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The Establishmen t of Communist Regimes in Eastern Europe

The Establishment of Communist Regimes in Eastern Europe

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Page 1: The Establishment of Communist Regimes in Eastern Europe

The Establishment of Communist Regimes in Eastern Europe

Page 2: The Establishment of Communist Regimes in Eastern Europe

3 dimensions of the problem of communism in Eastern Europe after World War II

1. The widely recognized need for fundamental and progressive social changes

2. Existence of political forces prepared to lead the postwar transformation

3. Role of the USSR

Page 3: The Establishment of Communist Regimes in Eastern Europe

Eastern Europe in 1945

2 groups of countries:

1. Germany and her former allies:

Romania

Hungary

Bulgaria

Finland

2. Victims of Nazi aggression:

Poland

Czechoslovakia

Austria (?)

Yugoslavia

Albania

Page 4: The Establishment of Communist Regimes in Eastern Europe

Churchill-Stalin “percentages” agreement, Moscow, Oct. 1944

Page 5: The Establishment of Communist Regimes in Eastern Europe
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“I thought you’d be there waiting for me … What greeted me instead was the lingering stench of ashes and the empty sockets of our ruined home.”

Samuel Puterman on his return to Warsaw, 1945 “We could see the physical destruction but the effect of

vast economic disruption and political, social, and psychological destruction … completely escaped us.”

Dean Acheson, US Secretary of State, 1947

Lowe, Keith (2012-07-03). Savage Continent: Europe in the Aftermath of World War II . St. Martin's Press. Kindle Edition.

Page 7: The Establishment of Communist Regimes in Eastern Europe

Warsaw

Page 8: The Establishment of Communist Regimes in Eastern Europe

Budapest

Page 9: The Establishment of Communist Regimes in Eastern Europe

Berlin

Page 10: The Establishment of Communist Regimes in Eastern Europe

Shattered states and societies Discredited elites Economies destroyed Legacies of ethnic warfare and border conflicts Masses in turmoil – hopes for a fresh start Intensive political struggles in each country In Western Europe, too:

Capitalism in deep crisis Socialist ideas popular

Page 11: The Establishment of Communist Regimes in Eastern Europe

The Right is either eliminated or severely weakened The situation favours the Left The East European Left in 1945, 3 types of left-wing forces:

Agrarian socialists Social Democrats Communists

Together, they dominate the political scene in every country Relations between them depend on both internal and

external factors

Page 12: The Establishment of Communist Regimes in Eastern Europe

Throughout East Europe, left-wing parties were banned since 1920s or 1930s

Only in Czechoslovakia the Left, including CP, was fully legal until the German occupation - and was dominant in politics one of the reasons why Britain and France gave it to Hitler?

Now the Left is free to act and take advantage of the postwar crisis

Its issues are popular: Punishment of collaborators Democratization Socialist-type reforms

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Even without the Soviet presence, Eastern European politics would have shifted drastically leftward

Page 14: The Establishment of Communist Regimes in Eastern Europe

Stalin’s support of East European Leftists The only Left Moscow was prepared to tolerate was one

which would follow Stalin’s orders And the orders were not necessarily: take power now! And one did not have to be a Communist This puts East European communists in a situation radically

different from the Russian situation in 1917 Fundamental contradiction between the Left project and

Stalinism

Page 15: The Establishment of Communist Regimes in Eastern Europe

East European Communists welcomed Soviet aid, but did they want to be Soviet puppets?

Some did, others not Those who did not, tried to find other options And the West was more or less willing to treat them as

legitimate forces in the region But Stalin would not tolerate the slightest dissent from the

Kremlin line He was the Red Emperor And dissenters were severely punished Degree of Soviet control was determined by Soviet strategic

considerations Any leeway was possible only if Soviet interests demanded it

Page 16: The Establishment of Communist Regimes in Eastern Europe

The logic of Soviet actions in Eastern Europe Geopolitics and security above all In 1945-47, Stalin considered it pragmatic to allow a degree

of freedom in East European countries “People’s Democracies”, not one-party Communist regimes Then the Cold War confrontation turned Eastern Europe

into a political battleground between USSR and the West

Page 17: The Establishment of Communist Regimes in Eastern Europe

The Cold War started unexpectedly early after the end of WWII – almost without a pause

A unique combination of factors: Geopolitical Ideological Military

Page 18: The Establishment of Communist Regimes in Eastern Europe

Geopolitics: Emergence of a bipolar system: rise of the 2 superpowers

US-Soviet relations became the central axis of world politics

Ideology: The historic defeat of the Global Right in 1945 empowered

the Global Left socialism, in some form or another, began to be seen by many

as “the wave of the future”

Military power: Introduction of atomic weapons as tools of foreign policy

global projection of enormous military power on the cheap

Page 19: The Establishment of Communist Regimes in Eastern Europe

The Global Left: the postwar offensive

EUROPE Yugoslavia and Albania – Communists have come to

power on their own Greece, Italy, France – Communist parties may come to

power on their own Germany, Austria, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria –

defeated states in shambles; Soviet presence a major boost to local Communists

Poland – Soviet presence assures Communist takeover Czechoslovakia – gradual Communist takeover from a

strong domestic base, with Soviet help Moderate, reformist Left makes major political gains in

the West (e.g. Labour Party in Britain)

Page 20: The Establishment of Communist Regimes in Eastern Europe

The West was primarily concerned about survival and rebuilding of capitalism in Western Europe

USSR was primarily concerned about strategic control of Eastern Europe – securing the Western flank

The division of Europe, agreed in 1945, materialized The fate of Germany remained the one major bone of

contention – East vs. West In Asia, it was an open-ended continental struggle

Page 21: The Establishment of Communist Regimes in Eastern Europe

ASIA: Indochina: Vietnamese Communists the main anti-

colonialist force, proclaim Vietnam’s independence in 1945 China, 1945-49: Communists defeat Nationalists Korea, 1945: Communists control the North with Soviet help India, 1947: Independence won by nationalists supported

by communists Indonesia, Burma: nationalist-communist coalitions lead

anticolonialist campaigns Iran: the rise of a Communist-nationalist alliance Turkey: emergence of a strong Communist-led Left The Mideast

The establishment of Israel - with Soviet support The rise of Arab nationalism against Western colonial rule

Page 22: The Establishment of Communist Regimes in Eastern Europe

In 1948-49, Stalin goes for full control and isolation of Eastern Europe from the West

East European Communists were to serve as the tools for the Soviet takeover – at the expense of national independence and freedom to choose their own strategies

It required a massive purge of East European Communist Parties

Installation of Soviet-type regimes Repressions against opposition and civil society Socioeconomic changes of state-socialist type

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Page 24: The Establishment of Communist Regimes in Eastern Europe