Communism In Eastern Europe Origins

Communism in Eastern Europe Origins

Communism in Eastern Europe Origins

Apart from China, the main world region in which communist movements made huge inroads after World War II was Eastern Europe. The states of the area were relatively young; all had been carved out of the former Austro-Hungarian, German, Russian, and Ottoman empires by post-World War I treaties. Many had begun their independent existence as fragile democracies, but by the mid-1930s all except for Czechoslovakia had succumbed to authoritarian tendencies.

During World War II, the Eastern European countries either fell under the subjugation of Nazi Germany or allied themselves with the Nazi regime. Near the end of the war, Soviet troops invaded and occupied all but Yugoslavia and Albania, freeing them from German control. Wartime negotiations among the Allied Powers consigned Eastern Europe to the Soviet sphere of influence. The Soviets took advantage of this agreement, and of Western war-weariness and reluctance to confront Soviet power, by installing communist governments in the Soviet-occupied countries of Poland, Hungary, Bulgaria, Romania, and Czechoslovakia. In 1946 British prime minister Winston Churchill, criticizing the Soviet expansion, proclaimed that “an iron curtain has descended across the continent,” separating Eastern and Western Europe. The term iron curtain came to describe a policy of isolation that prevented travel and communication between the two regions.

Special circumstances prevailed in Yugoslavia and Albania, where communist regimes came to power of their own accord. As in China, the Yugoslav and Albanian communists acquired much of their popular support from their prominence in the struggle against foreign occupation, in this case by Nazi Germany. Another special case was the zone of Soviet occupation in eastern Germany. Soviet aims here focused initially on German demilitarization and on obtaining postwar reparations. Only after the three U.S., British, and French zones banded together into a democratic German Federal Republic (West Germany) did Stalin, in October 1949, sanction a separate East German state, officially titled the German Democratic Republic, to be governed by German communists (see East Germany).

In this Section: Friedrich Engels, Communism in the Soviet Union, Communism in the Soviet Union Origins, Communism in the Soviet Union Under Lenin, Communism in the Soviet Union Under Stalin, Communism in the Soviet Union After Stalin, Soviet Collapse, Communism in Eastern Europe Origins, Communist Rule, Communism: Political Unrest, Communism Decline and Collapse, Communist Influence, Communist Influence in United States and Communist Influence in Canada.


Notes and References

  1. Encarta Online Encyclopedia

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