This comparative history of the higher education systems in Poland, East Germany and the Czech lands reveals an unexpected
diversity within East European Stalinism. With information gleaned from archives in each of these places, the author offers
a case study showing how totalitarian states adapt their policies to the contours of the societies they rule. The Communist
dictum that universities be purged of ""bourgeois elements"" was accomplished most fully in East Germany, where more and more
students came from worker and peasant backgrounds. But the Polish party kept potentially disloyal professors on the job in
the futile hope that they would train a new intelligentsia, and Czech Stalinists failed to make worker and peasant students
a majority at Czech universities. Connelly accounts for these differences by exploring the pre-Stalinist heritage of these
countries, and particularly their experiences in World War II. The failure of Polish and Czech leaders to transform their
universities became particularly evident during the crises of 1968 and 1989, when university students spearheaded reform movements.
In East Germany, by contrast, universities remained true to the state to the end, and students were notably absent from the
revolution of 1989.