After Stalin (1953-1956)  20609


  • 00:00:00 Throughout Eastern Europe millions vowed to build the Communist paradise, dictated from Moscow, behind the banners of Stalin.
  • 00:00:45 Title sequence
  • 00:01:20 March 1953: Soviet Union mourns death of Stalin. Irina Drabkina: felt as if whole world was going to collapse. No named successor. Collective leadership: Malenkov, Beria, Molotov, Khrushchev. Millions grieved, despite ills of Stalinism. Successes.
  • 00:03:00 Relations with West at death seldom been worse. John Foster Dulles (US Secretary of State): “A new era begins, an era in which the guiding spirit is liberty … fraternity, not one-man domination”. Eisenhower, Dulles and Nixon pledged to roll back the frontiers of Soviet power. Had accused Truman of being soft on Communism. Could Eastern Europe be freed without nuclear war, esp given commitment “with peaceful means”.
  • 00:04:30 Walter Ulbricht as leader of DDR; pressed on with rebuilding East Germany under Stalinist lines. Heavy industry built up, neglecting everyday needs. “Electricity for domestic use simply not available.” Stasi. Churches closed. Censorship.
  • 00:06:00 Unable to stop defections. Stalin’s death causes peak in defections. Ulbricht demanded increased loyalty, despite Kremlin orders to soften approach. But production quotas remained. Demonstration in East Berlin of all trades, led by building workers. Banners “Down with the work quota increases”. Striking already an act of rebellion; marching in streets almost revolutionary. Demonstrators tore down Hammer and sickle from Brandenburg Gate. Government authority in East Berlin collapsed. Lack of leadership from SUP.
  • 00:10:20 Ulbricht said “It’s all over”. Trying to elect strike committee from workers when 4 Russian tanks rolled in. German newsreel footage. Dream of freedom over. First time that East German and Soviet troops closed off Eastern Sector of Berlin. British, Americans and French all just wanted quiet life with security of access routes.
  • 00:13:10 East German rulers set off for Moscow in August 1953. Few countries outside Eastern bloc recognised Ulbricht’s government. Soviet leaders decided to stick with Ulbricht. Beria missing from line up; claim he spied for West, executed later that year.
  • 00:14:30 Adenauer elected in West Germany. Adenauer, backed by USA, persuaded UK and France to let West Germany into NATO. Allowed to form an army in 1955. On May 14 1955 Warsaw Pact formed. Both pacts claimed their alliances were defensive.
  • 00:16:10 Molotov ordered to negotiate Austrian peace treaty and withdrawal of Soviet troops. Molotov against it. But most of Soviet leaders felt in need of a goodwill gesture. Vienna: May 15 1955 – Peace treaty signed between Molotov, Dulles, Britain, France. “Österreich ist frei.” Military occupation of Austria ended, with promise of neutrality from Austria. Encouraged some to hope that same might happen for rest of Eastern Europe.
  • 00:17:45 Khruschev gains upper hand. Leads delegation to Yugoslavia.
  • 00:19:00 More resource in USSR into production of consumer goods and housing. Many freed from gulag. “Impossible to live in the heavens surrounded by the barbed wires.”
  • 00:19:30 20th Congress used to end hero worship of Stalin. Khruschev speech in closed session about Stalin’s terror. Khruschev not without guilt. Kopelev: “Did not say everything that needed to be said … half-whisper … this is the beginning of truth.” Speech crept out in leaflets etc.
  • 00:21:45 Also perfect propaganda for US-financed Radio Free Europe. Text broadcast when CIA got copy from Israeli secret services. 1 hour speech repeated over and over again.
  • 00:22:45 Poland fertile territory; wanted change after years of shortage and hard work. Workers in Poznań in June 1956 demanded bread, liberty, freedom for Roman Catholic church and end to Soviet domination of Poland. 74 people killed by Polish tanks and bullets. Show trial, with foreign journalists invited. Real workers who’d risen: major blow to regime.
  • 00:24:20 Reformers turned to Władysław Gomułka and chose him as their new leader without consulting Kremlin. Moscow ordered Soviet troops to advance on Warsaw, and Khruschev flew to Poland to influence Gomulka. Khruschev agitated and accused government of wanting to break away.
  • 00:25:25 John Foster Dulles on Face the Nation, October 21 1956. Question from Richard Hottelet: “Would we sit back again in a similar fashion [in Poland]?” “I do not think we would send our own forces in … last thing these people would want.” Gomułka promised to remain in Warsaw Pact, and would get more freedom in running domestic affairs. Gomułka speech: “There has been much evil in Polish life …” Gomułka later had conversation with Zhukov about the plans USSR had in place for 3-day takeover; Gomulka asked “Did you plan how many people in both sides would have perished”.
  • 00:28:30 Hungary had remained under ruthless dictatorship of  Mátyás Rákosi. Three kinds of people in Hungary: “Who was in jail, who is in jail, who will be in jail.” New Kremlin leadership disapproved of Rákosi. Anastas Mikoyan arrived; turned to Rákosi and said “The Soviet Leadership has decided you are ill … you will need treatment in Moscow …”
  • 00:30:00 Reformers in Hungarian Communist Party sought independent leader: Imre Nagy, like Gomulka in Poland seen as reformer. Soviet Embassy in Budapest uneasy.
  • 00:30:50 October 23 1956. Students and workers demand free speech, disbanding of secret police, withdrawal of Soviety troops. Hungarian flags with Communist emblem torn out.
  • 00:32:00 Nagy started speech with “Comrades”. Crowd replied “We are not comrades.” Hungarians wanted immediate and radical change. Monument to Stalin toppled. Nagy stayed silent when Kremlin called for repression. Dobrynov: “We thought that all that was needed was a show of force … then I realised things were going to get serious.”
  • 00:33:40 Armed civilians prevented Soviet reinforcements entering Budapest. Aniko Vajda: didn’t know how to use a gun, but taught by someone. 4 days of fighting. Budapest revolutionaries stood their ground. Heavy losses on both sides. Nagy arranges ceasefire. October 28 1956 tanks withdrawn. Patriot in Nagy taking over, and cautiously backs revolutionaries (radio speech: “a nationwide democratic movement has been formed by the people”). “This is not a counter-revolution, this is a fight for freedom”.
  • 00:37:00 Hungarians thought they had won their revolution; came out from cellars to mourn dead heroes. Western Correspondents flocked to Hungary to report on victory. Charles Wheeler. Many Hungarians looked to America and West to guarantee victory. Ernest Leiser: American TV Journalist “behind me is the Blue Danube and Budapest”.
  • 00:38:50 West’s attention diverted by Suez canal attack by Britain, France and Israel. USA not consulted. USA and Hungarians infuriated; attention would be diverted.
  • 00:39:50 Communist Party offices burned, secret police officers strung up. Soviets sent more troops into Hungary. Nagy declared independence/neutrality.
  • 00:41:10 Other Communist states, esp China, urging Khrushchev to use force. Dobrynov: going in to Budapest as peace-keeping force, not occupying force. Americans might go in from opposite direction and start WWIII. Nagy refuses to declare war with the USSR. Eisenhower lets USSR understand that Hungary belongs to the USSR. Nagy radio appeal to the world to assist. Radio Free Europe saying to hang on for three weeks and help will come. Nobody came. 1000s killed. Imre Nagy executed. 200,000 Hungarians fled to Austria before border sealed. “Khrushchev had reinforced the Iron Curtain.”


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    [cast] => Array
            [0] => Kenneth Branagh*narrator**Irina Drabkina*Moscow Resident**Robert Bowie*US State Department**Alfred Berlin*East Berlin Construction Worker**Werner Herbig*East German Worker**Heinz Homuth*East Berlin Construction Worker**Charles Wheeler*British Television Journalist**Karl Schirdewan*German Socialist Unity Party**Alexander Bogomolov*Soviet Embassy, East Berlin**Wilhelm Grewe*West German Diplomat**Anatoly Dobrynin*Soviet Foreign Ministry**Sergei Khrushchev*Son of Nikita Khruschchev**Dmitri Sukhanov*Politburo Secretariat**Vladimir Kruichkov*Soviet Foreign Ministry / Soviet Embassy, Budapest**Lev Kopelev*Former Gulag Prisoner**Zoria Serebriakova*Daughter of Stalin purge victim**Jan Nowak*Polish Section, Radio Free Europe**Flora Lewis*American Journalist**Jerzy Morawski*Polish United Workers' Party**Gergely Pongracz*Hungarian Agricultural Technician**Andras Hegedus*Hungarian Prime Minister**Major General Istvan Kovacs*Hungarian Army**Miklos Vasarhelyi*Aide to Imre Nagy**Major Grigori Dobrynov*Soviet Army**Aniko Vajda*Hungarian Brick Maker**Erzsebet Hrozova*Hungarian Fighter**Colonel Bela Kiraly*Hungarian National Guard


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