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Foreign News: Disappearing States

2 minute read
TIME

Five German states, whose names are encrusted with centuries of history, formally disappeared last week.

East Germany’s Communist government decided to dissolve these provinces: Brandenburg, once the domain of the Margrave of Brandenburg for whom Johann Sebastian Bach composed his six famous concertos: Saxony, birthplace of Otto the Great, founder of the Holy Roman Empire; Mecklenburg, once obedient to the Duke of Saxony; Saxony-Anhalt, which produced Martin Luther and George Frederick Handel; Thuringia, a center of Luther’s Reformation.

The Communists hoped to squeeze satellite Germany tight into a straitjacket stamped with the words “democratic centralism.” The five historic states were replaced by 14 administrative districts. After the East German “People’s Chamber” in Berlin obediently ratified the plan, the parliaments of the five provinces solemnly voted themselves out of existence.

Then the Communists tightened the laces in the straitjacket. In each new district, buildings were requisitioned for military and secret police headquarters. The Soviet-sponsored newspaper Taegliche Rundschau was made the official government paper, thereby becoming East Germany’s Izvestia. The East German SED (Communist) Party paper Neues Deutschland became its Pravda. Strict loyalty checks got under way among staffs of both newspapers.

With these moves the Russians hastened the conversion of their East German satellite into a European North Korea.

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