- Discover essay samples

Communism East Europe

4.9 of 5.0 (168 reviews)

2404 words

Communism East Europe Page 1
Communism East Europe Page 2
Communism East Europe Page 3
Communism East Europe Page 4
Communism East Europe Page 5
Communism East Europe Page 6
The above thumbnails are of reduced quality. To view the work in full quality, click download.

Communism East Europe

TITLE: Why did communism collapse in Eastern Europe?

SUBJECT: European Studies B EDUCATION: First year university GRADE: first

honour AUTHOR'S COMMENTS: I liked it. Interested to hear other people's

comments. TUTOR'S COMMENTS: Well done!! Extremely informative. Well

researched. Good Layout. Stress Gorbachev's role more.

Communism is like Prohibition - it's a good idea but it won't work

(Will Rogers, 1927) (1)

This essay will give a brief introduction to communism. It will then

discuss the various factors which combined to bring about the collapse of

Communism in Eastern Europe. It will examine each of these factors and

evaluate the effect of each. Finally it will attempt to assertain whether

Rogers' opinion (see above quotation) on Communism is true, that is,

whether communism was truly doomed to fail from the start, or whether its

collapse was a result of external influences.

Communism is based on the ideas and teachings of Karl Marx as modified by

Lenin. At its most basic, the ideal of communism is a system in which

everyone is seen as equal and wealth is distributed equally among the

people. There is no private ownership. The state owns and controls all

enterprises and property. The state is run by one leading elite. The

Soviet model of communism was based on these ideals. All opposition

parties were banned although parties who were sympathetic to communism

and who shared the communist ideals were allowed. All power was

concentrated into the hands of the Communist party. Free press and civil

liberties were suppressed. Censorship and propaganda were widely used.

There was state ownership of the economy. No private enterprise was

allowed. There was a collectivisation of agriculture. The Communist Party

invaded and controlled every aspect of political, social, cultural and

economic life. It was a totalitarian state with complete Communist control

over all facets of life. In the early years, and up until Gorbachev's 'new

regime', the use of force and terror as a means of maintaining control was


The first factor which contributed to the failure and eventual collapse of

communism was the fact that the Communist party's domination was

illegitimate from the beginning. Lenin came to power after a bloody Civil

War between those who supported Lenin and those who opposed the Soviet

regime. To Lenin, defeat was unthinkable and he was prepared to make any

and every sacrifice to win the war and save the revolution. The forcible

requisitioning of food and supplies was approved by Lenin. This could

only be achieved by enforcing strict and absolute discipline at every

level of society. Terror was to become the chief instrument of power and

Lenin was to assume the role of dictator. This was a phenomenon which was

to become a symbol of communist regimes throughout their lifetime.

This trend was followed when Stalin came to power as leader of the

Communist party and the Russian government in 1929. (2) He had achieved

this through plotting and trickery and by shifting alliances. This had

begun in 1924 when Stalin systematically began to remove all opposition

to his claim to power. His main rival was Trotsky and he used a number of

underhand measures to discredit him. For example Stalin lied to Trotsky

about the date of Lenin's funeral, thus ensuring that Trotsky could not

attend and thereby blackening his name in the public eye. This Stalin

versus Trotsky conflict led to Trotsky being eventually exiled from Russia

and, ten years later in 1940, being assassinated by one of Stalin's agents.


Under Stalin any opposition was swiftly and brutally crushed. In no

Eastern European country did the revolution have the support of more than

a minority of people, yet this minority retained absolute control. The

communist take-over and subsequent regime was achieved by undemocratic

methods, that is, rigged elections, terror, totalitarian state, harassment

and threats. In 1932 a two-hundred page document by a fellow member of

the Politburo condemning the Stalinist regime and calling for change was

published. (4) In response to this Stalin wreaked a terrible revenge. In

1936 Stalin began what became known as the 'purges' whose function it was

to try members of the communist party who had acted treasonously. (5) The

result of these was that five thousand party members were arrested and

stripped of their membership. The sixteen defendants in the three

Showtrials of 1936, 1937 and 1938 were found guilty and executed. In 1939

those who had conducted the purges were also executed. By 1939 the only

member of Lenin's original Politburo who remained, was Stalin himself. (6)

In relation to foreign policy, Stalin exerted his influence to ensure that

all Eastern European countries (except Yugoslavia) had Soviet-imposed

puppet regimes. Stalin's domination was now total. After the war Stalin

succeeded in establishing a communist buffer zone between Russia and

Western Europe. Any resistance he met in establishing communist states was

quickly suppressed by intimidation and terror. For example Stalin

engineered a communist coup in May 1948 in Czechoslovakia in which a

government minister Masaryk was killed and the president was forced to

resign. (7) This served a warning to other countries against resisting

the communist regime.

Therefore it can clearly be seen that from the establishment of the state

that communism never had popular public support. It cannot be denied that

there was a significant minority who supported communism, but these were a

minority. Can an ideal and a leadership really be built on such a shallow

and flimsy basis? This essay would argue that the answer to this question

is no. For a leadership to lead, it must have strong support and

confidence. It must be seen to work for the good of the people and not

merely a vociferous minority. This, therefore, can be argued to be one of

the contributing factors in the downfall of communism.

A second related factor, which had a hand in bringing about the end of

communism in Eastern Europe was the fact that communism never really had

the support of the people. There was constant societal opposition to

communist rule in Eastern Europe. Although this was mainly in the form of

a passive rumbling dissent, there were occasional violent and active shows

of opposition to communist rule. The states of Eastern Europe in the post-

war period had been forced to adhere to the Moscow line. After 1956

however, with Khrushchev's new approach to Socialism and his denunciation

of Stalin, there were increasing calls for independence among the

communist bloc countries who had never been truly supportive of the

communist regime.

In East Germany in 1953 there were a series of strikes and protests. (8)

The Russians, under Stalin, used their armed forces to put down the revolt

and to protect East Germany's communist government. This shows the

importance of Soviet military force in maintaining communism's tenuous

grip on power. It also shows how weak communist rule in East Germany

really was, It was this event that sealed East Germany's fate as the USSR

realised that in a united Germany, the Communists would lose control.

Events eventually culminated with the building of the Berlin Wall which

was the ultimate expression of Soviet and communist force and coercion in

maintaining the communist regime.

Under Khrushchev, who had succeeded Stalin after his death in 1953, Poland

was the first to revolt against the communist regime. Polish workers

rioted and went on strike in 1956 and the Polish communist party also

revolted by refusing to accept the Russian general Rokossovsky as the

Polish Minister for Defence. (9) The situation was diffused by a

compromise which was made on both sides, with Poland agreeing to remain in

the communist Eastern bloc if the nationalist communist leader Gomulka,

who had been imprisoned by Stalin, was reinstated. The fact that

Khrushchev was willing to compromise illustrates again the precarious

position of communist rule.

The Hungarian revolution of 1956 was borne out of the relative success of

the Poles in achieving concessions for the Moscow leadership. (10) The

Hungarians decided to overthrow the Stalinist regime in their country. The

situation quickly deteriorated and on the 23rd of October the Hungarian

troops, who had been dispatched to end the riots, joined the civilians in

revolution. Soviet troops were called in and the Hungarian communist

party lost the little support which they had. Again Khrushchev tried to

diffuse the situation by offering a compromise, that is, the reinstatement

of the moderate communist leader Nagy. When it became clear, however,

that Nagy had every intention of pulling out of the Soviet communist bloc,

Khrushchev resorted to force and violence to maintain the communist grip

on Hungary. He ordered the return of Soviet tanks and troops to Budapest

on November 4th 1956. (11) Thousands were killed in a bloody street battle

until the Soviets had re-established their control. Nagy was arrested and

was executed two years later. A Soviet imposed communist regime under

Janos Kadar was set up. (12) The tenuous communist grip on control is

again illustrated here. Khrushchev was willing to barter, and eventually

use force, to maintain Soviet control. Without this force and coercion,

however, Hungary would have established its own brand of communist rule.

Khrushchev could not risk the domino effect that this action would have

had on the Eastern bloc. This societal opposition can, therefore, be taken

to be another contributing factor in the downfall of communist rule in the

Eastern bloc. If those in the alliance cannot cooperate and work together,

the alliance and the ideal cannot hope to survive.

Another important factor which this essay will discuss is that of the

influence of the West on the Eastern bloc. The Eastern bloc was already

aware of Western capitalist success as they were allies during the war.

Many of the Eastern countries, for example Hungary under Nagy or

Czechoslovakia under Dubcek, were in favour of a communist system with

some elements of capitalism, that is, a mixed economy or market socialism

and more elements of democracy. There had been a breakdown in relations

between the East and West due to tensions after WWII. After the war

Russia wanted to create a sphere of influence in the East over which the

West would have no say or control. This was not acceptable to the West who

wanted to see democracy installed in the East and who wanted to have a

continued input into the doings of the East. This conflict ventually led

to the Cold War.

Until Khrushchev became leader of the Soviet bloc, there had been no

significant contact between the two blocs. Those inside of the Soviet bloc

were completely cut off from the Western ideals. When Khrushchev came to

power, however, there as renewed hope in the West that there might be a '

thaw' in relations between the two blocs. Relations between the two blocs

did improve with Khrushchev attending a number of conferences and

meetings. For example a twelve-day visit to the US in 1959, a UN General

Assembly, also in 1959 and a later UN General Assembly meeting in 1960 in

the US. (13) Although then relations began to break down again due to the

building of the Berlin Wall in 1961 and the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962,

and the Eastern bloc became cut off once more, western ideas had already

managed to penetrate the East. (14) The information that the capitalist

West was thriving while the Communist Eastern bloc was stagnating and

underdeveloped, made communism and Soviet control even more unpopular.

In 1963 there again was an easing of tensions between the two blocs when

Russia and the US signed a test ban treaty which allowed the West's

influence to again creep into the East. (15) In 1964 Khrushchev was ousted

from power and Brezhnev with Kosygin took over from him. (16) In 1966 the

US and USSR agreed to a direct air service between Moscow and New York. In

1967 they, along with 60 other countries, signed the first international

treaty providing for the peaceful exploration of outer space. (17) In the

1970's a period of D_tente began. In 1970 West Germany and Poland signed a

treaty rejecting the use of force. West Germany and Russia ratified a

similar treaty in 1972. (18) In 1972 Nixon and Brezhnev signed the SALT I

treaty which was to limit the production of US and Russian nuclear weapons.

You are currently seeing 50% of this paper.

You're seeing 2404 words of 4807.

Keywords: communist east europe, communist eastern europe map, communist eastern europe ally of the soviet union, communist eastern european nations, communism in eastern europe after ww2, communism in eastern europe ap world history, communism in eastern europe melissa feinberg, communism in eastern europe definition

Similar essays


By: Matt E-mail: The Various in Wuthering Heights The Various in Wuthering Heights In the novel "Wuthering Heights" by Emily Bront', many relevant themes were portrayed. In this essay, I will be discussing the five most poignant themes, which in my opinion are "Good versus Evil","Revenge", "Status & Education","Lo...

78 reviews
Power of Judicial Review

Marbury v. Madison, one of the first Supreme Court cases asserting the power of judicial review, is an effective argument for this power; however, it lacks direct textual basis for the decision. Marshall managed to get away with this deficiency because of the silence on many issues and the vague wording of the Constitution. Duri...

153 reviews
Business and the environment

The relationship between corporations and the environment is a tumultuous one. Corporations have abused and violated the environment for generations. These actions have now become unacceptable in our present society. There is growing concern for our natural resources; the world's forests, waterways, and air are noticeably tainted. In the las...

71 reviews

By: Liz E-mail: According to the Curry School of Education, approximately 80% of students with learning disabilities receive the majority of their instruction in the general classroom ('.' 10 Oct. 1999). That number is expected to rise as teachers and pa...

3 reviews
Sobering Studies

By: Ramesh Ranganathan E-mail: A new study found students who doubt their abilities to handle bad moods or bad situations are more prone to drinking. This is just the latest in a number of alcohol studies coming out in relation to college students. College students are always easy targets for these surveys, since man...

111 reviews
Atsisiųsti šį darbą