864.00/2–1148: Telegram

The Minister in Hungary (Chapin) to the Secretary of State


218. Re Department’s 117, February 4.1 Since my telegram 16 January 6,2 Communist control in Hungary and incidentally whole southeastern European area has been further reinforced and tightened. From point of view Hungary alone following may be cited:

Conference Budapest of military missions and border guards from southeastern satellites as well as Czecho; all but consummated merger Hungarian Communist and Social Democratic parties; signature and ratification of Rumanian-Hungarian mutual assistance pact;3 sweeping purge of Hungarian Foreign Office and other ministeries; supine acceptance by Hungarian Government of Russian violation of territory in Kopcsak–Thielen case.4

Of even more importance was secret instructional lecture given by Soviet Legation to Hungarian Communist official on tactics to defeat ERP and on necessity expansion Soviet sphere (mytel 217, February 11),5 which might be termed briefing session prior departure top Hungarian officials to Moscow in response to summons presumably for purpose signing friendship and mutual aid pact6 along lines similar Rumanian-Soviet agreement.

As seen from here, significance of Pravda Dimitrov article would appear to be largely tactical in nature and considerations mentioned in Moscow’s 167, January 30,7 and Belgrade’s 78, January 18,5 to Department would seem fit this tactical conception.

[Page 296]

Whether for immediate future the states of southeastern Europe are: to remain nominally independent; to federate in loose or tight union or to be actually absorbed in Soviet Union itself these states (Hungary being case in point) have in fact already surrendered sovereignty in all but externals to Soviet Union and may be considered as much integral parts thereof as the Ukraine or Latvia, even though they continue endowed superficially for time being with certain attributes of local autonomy.

I had originally planned to develop this hypothesis more in detail in despatch to Department since I submit there remains considerable uncertainty in mind of average citizen of west states as to real meaning of Russian imperialism attributing thereto an altruistic missionary zeal for socialist world utopia rather than the pursuit of continued policy of power expansion. However, I now venture to suggest that Department may wish to give some further study to problem raised by this de facto absorption of sovereignty by Soviet Union.

As I see it, it is essential elementary Russian imperialist doctrine to propagate concept that Hungarian Communist Party, although a voluntary collaborator in Cominform, is fully independent and that new “peoples democracy” is being formed here on basis of spontaneous popular demand, although under benevolent protection of Moscow. Moreover, Russians sedulously foster theory here as further west (a theory often accepted even by enemies of Communist economic doctrine) that Communist pattern followed in Russia will evolve differently in other climates since basic principles are natural to all peoples rather than imposed from abroad.

By same token, Russians attempt build up idea that RPR [satellite?] states are fully sovereign in their attributes and wish especially close relations with Soviet Union only because of enlightened self-interest and gratitude.

It appears necessary for Russian leaders to maintain these fictions and to have them continue to find at least some acceptance in western popular mind, if they are to succeed in masking consequences of western extension their power grab.

I wonder whether we are not ourselves unconsciously but in effect actively sustaining idealogically dangerous fiction that Hungary and other “popular democracies” are sovereign in same sense as France or Belgium thereby confusing US popular opinion and strongly patriotic but uncertain elements particularly in western Europe concerning the true nature and real consequences of Communist utopia advocated by Soviet agitator. Moreover, we thus appear to condone through weakness in one area that which in another area where stronger we vehemently condemn.

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I submit finally that this apparently continued willingness on our part to accept fictional sovereignty of the satellites may afford clue to another reason for Soviet disavowal of the proposed Danubian federation so boastfully espoused by Dimitrov and which had previously been the subject of unfettered conversation for some time in all circles including Communist throughout this area.

Sent Department. Department pass to Moscow 38. Repeated London 19, Paris 22, Belgrade 13, Sofia 20, Bucharest 24.

  1. Same as telegram 152, February 4, to Moscow; see footnote 5, p. 293.
  2. Ante, p. 279.
  3. For the text of the Treaty of Friendship, Cooperation and Mutual Assistance between Romania and Hungary, signed in Budapest on January 24, 1948, see Department of State Documents and State Papers, July 1948, p. 247.
  4. Regarding the Kopcsak–Thielen case, see the editorial note, p. 287.
  5. Not printed.
  6. For the text of the Treaty of Friendship, Cooperation and Mutual Assistance between the USSR and Hungary, signed in Moscow on February 18, 1948, see Department of State Documents and State Papers, July 1948, p. 235.
  7. Not printed. It observed that the January 28 Pravda article opposing a Balkan Federation appeared to be a directive to Communist leaders of the satellite states. Embassy Moscow felt that among the considerations why the Soviet leadership did not wish to promote a Balkan Federation was that little would be gained from its establishment since the material advantages of a union had already been substantially achieved. Furthermore, a federation would involve the question of whether the Soviet bloc in the United Nations would suffer a loss of voting strength. Finally, Soviet propaganda had been insisting that the European Recovery Program and potential western European defensive blocs were directed at the destruction of the sovereignty and independence of smaller states (870.00/1–3048).
  8. Not printed.