On Wednesday, 20 November 2013, Paul Seary wrote:
Despite decades of often brutal repression, the eventual transition out of communism was generally peaceful throughout east central Europe. Discuss why this was the case and identify why it was not in those states and regions where conflict did arise.
‘From Stettin in the Baltic to Trieste in the Adriatic, an iron curtain has descended across the Continent. Behind that line lie all the capitals of the ancient states of Central and Eastern Europe. Warsaw, Berlin, Prague, Vienna, Budapest, Belgrade, Bucharest and Sofia, all these famous cities and the populations around them lie in what I must call the Soviet Sphere, and all are subject in one form or another, not only to Soviet influence but to a very high and , in many cases , increasing measure of control from Moscow’
Winston Churchill, Fulton, Missouri, 5 March 1946.
In 1944, the Soviet Union used military might to impose communism on Eastern Europe – communism was ‘imposed on the peoples of Eastern Europe from outside, not generated internally; it did not express national sentiments but often tried to suppress them.’ (2) Here, is the inherent and fatal weakness which contributed to the demise of communism. Conversely, the people’s revolutions were successful because ‘none of the people’s revolutions was imposed from outside, even though the Soviet reforms of Mikhail Gorbachev played a part in each of them. They were national revolutions in which populations long enslaved, sought to recover their own history. ‘(2)
Historically, Eastern and Central Europe have experienced more than their fair share of turmoil. It is a region whose countries at one time or another formed part of different empires – the Ottoman, the Hapsburg, Russian and Austro-Hungarian Empires. This is an area that has been riven by wars. World War 1, World War 2 and the Cold War all began in Eastern Europe. Viewed from the perspective of the West, the Soviet Bloc of Eastern and Central Europe appeared monolithic but in reality it was composed of a multiplicity of ethnic groups and states with long standing divisive feuds and enmities. Most people were Slavish in origin but there were western Slavs, eastern Slavs and Southern Slavs .Poles, Czechs and Slovaks belonged to the group of Western Slavs, Russians, Ukrainians and Belarusians were Eastern Slavs while Southern Slavs who lived in Bulgaria and Romania had a close affiliation with the Greeks and the Turks. Far from being a homogenous group these countries had long standing enmities and feuds – Hungary had reason to hate Romania. Transylvania had been part of Hungary for centuries but following World War 1 Transylvania was awarded to Romania as part of the Trianon Treaty.
There was not slightest possibility of these Soviet Satellites states working together to defeat the common enemy and so, for more than 40 years the people of Eastern Europe were cowed into submission by the threat of force - in 1953 , the Russians used force to put down the East German workers’ rebellion, in 1956 , Soviet tanks crushed the Hungarian uprising and the reformist government under Nagy was removed; following reforms carried out by Alexander Dubcek’s government, the Warsaw Pact forces invaded Czechoslovakia and Dubcek was deposed ; on the 17th November 1989, a peaceful march of 50,000 ,was violently suppressed by police. (2). During more than four decades, the people of these countries of Eastern and Central Europe lived under a brutal regime and they were kept in line by the ever-present threat of Soviet tanks. For over forty years these citizens of the Soviet Bloc of east central Europe were citizens of a totalitarian state - a ‘regime that aspired to total control, not only of all organs of state but human nature itself. (3) Anne Applebaum claims ‘Britain and the US promised the East Europeans a democratic future but abandoned them to Soviet domination’ (4).
In the autumn of 1989 and...
References: 1) O’Clery, Conor, (2011), Moscow: December 25th 1991: The Last Day of the Soviet Union, Transworld Ireland, (Dublin).
2) Flint, Hawkes et al., (1990), The Observer: Tearing Down The Curtain –The People’s Revolution in Eastern Europe, Hodder and Stoughton, (London).
3) Applebaum, Anne,(2012) Iron Curtain: the Crushing of Eastern Europe-1956, Max Frankel (pub), New York.
5) Pittaway, M.(2007), Developments in Central and East European Politics, Palgrave, Macmillian , London, White, S., Batt, J., and Lewis P.,(eds.)
6)http://www.worldsocialism.org/spgb/socialist-standard/200s/2009/no-1263-november-2009/fall-%E2%Ccommunism%%E2%80%9D-why-so-peaceful accessed 17th March 2013.
(7)Sebastian, Victor,(2010), Revolution 1989, Fall of the Soviet Empire. (2010) , Vintage Publishers , New York, (Pryce-Jones, p. 256, and author’s conversations
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