Behind the Iron Curtain, Stalin and the USSR controlled many of the Eastern Euroupean countries; these were the USSR's satellite states.
- Poland, East Germany and Hungary were almost 'slave colonies'.
- Hungary had to pay reparations to the USSR.
- Hungary had a hard line Communist leader called Rakosi.
- The standard of living became much worse - there were food shortages and labourers had to work longer hours with less pay.
- There were harsh prisons and labour camps.
- The secret police were a constant threat to the people.
- The satellite states were forced into signing the Warsaw Pact.
Polish revolts in July 1956 against harsh living and working conditions led to some reforms and a change in leadership granted by the USSR. This impacted events in Hungary.
The Hungarian Rising, 1956
After the death of Stalin, the harsh leader Rakosi was replaced in leadership by Nagy, but when in 1955 Rakosi took over, the Hungarians hated him. The riots in Poland encouraged the Hungarians to revolt for a change, as Khrushchev had accepted a change in leadership in Poland.
As the protest gathered strength, protesters and security police clashed at a radio station, Soviet tanks rolled into the city and a battle developed. Street fighting raged on for five days. The Hungarian rebels were backed up by the Hungarian army. Only the security police stayed loyal to the USSR. Hundreds of police were lynched by the rebels. The protests kept increasing and in October, riots broke out in Budapest. Stalin's statue was pulled down and dragged through the streets, and prisoneres were released. Rakosi was forced to resign and Soviet taknes rolled in. The more popular Nagy became Prime Minister and the Soviet troops withdrew. The Hungarians celebrated what looked like a victory.
The Hungarian Rising II, 1956
The new Hungarian government started to make reforms, which would lead to free elections, the end of the secret police (AVH) and the removal of the Soviet army of occupation. Khrushchev seemed to be accepting this. However, this changed when, on the 1st November 1956, Nagy demanded the right for Hungary to withdraw from the Warsaw Pact and to follow a neutral role in the Cold War.This was too much for the USSR. If Hungary withdrew from the Warsaw Pact, there would be a gap in the Iron Curtain and the Soviet buffer zone with the West would be broken. Free elections coul mean the end of Communism in Hungary. Other satellites might follow suit - that would lead to the end of the Soviet Union's precious 'buffer-zone' against the West.
Soviet troops re-entered Hungary on the 1st November 1956. By 4th November, 1000 Russian tanks had reached Budapest to crush the rising. Bitter street fighting followed. Desperate radio appeals were broadcasted; Nagy himself pleaded to the West for help, but none came. The Soviets seized the radio station and there was no organised defence after the 4th November. Two weeks of street fighting followed, in which 30,000 Hungarians were killed and 200,000 fled through Austria to the West. The Hungarians were no match for Soviet forces and a new pro-Soviet Communist government was set up under Kadar. Nagy was captured and promised a free passage out of Hungary but was later shot. Changes were made to avoid a repeat of events, but Hungary was now firmly in Soviet control. By November 14th, the fighting was over.
Summary of the Hungarian Rising
The USSR claimed that it had gone into Hungary to support Kadar and Hungarian patriots, who had formed a government of revolutionary workers to oppose Nagy. The Soviets claimed they were forced to do this because the government of Nagy had allowed itself to be dominated by a fascist mob, financed by the imperialist West. When the UN looked into the details of the rising, it found no evidence of popular support in Hungary for Kadar’s new government. The results of the rising for Europe and the Cold War were as follows:
- Between 2,500 and 30,000 Hungarians, mostly civilians, were killed along with 700 Soviet troops.
- Over 200,000 refugees fled Hungary and settled in the West.
- There was no active support for the rising in the West - the Americans simply protested.
- Other satellite states in Eastern Europe did not dare to challenge Soviet authority after Hungary.
- Khrushchev strengthened his position in the USSR and showed the West that peaceful co-existence had its limits.
- It marked a stalemate in the Cold War - the West did not interfere with Soviet activities in Eastern Europe.
Summary of the Hungarian Rising II
The Hungarian Uprising challenged America’s idea of Roll Back, which said that America should help the peoples of Eastern Europe if they revolted against the control of the Soviet Communists. When the Hungarians appealed for help from the Western countries, the USA did not send any aid, only sympathy; they were preoccupied with a presidential election, and were angry with Britain and France over their recent invasion of Egypt, so world attention had moved to the Middle East and away from Eastern Europe.
The Uprising also challenged Khrushchev’s ideas of ‘different roads to socialism’; on one hand, it seemed he was prepared to let the satellite states have a little more freedom and had begun to de-Stalinise the USSR, but here, when the Hungarians wanted to have more freedom by leaving the Warsaw Pact, the Soviet troops crushed the rebels and instigated a strict, pro-Soviet government, which clearing contrasted with Khrushchev’s statement.
The overall effect of the Hungarian Uprising on the Cold War was that it showed the world that despite the Thaw that had resulted from Stalin’s death, the Soviet Union was still determined to maintain their control over their satellite states, in order to preserve the Iron Curtain that separated East from West.
The Space Race, 1957 - 1972
The USSR developed the technology to fire a satellite into space before the USA> This not only upset the pride of the Americans, as they considered that they were superior to communist countries, but it also affected their security. This was because the space race was closely tied in with the development of nuclear weapons and the nuclear arms race. There was a fear that every crisis in this period of time could result in nuclear war.
Up to 1957, the USA were always ahead in the development of nuclear weapons. The launch of Sputnik 1 in 1957 changed this. The USSR was America's main enemy in the 1950s. To use nuclear weapons agains the Soviets, the USA would have to carry them in aeroplanes, which could easily be shot down. The launch of the Sputnik meant that the Soviets had developed rocked which could carry nuclear warheads and reach the USA.
The USA developed its own Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles (ICBMs) in 1957 and, by 1959, they could be stored underground and ready for use in 30 seconds. The firing of a Polaris missiles meant that a missile could be fired from the sea close to the USSR and therefore be more accurate. ICBMs were placed in friendly powers close to the USSR. The USA placed missiles in Turkey in 1959 and th USSR tried to place them in Cuba in 1962.
Nuclear deterrent and MAD
In the 1960s, both superpowers were intent on having enough nuclear weapons to be able to respond to an attack. They kept a check on the progress being made by the other power by a series of spy networks. Each superpower possessed enough weapons to destroy the other and therefore they were less likely to use them. They had to continue to build up these weapons to keep the balance, which was expensive, but prevented war. This was known as the ‘nuclear deterrent’.
By the end of the 1960s, the superpowers had enough nuclear weapons to destroy the rest of the world. This became known as Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD). The arms and space race may have prevented war, but they were extremely expensive.
The U2 Crisis, 1959 - 1962
As part of his policy of peaceful co-existence, Khrushchev had visited the USA in 1959 and it was agreed to hold a Summit Meeting of the leaders of the USSR, USA, Britain and France in 1960. The meeting was to be held in Paris and its purpose would be to solve some of the Cold War problems. There were high hopes that the USSR would since a peace treaty with Germany and there would be an end to the Cold War. These hopes were shattered when, just before the Summit Meeting was due to start, an American U2 plane was shot down over the USSR.
The U2 was a spy plane developed by the Americans. It could fly at high altitudes, out of the range of most planes. The Americans had been using them successfully for four years to spy on the Soviets. On the 1st May 1960, an American pilot, Gary Powers, took off from a US air base in Pakistan and flew over the USSR, taking photos of military sites in the USSR for the CIA. The first part of the flight was successful, but then the U2 was hit by a Soviet missile near the town of Sverdlovsk. Powers was forced to eject from the plane and was captured by the Soviets. The plane was recovered and the photos developed, so Khrushchev now knew that Powers had been on a spying mission.
The U2 Crisis II, 1959 - 1962
At first, Khrushchev simply announced that an American plane had been shot down over the USSR. The American immediately began to try to cover up the truth. They announced that one of their weather planes had gone missing over Turkey and must have gone off course. The Americans did not know that Powers had been captured and that he had admitted to spying. Moreover, the Soviets had the proof; the photos that had been found on the U2. Khrushchev announced this to the world on the 16th May 1960, demanding an apology from the USA and a promise to stop any future flights and to punish those responsible. The Americans had been caught spying and lying about it, but Eisenhower, the American President, refused to apologise. Eisenhower claimed on the 16th May 1960 that the USA had to use spying missions to protect itself. Khrushchev condemned the American response, stormed out of the Summit Meeting and withdrew his invitation to Eisenhower to visit the USSR. The Paris Summit and the thaw in relations between the superpowers were at an end.
Gary Powers was accused of spying and put on trial in the USSR. He was found guilty and sentenced to 10 years imprisonment. After serving part of his sentence, he was released in 1962 in exchange for a top Soviet spy who had been captured by the Americans.
The Importance of the U2 Crisis
- It ended the Paris Summit Meeting and the progress towards a solution to the Cold War. This meant that there was no Test Ban Treaty and the problem of Berlin remained, which lead to the building of the Berlin Wall.
- Peaceful co-existence was at an end.
- Eisenhower and the Americans were blamed for the failure. In the presidential election at the end of 1960, Eisenhower’s Vice President, Richard Nixon, was defeated by the democrat John F. Kennedy.
- It was a propaganda victory for Khrushchev and the USSR.
- America placed its forces on alert as it expected some form of retaliation from the USSR. The mistrust created by the U2 Crisis was partly responsible for the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962.
- Although Eisenhower had promised an end to all American spying missions, it led to an acceleration of work in the USA on new methods and systems for spying.
- The Chinese felt that it proved their belief that the USA could not be trusted, so peaceful co-existence would never work.
The Berlin Crisis 1958
After WWII, the West poured money into West Berlin as part of the Marshall Plan; they felt that a country with a weak economy was very susceptible to Communism, and so to prevent the spread of communism in Germany (the policy of containment in action), they rebuilt the West German economy with the aid. They also realised that by rebuilding the economy in West Berlin, an island of capitalism behind the Iron Curtain, they could use the city as an advertisement for capitalism to the other communist countries.
A rich West Berlin showcased to the communist countries behind the Iron Curtain the positive values of capitalist life; high quality living standards and luxurious goods readily available were among few of the things the city boasted to the East. Perhaps their tactic was to make the communist satellite states envious, and resist against Soviet influence.
In 1958, there was a second crisis over Berlin. Khrushchev demanded a) all allied forced to withdraw from Berlin leaving Berlin a demilitarised city, and b) East Germany, the German Democratic Republic, would gain control of the access routes to West Berlin. This might have left West Berlin defenceless and under East German/Soviet pressure. The West resisted and Khrushchev climbed down.
The Berlin Wall, 1961
Khrushchev had demanded the West give up West Berlin, but when the new American President, John F. Kennedy, refused to give up West Berlin in 1961 as a result of a Summit Meeting in Vienna (June 1961) between these leaders, Khrushchev decided to close the border between West and East Berlin. On the 13th August 1961, the Berlin wall was put up, later to be fortified in stone. Over two million people defected from East to West Berlin between 1945 and 1961, because they were jealous of the extravagant lifestyles of the West Berliners and wanted to have the same for themselves. Many of the people who defected were educate people and skilled workers whom the East could ill afford to lose. This was a severe embarrassment to Khrushchev and to Communism. It was also a hole in the Iron Curtain, which the Soviet Union had to plug before it influenced the other satellite states bordering the USSR.The East Berliners were terrified. Many had family in West Berlin and jobs, but could no longer see them without obtaining a permit to cross the border. Some people still managed to escape in the early days of the wall through the barbed wire separating East and West, but later, those who tried to escape were shot dead.
There were several advantages to the Soviet Union for building the Berlin Wall, arguing that Khrushchev’s decision was justifiable. However, the building of the wall was completely inhumane, and the number of people shot dead trying to cross the wall could have been as many as 200, which make the building of the wall very unjustifiable.
The Importance of the Berlin Wall
- It reduced the number of defections from East Berlin and sealed the hole in the Iron Curtain. There were around 5,000 successful escapes from East Berlin after the wall compared to over 2 million in the years before the wall.
- It ended up as a propaganda victory for the Americans. The shooting of people attempting to defect added to this as the Americans criticised the tyranny of the Communist rule, which had to use walls and force to stop its citizens from escaping.
- It stabilised the economy of East Germany - only one currency existed. The economy of East Germany certainly grew after the building of the wall, and the government of East Germany gained greater control of its citizens.
- It was settled peacefully: Kennedy's reaction showed that he did not want to lose face, but he did not want to go to war over Berlin. He successfullly overcame criticism from those in West Germany who wanted him to react in an aggressive manner.
- Plans for a united Berlin and Germany were ended. The USA no longer feared a repeat of the Berlin Blockade of 1948. The USSR had clearly given up all hope of taking control of West Berlin.
- It removed a likely area of conflict between the superpowers. Berlin had been a problem area since it was divided and they had almost come to blows over it in 1948 - 1949.
- The official number of deaths attempting to cross the wall was 138, though it could have been as many as 200.
Background of the Cuban Missile Crisis
Cuba is an island about 160km from the American mainland. Until 1959 it was ruled by the corrupt dictator Batista, who was friendly with the USA. American businessmen owned property and industry in Cuba and the USA was a major market for Cuban goods. In 1959 Batista was overthrown in a revolution led by Fidel Castro. Castro became leader of Cuba and wanted to get rid of all foreign influence in the country. He seized all the land owned by the Americans and nationalised American businesses. In retaliation, the USA refused to buy the Cubans’ main export, sugar cane, so Castro arranged to sell it to the USSR. The Americans became extremely concerned about Cuba. Castro was believed to be a communist and the USA feared any expansion of Communism. Moreover, the USSR now had an ally close to the USA.
Before Kennedy came to power, there was a plan to invade Cuba and link up with the opponents of Castro on the island. Kennedy was advised by the CIA that Castro could be over thrown if the USA supported a group of Cuban revels. With American support, a force of around 1,400revels landed at the Bay of Pigs in Cuba. They were trapped on the beach by Castro’s forces were unable to link up with any rebels on the island. As a result, they were easily defeated by Castro’s forces.
Background of the Cuban Missile Crisis II
This was a disaster for Kennedy. Many in the USA blamed him because he had refused to give air cover to the invasion as he did not want to be seen openly supporting the revels. The sympathy of the world was with Cuba, not the Americans. To make matters worse, the Americans still had a naval base at Guantanamo in Cuba and Castro feared that they would attack Cuba again, so he turned to the USSR for help. He announced that he was a communist and Khrushchev began to provide him with weapons and surface-to-air missiles (SAMs) that would be able to shoot down any attacking American planes. Moreover, Kennedy’s action made Khrushchev think Kennedy was weak, so Khrushchev tried to take advantage of this by supplying Cuba with long-range missiles that could be fired at the USA.
Because of the events of the Berlin Wall and the Bay of Pigs, Kennedy's reputation was tarnished. Khrushchev thought he could exploit Kennedy's youth and inexperience as a world leader to the USSR's advantage. The Soviet Union's new friendship with Cuba seemed an ideal invitation to establish military bases close to America.
Causes of the Cuban Missile Crisis
- Cuba became a Communist country in 1959 when Fidel Castro became leader. He wanted to make Cuba less dependent on America.
- In Berlin in August 1961 the Russians erected the Berlin Wall cutting off East Berlin from the Western part of the city.
- The CIA were very keen to get rid of Castro.
- The USSR in 1956 launched the first satellite in space using a rocket. By the late 1950s the Arms race between the USA and USSR was in full swing.
- In August 1965, 30 Soviet ships carrying missiles arrived in Cuba to establish military bases on the USA's doorstep.
- In November 1960, John F. Kennedy became the new President of the USA. He was keen to appear as the West's champion for freedom.
- In April 1961, the USA backed an invasion by Cuban exiles, the 2506 Erigade, who supported General Batista, the right-wing former dictator who had been overthrown by Castro. This was the Bay of Pigs invasions. It was a catastrophic failure for the Americans and exiles.
- By 1962, many Cuban exiles were living in Florida and were keen to return to the island and prepared to use force.
- American industries, such as the sugar industry business, had made huge profits in Cuba in the 1940s and 1950s before Castro came to power.
The Cuban Missile Crisis, 1962
August 1962: 30 Soviet ships with mysterious cargos arrived in Cuba. Later, Soviet technicians followed.
September 1962: America became worried about military bases on Cuba. Kennedy had warned Khrushchev not to put Soviet nuclear missiles on Cuba. Khrushchev denied any intention of doing so, but U2 photos showed missile bases being constructed in Cuba.
16th October 1962: An American U2 plane took photos of launch pads being built for long-range missiles on Cuba. At this stage, there were no missiles but, when in place, they could carry H-Bombs and could reach and destroy most cities in the USA within 20 minutes. Millions of American lives would be lost in such an attack. It brought the USA and the USSR to the brink of nuclear war.
22nd October 1962: Kennedy was faced with a difficult decision. If he ignored the missiles on Cuba and simply made a diplomatic protest as he had done over the Berlin Wall, it would appear that he had backed down and was weak. If he launched an attack on Cuba to remove the missile bases, it would involve loss of live. If there was a nuclear attack, it could provoke a nuclear war with the USSR and results in the destruction of much of the world. Soviet Ships with missiles on board were heading for Cuba. Kennedy decided that the best course of action was to put a naval blockade around Cuba.
The Cuban Missile Crisis II, 1962
22nd October: Kennedy announced that the sea within 800km of Cuba would be placed in quarantine and that no ships carrying weapons would be allowed through by the US navy. Kennedy called on Khrushchev to withdraw the weapons from Cuba. ExComm was established.
24th October: The blockade began. 100 American warships ringed Cuba. America made other military moves. Plans for an invasion of Cuba were drawn up. 52 bombers, armed with nuclear bombs, flew patrols. Rules for stopping and boarding Russian ships were agreed between politicians and America's naval forces. America got support for its action from allies in South America and Europe.
26th October: President Kennedy got a letter from Khrushchev. In it, the USSR offered to remove the missiles from Cuba if Kennedy promised not to invade Cuba and to end the blockade. Khrushchev also made it clear that he did not want to have the horror of nuclear war.
27th October: Another letter came saying that if the Russians remove the nuclear missiles, America would have to remove their missiles from Turkey. Kennedy responded to these two letters by agreeing to the first letter.
28th October: Khrushchev agreed to dismantle the sites on Cuba in return for the lifting of the blockade and Kennedy's promise not to invade Cuba.
The results of the Cuban Missile Crisis
- Nuclear war had been avoided. This crisis is normally regarded as the nearest that the world has ever been to nuclear war and mass destruction. It was the most tense moment in the war.
- The Soviets now had a communist ally near the USA, which started to balance out the allies that the USA had near to the USSR.
- Kennedy's reputation was increased; he was seen as strong, because he had stood up to Khrushchev and forced him to back down over the missiles. It restored his prestige after the failure of the Bay of Pigs invasion.
- Khrushchev had successfully protected Cuba and claimed that he was the peacemaker who had listened to the appeal of the UN to avoid war and seek peace.
- Both leaders understood how close they had come to war and realised that this was due to their policies of brinkmanship. This led to a shaw in the tension of the Cold War. A hotline was set up between Washington DC and Moscow so the leaders of the two superpowers could talk to each other directly. A Disarmament COnference was held in 1962, which resulted in the signing of a Nuclear Test Ban Treaty that banned the testing of nuclear weapons in the air or on the ground to avoid polluting the atmosphere. They could still be tested underground.
- Although Kennedy had refused to withdraw American missiles in Turkey because it would cause a division in NATO, he secretly agreed to withdraw them a few months later.
The Prague Spring, 1968
Czechoslovakia was the last of the satellite states to be communist in 1948. It had applied for Marshall Aid from the USA but Stalin had prevented this. From 1948 to 1968 it was ruled by Novotny, who was loyal to the USSR. Czechoslovakia had been a democracy from 1919 to 1938 and objected to the control that the Soviets placed on it. The Czechs wanted more freedom in their lives and wider trade. In January 1968, Novotny was forced to resign and was replaced by Alexander Dubcek, who believed in 'socialism with a human face'.
- Censorship of the press and radio were removed.
- Powers of the secret police were reduced.
- Government control of industry and agriculture was reduced.
- Trade unions were given greater powers.
- Different religions were allowed.
- Czechs were permitted to trade with the West and travel there.
- Borders with the West were opened.
The USSR were worried that the introduction of free speech would lead to demands for more freedom in the USSR and its satellite countries. Communist leaders felt increased freedom would weaken the position in their own countries. Czechoslovakia would look more to the West, causing a gap in the Iron Curtain. (Political and Strategic reasons)
The USSR invade Czechoslovakia, 1968
Brezhnev, the Soviet leader, tried to negotiate. Dubcek was consulted and the position of Czechoslovakia was discussed by all the Warsaw Pact countries. Dubcek constantly maintained that Czechoslovakia was still communist and would remain within the Warsaw Pact.
20th August 1968: Soviets invaded from the Warsaw Pact countries with tanks and 400,000 soldiers in troops.
- Arrests of leading Czechs began.
- Passive resistance from the Czechs meant fewer than 100 people were killed.
- Demostrations against invaders and some Soviet tanks were attacked with homemade bombs or covered in whitewash.
- Street cartoons appeared to criticise the Soviet invasion.
- Reforms of the Prague Spring were withdrawn.
- In January 1969, Jan Palach (a student) set fire to himself in Prague in protests at the restrictions of Czech freedom.
- Dubcek was recalled to Moscow and replaced by Husak. He was allowed to return as a minor official, but eventually, he was dismissed from the Communist party.
After about a year, the opposition died down; the Soviets had restored their control by force.
The Brezhnev Doctrine and the effects of events in
The Brezhnev Doctrine was the name given to the statement to explain Soviet intervention in Czechoslovakia. The Soviet leader made it a policy in a speech in November 1968, which made it clear that any country which attempted to break away from Soviet control would be regarded as a threat to all the Warsaw Pact countries. This put an end to any hopes of reforming Communism. The Doctrine remained in force until it was revered in 1989 by President Gorbachev.
- The suppression of Dubcek’s reforms and the Brezhnev Doctrine sent a clear signal to the rest of the satellite countries that the USSR would resist any attempt to break away from Soviet-controlled Communist countries.
- It ended all attempts to reform Communism from within - this would not be allowed by the USSR.
- The Czechs became even more resentful of Soviet rule, but realise that there was little they could do about it. Over 250,000 emigrated in the years after 1968.
- The West disapproved of the Soviet action, but did nothing. Relations had been better with the USSR since Cuba and the YSA realised that any action on behalf of Czechoslovakia would ruin this. It was another example of the USSR being allowed to control its area of influence without interference. The invasion of Czechslovakia was no threat to the security of the USA or any NATO country, so the USSR was left to get on with it.