14. Soviet Union and Eastern Europe: Rise and Fall of Communism


I. Post World War II Russia

    A. Legacy of Stalin

1. “Command Economy”

            2. Development of a social hierarchy 

3. “Thought control”


    B. Economic Problems

            1. Economic recovery, then stagnation


            2. Reasons for this

      a) Economy geared toward military development

                  b) Lack of incentives for workers

                  c) lack on innovation


    C. Nikita Khrushchev (1953-1964)

            1. Reforms

      a) renounced Stalinism                 

                  b) political reforms - “Collective leadership”

                  c) economic reforms                     

                              d) social reforms                          

      e) loosened Soviet control over the Easter European satellites


2. Failure of these reforms led to his forced retirement in 1964


    D. Leonid Brezhnev (1964-1982)

1. Conservative, focus on stability and avoidance of change

2. Decline

                  - economic stagnation

                  -  political disaffection

      -  repression of freedom of expression of ideas


3. Succeeded by two very elderly men who were in bad health and also

     feared change and instability and did not last long in office


II. Eastern Europe after World War I

    A. By 1948 much of Eastern Europe fell under Soviet control

1. Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia were annexed to Russia

2. establishment of People’s Republics in Poland, Hungary, Romania,

     Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia and East Germany as Soviet satellite states


    B. Early opposition to Soviet Dominance

            1. East Berlin

       - 1953 riots in over food shortages were crushed by Soviet tanks

      - led to a flight of people and the building of the Berlin Wall in 1961

      - Erich Honecker, a Party hard-liner, took power in1971


2. Poland

      - 1956 demonstrations in Poland due to increase in food prices, the

            government’s economic policies, repression of Catholicism and the presence

            of Soviet troops (called for by the Warsaw Pact)

      - led to a policy of “internal reform, external loyalty” (to U.S.S.R.)

      - this encouraged other states to also seek a lessening of Soviet control


            3. Hungary

     - student led riots in 1956 against the brutal regime of Matyas Raskosi and

Hunagary’s inclusion in the Warsaw Pact resulted in Raskosi’s  replacement

by Imre Nagy who promised free elections

      - since it was likely the Communists would be voted out of Power, Soviet troops

            invaded and installed a new ruler, Janos Kadar who was more compliant to

            Soviet directives


4. Czechoslovakia

       - Stalinist ruler was replaced in 1968 by Alexander Dubcek who adopted a

            policy of “socialism with a human face”

      - restrictions on freedom of speech and

the press and right to travel abroad were relaxed, economic reforms were

promised as well as a reduction of Party control over society

      - “Prague Spring” - refers to the general climate of optimism

      - Soviet army with their tanks and other members of the Warsaw Pact invaded

            in August 1968 and crushed the reform movement

      - a Stalinist ruler, Gustav Husak, replaced Dubcek


III. The Collapse of Communism

    A. Mikhail Gorbachev (1985-1992)

1. Goal > to reinvigorate Russian economy

- perestroika > restructuring - provide workers with incentives to

      stimulate greater productivity and encourage them to rethink their

      relationship to the government in a new way

- glasnost > openness - encouraged reevaluation of Russia’s history

      and public discussion of controversial issues


            2. Political Reforms

      - two candidate elections introduced in 1987

      - creation of a new Soviet parliament > the Congress of People’s Deputies

            which convened in 1989

      - formation of non-Communist parties legalized in 1990

      - Gorbachev became the Soviet Union’s first president in 1990


3. Resurgence of Nationalism

      - This attempt to democratize and liberalize the U.S.S.R. resulted in the

            resurgence of nationalism in all 15 Soviet Republics   


    B. Collapse of Communism in the U.S.S.R.

            1. Lithuania

      - its Communist Party declared itself independent of the Soviet Union’s

            Communist Party in December 1989

      - March 11, 1990 Lithuania declared itself independent of the U.S.S.R.


            2. Kidnaping of Gorbachev, August 19, 1991

      - Gorbachev did not want to see the breakup of the Soviet Union, but

            the more open society he had advocated unleashed discontent and

            desire for independence

      - Conservative elements of the Party,

 KGB and military became increasingly alarmed

      - a group of plotters had Gorbachev arrested and attempted to seize power

      - the coup d’etat failed with the help of Russian President, Boris Yeltsin


3. All 15 Republics declared their

independence by the end of 1991 and the Soviet Union  “ceased to exist”

when Gorbachev resigned  January 1, 1992

- Russia today is a Republic comprised of a loosely knit Commonwealth

       of Independent States


    C. Collapse of Communism in Eastern Europe

            1. Poland

     - Riots due to high food prices in the early 1980's led to the formation on an

independent labor union called Solidarity led by Les Walesa

     - the Union was declared illegal and martial law was enacted

      - the poor economy, however, led to the granting of free elections and

            Les Walesa was elected President in December 1990

     - the Soviet government influenced by Gorbachev did not oppose this outcome


            2. Hungary

     - “communism with a face-lift,” a program of reforms introduced by Janos Kadar,

                        had failed to improve the economy

     - in 1989 the government allowed the formation of opposition political parties

     - in March 1990 the Communist Party was voted out of power and replaced

            by a government comprised of a coalition of non-Communist parties


            3. Czechoslovakia

     - Charter 77 was founded in 1977 by a group of dissident intellectuals opposed

            to the repressive regime of Gustav Husak and its violations of human rights

     - dissident activities continued expand during the 1980's

     - the “Velvet Revolution” > 1989 massive demonstrations resulted in the collapse

            of the Husak’s government as it was shown to lack support

     - December 1989 Vaclav Havel, a dissident playwright, was elected President


            4. East Germany

      - massive demonstrations against the oppressive regime of Erich Honecker in

            the summer and fall of 1989 led to taking down of the Berlin Wall

      - 1990 free elections resulted in a non-communist government and the

                        unification of East and West Germany