HIEU 128 - Europe since 1948
Prompt: Based on your reading of Heda Margolius Kovlys autobiography, how would you explain the initial appeal of Communism to many people in Eastern Europe after 1945?
The years of World War II took a toll on the entire world. From small islands to large nations, this war claimed millions of lives, reshaped societies and governments, neglected human rights, seized all wealth, and rendered years of ever-lasting consequences. After the war ended in 1945, reintegration into society was met with new social, political, and economic problems. Great Britain, the Soviet Union, and the United States as victors of the war were key players that would inevitably reshape post-war Europe and the geopolitical landscape. With tension rising between the US and the Soviet Union, the alliances between the Big Three fell apart and created a perpetual clash between democratic allies and communist forces. As the Iron Curtain lifted, Eastern and Central Europe became vulnerable to the expanding Soviet-backed communist era. Nonetheless, communism had a strong probability of filling in the political void even before the war ended, authoritarian leadership and empires reigned for decades prior, and the experimentation of liberal democracy after WWI had failed miserably in Eastern Europe. In this essay, I argue that the Anti-Nazism atmosphere and Soviet allegiance and propaganda were key factors as to why Eastern European countries like Czechoslovakia initially appealed to Communism. Nonetheless, I will reference Heda Kovlys's autobiography Under A Cruel Star. A Life in Prague, 1941 1968, to showcase an inevitable time of false hope, survival, greed, fear of the Party, and injustice for many people in Eastern Europe after 1945. Based on her conscious experiences and observation, we ultimately see the initial appeal of Communism by the general public to be fearful of Soviet authoritarianism and corruption yet, optimistic that a communist-based government would have the capabilities of granting an economic and social recovery.
After the war, the Soviet Union was perceived as the liberator and savior of Europe. The mass of people affected and displaced by the war was beginning to come back to their native land. With no economic and political stability, many Eastern European states looked at the Soviet Union as a model for economic and social restabilization. Ultimately, the Anti-Nazi/Anti-Capitalist movements that surged in Eastern Europe made individuals further seek Soviet-backed Communism. As mentioned in her autobiography, there was a unified belief that individuals should aim to collectively contribute to the common good of society rather than through an individualistic capitalist mentality. Kovly in her memoir references speaks about how her experiences with others in the concentration camps led to a shared desire to build and live in an idealistic world. Furthermore, many individuals who survived began to...