Divisions in Eastern Europe


Unrest began to Stir in the Eastern Bloc

  • When Khrushchev came to power, he made a speech criticisign Stalin's policies and began the process of 'de-stalinisation'.  The policies included the abolition of the death penalty and the freeing of poltical prisoners jailed under Stalin
  • Some satellite states hoped that their countries would also follow, as communism created a lot of economic hardship and poor living conditions increased anti-Soviet sentiment
  • Khrushchev abolished Cominform meaning that states in Eastern Europe would have more economic and political freedom from the USSR.  Khrushchev wanted the Eastern Bloc to remain communist- he just didn't agree with Stalin's approach.  He thought that giving the satellite states more economic independence would stabilise their communist regimes, but his plan backfired
  • These moves allowed tensions in the satellite states to surface.  Not all states had chosen communism, and saw the changes as a change to loosen ties with the USSR
  • In 1956, there was an uprising in Poland, and the USSR threatened to intervene, but eventually allowed the new government to follow their own version of communism.  This encouraged other states to consider revolt
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The Hungarian Revolt

  • The USSR helped put Rakosi, a brutal Stalinist, in charge of Hungary after WWII.  His authoritatian regime became increasingly unpopular, and in Octobe 1956, the people of Budapest protested against his government
  • Khrushchev allowed the liberal Nagy, who hoped that Hungary could be a neutral state, to take over from Rakosi as Hungarian Prime Minister
  • In November 1956, Nagy announced that Hungary would withdraw from the Warsaw Pact and hold free elections- ending communism there
  • The USSR felt it had to respond with force and make an example of Nagy, because if Hungary was allowed to turn away from communism, other satellite states might do the same
  • Khrushchev also wanted to use the crisis to assert his authority, as he had only held power for two years
  • Soviet tanks invaded Hungary in November 1956, and thousands of Hungarians were killed or wounded.  Nagy was arrested and hanged and Kadar became Prime Minister, and he ensured loyalty towards the USSR
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Consequences of the Hungarian Revolt

  • Khrushchev's brutal response to Hungary demonstrated to satellite states that disloyalty wouldn't be tolerated and it showed the Western powers that the USSR was still in control
  • It was a turning point for Khrushchev- his actions reasserted his authority over the satellite states and destroyed any illusions in the West that his leadership signified a 'thaw' in the Cold War
  • There was a lack of intervention from Western countries.  They condemned the USSR's actions, but thought that helping Hungary would risk a nuclear war.
  • The UN asked the USSR to withdraw from Hungary, but Kadar refused to take part in discussions, so the situation remained unresolved
  • The Western powers' reputation as upholders of democracy was discredited and their inaction sent a clear message to Eastern Europe that they wouldn't receive Western help to move away from the USSR.  The UN was shown to be weak
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