The GDR in 1970
After long years of economic scarcity, political unrest and mass emigration into the West, the eastern of the two German states seems to have finally entered an era of stability. Earlier this year, Willy Brandt became the first West German chancellor to visit the East, signalling the end of international isolation. The 1968 revolts that shook Czechoslovakia and the West spared the GDR. And after some reforms the country’s planned economy has increased its productivity, allowing people a modicum of consumer culture for the first time.
However, this stability goes hand in hand with the iron-tight control of the Socialist Unity Party regime under Walter Ulbricht. The construction of the Berlin Wall in 1961 closed the last route to freedom for many. Only the most desperate are still trying to escape, an often deadly risk. After some freedom in the early 1960s, nearly all critical voices in the arts have been tamed or silenced; on the radio, state-approved pop music is played by state-trained pop musicians. Instead of such futile endeavours as politics or art, most East Germans would rather spend their free time gardening at their private dachas, maybe the only place free from the surveillance of the Ministry of State Security (Stasi).
Both the Stasi and its influence are growing, recruiting more and more informants (IMs) to spy on their fellow citizens, while its foreign intelligence branch, the HVA, has successfully infiltrated many Western institutions. Within the party leadership, conflict has broken out between reformers and hardliners, between Ulbricht and his second-in-command Erich Honecker. Supported by the Soviets, Honecker and the hardliners will soon take over power, extinguishing the last hope for reform.
The East German embassy in Norway
There shouldn’t even be an East German embassy in Norway in 1970. In the real world, West German pressure made most diplomatic representation for the GDR impossible until 1973. In the timeline of Allegiance, however, things have moved more quickly, and so there is a brand-new embassy in Skien. In addition to negotiating trade agreements, crucial to its still developing economy, the country can now present itself in a new light, propagating the advantages of East German anti-fascism over Western decadence. As diplomatic newcomers, though, the embassy is under the watchful eyes of everyone else, including the Soviet embassy, expecting unwavering loyalty. Everyone has to be on their best behaviour; even the whiff of a social scandal could turn opinion against them.
Yet, the diplomatic attempts to woo their hosts and the other embassies are undermined by the HVA’s endeavours to build up a new espionage centre. Having now easier access to a NATO country, the secret service is forging as many clandestine connections as possible. Should one of their plots be uncovered, it would be much worse for the GDR’s reputation than a diplomatic faux pas.
The ideological fault lines within the Party also affect the embassy. Idealist socialist veterans are facing a more professional and more pragmatic younger generation. Those believing in reform clash with those afraid of losing control. And everyone you know, your friend, your colleague, your lover, might be betraying you to save their skin or further their career. The watchful eyes on the new embassy also include the embassy’s own eyes, eyes full of distrust and fear.
- Ambassador (50s, M). Model state official, but under scrutiny for his wartime past. More concerned with personal issues than his tasks. Questioning most of his life choices and looking for companionship.
- Counsellor for Economic Affairs (30s, F). The ambassador’s wife, from a staunch communist family. Frustrated with her husband and the state of her own career. Not quite ready to give up her own passions and ambitions.
- Commercial attaché (30s, N). Actually the HVA resident in Norway, responsible for creating a new spy network. Burdened with a lot of expectations and anxious about fulfilling them – and a big mistake they have made.
- Cultural attaché (40s, N). Renowned dramatist, accepted this post to escape unwanted suspicions back home. Opportunist, enjoying the attention and the distractions the West has to offer.
- Press attaché (30s, N). Had to give up a promising diplomatic career after the defection of a family member. Now doing PR work for a regime they have learned to hate and would do anything to leave behind.
- Personal assistant to the ambassador (20s, N). Born in Norway, but raised in a German orphanage. Trying to come to terms with their identity – while keeping up appearances as a double agent on an undercover mission.
- Administrative clerk (20s, M). Working class background. Grateful to be part of the embassy and enjoying his time. Has found true love here, but is forced to accept that love is just another weapon in the Cold War.
- Visiting news correspondent (40s/50s, N). Actually a former resistance fighter and celebrated secret agent. Here on a mission, maybe a little too sure of its success and a little too unaware that their prime is behind them.