(Not So) Hard Liners

WHERE have all the hard-line Warsaw Pact states gone? A year ago, East Germany, Czechoslovakia, Romania, and Bulgaria all seemed monolithically similar - gray and stoic. Now, with the exception of Romania, the winds of perestroika have removed the Stalinist overlay of these states to reveal distinct national identities that will continue to influence change.

Most of these states want to keep socialism alive, though in a more democratic context.

Czechoslovakia, with tens and hundreds of thousands marching in the streets, seems destined to follow the lead of its neighbor East Germany. The newly formed Czech opposition group ``Civic Forum'' is much like East Germany's grass-roots ``New Forum.'' Its recent meeting with Premier Ladislav Adamec, a move frowned upon by Czech head of state Milos Jakes, all but legitimates Civic Forum - and shows divisions at the top.

While further violence is possible in Czechoslovakia, the aspirations of the people have clearly reached critical mass. The Czechs don't have the emotional symbol of a wall or divided nation to rally them. Change may be slower. But the Czechs do have a prewar democratic history. They want more freedom, including free elections. Most important, they know the Soviets are not going to march in as they did in 1968.

Bulgaria, a Slavic nation once more Stalinist than Stalin, has also softened. How much is the question. Glasnost threw Bulgaria for a loop. But Bulgarians have been fast learners. No doubt acting with a go-ahead by Moscow, party chief Todor Zhivkov and his cronies are out. Bulgarian TV showed protesters in Sophia demanding Mr. Zhivkov be tried. The state newspaper invited readers to write in complaints.

Bulgaria isn't as reformist as most Warsaw states, however. The populace isn't as motivated. Mr. Zhivkov's ouster may have been as much due to his corruption as it was to perestroika. Bulgarians were warned last week about ``excess dissent.'' Still, changes there are remarkable.

That leaves Romania. Pitiful Romania. Nicolae Ceausescu is tightening his grip on his people. During a six-hour speech at Romania's Party Congress last week Mr. Ceausescu took an absolute stand against change, saying it ``did not serve [the] people.''

As if Ceausescu does. His state is the epitome of everything wrong with socialism. People starve today in Romania. In the wintertime, scores have frozen to death. The shops are empty. Dissent is quickly squelched by the secret police.

As communism is questioned, the best and worst in the Warsaw Pact will come to the surface.

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