The Sovietisation of Eastern Europe 1945-1968
Sovietisation of Eastern Europe 1945-1968 World war two saw a grand alliance of Britain, America and Russia created in order to defeat their common enemy, Adolf Hitler.In pursuit of this goal they attended a number of conferences to plan their attacks and to decide on the future of post war Europe.At Teheran in 1943 Churchill voiced concerns about the post-war situation in Eastern Europe, he was afraid that victory over the Nazis would leave the USSR in control of Eastern Europe.
To prevent this from happening he proposed that the Anglo-American’s open up a second front in the Balkans.
Stalin rejected this proposal as he knew it would thwart his plan to extend his ‘sphere of influence’ in Eastern Europe after the war, and insisted the second front be opened in France. The war in Europe was nearly over when the allied leaders met at Yalta. While there was general agreement on how to deal with Germany, Churchill and Stalin had different ideas when it came to Poland.
Stalin wanted the communist-dominated Lubin committee to form the new government, whereas Churchill spoke out in favour of the London based Polish government in exile. It was agreed that a coalition government would be created but no decision was made on where Poland’s borders would be drawn after the war. The question of Poland was raised again at Potsdam. Stalin got two leaders to accept the Lubin government but he promised that after the war free elections would be held. Moscow saw control of Eastern Europe as essential to soviet security.
Stalin had lived through two German invasions of his country and he was determined that the USSR would never again face the threat of invasion from the West. He believed that if the counties to the west of the USSR were ‘friendly’ they would act as a ‘buffer zone’ between the USSR and Western Europe. However as the ‘grand alliance’ had disintegrated and the Cold War intensified Stalin presses on with his plan which usually involved three stages. In Poland, after the war, sixteen of the twenty five members of the Polish government were communists.
This resulted in an intense power struggle between the communists and the more popular Peasants Party and Socialist Party. While Stalin had promised that the elections would be free and fair, they were anything but. In the 1947 election the communists won 80% of the vote and a one-party communist state was created. The Catholic Church became the main opposition voice in Poland with Cardinal Wyszynski imprisoned for his support of resistance groups. Despite this, the sovietisation of Poland lasted 40 years.
In Hungary the communists initially formed only a small part of a national government after the war. In the 1945 election the communists only won 17% of the vote while the Smallholders Party won 60%. However, under pressure from the Soviet Union the PM Tidly was forced to appoint a communist Rakosi as his deputy and Rajk as minister of the interior, latter position meant that the communists controlled the police and the legal system and they used this to terrorise members of the opposition parties.
In the 1947 election the communists won 24% of the vote but by merging with the social Democrats they were able to get the Parliament to pass a new constitution in 1949. The coalition government in Czechoslovakia lasted longer than in other eastern bloc countries. The democratic parties held the majority in this government with Benes as president and Jan Masaryk as Foreign Minister. However as had happened in other eastern bloc countries a communist, Gottwald, was appointed PM and they also controlled the Ministry of the Interior.
Benes hoped to establish Czechoslovakia as a ‘bridge’ between East and West, capable of maintaining contact with both sides and so in 1948 hoped to participate in the Marshall Plan. This resulted in a coup by the communist party with the help of the red army and on the 9th of May a new constitution was introduced which created a soviet-style government. Stalin proceeded to tighten his grip on East Germany and trouble erupted in berlin in 1930 when the government demaned extra productivity from the workers.