomplishing their ideological mission, could easily fill this vacuum. Generally, the establishing of communist power in the period from 1944 to 1948 was accomplished in 3 steps, according to SETON-WATSON. In the beginning, pre- sumably existing parties were allowed to constitute their own structure and press, to claim their own opinion, eventually different from the communist parties or factions - but basically refraining from any critics of the Soviet Union and the Red Army itself. The second phase was then initiated by replacing the leader of these parties and their substitution, appointed by the communists. Indeed, no other convictions except slightly different facets of Communism were accepted. The first subjugation against different minded subjects was experienced in this phase. The last act in this drama was finally the rise of the communist party to uniform and monopolistic power, establishing a govern- ment, which contradicted any form of opposition27. In this regard all the conditions of Marxist and/or Leninist theory or ideology were attained. On the other side, exactly these monopolies of sheer power related their position (revolutionary elite in a uniform and equal society) to these theories, simultaneously preventing every different minded insurrection (“ Die Partei hat immer recht ”28 ).

The Soviet Military Administration (SMAD) admitted the set up of political parties in the occupied territories already in June 1945. The communist cadre around the so-called “Gruppe Ulbricht”, lead by the convinced arch-communist Walther Ulbricht, was flown in from Moscow in April 1945 - where their members had been educated and prepared - to establish their concept of a future communist Germany, co-ordinated with and heavily influenced by the Soviet Communist Party (CPSU). Yet, Ulbricht was a proto- type of the future communist leaders of these days: from lower origin and education, he was charismatic but humble enough to gain a leading role and enjoying Stalin’s favour, finally accepting his will unquestioned, and strongly believing in the only ideology to- wards the communist world revolution29. He was without any doubt a virtuous on the Stalinist apparatus30. One of his comrades - and later dissident - describes their atti- tudes as following: The claims of all peoples subjugated by the Hitlerian regime are quite legitimated. Germany shall have the courage to accept this certainty. After all what had happened, these maltreated and exhausted peoples should gain every guaran- tee to prevent such atrocities in all future. Therefore, the task of the German anti-fascists - which were to became the leaders of the government of the SBZ - was to stand up for all demands made by the formerly repressed peoples31. With humble servants like them on the hot spot of the appearing block confrontation, Stalin was in the comfortable po- sition to fulfil his Panslavic/imperialistic mission in the Slavic dominated hinterland or buffer zone between the future East German territory and the genuine Soviet terrain. Correspondingly, the Marxist-Leninist ideology served in all occupied territories main- taining the sphere of influence, and to build an unprecedented security belt around the heartland of Russian imperia lism32. In contrast to sovereign constituted states of the west receiving their legitimacy from the respective parliaments through free elections, the governments - or better those who were in power - of communist dominated countries were hardly obliged to derive their authority from the people. Instead the German Marxist-Leninist indoctrinate party - the

SED - perceived itself as the predicted avant-garde of the Leninist proletariat, which found its monopolistic power drawn from the constitution. This includes the unification and centralisation of political authority, the communised property and the irrevocable alliance with the Soviet Union, as well as the “socialistic”, not necessarily independent jurisdiction33. The SED developed since 1948 to a party of a new type, similar to the CPSU. Though there were several minor parties, imposed by political conformity on the dominating ideology. The execution of the monopolistic power in all fields of the soci- ety - according to the model introduced above - was attained by a tight organisational structure of the party, paralleled by them of the state itself - and not vice versa. How- ever, decisions were made in the hierarchy of the party, and only performed by the serving state. The interlocking of party and state should serve to represent the ideologi- cal identity of the ruled and the rulers. But it showed in particular the cadre policy making, which dominated all processes in the society, relating to officially unofficial system of the Nomenclature. Belonging to the Nomenclature did not inevitable imply the elevation in the hierarchy in case of conformity behaviour, but could in the contrary case result in isolation and embarrassment34 - an authentic duplication of the Soviet system, referring to Leninist heritage.

A crucial tool to accomplish and maintain the party’s status was the state security serv- ice or inner secret service, in East Germany established in 1950 in form of the Ministry of State Security (“MfS”)35. It followed the example of several organisations of that kind in the Soviet Union, however originating from the 1917 revolutionary Bolshevik Tscheka organisation. Already before proclamation of the GDR, the branch of the NKWD had about 2.600 staff, 15.000 soldiers at its disposal36, and took over 10 former concentration camps, which were transformed in a system of special camps, comparable to the Soviet GULag realm37. Almost 154.000 Germans and 35.000 foreigners were de- tained in the period from 1945 to 1950, every third of them died. The MfS had at its magnitude in 1989 about 5,5 official employees per 1.000 citizen and 175.000 unofficial agents under its directive, doing both, observing the life of the whole society, and - if necessary - executing so-called “Zersetzungsma ß nahmen ”, subversive and wrecking acts against suspicious individuals38. Finally the MfS secured the position of the leading figures of the system39 - and accomplishes the third and final phase of SETONWATSON’s model.

5. Conclusion

It is still not easy to identify all factors condemning and dividing Central Europe for more than 40 years twelve years after the communist regimes broke down, after any Marxist or Leninist ideology proved to be unrealistic and illegitimate; and several years after most of Central European peoples regained or discovered - sometimes violently - their nationality and nations, which in most cases had been buried under the ruins of history and the ideologically weaved mantle of Panslavism.

However, there had been the despotic figure of Stalin, dominating and restricting most of the faithful attempts to build a new whole Europe after World War II, obviously in- terested in securing his portion of Central Europe. And there were lot of his disciples, following him and his nearly sacred deeds, in order to secure their own position. A use- ful resource in this regard was undoubtedly an ideology like Marxism-Leninism, which additionally provided his advocates with an adequate excuse or evasion to inactivate any opposition or even passive thinking. According to Russia’s role in the history of Central Europe it is hardly possible to refrain from rejecting totally the influence of Panslavic tendencies in Russia politics - at least to some extent shown by Stalin himself.

The situation changed after the war insofar as peculiarities of the respective communist leaders and their nations had to take in consideration. But still there were several - in their point of view - idealistic and convinced communist leaders, striving for their ind i- vidual advantages, to establish Stalin’s rule throughout Central Europe. Panslavic pur- poses therefore were not longer heard, but in its imperial character still feasible and per- ceivable.

However, Panslavism has never been official doctrine in the Soviet foreign policy. Yet, its notion prevailed in the Soviet expansionism and the underlying imperial attitude.

As far as East Germany is concerned there are two distinctivenesses. Like all of the Central European states under the supervision of the Soviet Union it had a constitution, but was no constitutional state. Never before in German history the gap between the written constitution and the constitutional realty was so tremendous. The centre of any political and economic power was the party, but it never had the say of its own. How- ever, the SED ’s struggle with deviationist tendencies was much smaller compared to its counterparts in Central Europe, so in Poland, Hungary and Czechoslovakia. The SED simply took advantage of strong traditional relics or residues from former Hitlerian re- gime, explicitly manifested in an illiberal, dependent (“autorit ä tsh ö rig”), and state fixed order of the society, and the “typical” German mentality, but also a huge arsenal of dis- ciplinary measures provides by the MfS40. Finally, East Germany was all the time an exception to that extant, that their was another, prosperous German state, questing the communist experiment since its very beginnings; but also easing the burden of trans i- tion into its today’s state of affairs.


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1 Lehmann (2000), p. 376.

2 Ahlberg (1998).

3 Hegel (1919), p. 930-931: Hegel cites here for example the French Revolution and its aftermath.

4 Schmidt (1995), p. 583-586.

5 Marx/Engels (1972), p. 335: “… da ß aber die Anatomie der b ü rgerlichen Gesellschaft in der politischen Ö konomie zu suchen sei ”.

6 Marx (1951), p. 32.

7 Göhler/Roth (1998), p. 406.

8 Schmidt (1995), p. 557-559.

9 Stalin (1947), p. 10.

10 Böhme et al. (1973), p. 760-767.

11 Stalin (1947), p. 38.

12 Ahlberg (1998).

13 Schewardnaze (1999): Inauguration speech, in: Alma Mater Jenensis, about to publish in 2002.

14 Müller (1996): p. 456.

15 Marx (1953).

16 Kissinger (1994), p. 332.

17 Hitler (1925), p. 93.

18 Stalin (1951), p. 32-33.

19 Benz (1994), p. 26.

20 Kissinger (1994), p. 395.

21 Stalin (1951), p. 36-37.

22 Piekalkiewiecz (1985), p. 530-531.

23 Kissinger (2001), p. 107.

24 Benz (1994), p. 45.

25 Kissinger (1994), p. 399.

26 Seton-Watson (1961), p. 187.

27 Idem, p. 188.

28 Poem by Louis Fürnberg on the occasion of the 1950’s communist party convention, in: Judt (1998), p.


29 Müller-Enbergs et al (2000), p. 868-869.

30 Jessen (1998), p. 31.

31 Leonhard (1955), p. 401.

32 Kissinger (1994), p. 415.

33 Jesse (1997), p. 90.

34 Idem, p. 96-97.

35 Suckut (2000).

36 Gieseke (2000), p. 6-7.

37 Bonwetsch (1999).

38 Gieseke (2000).

39 Jesse (1998), p. 34.

40 Idem, p. 32.

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The Export of Communism - And the Missionary of Central Europe
Jagiellonian University in Krakow  (Centre for European Studies)
History of International Relations between Russia and Central Europe
1,0 (A)
Catalog Number
ISBN (eBook)
File size
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Jagellonen University, Krakau
Panslawisumus Kommunismus, Communism, Ideology, Ideologie Osteuropa, Eastern Europe, Russia, Soviet Union, Russland Sowjetunion Stalin Mitteleuropa, Central Europe
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Heiko Bubholz (Author), 2002, The Export of Communism - And the Missionary of Central Europe, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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