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Soviet Union


Continued Soviet influence over the East European countries belonging to the Warsaw Pact and Council for Mutual Economic Assistance (Comecon)--Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, East Germany, Hungary, Poland, and Romania--remained a fundamental regional priority of Soviet foreign policy in 1988 (see Appendix B; Appendix C). The CPSU party program ratified at the Twenty-Seventh Party Congress in 1986 designated these East European states as members of the "socialist commonwealth" (along with Cuba, Mongolia, and Vietnam) and depicted the establishment of socialism in Eastern Europe as a validation of "the general laws of socialism [communism]." By staking the validity of Marxist-Leninist ideology on the continuation of communism in Eastern Europe, the Soviet leadership in effect perceived attempts to repudiate communism as threats to the ideological validity of the Soviet system itself. The Soviet leadership expressed this sentiment in terms of the "irreversibility of the gains for socialism" in Eastern Europe. In the late 1980s, however, liberalization occurred, and the situation was tolerated by the Soviet leadership.

After the August 1968 Warsaw Pact invasion of Czechoslovakia, which ended a process of liberalization begun by the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia, the Soviet Union made clear the irreversibility of communism in Eastern Europe through statements that have come to be known in the West as the "Brezhnev Doctrine" and are termed by the Soviet Union as "socialist internationalism." In a speech delivered in Poland in November 1968, Brezhnev stated, "When external and internal forces hostile to socialism try to turn the development of a given socialist country in the direction of the restoration of the capitalist system . . . this is no longer merely a problem for that country's people, but a common problem, the concern of all socialist countries." The Brezhnev Doctrine was repeated in the 1986 party program's call for "mutual assistance in resolving the tasks of the building and defense of the new society," indicating no real change in this doctrine during the mid- to late 1980s. During his visit to Yugoslavia in March 1988, Gorbachev made statements that some Western observers termed the "repudiation of the Brezhnev Doctrine," signaling Soviet willingness to tolerate some political liberalization in Eastern Europe.

Soviet influence over Eastern Europe began with the Soviet occupation of territories during World War II. By 1948 communist regimes had come to power in all the East European states. In Yugoslavia, however, Josip Broz Tito, a nationalist communist who had played a major role in the resistance to the occupying German forces, opposed Joseph V. Stalin's attempts to assert control over Yugoslav domestic politics. Tito's actions resulted in Yugoslavia's expulsion from the Cominform in 1948 and the declaration of a trade embargo. In 1954, after Stalin's death, the Cominform ended its embargo. In May 1955, Nikita S. Khrushchev visited Belgrade and proclaimed the doctrine of "many roads to socialism," acknowledging Yugoslavia's right to a relatively independent domestic and foreign policy.

Leadership changes in the Soviet Union have often been followed by upheaval in Eastern Europe. Stalin's death created popular expectations of a relative relaxation of coercive controls. The slow pace of change contributed to domestic violence in three East European states--East Germany, Hungary, and Poland--within four years of Stalin's death in March 1953. In June 1953, the Soviet army peremptorily suppressed a wave of strikes and riots in East Germany over increased production quotas and police repression. In June 1956, four months after the Twentieth Party Congress at which Khrushchev delivered his "secret speech" denouncing Stalinist terror, anti-Soviet riots broke out in Poznan, Poland. In Hungary, anti-Soviet riots broke out in October 1956 and escalated immediately to full-scale revolt, with the Hungarians calling for full independence, the disbanding of the communist party, and withdrawal from the Warsaw Pact. The Soviet Union invaded Hungary on November 4, 1956, and Hungarian prime minister Imre Nagy was arrested and later executed. The events of the 1950s taught the Soviet Union at least three lessons: that the policy of teaching the younger generation in Eastern Europe to support Soviet-imposed communism had failed; that Soviet military power and occupation forces were the main guarantees of the continued existence of East European communism; and that some limited local control over domestic political and economic policy had to be granted, including some freedom in the selection of leading party officials.

Czechoslovakia's 1968 liberalization, or "Prague Spring" (which occurred during a period of collective leadership in the Soviet Union while Brezhnev was still consolidating power), led to a Warsaw Pact invasion in August 1968, illustrating that even gradual reforms were intolerable at that time to the Soviet Union. This lesson was illustrated again, but in a different form, during the events in Poland of 1980-81. The reforms sought by Polish workers-- independent trade unions with the right to strike--were unacceptable to the Soviet Union, but for a variety of reasons the Soviet Union encouraged an "internal invasion" (use of Polish police and armed forces to quell disturbances) rather than occupation of the country by Soviet military forces. The new Polish prime minister and first secretary of the Polish United Workers' Party, Army General Wojciech Jaruzelski, declared martial law on December 13, 1981, and banned the independent trade union movement Solidarity.

Gorbachev's political report to the Twenty-Seventh Party Congress in February-March 1986 emphasized the "many roads to socialism" in Eastern Europe and called for cooperation, rather than uniformity, in Soviet-East European relations. The new party program ratified at the congress, however, reemphasized the need for tight Soviet control over Eastern Europe. Additionally, the five-year plan ratified at the congress called for integrated perestroika (see Glossary) among the Comecon countries, with each East European country specializing in the development and production of various high-technology goods under arrangements largely controlled by the Soviet Union.

Gorbachev's emphasis on perestroika and glasnost' (see Glossary) domestically and within Eastern Europe was supported to varying degrees by the East European leaders in the mid- to late 1980s. The leaders of Poland, Hungary, and Bulgaria apparently supported Gorbachev's reforms, while the leaders of East Germany, Czechoslovakia, and Romania resisted far-reaching reforms. Although there were varying degrees of compliance in Eastern Europe with Gorbachev's reform agenda, in the mid- to late 1980s the basic Soviet policy of maintaining a high level of influence in Eastern Europe had not been altered, although the nature of Soviet influence apparently had shifted away from coercion toward political and economic instruments of influence.

Data as of May 1989

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