Communist Influence in Former Soviet Union and Eastern Europe
Communism: Communist Influence in Noncommunist Countries Former Soviet Union and Eastern Europe
The mighty Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU) died with its brainchild, the Soviet Union, in 1991. The CPSU’s central headquarters was disbanded in August 1991, and many of the 15 Soviet republics banned the Communist Party or suspended its operations. The communist organizations of the republics had already begun to change before the 1991 crisis, and the transformation accelerated as the republics began life as independent states.
In the three Baltic states Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania the communist parties restyled themselves as postcommunist, social democratic entities, retaining some socialist ideals but supporting free elections and representative democracy. The Lithuanian party, the largest of the three, has been the most successful and has formed several national governments.
In the majority of the post-Soviet states Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Russia, Tajikistan, and Ukraine the former republic-level communist parties chose to hold onto their communist terminology, heraldry, and aspirations after independence. These parties became known as neocommunist parties. In most places, the neocommunist parties have been opposition parties. One exception has been Tajikistan, where the neocommunists have been closely allied with the governing People’s Party of Tajikistan. In Moldova, the neocommunist party won a national election in 2001. Its leader became president, pledging to follow socialistic economic and social policies and to pursue integration with Russia. In Russia, the Communist Party of the Russian Federation is the country’s largest party and remains one of its most powerful political forces. In the Russian presidential elections of 1996 and 2000, for example, Communist Party leader Gennady Zyuganov finished second to the winners, Boris Yeltsin in 1996 and Vladimir Putin in 2000.
In two of the Central Asian states Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan the communist party was simply renamed and its last leader from the Soviet period retained office as president. The renamed Democratic Party of Turkmenistan remains that country’s only legal political party. In Uzbekistan, President Islam Karimov ceased to be the leader of the People’s Democratic Party of Uzbekistan in 1996, but he continues to rely on officials inherited from the CPSU apparatus and allows only token opposition.
In Eastern Europe between 1989 and 1991, every communist government surrendered its monopoly on political power. Communist parties underwent decisive changes as their regimes gave way to multiparty governments. Bowing to new political realities, most Eastern European communist parties sought to mask their origins by changing their names. Communist was replaced by terms such as socialist, social democracy, democratic socialism, and the democratic left. For example, the Bulgarian Communist Party restructured itself as the Bulgarian Socialist Party.
The effectiveness of the neocommunist and postcommunist parties of Eastern Europe has varied widely. In Bulgaria, Hungary, Poland, Romania, and several of the Yugoslav successor states, these parties have controlled either parliament or the presidency for extended periods. In Slovakia the party has participated in a governing coalition. In Serbia the former communist party, called the Socialist Party of Serbia and led by Slobodan Milo_evi_, held power until 2001, when Milo_evi_ was unseated in a Yugoslav presidential election. Only in Albania, the Czech Republic, and Germany did the successor party fail to win a share of government power. (1)
In this Section: Communist Influence, Communist Influence in United States, Communist Influence in Canada, Communist Influence in Former Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, Communist Influence in Western Europe, Communist Influence in Italy, Communist Influence in France and Communist Influence in Western European Parties.