The Soviet Union and Eastern Europe



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Map of the Eastern Bloc
After World War Two Stalin intended to place Communist governments loyal to Moscow in Countries like Hungary and Poland so to prevent another assault against the Soviet Union (Germany attacked the USSR through Poland Twice). Each state must be loyal to Moscow, each must have it's economy linked to the Soviet economy, if a state is threatened it must use it's own military; secret police and/or call on the Red Army. In 1955 the Warsaw pact was signed uniting this countries with the Soviet Union (similar to NATO, it is a defense pact). Stalin died in 1953 (The end of negative relations?) and by 1955, the new secretary of the USSR (Leader), Nikita Khrushchev started his new policy of improved relations with the West (peaceful co-existence) and reforms in the USSR and it's satellite states (less tight Soviet control).

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Khrushchev
In 1956 Khrushchev gave some benefits to Poland, but this caused mass unrest in Hungary which lead to a brutal put down by Khrushchev. Hungarians were upset with many aspects of the communist system, it is also believed that Hungarians were upset because of the fact that many Russian officials, advisers, security officers and technical experts were taking over the country (Hungarians did this for their national pride, they did not like the idea that foreigners are in control of their country). By October 1956 Soviet backed leaders (such as Rakosi and his replacement Erno Gero) were forced out and was replaced by Imre Nagy, he introduced mass reforms such as pulling Hungary out of the Warsaw pact, this did not sit well with Khrushchev so he sent in the Army to repair the situation. The West denounced the event but knew they could do little about it since it was incredibly deep in Soviet territory.

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Alexander Dubcek
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Leonid Brezhnev
In 1968 Alexander Dubcek came in power in Czechoslovakia, he wanted to reform the communist system with a new economic system and greater freedom of speech (Czechoslovakia supported the communist system and these reforms are meant to "improve" it or give it a "human face"). Dubcek allowed the media to interrogate Communist party leaders. It is important to note that Dubcek was a supporter of the Warsaw pact, but the new Soviet leader, Leonid Brezhnev, felt that he went to far (and was pressured by Communist leaders in East Germany, Poland and Romania because they felt that if Dubcek kept going their own people would demand reforms) and sent in the Army to Prague in August 1968 (Brezhnev tried before hand to pressure Dubcek in a series of tense meetings) to repair the situation, it did not have the same brutal result as Hungary (was this attack meant to save face, don't let the 'superior' communist system get 'tainted').

In 1955 the British Foreign Office written a report for the Foreign secretary, who was going on tour throughout Europe (even Eastern) and the USA. The report stated that the new leaders of the Soviet Union were far more co-operative then Stalin. Bulganin and Khrushchev settled the Austrian Treaty (Khrushchev agreed to the withdraw of Red Army forces from Austria, which was partitioned like Germany) and Khrushchev ended (or soften) the conflict between Tito's Yugoslavia and the USSR. Also the new Soviet leaders have worked with the West on disarmament talks. It would appear that after Stalin the Soviet Union has been working hard to improve relations with the West and eliminate the Cold War, but then why did it last until the fall of the USSR? Also were these improved relations permanent or did things fall apart?

In October 1956 a secret Foreign Office agent in Hungary sent confidential telegrams to London describing the Hungarian situation. Here are two telegrams:

October 25th 1956
"The Hungarian Tricolours without the Communist emblem, now flying on many public and other buildings throughout the city, while orderly crowds carrying their flags and singing patriotic songs are moving about at will. Without controlling the Government they appear to have come as close to controlling Budapest as is ever likely.
2 But casualties have been very severe, even amongst the women and children, and the populace are terrified of massive reprisals. The success of this revolt against Communism is clearly in the balance and, as I see it, we have a magnificent opportunity to tip the scales. Is there not justification for placing the situation at once before the United Nations, giving the widest publicity to our action …."

October 26th 1956
"Use of railway wagons, tram lines, flagstones, and anything else on which they can lay hands, large crowds have, from early this morning, been erecting barricades beyond Var and other hills of Buda. Their intention appears to be to prevent Russian reinforcements entering the town …
2 Heavy fire has continued throughout the day Gellert hill region … Heavy mortar and tank fire is in progress now on eastern outskirts of Pest and fighting has also spread to new areas of Buda …
3 Unconfirmed reports continue to reach me that units of Hungarian army are attempting to enter Budapest to assist the people. True or not, it is obvious that the people could not have resisted so long and so successfully without help from the Hungarian Army and access to its equipment …
4 Such news as I have from the country is confined to wireless broadcasts which will already be available in London. I am told that Miskolc wireless station is in the hands of the Nationalists and is broadcasting on 345 metres.
5 the political situation is, if anything, more confused than the military …"

In 1959 a British observer in Hungary written a report bound for London. By this time the uprising has been put down by the Red Army and Khrushchev has placed Janos Kadar in charge. Kadar has imprisoned around 30,000 Hungarians and around 300 were executed, including Imre Nagy. This lead to the British to believe that the Hungarian freedom movement is in for a hard time. Kadar's regime is viewed as brutal and harsh and the Red Army is going to staying in Hungary so long as "the international situation" (The international imperialist forces led by the USA)" "makes it neccesary".

In 1968 a report was sent to the British Cabinet summarizing the situation in Czechoslovakia. It stated that Warsaw pact forces attacked Czechoslovakia on the night of 20th-2lst August controlling the country quickly. Czech leaders were imprisoned but they still will not cooperate with the Soviets. The cabinet is lead to believe that the USSR may have invaded because Czech leaders did not enforce censorship sufficiently and/or they feared the outcome of the elections for the Presidum of the Communist Party.

Learning Curve: The Soviet Union and Eastern Europe
Learning Curve: The Soviet Union and Eastern Europe: Historical Source One: Extract from briefing notes on Soviet policies for the British Foreign Secretary, Autumn 1955
Learning Curve: The Soviet Union and Eastern Europe: Historical Source Two: Extracts from a Foreign Office telegram reporting back to London on the situation in Hungary in October 1956
Learning Curve: The Soviet Union and Eastern Europe: Historical Source Three: A British news film showing the situation in Hungary in 1956 (ITN Archive).
Learning Curve: The Soviet Union and Eastern Europe: Historical Source Four: Extracts from a Foreign Office report on the state of Hungary 1959
Learning Curve: The Soviet Union and Eastern Europe: Historical Source Five: A report produced for the Foreign Office on the origins of Czech discontent with Soviet control, 1956. It is a summary of a Communist party booklet.
Learning Curve: The Soviet Union and Eastern Europe: Historical Source Six: A British news report on the effects of the Prague Spring on the media in Czechoslovakia 1968 (ITN Archive).
Learning Curve: The Soviet Union and Eastern Europe: Historical Source Seven: Report to the British Cabinet summing up the situation in Czechoslovakia in August 1968