Operation Harvest was launched in December 1956, more than 10 months after Nikita Khrushchev’s famous speech at the 20th Party Congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, which was the peak of a ‘‘thaw,’’ both in the internal but also the international policies of his country.24 The world, it seemed, was moving away from overt confrontation and some of the Central and Eastern European surviving guerrillas and former guerrillas who remained underground after 1945 could hope for a modicum of freedom. Moreover, by the mid-1950s their insurgencies were in their dying throes. For example, in 1948 the last trans-regional structures of the Polish anti-communist resistance were dismantled, and after 1953 only individual partisans remained ‘‘in the forest’’ with the last one captured in 1963.25

A similar situation developed in Lithuania where the last command-and-control structures of the partisans were erased in 1953.26 1954 saw the destruction of the Ukrainian Insurgent Army’s (UPA) structures in Ukraine, with the last partisans liquidated in 1960,27 and in Estonia, the last of the ‘‘Forest Brothers’’ remained in hiding until 1978.28

Meanwhile, the IRA, operating on the other edge of Europe, was preparing for its border campaign. One could hazard a theory that the Irish republicans operated in a completely different political environment, not tired by the World War II (WWII) experience and seemingly not poised for a new bout of armed insurrectionism. However, the same could have been said about post-World War I (WWI) Finland, with no experience of a previous conflict and a population of circa three million (akin to that of Ireland in 1956),29 which nonetheless went through a brutal civil war in which tens of thousands of people perished-a number far exceeding any cycle of violence on the island of Ireland.30 Moreover, one can also have legitimate doubts about whether Ireland truly had no war experience, as up to 150,000 of its inhabitants enlisted in the British army during World War II.31 The returnees could have been natural recruits for an insurrectional cause but also might have rejected it due to their exposure to violence in the 1939-45 period. They also might have been unlikely to offer their skills to an entity operating from ‘‘marginal societal positions,’’ such as the IRA.32