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Soviet Plans to Establish the COMINFORM in Early 1946: New Evidence from the Hungarian Archives
by Csaba Békés
t has been long debated by scholars when the idea of being a reaction to the intensification of frictions between forming a new Communist world organization after the allies, originally was a part of a wider Soviet scheme
the Second World War was raised. In the absence of aimed at fostering Communist takeover in East Central relevant sources the still prevailing classical interpretation Europe by peaceful means, while preserving Sovietsuggests that this idea was a Soviet reaction to the
Western cooperation as well. Marshall Plan introduced in the Summer of 1947 and after The document published below, is an excerpt from the the Soviet Union's refusal of the plan, the formation of the speech of Mátyás Rákosi, General Secretary of the Eastern Bloc and its executive committee', the
Hungarian Communist Party at the 17 May 1946 meeting COMINFORM, was a logical next step in breaking off of the Central Committee of the HCP.3 As part of a long relations with the West. Surprisingly enough, no evidence survey on current international issues, he informed the CC of any kind has emerged from Russian archives from the members about the Soviet conception on the setting up of time of their partial opening in 1991 pertaining to this a new Communist-world organization. He gave a detailed important topic. However, documents discovered by analysis to his audience of how this new body would be Russian scholar Leonid Gibianskii in the Tito archives in different from the KOMINTERN using exactly the same Belgrade show that the idea of setting up such an organiza- arguments presented at the time of the setting up of the tion was already discussed during the talks between Stalin KOMINFORM in September 1947. Between 28 March and the Yugoslav leader in Moscow in May-June 1946. and 2 April 1946, Rákosi had been on a secret mission in
Documents from Hungarian archives not only confirm Moscow, where he was trying to achieve better terms for that a Soviet plan to re-establish a Communist-world Hungary at the forthcoming peace conference. 4 On 1 April organization was in the making already as early as March 1946, he met with Stalin and Molotov, and it is likely that 1946, but they also show that the implementation of the at this point he received the information he presented later plan was postponed in order to avoid its potential negative to the Central Committee.5 effects during the forthcoming elections in France,
Besides stressing the general importance of the Czechoslovakia and Romania as well as in the course of document as the earliest known evidence of Soviet plans the ongoing European peace settlement. This proves that for the establishment of the later KOMINFORM, it is also the idea of setting up the later COMINFORM, rather than worth noting that during recent talks between the Hungar
Speech by Mátyás Rákosi, General Secretary of the Hungarian Communist Party at the Meeting of
the Central Committee, 17 May 1946 [...] Finally I would like to raise another question, which, like socialism, we have not spoken much about so far. This refers to the creation of a new International. The comrades know that the third International had to be dissolved, because progress proved that it damaged rather than benefited the growth of the communist parties. [...] When we arranged the third International, I remember the trouble we went to to show that we wanted a centralized, strong International with executive powers, similar to how Marx imagined the International in 1864, and not just the sorting office and so on that the second International became before the First World War. And this was the catastrophe of the third International. Because instead of every country looking separately for the conditions for revolution, and not trying the impossible task of centralizing and directing the whole movement, it directed it from the center. The result was that the parties gave up independent politics, continually looked in the direction of the center, and waited
for its instructions. This view led the comrades to announce the discontinuation of the third International. And afterwards, now that the International has been discontinued, the parties are coming forth one after the other to say how the existence of the International limited their progress, e.g. most recently we heard from our Yugoslav comrades how much such a central institution held them back, which, unaware of local conditions, sometimes demanded quite the opposite of what they needed. So such an International can no longer be established. On the contrary, the International should be such that it does not hinder the progress of individual parties, that it provides a means for individual parties to execute the tasks leading to the liberation of the proletariat, bearing local circumstances in mind. I should immediately say that as far as this is concerned, the new International cannot be compared to the previous ones. This will not be an organizing body; its task will be to compose, to help in making objections, to communicate the good or bad experiences of one country's communist party to that of another country, that they should learn from their neighbors' experiences and losses. This will undoubtedly be very useful, as not just us, but communist parties the world over are beginning to feel that without the exchange of experiences and objections they cannot produce adequate plans on international questions. It is such an International that we now intend to establish, and this International will help rather than hinder the international communist movement. On the same note, the view will change that was widely spread at the third International, for
example, that we have to wait for the conditions for revolution to appear in at least a bunch of countries, and only then can we instigate the revolution. I remember that when the situation was revolutionary in Germany in 1923, in all the neighboring countries we prepared for such revolutionary action, so that there could be a revolutionary situation in more than one country at the same time. I remember that in the Czech Republic, France and other countries where the situation was not nearly as developed as in Germany, we prepared assistance programs, similar uprisings, etc. History has shown that that was wrong. Now we are going to follow another route. Here I should immediately say that not many people are aware of this interpretation of the dissolution of the International, because they did not talk about it very much in this period and therefore completely incorrect views are spread amongst some of the parties. For example when we were with the Communist Party in Czechoslovakia and we tried to reconcile the Hungarian Communist Party's line on the question of the Hungarians in Slovakia with that of the Czechoslovak Communist Party, the comrades announced the theory that the International had to be dissolved, because the international aspirations (meaning “national aspirations" - Cs. B.) of the individual Communist Parties are so much at odds with each other, that they could not be fitted into the agenda of an International. Because of this they calmly recommended to us that we should attack the Czech Communist Party, while they attack the Hungarian Communist Party. We rejected this theory. We were convinced that this was wrong, and that Stalinist reasoning would say something totally different. There is not even a trace to show that the national aspirations of the particular communist parties do not fit into the International; it points to completely different reasons. Now that communist parties have everywhere become stronger and come to the fore, there should be pressure for the institution of the Communist International or some other international communist body. At the moment this is being disturbed by the whole list of parties preparing for elections. The comrades know that they are preparing for elections in France, Czechoslovakia and Romania, and that our comrades there are otherwise occupied. They are also occupied with the question of peace. But as soon as the elections die down and peace is agreed, at that moment this will come to the fore and then we will establish some kind of international body. One part of this conception is that in these changed circumstances, whenever a country achieves the conditions for the liberation of the proletariat or for socialism, this will be carried out, with no regard for whether the respective country is in a capitalist environment or not. This is also a new perspective, which simply means that in a country where as a result of the work of the communist party these conditions are present, it has to be realized. This is fresh encouragement for all Communist Parties, because now it will principally be dependent on their work whether or not the conditions for the liberation of the proletariat are created in their own country. (Source: Archives of the Institute for Political History (AIPH), Budapest, 274. f. 2/34. Translated by David Evans.]
ian and the Yugoslav Communist leaders the latter complained about how the KOMINTERN, unaware of local conditions, sometimes demanded quite the opposite of what they needed. Paradoxically, although Tito and the Yugoslav leaders now themselves became proponents of the new Communist organization, their eventual rupture with the rest of the Soviet bloc was caused by exactly the same Soviet attitude. Rákosi's speech also provides an important contribution to the "blueprint debate" on whether Stalin had a plan to sovietize these countries. The conception, outlined by Rákosi, obviously repeating what he had heard in Moscow, shows a cautious, but determined, policy: in those countries where the Communist party itself would be able to create favorable internal conditions for a smooth and peaceful takeover, they would be allowed to do so. However, at this stage, in the spring of 1946 Stalin, eager to maintain cooperation with the Western Allies, did not plan to permit any kind of forceful takeover, relying on direct Soviet support, or implying civil war.
quoted by: Robert C. Tucker: “The Cold War in Stalin's Time,”
Archives of the Institute for Political History, (AIPH) Budapest,
For the story of this Hungarian Communist initiative see: Csaba Békés, “Dokumentumok a magyar kormánydelegáció 1946. áprilisi moszkvai tárgyalásairól. (Documents on the negotiations of the Hungarian Government Delegation in Moscow in April, 1946)" Régió (1992), 3, 161-194; for an English version see: “The Communist Parties and the National Issue in Central and Eastern Europe (1945-1947). An Important Factor Facilitating Communist Takeover in the Region,” 6. Martie 1945: Incepturile communizarii Romaniei. Editure Enciclopedia, (Bucharest, 1995), 245-253. 5
No minutes of that meeting have been found to date on either side. After returning from Moscow Rákosi reported on his visit at the 3 April Politburo meeting but according to the then prevailing practice no minutes were taken. However, on 18 April, he gave a speech at the meeting of party secretaries of factories and plants in Budapest, where he briefly summarized the Soviet ideas on setting up a new Communist World organization (AIPH 274. f. 8/14).
Dr. Csaba Bekes is a research fellow at the Institute for the History of
The Institute for the
Dohány u. 74
1 L. Gibianskii: “Kak voznik Kominfom: Po novym arkhivnym materialam," Novaia i noveishaia istoriia (1993), No. 4. 135-136,
Stalin's Plan to Assassinate Tito
(Co-editor's Note: The following excerpt is from a document, discovered and published by Russian military historian Dmitrii Volkogonov (1928-1995) in the Presidential Archive of the Russian Federation in Moscow, outlining various options to assassinate the Yugoslav leader Josip Broz Tito with the help of losif Romualdovich Grigulevich alias “Max," a Soviet agent who had been involved earlier in operations to kill Trotskii and later became a historian and corresponding member of the USSR Academy of Sciences. The document, classified as top secret and prepared in the Ministry of State Security (MGB), was addressed personally to Stalin (in its only copy). While, according to Volkogonov, Stalin did not indicate his authorization of the operation on the document, it is likely that he approved of it since preliminary preparations began. Grigulevich, for example, had to write a "farewell letter” to his wife to cover up Soviet government involvement in case the assassination failed. Following Stalin's death in March 1953, however, the operation was terminated.]
among the crowd, allowing “Max” to escape and cover up all traces.
3. To use one of the official receptions in Belgrade to which members of the diplomatic corps are invited. The terrorist act could be implemented in the same way as the second option, to be carried out by “Max” who as a diplomat, accredited by the Yugoslav government, would be invited to such a reception.
In addition, to assign “Max” to work out an option whereby one of the Costa Rican representatives will give Tito some jewelry in a box, which when opened would release an instantaneously-effective poisonous substance.
We asked Max to once again think the operation over and to make suggestions on how he could realize, in the most efficient way, actions against Tito. Means of contact were established and it was agreed that further instructions would follow.
It seems appropriate to use "Max" to implement a terrorist act against Tito. “Max's” personal qualities and intelligence experience make him suitable for such an assignment. We ask for your approval."
“The MGB USSR requests permission to prepare a terrorist act (terakt) against Tito, by the illegal agent 'Max'," Comrade I.R. Grigulevich, a Soviet citizen and member of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union since 1950 ([biographical) information attached). 1
"Max" was placed in Italy on a Costa Rican passport, where he was able to gain the confidence and enter the circles of South American diplomats as well as wellknown Costa Rican political and trade figures visiting Italy.
Using these connections, “Max”, on our orders, obtained an appointment as the special plenipotentiary of Costa Rica in Italy and Yugoslavia. In the course of his diplomatic duties, in the second half of 1952, he visited Yugoslavia twice. He was well received there, with entrée into circles close to Tito's clique; he was promised a personal audience with Tito. “Max's” present position offers us opportunities to carry out active measures (aktivnye deistviia) against Tito.
In early February of this year, we summoned "Max" to Vienna for a secret meeting. While discussing options, “Max” was asked how he thought he could be most useful, considering his position. “Max” proposed some kind of active measure against Tito personally.
In relation to this proposal, there was a discussion with him (Max) about how he imagined all of this and as a result, the following options for a terrorist act against Tito were presented.
1. To order “Max” to arrange a private audience with Tito, during which a soundless mechanism concealed in his clothes would release a dose of pulmonary plague bacteria that would guarantee death to Tito and all present. “Max” himself would not be informed of the substance's nature, but with the goal of saving “Max's” life, he would be given an anti-plague serum in advance.
2. In connection with Tito's expected visit to London, to send “Max” there to use his official position and good personal relations with the Yugoslav ambassador in England, [Vladimir) Velebit, to obtain an invitation to the expected Yugoslav embassy reception in Tito's honor.
The terrorist act could be accomplished by shooting with a silent mechanism concealed as a personal item, while simultaneously releasing tear gas to create panic
[Published on 11 June 1993 in Izvestiia. Translated by Natasha Shur (CWIHP)]
Dmitrii A. Volkogonov (1928-1995) was a prominent Russian military historian. For several years, Volkogonov headed the Institute of Military History of the Soviet Army and since 1991 chaired a special parliamentary commission which oversees the handling of the former Soviet archives. His numerous publications include Iosif Stalin: Triumf i tragediia (Moscow, 1989) and Lenin: Politicheskii portret (Moscow, 1994).
1 Not printed
The Turn in Soviet-Yugoslav Relations, 1953-55
By Andrei Edemskii
Between the spring of 1953 and July 1955, relations with Yugoslavia changed sharply from collaborating with Yugoslavia “as a bourgeois country" (May 1953) to Mikoian's May 1955 toast with Yugoslav leaders to the prosperity of Yugoslavia.” Unfortunately, the correspondence carried out in 1954 and early 1955 between the central committees of the two ruling parties is not available in the archives. Other documents, however, can illuminate the earlier stages of the shift. Below, two Foreign Ministry internal reports prepared by M. Zimianin in May 1953 and October 1954 illustrate the radical change of opinion reached at the 31 May 1954 Presidium meeting in which the need to foil the “anti-Soviet plans of the Anglo-American imperialists and to use all means to strengthen our influence over the Yugoslav people” prevailed, opening the door to rapprochement. (Ed. Note: N. Bulganin discussed this decision and the ostensible resistance to it by Molotov and the Foreign Ministry during the July 1955 plenums, excerpted in this CWIHP Bulletin)
About the Situation in Yugoslavia and
its Foreign Policy
To Comrade V. M. Molotov
Top Secret The internal policy of the Tito clique, after breaking with the USSR and peoples' democratic countries, aimed at restoring capitalism in Yugoslavia, at the liquidation of all the democratic accomplishments of the Yugoslav people, and at the fascistization of the state and army personnel.
In foreign policy, the efforts of the ruling circles of Yugoslavia aim at broadening economic and political ties with capitalist states, first and foremost with the USA and England. This has made Yugoslavia dependent on them and has drawn it [Yugoslavia] into aggressive blocs organized by the Anglo-American imperialists....
duced serious positive results, has increased the influence of the USSR among the peoples of Yugoslavia, has helped explode the aggressive, anti-Soviet plans of the USA in the Balkans, and made difficult the actions of anti-Soviet elements in Yugoslavia itself.
At the same time it is impossible not to see that the Yugoslav ruling circles have normalized with the USSR within the bounds of their self-interest...
Under the given conditions, it seems appropriate to put forward measures for the further development of Soviet-Yugoslav relations that would force the Yugoslav government to come closer to the USSR and the peoples' democracies.
We make the following proposals.
To poll (zondazh) the Yugoslav government regarding joint action with the USSR against US plans to draw Italy and the Balkan Union into a broadening of anti-Sovietism in the region. To clarify the position of the Yugoslav government on establishing diplomatic relations with the GDR.
If the test [results] of the Yugoslav government on two or three major foreign policy questions are positive, this will be an important condition towards the resurrection of the Treaty on Friendship and Mutual Aid between the USSR and Yugoslavia (of 1945).
27 May 1953
[Source: AVP RF f. 06, op. 12a, por. 74, pap. 617, II. 7-12. Translated by David Wolff]
On Recent Yugoslav Foreign Policy
(second half of 1954)
21 October 1954
(Source: AVPRF f. 021, op. 8-a, por. 184, pap. 11, ll. 16-21. Translated by David Wolff]
Yugoslavia's foreign policy measures in the second half (July-October) of this year have been dictated, as far as can be judged by sources, by the government's attempt to strengthen the country's position by improving relations with the countries of the capitalist camp and by normalizing relations with the USSR and other countries of the democratic camp...
The (Fourth European) Sector (of the Foreign Ministry) considers it possible to come preliminarily to the following conclusions and proposals:
Andrei Edemskii, a former CWIHP fellow, is a researcher at the Institute of Slavonic and Balkan Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences.
The Soviet Union's policy on Yugoslavia has pro
Soviet-Yugoslav Relations and the
Hungarian Revolution of 1956
By Leonid Gibianskii
(Co-editor's Note: The following essay by Leonid Gibianskii, a senior researcher at the Institute of Slavonic and Balkan Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences in Moscow' and coeditor (with Norman Naimark) of The Establishment of Communist Regimes in Eastern Europe, 1944-1949, introduces a fascinating set of documents on Yugoslav-Soviet relations in the wake of the Soviet invasion of Hungary on 4 November 1956. Though the immediate concern was the fate of Imre Nagy, the reform communist leader of the Hungarian Revolution, who had fled to the Yugoslav embassy in Budapest, the documents make clear that both Moscow' and Belgrade were aware that more fundamental issues in the Soviet-Yugoslav relationship were at stake. The full version of Gibianskii's essay, which was abbreviated for this introduction, can be found in the CWIHP Electronic Bulletin (cwihp.si.edu). The documents printed below were obtained by the National Security Archive and CWIHP and translated by Benjamin Aldrich-Moodie. Additional documents may
be found in the CWIHP Electronic Bulletin.]
uch has been written about Soviet-Yugoslav
relations with respect to the Hungarian RevoluVtion. Even during the unfolding of the events themselves and the immediately following period, this subject became a topic of discussion in mass media channels and in the press. Later it was touched upon to a lesser or greater degree in the historiography. However, in both cases, this was done, as a rule, on the basis of only those facts which were available from public Soviet or Yugoslav declarations and actions. The behind-the-scenes side of the relations between Moscow and Belgrade regarding the 1956 events in Hungary remained hidden long afterwards: both sides, each for its own reasons, preferred to keep this secret. 1
The curtain of secrecy was partially lifted in the 1970s, first when Nikita Khrushchev's memoirs, which had been written, or, more precisely, recorded by him against the will of the Soviet Union after his removal from power,2 were published in the West; and secondly in Yugoslavia, where, not without obstacles, the memoirs of Veljko Micunovic, who had been the Yugoslav ambassador to the USSR during the 1956 Hungarian crisis, came to light. 3 These publications contained some previously unknown evidence about secret Soviet-Yugoslav contacts in connection with the development of the revolution in Hungary and its suppression by Soviet troops. However, despite the importance of the publication of this evidence, it was very incomplete, and in a series of cases, imprecise, as a result of the political-ideological prejudices of each of the authors, but also because the disgraced Khrushchev, deprived of the chance to refer to documents, was sometimes betrayed by his memory, while Micunovic, who had his daily notes at his disposal, had to stay within the confines of the official Yugoslav version of the time in his
depictions of Belgrade's policy.
Only since the end of the 1980s and beginning of the 1990s, with the fall of the Soviet and Eastern European communist regimes, has the opportunity arisen for the first time to examine previously unavailable archival materials. In particular, I researched a number of aspects of this subject using documents from Yugoslav and Russian (former Soviet) archives. 4 In addition, a significant number of relevant Russian, Yugoslav, and Hungarian archival documents have been published 5 This article is based on both already published materials as well as unpublished documents from Moscow and Belgrade archives 6
Moscow's and Belgrade's concern towards the Hungarian revolution both differed and coincided simultaneously. Recently-released documents, including those contained in the aforementioned publications, 7 leave no doubt that the Soviet leadership viewed the events in Hungary from the very beginning as a deeply threatening event, which had to be stopped at all costs. For this reason, the Soviets decided on 23 October and again on 31 October to move troops into Budapest. 8 The Yugoslav situation with regard to the Hungarian revolution was more difficult. Belgrade was not at all interested in preserving Moscow's ultra-conservative henchmen (Matyas Rakosi and Erno Gerö) and the severe Soviet mandate in Hungary. To the contrary, the relative liberalization of the regime and the weakening of Soviet control in a neighboring country could open the relatively alluring prospect of the emergence, alongside Yugoslavia, of another similar Communist country standing outside of the Soviet bloc or at least significantly independent from the Kremlin. However, while the Yugoslav leadership’s conception of the permissible changes in their neighboring