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The Establishment of Communist Regimes in Eastern Europe.

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Presentation on theme: "The Establishment of Communist Regimes in Eastern Europe."— Presentation transcript:

1 The Establishment of Communist Regimes in Eastern Europe

2 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

3 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

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


6 “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.

7 Warsaw

8 Budapest

9 Berlin

10 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

11 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

12 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

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

14 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

15 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

16 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

17 The Cold War started unexpectedly early after the end of WWII – almost without a pause A unique combination of factors:  Geopolitical  Ideological  Military

18  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

19 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)

20 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

21 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

22 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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