The Soviet Union in Eastern Europe 1949–68

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Map Code: Ax01034

Stalin demanded a Soviet ‘sphere of influence’ in eastern Europe at the 1945 Yalta Conference and, thereafter, set about the systematic imposition of Soviet control through Communist one party rule, economic integration (via the institution of Comecon), and military integration (through membership of the Warsaw Pact). In practice, subservience to the party line from Moscow was far from uniform. East Germany and Bulgaria proved the most compliant, under General Secretaries Ulbricht and Zhivkov respectively. However, in Yugoslavia, the leader of the wartime Communist resistance movement, Marshal Tito, went on to take control of the country in 1945. Initially allied with the USSR, his plans to absorb Albania and Greece alienated Stalin, who feared a powerful political entity in eastern Europe, and Yugoslavia was expelled from the Communist Information Bureau (Cominform) in 1948. While remaining Communist, Yugoslavia became non-aligned, receiving aid from, and enjoying commercial and diplomatic relations with, the West. Hoxha in Albania chose to align with Communist China rather than the Soviet Union. Romania under Gheorgiu-Dej, and then Ceacescu remained in the Warsaw Pact, but actively sought trade deal with western countries. Elsewhere, attempts at liberalization in Hungary and Czechoslovakia were crushed by Russian invasion in 1956 and 1968.

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