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1956 1.8: The Star Pupil

When Diplomacy Fails Podcast

06-02-2024 • 28 minutos

We continue our story from last time, as the Polish situation is connected to other fascinating questions.


Perhaps the most significant aspect of this chapter in Soviet-Polish relations was the notable involvement of China. The Chinese, it emerged, were very interested in seeing that other peoples travelled their own ‘road to socialism’ as they had done. A Polish road to socialism would validate the unique Chinese experience of struggle over the last few decades, and it would also confirm that Moscow didn’t have the authority to dictate how a communist satellite would feel.


Under the Chinese direction and approval, Poland’s limited revolution and Gomulka’s leadership would be safe, but only because, as we’ll see, Gomulka had zero intentions of truly changing any status quos. Unfortunately, Gomulka’s tenure in office was not destined to be a completely wholesome one. His behaviour over the 1960s would confirm that he was far more loyal and far less independently minded than his initial behaviour may have initially suggested, yet in 1956, Gomulka was the right man for the Polish leadership, and so long as the Polish people agreed, Poland was to be kept within the Soviet orbit, and Gomulka was to be the star pupil of the tumultuous year of 1956, especially in comparison to his Hungarian counterpart Imre Nagy, who we’ll meet in the next few episodes.

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