Cresnia under the Soviets
The years from 1945 to 1991 were known in common Cresnian parlance as the Soviet era. This expression, the utterance of which eventually became a punishable crime, presented a considerable challenge for the newly installed communist government of Cresnia: it was common knowledge that the Cresnians were no longer in control of their own country.
The Socialist Party of Cresnia (SPK) knew from its inception that the key challenge to their leadership would be the people’s historic penchant for sovereignty at any cost. Arnold Grodsky wrote in an early Party publication: ‘It is decisive that the nationalist instinct is suppressed.’
The Party proposed a simple plan to eradicate this instinct, to wind back the indoctrination of the Cresnian people at the hands of the royal bourgeois.
The Kulturplan set forth a few simple directives to realign the national attitude. With propaganda, indoctrination and fear the Socialist Party would reshape Cresnia into a nation that could no longer recognise itself.
The Soviets take the reins
With the war won, it came time for the Soviets to count their gains. Having carved a new empire from Eastern Europe, their next objective was to maintain it at whatever cost necessary.
Cresnia was invaded and occupied by the Soviets in March 1945, however the governance of the nation was not paid any serious attention until January 1946. In this period between administrations a provisional military government presided over Soviet-occupied territories. From this entity emerged the Socialist Party of Cresnia. The Central Committee of the Party was selected from various pre-war socialist alliances, with Arnold Grodsky (b. 1901) as its General Secretary until his removal in 1948.
A new constitution was quickly drafted and ratified on 18 January, enshrining the nation as a one-party socialist state with the SPK at the helm. Thenceforth the nation was called the Cresnian Democratic Republic.
A central tenet of the Kulturplan was to ethnically dilute the Cresnian population. It was popularly held that the so-called ‘Cresnian spirit’ of independence and sovereignty was a product of interbreeding between German nationalism and Polish solidarity. If other influences could be introduced, the Party theorised, this national spirit might be reduced or otherwise altered. Between 1946 and 1955 tens of thousands of Czechoslovaks, Byelorussians, Baltics and Ukrainians were relocated to Cresnian cities and farms. The Party hoped to introduce Slavic unity to the national character to counteract the old spirit of independence.
Children were also at the centre of Kulturplan. The youth of Cresnia were to be turned against the old order and reformed as the vanguard of a glorious socialist future. Two organisations would be the linchpins of the initiative to indoctrinate the youth.
The People’s Committee for Education Reform (VABR) was a subdivision of the Ministry of the Interior and was charged with creating a national curriculum, administering schools and encouraging a healthy consumption of socialist literature.
The Young Communist League (Juko) was jointly administered by the Interior Ministry and the Ministry for War. It was the most dominant presence in the life of every Cresnian child. Membership was not compulsory, but youths were bombarded with propaganda imploring them to join. Juko was composed of several subdivisions:
- The Guards Young Cossacks (GJK) was essentially a cadet programme that sought to gear strong and rebellious boys towards military service. Activities include lessons on military tactics and strategy, monthly bivouacs in the backcountry, drill training and combat sports such as boxing and wrestling.
- The Security Division (SA; colloquially called ‘the Spies’) was a highly selective programme that drew especially talented and savage boys from the Guards Young Cossacks for training in espionage and intelligence gathering. In addition to their Cossacks military training, Spies learned infiltration, specialised combat, interrogation and casual information gathering. Spies were encouraged to spy on their parents, friends and schoolmates in order to turn up dissent. While any citizen could denounce a suspicious person, a denouncement or report from a Spy came with a special gravity.
- The Young Party Programme (JPP) sought to recruit more intelligent youths of both sexes into Party service. Activities included collective study of socialist literature, mock committees and secretary work for Party members. Members of this programme were also tasked with administering various Juko sections and activities.
- The Country Union (Landbund) was a kind of club for rural students. Landbund was the most simplistic of all the Juko programmes, but for the Party it was a matter of great importance. Here the future farmers, miners and lumberjacks of Cresnia were taught the cruciality of their job for the nation and the importance of collective farms and redistribution. Most importantly they were indoctrinated to believe that any other system of government might mean the destruction of their livelihood.
The Party’s position on religious practice was inconsistent. Party officials were no fools when it came to the ubiquity of religion and in certain areas of the country allowed it to exist. In towns and cities with populations greater than five thousand religion was actively banned; churches were closed and the proliferation of religious literature was criminalised, however in rural areas it was merely discouraged. Either because of the communist influence or the traumas of war, irreligiousness increased almost threefold during communist rule from 6.2% in 1930 to 17.5% in 1992.
Secret police and a new army
The defence of the Party and the new Cresnian state fell on three pillars: the Ministry for War, the National Police, and the Ministry for State Security.
The Ministry for War was the central military authority of the Cresnian government during the Soviet Era. It administered the Cresnian Red Army (KRA) and the Border Troops (Grenztruppen). This organisation was also responsible for the dissolution of the Cresnian navy.
The National Police (KNP or Napo) was the national police force of the Cresnian Democratic Republic. It incorporated police forces at the local, provincial and national level. The Napo was federally administered until the establishment of the Ministry for Civil Order in 1949.
During the Free Era the nature of police forces in Cresnia had been organised from the bottom up and was highly fractionalised. Police forces in cities, counties and provinces had operated separately from one another, bound together only nominally. Inter-organisational cooperation was common but the divisive nature of police organisation had meant that jurisdictional disputes were common. The provisional administration that presided over the country during Soviet occupation merged all police organisations into a single entity, the National Police.
The Ministry for State Security (MfS or Stasi) was the chief intelligence and secret police service of the Cresnian Democratic Republic. The organisation was responsible for intelligence operations, internal affairs, covert activities and monitoring the citizenry.
The Stasi had its origins in the National Police Service (NPD), the pro-communist secret police organisation established by the provisional government late in 1945. In 1949 the newly founded Ministry of State Security absorbed the NPD and became the pre-eminent secret police organisation of the Cresnian state.
Whereas the NPD had been severely underfunded, mostly manned by disinterested ethnic Russians and seen by the populace as a sluggish bureaucracy that could be outfoxed with enough wits, the Cresnian Stasi quickly gained a reputation for brutal efficiency. The Cresnian Stasi comprised a number of departments (Abteilungen) that carried out various duties. Each department incorporated many sections (Gruppen) with more specific jobs, such as coordinating satellites, managing finances or other administrative and organisational tasks. The Stasi drew most of its recruits directly from the Security Division of the Young Communist League.
- The Monitoring Department intercepted communications by mail, radio, telephone and other means, investigated dissent and recruited citizen informants. This department was also responsible for fabricating fake documents and creating false identities for Stasi operatives.
- The Internal Department utilised information gathered by Monitoring to arrest, interrogate and try suspicious persons and enemies of the state.
- The Intelligence Department ran covert operations in foreign countries, particularly the Scandinavian countries.
- The Coordinating Department coordinated Stasi operations with the Soviet intelligence agencies.
- The Penal Department operated the small political prisons of the Stasi, independent from the Ministry of the Interior.
- The 33rd Guards Special Battalion was an elite motorised rifle battalion and the military wing of the Ministry tasked with guarding buildings and personnel.
Cresnia was an important node in the Soviet trade network. The country’s two major port cities, Mitzeburg and Niemburg (Krestopol’s nautical infrastructure had been destroyed in the War), were channels for Soviet imports and exports.
Further reading: The Province of Niemland
With many of its refineries and factories destroyed or damaged, Cresnia’s value as a manufacturing hub was diminished. As such a reliance on primary industries, namely agriculture and raw timber, was mandated by the government. The first of the Party’s five-year plans was particularly explicit on this point. Later plans outlined the reconstruction of the country’s manufacturing infrastructure.
The Ministry for Industry and Production oversaw the assignment of jobs to citizens and had powers to forcibly move individuals between cities or even, in especial circumstances, between provinces.
Satisfaction with life in the KDR varied. Obviously there were no public expressions of dissatisfaction. After the war the Stasi’s archive of ‘appropriated literature’ (a euphemism for confiscated letters and journals) was opened to the public. Literally thousands of articles and objects had been confiscated and catalogued, from the secret communications of loyalist rebels to notes passed by recalcitrant schoolchildren.
Everybody knew I was in the Spies. The power I felt, even as a young boy, was immense. Teachers, classmates, even my parents stood a little straighter when I was around. Perhaps my favourite thing to do was to intimidate boys I didn’t like by asking them invasive questions. The boys I especially disliked I threatened to denounce. I was running rampant, and the Spies encouraged me to do so.
– From the memoirs of a Stasi officer who was later executed for trying to defect to Britain
The clear trend was this: ideologues and servants of the regime were happy, but they were a rare minority. By all accounts most people knew they were living under a dictatorship, and the those who were politically unaware were unhappy nonetheless.
I want to take Annette out somewhere nice but there’s nowhere to go anymore. The cinema only plays boring political flicks, the stores are all empty and going out drinking at a nightclub is a sure way to get yourself denounced. I can imagine even that kissing in public might be viewed as ‘suspicious’.
– From the journal of Wilhelm Rywal, a university student who was arrested and then expelled for keeping a secret journal
Resistance to communist rule
Dissidence in the KDR took many forms, from the intellectuals who spread dissent by subtle messages to the almost mythic loyalist rebels who plotted in secret to topple the communist regime. The Cresnian Stasi was constantly active, investigating suspicious persons and following up leads. The Stasi was also constantly expanding to match the rising tempo of Cresnia’s secret war. Loyalists were branded in propaganda as anarchists and terrorists and blamed for many attacks on state buildings and public infrastructure. While some loyalist groups swore pacifism, others openly embraced violence.
Some attacks, such as the Krestopol metro bombing of 1968 or the failed raid on the Olsten provincial parliament, were held up as propaganda spectacles, evidence of the loyalists’ depravity. Other events were kept quiet, such as the successful capture of the town of Oliwjagrod in 1972 and the subsequent siege lasting four weeks. There were also some instances of false-flag attacks perpetrated by the Stasi itself, though these were in fact rarer than urban myth might suggest.
So much for brief introductions.
This piece is part of a series on Cresnia.
You can read an introduction to the country and its history here.