Unit 6: How Secure was the USSR's Control over Eastern Europe? …
Unit 6: How Secure was the USSR's Control over Eastern Europe?
During the 1980’s the USSR was having economic problems due to a lack of growth and over spending on the military and life for the average citizen in the USSR was decreasing in quality (corruption, low standard of living).
All the countries under control of the USSR eventually turned away from Communism. On Dec. 25th 1991, after the election of Boris Yeltsin, Gorbachev declared the USSR to be dead.
Because of these things, Mikhail Gorbachev decided to make some changes to the Communist system. One of these changes was called Glasnost,or “Openness”, this allowed more freedom of speech for the press and transparency in government. Another change was called Perestroika, or “Restructuring”, this allowed some elements of Capitalism into the USSR’s economy. Gorbachev also decreased the amount of money the government was spending on the military. He even brought back the Red Army from Eastern Europe and told the Communist countries there that they could do as they pleased.
Why did Hungarians hate Communism?
They disliked the Soviet army living in their country
Hungary had to pay them to stay in Hungary
They had Russian signs in Hungarian streets
Thousands of them
They had no freedom of speech
They feared the secret police
Catholic church was banned by the USSR
What did the Hungarian do about it?
Hungarians demanded to the USSR
They pulled down Stalin's statue
How did the USSR respond?
They killed some Hungarians
They put some in jail, mostly students
How did the Soviet Union Respond?
Troops performed public training exercises on the Czech border
USSR thought about imposing economic sactions
The USSR argued with Dubcek to slow him down
Finally, Soviet tanks moved into Czechoslovakia
Dubcek was removed from power
Even though Dubcek expressed loyalty to communism and the Warsaw Pact, Brezhnev was worried that the new ideas coing out of Czechsolovakia woud spread
There was little violent resistance
Eastern Europe leaders feared that their own people would demand the same freedom that Dubcek had allowed in Czechoslovakia
Why was there opposition in Czechoslovakia?
Czechs wanted less censorship, more freedom of speech, and a reduction in the activities of the secret police
There was only one political party in Czechoslovakia
Dubcek wanted "Socialism with a human face"
Problems in Poland
The polish economy was in bad shape
Poland's foreign dept was rising too
Price food was going way up
Overall economy was shrinking
Wages were not rising along with the price of goods
Solidarity continued call for strikes/boycotts against the government
Solidarity continued to broadcast its radio program
Lech Walesa met with leaders of foreign countries, and in 1990 became actual leader of Poland
The communist Gov't cracked down on these union strikes (arrests, loss of jobs)
Solidarity issued its 21 demands to the government, all were met
End of censorship/ free speech
Worker benefits equal to communist party members
Broadcasting of Catholic church
Elections of factory managers
Workers began to set up trade unions, which would organize strikes in order to make changes
Brezhnev(USSR) encouraged General Jaruzelski(Poland) to declare martial law
150,000 solidarity members were arrested
USSR placed tanks and troops on the border with Poland
Solidarity was declared illegal
Importance of Solidarity
The leader of solidarity, Lech Walesa, gave interviews and was seen as a true leader
The rest of the world paid attention to the situation in Poland
This was an organized movement, not street protests or riots
Khrushchev's insisted that Kennedy withdraw US troops from the city
On Augoust 13, 1961, east German soldiers erected a barbed-wire barrier along the entire frontier East and West Berlin, ending, all free movement form the East to West
The West's Reaction
Khrushchev ordered Ulbricht to avoid any actions that would increase tension
Kennedy said "Its not a very nice solution, but a wall is a hell of a lot better than a war"
On 27 October Soviet tanks pulled up to checkpoint Charlie and refused to allow any further
The communists said the wall was a protective shell around East Berlin
US diplomats and troops crossed regularly into East Berlin to find out how the Soviets would react
The capitalists said that the wall was a prison wall for all of them
Why was Leaving a problem for the USSR?
Those who were defecting were very often highly skilled workers or well-qualified managers
1,000 leaving communism meant crossing from East to West Germany
Why did Germans want to Leave?
Some left because of political reasons, some left for economical reasons
As standard of living in Eastern Europe fell further behind the west
The Hungarian Uprising showed that it was possible to fight communism
West Germany had freedom due to massive investment by the Western powers