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Why did communism become established in Eastern Europe after the Second World War?

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  1. Introduction.
  2. The reasons why communism was implemented in Eastern Europe.
    1. Two 'exclusive zones of influence'.
    2. The efficient presence of the Red Army in the occupied countries.
    3. The Soviets chasing off the Nazis from Eastern Europe.
  3. The role East/West relations played in the politics of eastern European countries.
    1. The special cases of Finland, Czechoslovakia and Austria.
  4. How the 'take-over' was effective.
    1. The first phase: The communists attempt to lay firm foundations for the future.
    2. The second phase: Governments composed of coalitions.
    3. The third phase: Coalitions transformed into 'monolithic blocks'.
  5. Franz Borkenau on the establishment of absolute communist control.
  6. The use of nationalism as a tactic.
  7. Conclusion.
  8. Bibliography.

On the 25th of April 1945, shortly before the official end of the Second World War, American and Soviet soldiers meet at the Elbe river. But to reach the Elbe river, the Russian troops had to come all the way across Europe, and so across Eastern Europe. By the end of the same year, seven states occupied by the Red Army were led by communist parties , and Albania and Yugoslavia were also ruled by local communists. If we add to the report the fact that most of the eastern part of Europe will remain under communist ruling until the end of the 1980s, the question of why communism became established in those countries seems natural. In order to answer the essay question, it might be interesting, first to examine the different reasons that led to the establishment of communism, but also to try and understand how the situation was implemented. The reasons why communism was implemented in Eastern Europe are numerous, and many classifications are used among historians.

[...] Beyond the Stalinisation of the Popular Democracies and the alternative offered by Titoism, many different tactics were used to establish communism in Eastern Europe. Hugh Seton-Watson classifies the Soviet interventions in east European affairs following three patterns: 'direct political action based on the threat of military force, indirect political action, and economic action'[39]. We have already seen many examples of the first pattern, as proven by the presence of the Red Army, the Prague coup, the destruction of the democratic elites or the political trials and murders. [...]

[...] Eventually, communism became fully established in Eastern Europe through the Soviet influence or some internal factors as proved by Yugoslavia. Seton Watson explains that 'the prefabricated revolutions which between 1945 and 1948 brought nearly hundred million Europeans under Stalinist rule, were the first considerable triumph that could be claimed for the communist cause since the Bolsheviks seized power in Russia'[47]. Because of the necessity of protecting the model from the threat brought by the Cold War, the communists managed (and had to) take advantage of the post-war context. [...]

[...] The concept of 'zone of influence' is nothing but the creation of a buffer zone in Eastern Europe which would be used as a shield to protect the USSR itself. The relations East/West played a major role in the politics of eastern European countries. Borkenau explains that the only reason why the democratic forces in some countries were allowed to exist after the war was thanks to the decision 'not to confront the West in a head-on-fight'[18]. He also adds that the democratic forces of Eastern Europe 'could act, yet only in so far as there existed a chance for them to gain genuine Western support to an extent involving a real danger for Stalin'[19]. [...]

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