A widening gap is emerging in East Europe between governments pressing ahead with political and economic reforms and those who are digging in their heels.
Hungary announced a new law this month that could lead to independent political parties. A day later, Czechoslovak police broke up an unofficial seminar due to discuss nothing more than the country's troubled 20th century history.The crackdown in Prague, in which some 40 dissidents and historians were rounded up, came as reformist Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev was talking about releasing political prisoners and rewriting the country's penal code.
Leading Czechoslovak dissident Jiri Dienstbier underlined what he saw as a growing gap between the attitude of Prague and its more reformist neighbors.
"They wish to prevent the success of any independent activity of any kind," he told Reuters. "Seminars of this kind are now normal in Poland, Hungary and even the Soviet Union."
In Warsaw, the Communist authorities are exploring how to bring the banned union Solidarity into talks with the government on solving Poland's economic and political crisis.
In Romania meanwhile, some 60 workers who took part in demonstrations more than a year ago calling for more food, as well as democracy, were reported by the West's largest labor union group to be still in jail.
There are also big differences between how the countries are reacting to Moscow's call for "glasnost," or openness, which reformers argue is an essential requirement for creating a modern and efficient society.
In Hungary the state information bureau Pressinform is now offering to introduce visiting journalists to leading dissidents, but in East Germany, once Moscow's most faithful ally, the authorities have banned a popular Soviet magazine as too radical.
With Moscow apparently honoring its pledge not to interfere directly in the affairs of its allies, the way seems clear for each country to proceed at its own pace - or not at all.
According to East bloc analysts, Moscow's six allies are divided into three main camps - those committed to reform (Hungary and Poland), those who pay lip service to it but do little (Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia), and those who reject reforms out of hand (Romania, East Germany).
Leading the way down the reformist road is Hungary, which has gone the farthest toward Western-style democracy by raising the prospect of a legal opposition that could challenge the 40-year monopoly of the Communist Party.