The Communists Take Power

  • Robin H. E. Shepherd


Primed by the experience of two world wars in less than three decades and the economic depression of the 1930s, the post-Second World War consciousness of Europe was ready for change. The left was particularly well placed to take advantage. The Soviet Union had endured huge sacrifices in defeating the Nazis and this, combined with the leading role played by communists in the resistance movements, appeared to give radical groups the moral right to a certain respect. The fact that the Nazi-Soviet non-aggression treaty1 in August 1939 had led directly to Hitler’s invasion of Poland — the event which triggered the war itself — had been lost amid the mass of upheavals which followed. In any case, the mainstream European left had done such a comprehensive job of white-washing Stalin’s monstrous crimes that the masses were largely ignorant of what communism in practice meant.


Economic Reform Communist Party Soviet Bloc Political Prisoner Soviet Leader 
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  1. 4.
    See R. Conquest, The Great Terror, revised edition (Harmondsworth: Penguin Books, 1971).Google Scholar
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    A translation is contained at the end of Dubček’s autobiography: A. Dubček, Hope Dies Last (London: HarperCollins, 1993).Google Scholar
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    See George Leggett, The Cheka: Lenin’s Political Police (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1986).Google Scholar
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    ‘The whole Czechoslovak affair left the Soviet leaders with a profound distrust of intellectuals, especially in the humanities and social sciences, as well as of all economic reformers.’ Geoffrey Hosking, A History of the Soviet Union (London: Fontana Paperbacks and William Collins, 1985), p. 374Google Scholar
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© Robin H. E. Shepherd 2000

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  • Robin H. E. Shepherd

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