De-Stalinising Eastern Europe: The Dilemmas of Rehabilitation

  • Matthew Stibbe
  • Kevin McDermott


These words were written by Jack Pritchard to the Conservative MP for Hampstead, George Balfour, on 26 September 1938, four days before Neville Chamberlain and Edouard Daladier signed the Munich agreement with Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini. Pritchard was a Hampstead-based furniture designer, left-liberal intellectual and anti-appeaser. At the time of writing, Moscow had directed a wave of bloody purges and accompanying mass terror against its own people, and organised three well-publicised show trials, the last of them against Nikolai Bukharin and his associates. While many on the left in Britain continued to support the Soviet system, even after the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact of August 1939, and dismissed as western or ‘imperialist’ propaganda the claims that Stalin was deporting, enslaving and murdering as many communists and non-communists as Hitler, doubts began to appear and were reinforced by the publication of books such as Arthur Koestler’s Darkness at Noon (1940).2 Yet in the long run, Pritchard was right. Whereas Nazi Germany went down in the final and totally mad ‘destruction’ and ‘self-destruction’ of 1944–1945,3 the Soviet Union did finally begin to reverse its use of terror and redirect itself along the path of ‘sanity’.


Rehabilitation Process Transitional Justice Soviet Bloc Soviet Citizen Secret Speech 
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  1. 20.
    A. Windmann, ‘Warum gelten Zwangssterilisierte bis heute rechtlich nicht als NS-Opfer?’, Der Spiegel, no. 36, 1 September 2014, pp. 40–2.Google Scholar
  2. 21.
    The relevant paragraphs were only struck from the West German penal code in 1969. See K. Tichomirowa, ‘Wider das Gesetz: Noch immer warten in Deutschland einst verurteilte Homosexuelle auf Rehabilitierung’, Berliner Zeitung, no. 203, 1 September 2014, p. 1.Google Scholar
  3. 34.
    For an early assessment of ‘re-Stalinisation’, see D. Pospielovsky, ‘Restalinization or Destalinization?’, Russian Review, vol. 27, no. 3 (1968), pp. 307–20CrossRefGoogle Scholar

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© Matthew Stibbe and Kevin McDermott 2015

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  • Matthew Stibbe
  • Kevin McDermott

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