The Soviet Union and Eastern Europe
The world’s most powerful Communist country was the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, or otherwise known as the Soviet Union. It contained 15 republics that were controlled by a central government. Over time, it developed into a large industrial power that dictated all aspects of the national economy. It set levels of wages and prices, controlled the allocation of resources, and decided what would be produced and how and where goods would be distributed. The Soviet Union was corrupted after World War I. Economic recovery such as Russian industrial production had gotten passed prewar levels by forty percent. New power plants, canals, and giant factories were built. Testing of hydrogen bombs in 1953 and Sputnik 1 in 1957 enhanced the Soviet state’s reputation as a world power abroad. Soviet people did not have much, their apartment’s one room served as both a bed and living room. As the struggle for power continued, Joseph Stalin, the general secretary of the Communist Party, became the master of the Soviet Union and he had a low amount of respect for Communist Party leaders. Stalin was a selfish leader and did not think people from his circle could do anything without him. He believed in a socialist government. The government issued a decree that all literary and scientific work must conform to the political needs of the state itself. As a result of this, there was increased terror. Many believed new purges were to come until Stalin died on March 5. After Stalin’s death, a man named Nikita Khrushchev came in as the chief Soviet policy maker and improved his regime. Khrushchev deleted Stalin’s ruthless policies which became known as De-Stalinization. He also loosened government control on Stalin’s literary works.
Khrushchev tried to make consumer goods more popular. He also wanted to increase agricultural output by growing corn and cultivating lands that were east of the Ural Mountains. His attempt in increasing agriculture weakened his reputation within the party. As a result of his bad reputation and increased military spending, the Soviet economy became ruined. He was suddenly deposed in 1964. After Khrushchev fell from power, Leonid Brezhnev, who had been serving as his deputy in the party secretariat, became first secretary of the party. Under his rule the de-Stalinization campaign was highly relaxed. Previous experimental agricultural programs were abandoned and the economy began to flourish. Cold war tensions eased after the Cuban missile crisis of 1962 and there was a limited opening for cultural exchanges with the West. Competition shifted to a space and arms race.
In Yugoslavia, a man by the name of Tito, also known as Josip Broz, was the leader of the Communist resistance movement. He wanted an independent Communist state in Yugoslavia. Tito refused to agree with Stalin’s demands of taking over Yugoslavia. By portraying the struggle as one of Yugoslav national freedom, Tito gained his people’s support. Tito ruled Yugoslavia up until his death in 1980. Yugoslavia was a Communist government, but not a Soviet satellite state.
The Soviet Union did not allow its Eastern Europe satellites to become independent of Soviet control, especially in Czechoslovakia, Poland, and Hungary. Protests took place in Poland; the Polish Communist Party adopted a series of reforms in October 1956. They elected a first secretary named Wladyslaw Gomulka. He said that Poland had the right to follow its own socialist path. Poland was afraid of the Soviet armed response to his remark so they pledged to remain loyal to the Warsaw Pact.
Unrest in Hungary and economic difficulties led to a revolt. What added to the rising rebellion was Imre Nagy, the Hungarian leader, declared Hungary a free nation on November 1, 1956. It also promised free elections. Three days after Nagy’s declaration, the Soviet Army attacked Budapest. 23 After this, the Soviets...
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