WORLD

THE MOULD BREAKS

EVENTS IN POLAND AND THROUGHOUT EASTERN EUROPE SIGNAL A CHANGE IN THE OLD ORDER

JOHN BIERMAN September 4 1989
WORLD

THE MOULD BREAKS

EVENTS IN POLAND AND THROUGHOUT EASTERN EUROPE SIGNAL A CHANGE IN THE OLD ORDER

JOHN BIERMAN September 4 1989

THE MOULD BREAKS

WORLD

EVENTS IN POLAND AND THROUGHOUT EASTERN EUROPE SIGNAL A CHANGE IN THE OLD ORDER

Throughout the Soviet Bloc, the process of disintegration seemed to be gathering speed last week. A nonCommunist prime minister took over in Poland, while Hungary continued its own march toward democracy. Thousands fled to the West from hard-line East Germany, and police arrested hundreds during anti-Soviet demonstrations in unyielding Czechoslovakia. In the Soviet Union itself, two million Balts formed a 645-km-long human chain to protest against rule by Moscow, and there were new stirrings of ethnic revolt in the Ukraine, Armenia, Azerbaijan and Moldavia. And while the Soviet Bloc’s remaining nonreformist regimes looked on in evident dismay, Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev seemed to encourage the process of change. He sanctioned an official denunciation of secret protocols to the 1939 Hitler-Stalin nonaggression treaty, which led to the joint invasion of Poland and opened the way to Soviet annexation of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania (page 24). And Gorbachev told Poland’s demoralized Communist party that it had no option but to accept a subordinate role in a government led by the Solidarity movement it once outlawed.

Two days later, the Polish parliament endorsed veteran Solidarity activist Tadeusz Mazowiecki, 62, as head of the country’s first non-Communist postwar government. Watching the televised proceedings in his Gdansk office, Solidarity leader Lech Walesa wiped tears from his cheeks as all but 45 of the 173 Communist deputies supported Mazowiecki’s nomination and joined in the thunderous applause that greeted the result—378 in favor, four against, 41 abstentions. Almost three out of four Communist deputies had voted for

Mazowiecki, even though he had declared in advance that he would move Poland as quickly as possible from a socialist to a capitalist economy. Said Mazowiecki in a speech before the vote: “Our strategy is to recover for Poland the institutions of a market economy. Poland can no longer afford ideological experiments.”

Coinciding with the 50th anniversary of the Nazi-Soviet pact, the events in Poland, the other Warsaw Pact countries and the Soviet Union itself assumed added symbolic significance.

“Of course, we are seeing the breakup of the Soviet Empire,” said Adam Ulam, professor of Soviet studies at Harvard University. “What is happening in Poland and Hungary, and what will happen elsewhere, is a clear sign that the old form of Soviet imperialism is under severe attack.”

Cracks in the postwar system were clearest in Poland. With an estimated 90 per cent of its industry under state control, the economy has almost ceased to function. Inflation is approaching an annual rate of 200 per cent, shortages of food and other basic items are widespread, and the country has a crippling $46-billion foreign debt. To tackle that situation, the new Polish government is looking to the West for financial aid—and quickly. On Aug. 25, Mazowiecki appealed to visiting Senator Robert Dole of Kansas, the U.S. Republican party’s leader in the Senate, to carry a message back to President George Bush: “He who helps early helps twice.”

In the run-up to Mazowiecki’s endorsement by the Sejm, or lower house of parliament, the Communist party spent days of soul-searching. At first, party members were clearly stunned and outraged at the Aug. 19 nomination of Mazowiecki by President Wojciech Jaruzelski. Initially, they insisted on retaining a number of key ministries in a coalition. But after a 40minute telephone conversation between the Soviet leader and Polish Communist party chairman Mieczyslaw Rakowski, the Communists abruptly modified their rhetoric. Softening their demands for cabinet posts in addition to the defence and interior ministries that they had already been promised, they opted for what a party spokesman termed “partnerlike co-operation” with Solidarity. In fact, their control of the key defence and interior ministries still gave them a strong voice in the conduct of Polish affairs and underpinned Mazowiecki’s guarantee that the country would remain in the Warsaw Pact. As Poland set out on its new course, other parts of Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union were in ferment. Much of it was linked to the 50th anniversary, on Aug. 23, of the HitlerStalin pact. Soviet Politburo member and Gorbachev adviser Alexander Yakovlev said recently that the secret protocols should be “unequivocally condemned.” Despite his con-

demnation, Yakovlev insisted that the protocols had no bearing on the Baltic region’s current status as an integral part of the Soviet Union. That was clearly not acceptable to many Balts. An estimated two million of them linked hands in a human chain stretching from the northern border of Estonia to the southern border of Lithuania to dramatize their demands for independence.

The Polish Communist party also condemned the Nazi-Soviet pact as “invalid and a violation of international law.” That condemnation followed a statement by a panel of Polish Communist historians, blaming the Soviets for the massacre of thousands of Polish army officers in the Katyn Forest during the Second World War.

Parts of the Western Ukraine and the Black Sea republic of Moldavia were also annexed by the Soviets under the Hitler-Stalin pact, and the anniversary was marked by protest demonstrations in both regions. Eyewitnesses report-

ed that club-wielding Soviet police injured dozens of demonstrators in Kiev, the Ukrainian capital, as they waved forbidden yellow-andblue national flags. And, although not related to the anniversary, there were reports that police arrested nationalist demonstrators in the neighboring Caucasian republics of Armenia and Azerbaijan.

Meanwhile, Czechoslovaks also marked an anniversary. Thousands of demonstrators marched in the streets of Prague and other cities to protest the Soviet-led invasion of Aug.

21, 1968, which forcibly ended the so-called Prague Spring—the liberalization program spearheaded by then-leader Alexander Dubcek. Baton-wielding police broke up the demonstrations and made more than 300 arrests.

As disaffected millions demonstrated from the Baltic to the Black Sea, the tide of disgruntled East Germans fleeing to West Germany via Hungary continued to flow. More than 2,000 fled last week, taking advantage of the Hungarian government’s decision to dismantle its Iron Curtain fences on the border with Austria last May. Like Poland, Hungary has moved decisively toward Western-style democracy, and it plans to hold free elections next year. If that happens, Hungary may shake the foundations of Communism in Eastern Europe even more sharply than the events of recent weeks.

JOHN BIERMAN with BOGDAN TUREK in Warsaw and correspondents’ reports

BOGDAN TUREK