By Thomas W. Simons Jr. (auth.)
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Additional info for Eastern Europe in the Postwar World
A very high proportion of the 38,000 people killed by the German Gestapo in Czechoslovakia were intellectuals. Only a third of the 12,000 prewar members of the Yugoslav Communist Party survived; the leadership that emerged from the partisan struggle to rule the country was strongly peasant in origin, and this may help account for the salvationist left radicalism of the early postwar years. For the Polish intelligentsia the war was simply a hecatomb. About 200,000 people, a quarter of the prewar population of Warsaw, were killed in the 1944 uprising, and a very high proportion of these fatalities were young intellectuals.
First, by dismissing the importance of class distinctions and emphasizing ethnicity and language, nationalism symbolically abolished the isolation of the elite from the masses and its feeling of powerlessness regarding the problems of the peasantry. It glorified the peasant masses without requiring that anything much be done for them. Second, the existence of national minorities provided an obvious focus for majority nationalism. Ruling elites, having just emerged from a nation- Independence and Destruction, 1918-1941 23 al struggle for independence, understood conflicts between majority and minority populations in the same binary terms they had learned in the struggle against the foreign empires, and promoted the identity of state and (majority) nation with clear consciences.
Because Russia was a foreign threat, Soviet communism's appeal within fiercely nationalist Eastern Europe was limited largely to the national minorities: Ukrainians and White Russians in Poland, Slovaks in Czechoslovakia, and Jews everywhere. As economic depression worsened ethnic tension, minorities sympathetic to socialism looked increasingly like Soviet Russian fifth columns. 10 Second, the Soviet Union in this period was sinking into the horror of collectivization. What the peasant countries saw there was not the advance of industry under the First Five-Year Plan but the abolition of private land ownership and the physical destruction of millions of peasants by famine or by the police.
Eastern Europe in the Postwar World by Thomas W. Simons Jr. (auth.)