When Diplomacy Fails Podcast
30YearsWar #75: Westphalian Woes [1645-46]
The wide range of interests and powers that gathered at the two Westphalian cities each tell a fascinating story. Whether it was the two French agents that loathed one another; the Dutch tradition of representing each of the seven provinces; Swedish desires to legalise its control over Pomerania; Johan Oxenstierna's frequently drunken state, when he wasn't insisting on trumpets blasting to announce his presence; the Franco-Swedish request on having all Imperial estates represented at Westphalia, regardless of their size; French plans to court Bavaria; the Emperor's plan to prevent the smaller states from attending, and the confusion over exactly what religious settlement would be pushed for - all of these issues made the negotiations dynamic, unpredictable, and occasionally hilarious. Join me as we cover their early phase, while the war carried on in the background.
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1956 1.12: Hope Springs40:421956 Episode 1.12 examines a key moment when a Hungarian student protest exploded into something far more encouraging, and for the Soviets, far more dangerous. The demands of the protesters – joined by workers, peasants, Hungarian communists, soldiers and many more figures besides – were as disconcerting as the threat the protest posed to Soviet control. Still more incredible than the growth of the protest was the transformation of this protest into a riot, and the further transformation of this riot into a revolution.From these process a rallying cry of hope seemed to spring, as independence and some freedom of action could at last be imagined. Hungarians who had never before dreamed of such things now engaged with all their enthusiasm this most dangerous task – that of standing up to the superpower of the era and their superior in almost every respect. Time would tell if this act would be tragic, or met with miraculous fortune. With far too many individual details to explain here, WDF is so excited to bring its patrons the latest piece of this fascinating story, so make sure you check it out and let me know what you all thought, perhaps by leaving a review in the section of the iTunes store where this series is hosted!
1956 1.11: Gone But Nagy Forgotten36:511956 Episode 1.11 looks at what happened when Moscow decided it’d be a good idea to force Rakosi, the avowed Stalinist, to share power with Imre Nagy, his opposite in almost every respect. Rakosi wished to maintain the status quo even as his favourite weapons like the secret police were taken away, yet Nagy recognised and appreciated from an early stage that much would have to change. Hungary couldn’t continue on in the manner of a repressed, unhappy vassal, especially if Moscow wished to guarantee the support of all Hungarian people. Nagy proposed limited reforms, but after 1953 it began to become apparent that with Stalin gone and Pandora’s Box opened, it was immensely difficult to keep that box closed.Every concession granted to the Hungarians provoked calls for greater concessions – every bit of freedom given permitted Hungarians to become braver and more willing to question the apparatus which held them low. Every time Nagy said yes, the Hungarian people seemed to say more, and Rakosi tattled on him to the Soviet leadership. Since this Soviet leadership was undergoing great changes of its own at this stage – as Khrushchev attempted to manoeuvre his way past his rivals – the signals from Moscow were not always clear. Yet after a year it became largely certain that Nagy was on borrowed time. As we’ll discover in this episode though, while Nagy hadn't done enough to ensure he remained in power, he had done enough to ensure that the Hungarian people did not forget him once he was removed. In a sea of sycophants, the courageous but otherwise bland Nagy stood out, and soon it was his name and his principles, regardless of his political persuasions, that positioned Nagy atop another pole – that of the public affections. As we’ll come to appreciate, this position was to be both a blessing and a fatal curse for Imre Nagy...
1956 1.10: I Did Nagy See That Coming31:571956 Episode 1.10 continues where we left off last time, and looks a bit more at the person of Matyas Rakosi.Rakosi was the Stalinist dictator of Hungary from the late 1940s, and he set about establishing a Hungarian Stalinist regime, complete with all the trappings Stalin enjoyed. For every purge, every policy and ever character assassination that the man of steel engaged in, Rakosi felt compelled to demonstrate his loyalty by going still further. He would terrorise the people of Hungary into a burning, resentful, petrified silence, but his hold on power was only as strong as the secret police.Imre Nagy, a passionate communist and eager reformer of all things Stalinism, was guaranteed to butt heads with a man like Rakosi, and in this episode we examine why this was the case. What were Nagy’s guiding principles, why was he such a committed communist, and what did he bring to the table that a man like Rakosi did not? Nagy was as complex as Rakosi was cruel, but this doesn’t mean we can’t give our best shot at analysing this fascinating individual who became, almost in spite of himself, a hero and then a martyr of the Hungarian people.This episode is a pivotal instalment as we examine the background to what was to come in Hungary, and how a quiescent vassal became the centre of anti-Soviet sentiment within only a few stormy months. All of this began, of course, in the eventful year of 1956.
1956 1.9: Desperately Hungary32:001956 Episode 1.9 takes a somewhat depressing journey into post-war Hungary, to present a story and a people which suffered much over the course of the Soviet occupation – also known as the Soviet ‘liberation’. Liberation from what, one may ask? Well how about liberation from national pride, freedom of conscience and that all too valuable commodity in history – freedom from fear. Fear was the key ingredient in the Soviet-Hungarian relationship between 1945-56, and in this episode we detail its key characteristics. Why were some Hungarians so eager to serve the Soviets, who were the most loyal Hungarian servants above all, and what were the consequences of this partnership by the time Khrushchev’s secret speech shattered all notions of Stalin-worship?These are questions we get into in great detail here, so I hope you’ll join us. The story of Hungary is as fascinating and inspiring as it is depressing and tragic, but either way, it is a story worth committing to audio podcast format, because it tells us so much about what life was really like under the Soviet writ, and how the end of the Second World War did not mean the end of foreign rule. The Hungarians had merely swapped one regime, one centre of power, for another, and this one was more determined than ever to hold sway over every aspect of their lives. The Hungarians were desperate for sure, but as 1956 would demonstrate, their spirits and dreams were far, very far, from crushed.
1956 1.8: The Star Pupil28:31We 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.
1956 1.7: Soviet Sickles38:491956 Episode 1.7 examines the continuing deterioration of the Polish situation, as Polish citizens dared to ask more and more questions, and to criticise the Soviet order, on their lips was one figure above all – Vladislav Gomulka (pictured). Gomulka was one figure among many who had been disgraced and imprisoned during Stalin’s numerous purges. Gomulka, it was said, was too vocal a critic, and too independent or nationalistically inclined to rule Poland in Moscow’s name. Now though, the Polish people were calling for him, and they were demonstrating on the streets in increasing numbers to do so.Here we detail how the Soviets dealt with this challenge in one of their most sensitive satellites, and what the major concerns of Polish citizens were in light of the revelations of the secret speech. The story involved a face-off between Gomulka and Khrushchev, as the latter made a stormy visit to Warsaw to see for himself in late October exactly what had gone down in Poland. Khrushchev left not with Gomulka’s head, but with a tacit acceptance of that man’s leadership. The question of why this occurred holds several fascinating answers, so make sure you join us here as we attempt to unpack this incredible episode in Soviet-Polish relations.Remember history friend, if you want extra content and to support my ventures then make sure you head to Patreon! Hours of additional content and other goodies await!
1956 1.6: Polish Hammers31:391956 Episode 1.6 examines the tumultuous fallout of Khrushchev’s February speech in the context of Poland. What was the Polish experience of living in the Soviet orbit? Here we set the scene and trace a bit of the background. It’s a tragic kind of story if you happen to be a Pole, or care about the sovereignty of independent states, but it also makes for fascinating listening. Here we look at a specific example of a revolutionary study, which tore the lid off of Soviet occupied Poland and which exposed its worst excesses to the world. The release of 𝘛𝘩𝘦 𝘓𝘰𝘯𝘨 𝘞𝘢𝘭𝘬, adopted in 2010 as the film 𝘛𝘩𝘦 𝘞𝘢𝘺 𝘉𝘢𝘤𝘬, proved to be an indication of things to come in 1956.The Soviet-Polish relationship both before, during and after the Second World War was a difficult one, fraught with historical grievances, mutual distrust and grand ambitions. After all that had occurred in this portion of the world over the centuries, it was perhaps inevitable that the two peoples could never live peacefully side by side, yet the policies enacted by Stalin immediately following the victories of the Red Army in Poland from late 1944 nonetheless make for startling listening. Stalin’s approach to Poland was to treat it as the troublesome if necessary little brother of Moscow – to be dominated by its larger neighbour, and always to be suspected and feared. Poles suffered terribly under Soviet rule from 1944-1989, and in the episode we’ll provide the background details for one of the most notable chapters in this 45 year history, as we explain how the Poles responded to news of Khrushchev’s speech.Remember history friend, if you want extra content and to support my ventures then make sure you head to Patreon! Hours of additional content and other goodies await!
1956 1.5: Broken Springs27:431956 Episode 1.5 examines the implications for the Soviet people, as Khrushchev’s speech is disseminated through the sprawling empire. The questions which many citizens had were to be restricted and constrained by the specific parameters set down by the Soviet authorities. In short, as we’ll see in this episode, there was a fine line between debate and dissent. Pravda liked to distinguish between dissent and debate by presenting discussion of the secret speech in the spirit of party-mindedness, rather than a cynical or wholly critical perspective. As always, it was a matter for Khrushchev to determine the difference between debate and dissent, as he attempted to deal with the mess his speech had created.We look at the example of the response given in Moscow’s Thermal Technical University, where three technicians gave their views and planned in grandly ambitious, optimistic ways, only to discover when they returned to work on Monday that their words and phrases had gone too far. Nobody could deny the central truths that they spoke, but everyone remained too afraid to actively challenge the post-Stalin order. This background of the social implications of the secret speech are important if we are to fully grasp what occurred in Poland – the first and most troubling dissenter in the Soviet camp...Remember history friend, if you want extra content and to support my ventures then make sure you head to Patreon! Hours of additional content and other goodies await!
1956 1.4: The People Are Revolting!32:141956 Episode 1.4 examines the immediate storm caused by Khrushchev’s denunciations of Stalin in late February.Above all, the greatest ingredient in this storm was that of confusion. Soviet officials didn’t know what to tell the assembled crowds, and schoolteachers didn’t know what to tell their pupils. How far exactly could they go in the condemnation of Stalin? This wasn’t made clear, nor was it made clear exactly what Khrushchev hoped to gain. He seemed to vacillate between wanting people to know about the speech and covering up its contents.In Georgia, as we’ll see, the criticism of their favourite Soviet son caused demonstrations and rioting of an anti-Moscow nature, as the impression had been gained that these new Soviet bureaucrats were attempting to tarnish the name of Stalin for their own ends. Putting down these demonstrations were bloody and costly, and their eruption seemed to catch Khrushchev off guard. Indeed, the British and Americans were already learning of the secret speech by the middle of March, and began to ask their own questions about its contents – was this what Khrushchev wanted? We examine this question by looking at what other historians thought of Khrushchev’s move, and we prepare ourselves well for the most serious eruption of all in the Soviet bloc – in Poland...Remember history friend, if you want extra content and to support my ventures then make sure you head to Patreon! Hours of additional content and other goodies await!