Soviet Domination of Eastern Europe

Differing U.S. and Soviet Goals

The "Big Three;" Winston Churchill (England), FDR (US), and Joseph Stalin (USSR)
The "Big Three;" Winston Churchill (England), FDR (US), and Joseph Stalin (USSR)

At the end of WWII, relations between the U.S. and the Soviet Union quickly
deteriorated. They each had different goals in Eastern Europe, and the Soviets were not happy about how the U.S. escaped the war with such minimal losses. In the end, the U.S. emerged from the war as the world's richest and most powerful country. The U.S. lost only 400,000 troops and there was no fighting on American soil. On the other hand, the Soviet Union lost 8.6 million soldiers and about 26.6 million people (RIA Novosti). Soviet cities and factories were annihilated. Due to this, the Soviet Union's economy began to crash. The U.S. feared that the Soviets would attempt to turn Eastern Europe into an economic colony. This fear grew as the Soviet sphere of influence in Europe began to grow as well.




Eastern Europe's Iron Curtain; Soviets Build a Buffer

After WWII, the Soviets began to seek more land in Eastern Europe. The area had a history of invasion, and they wanted more land for ports and a buffer zone to prevent future invasions. To solve their problems they began to take control of Eastern European countries. This happened due to Soviet occupation in these countries after freeing them from the Nazis. They also had a considerable influence over many other Eastern European countries that were never occupied. The influence over Eastern Europe led to Joseph Stalin creating communist governments in these countries. The countries that had communist governments installed in them were Poland, East Germany, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Romania, Yugoslavia, Bulgaria, and Albania. Some of these countries were taken control of politically, while others were taken over with military power. For example, the Red Army was situated in Poland, Bulgaria, Romania, Hungary, Czechoslovakia and East Germany whereas the Soviets never occupied Albania and Yugoslavia but they still had a lot of influence on them (Curtis). Indoctrination was also used tactically to brainwash people into supporting them. In addition, the Soviets ordered the "abolition of feudalism" in areas where there was famine and land disputes (Suny 168). A combination of all of these tactics gained the support of the people in Soviet controlled nations.
Map of the area under Soviet control
Map of the area under Soviet control

The 3 main steps the Soviets took to build their buffer are:
1. They created a "genuine coalition of antifascists" (Kenez 160).
2. They slowly weakened all of the noncommunist parties using the Red Army's force (Kenez 160).
3. All of the countries became openly communist regimes and the original coalition was not needed.

The Soviets takeover of Eastern Europe was not supported by the United States. Stalin originally said that the people of Poland would be allowed to have "free and unfettered" elections, but then feared that the opposition would gain more power than him (Smitha). President Truman of the U.S. encouraged the Soviet Union to allow free elections in the countries they had power over, but Stalin would not refused. Truman later declared that he would not recognize no government "imposed upon any nation by the force of any foreign power" (Smitha).

Stalin's Speech

An Iron Curtain Divides

As a result of the war, Germany was split into two parts - East Germany and West Germany. East Germany was communist while West Germany was democratic. Berlin was also divided into two pieces. East Berlin, like East Germany, was put under the complete control of the Soviet Union (Southwick). On the other hand, West Berlin was divided between France, The U.S., and England. The Soviet control over East Berlin led to refugees fleeing to West Berlin to escape. The Soviets reacted by erecting the Berlin Wall; a wall that spanned the entirety of Berlin to prevent emigration. The Berlin Wall went down in history as a symbol for communism and oppression (Southwick).
The Berlin Wall
The Berlin Wall


As tension grew in Germany, the allies asked the Soviet Union to rejoin East and West Germany. The Soviets refused. To pressure the Soviets, the allies instituted their own currency in West Berlin. This only caused the Soviet Union to blockade East Germany from Western access. However, even though the blockade was lifted in May 1949, it had a lasting effect (Smitha). Winston Churchill said it best in his speech at West Minster College in Fulton, Missouri. "An Iron Curtain has descended" (Beck 533), dividing the communist Soviet Union from Western Capitalism. The Iron Curtain soon became the famous term to describe Soviet domination over Eastern Europe.



Citations


Works Cited
Beck, Roger B. etc al. "Cold War: Superpowers Face Off." Modern World History. 'Ed'. McDougal Littell. Evanston, IL: McDougal Littell, 2005. Print.
Curtis, Glenn E. "The Warsaw Pact." Sam Houston State University. Sam Houston State University, n.d. Web. 4 May 2011.
Halsall, Paul. "Winston S. Churchill: "Iron Curtain Speech", March 5, 1946." Modern History Source Book. Paul Halsall, Aug 1997. Web. 3 May 2011.
Kenez, Peter. A History of the Soviet Union from the Beginning to the End. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1999. 160-162. Print.
Maus, Derek C. Russia. Farmington Hills, MI: Greenhaven Press, Inc, 2003. 200. Print.
Rosenberg, Jennifer. "The Rise and Fall of the Berlin Wall." About.com. The New York Times Company, 2011. Web. 3 May 2011.
"Russia's Losses in WWII Estimated at Some 27 Million People." RIA Novosti. RIA Novosti, 2011. Web. 5 May 2011.
Smitha, Frank E. "Cold War: 1945-49." Macrohistory & World Report. Frank Smitha, n.d. Web. 2 May 2011.
Southwick, J. Wanless. "The Iron Curtain Divided Europe and Berlin." Southwick Research. J. Wanless Southwick, n.d. Web. 3 May 2011.
Suny, Ronald Grigor. The Rise of the Soviet Union. San Diego, California: Greenhaven Press, Inc, 2002. 167-170. Print.

Images, Video and Audio
"Berlin Wall." Wikipedia. Web. 9 May 2011. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Berlin_wall>.
"Big Three." Wikipedia. Web. 9 May 2011. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yalta_Conference>.
"Eastern Bloc Map." Wikipedia. Web. 9 May 2011. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eastern_Bloc>.
"Stalin's Speech." Web. 6 May 2011. <http://phobos.ramapo.edu/~theed/Cold_War/b_Stalin_era/d_long_telegram/Video_A_StalinSpeech.htm>