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Author Topic: USSR swallows up Eastern Europe after WW2  (Read 4730 times)
Judäischen Volksfront
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« on: November 05, 2009, 07:13:13 pm »
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What I don't understand is why did the USSR keep Poland, Hungary, etc as nominally independent states instead of proclaiming them as the Polish SSR, Hungarian SSR, etc? How would history have turned out if this happened instead?
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« Reply #1 on: November 05, 2009, 07:20:28 pm »
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It was done, in part, for security purposes. And in practice, how much of a difference was there, hmm...
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« Reply #2 on: November 05, 2009, 11:44:32 pm »
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The Eastern Bloc countries had no real autonomy.  They still had to submit to all of Moscow's central plans, and their leaders were pure Soviet puppets.

Incorporation of these territories into the physical geography of the Soviet Union would have been seen as a step too far by the West, and would almost certainly have triggered a war.

Why risk that when you can get the same effect for free?
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Хahar
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« Reply #3 on: November 06, 2009, 12:26:24 am »
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Certain Eastern European leaders would not have taken this well.
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« Reply #4 on: November 06, 2009, 02:35:35 am »
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What made them "swallow" the ones they did swallow though?  Were the swallowed ones already more "Russian" at the time?  What is the big difference between say, the Ukraine and Poland?  Latvia and Romania?  Georgia and Hungary?
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« Reply #5 on: November 06, 2009, 03:37:29 am »
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What made them "swallow" the ones they did swallow though?  Were the swallowed ones already more "Russian" at the time?  What is the big difference between say, the Ukraine and Poland?  Latvia and Romania?  Georgia and Hungary?

The answer is: Russian Empire.

Apart from Poland, all the other territories were Russian not long before !
And even in the case of Poland, Stalin pushed it far away towards the West and grasped back a big part of Czarist territories there.

And Xahar is right. Putting inside the USSR East and Central European countries would have resulted in a dangerous rise of nationalism. Even a part of the left (I mean, socialists who let themselves being swallowed by new regimes), even some communists would have opposed it.
Albania would have been too far away.
Yugoslavia would of course have refused this.
And in East Germany, that would have been really too much for the West, and even for the East Germans.

It was far more efficient to keep formal independence, because the point of "patriotism" worked well to appease some tensions and delay some internal oppositions.

Think about Ceausescu and his nationalism in the 1960s-1970s, which wasn't a real problem for the USSR, but was very efficient to keep a straight control inside the country.

Think about the way Gomulka or Kadar managed to reduce opposition with "patriotic" arguments. Even Jaruzelski used it to justify the martial law.

The only countries where it might have worked for a while: Bulgaria and a separated Slovakia (because not being with the Czechs would have been a small compensation for losing independence).
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« Reply #6 on: November 06, 2009, 07:05:39 am »
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What made them "swallow" the ones they did swallow though?  Were the swallowed ones already more "Russian" at the time?  What is the big difference between say, the Ukraine and Poland?  Latvia and Romania?  Georgia and Hungary?

Georgia was added to the Soviet Union in, what, 1919 or 1920 after they ousted the Menshevik government there so is different to the others. And, well, they did "swallow up" a large part of Poland...
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« Reply #7 on: November 06, 2009, 08:06:27 am »
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Well for a start the USSR only really had near-control over five nations in the Eastern Block: DDR, Czechoslovakia, Poland, Hungary & Bulgaria. The situation in Romania, Yugoslavia (where for a communist country the country's economy was ridiculously dependant on the US) and Albania was different.

The second is that the boundaries of the CCCP and the Russian Empire were near identical - this though is somewhat by accident - the boundaries of the revolution happened to end there but that wasn't Lenin planned - he wanted to invade Romania in 1919 (to save Bela Kun among other things...) but Ukranian Peasant uprisings against his policies got in the way, he did invade Poland in 1920. He actually happened to expand the terriority of the old Russian Empire in Central Asia to a small extent. But there was no chance of expansion after the civil war so....

Also as Al pointed out in the case of Georgia the left tended to be anti-bolshevik; similiar story in many of the minority regions in the old Russian Empire. There wasn't really a bolshevik tradition (no, that's the wrong word, but it will have to do) in most of the future Soviet republics. Remember before WWI the Bolsheviks had been a tiny party with all of its major leaders in exile; an irrelevance compared to the SRs - and what bolsheviks there were tended mostly to be Russian. Of course by 1945 the same lack of tradition or support could not be said for Eastern Europe (and even then Stalin had to purge the Eastern European communist parties after 1945 to make sure they were 'compliant').
« Last Edit: November 06, 2009, 08:11:55 am by Ghyl Tarvoke »Logged



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« Reply #8 on: November 06, 2009, 08:31:35 am »
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The Eastern Bloc countries had no real autonomy. 

Independence, no of course not. But, esspecially in regard to Poland and Hungary after 1956 I would not tell about lack of autonomy.
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« Reply #9 on: November 08, 2009, 01:50:13 am »
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There was apparently some discussion near the end of WWII about incorporating Poland into the USSR - Wanda Wasilewska, a leading Polish Communist, favored it.

Also, had the Soviet-Finnish War gone better for the Soviets, Finland would, like the Baltic States, become a Soviet Socialist Republic. (As it was, Stalin did create a "Karelo-Finnish SSR" out of Russian Karelia and the regions taken from Finland in 1939 - although, that Republic was annexed by the Russian SFSR in the '50s.)

And, Bulgaria's Communist Dictator, Todor Zhivkov, reportedly expressed interest in becoming a 16th SSR in the 1960s, although it isn't clear how serious his offer was or whether he was simply sycophantically trying to curry favor with Soviet leaders. (There's no evidence Soviet leaders took the offer seriously at all.)
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« Reply #10 on: November 08, 2009, 08:54:55 pm »
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What made them "swallow" the ones they did swallow though?  Were the swallowed ones already more "Russian" at the time?  What is the big difference between say, the Ukraine and Poland?  Latvia and Romania?  Georgia and Hungary?

The answer is: Russian Empire.

Apart from Poland, all the other territories were Russian not long before !

Which territories? You must mean the opposite: apart from Poland none had been Russian.

But then, for that matter, the same was true of Western Ukraine and Eastern Prussia: neither Lviv nor Koenigsburg had ever been part of the Russian Empire.
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« Reply #11 on: November 08, 2009, 08:57:25 pm »
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The Eastern Bloc countries had no real autonomy. 

They did a lot more autonomy than any part of the USSR. Some of them where tightly controlled (though not, say, Romania), but they did have some autonomy.
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« Reply #12 on: November 08, 2009, 09:14:40 pm »
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It was done, in part, for security purposes. And in practice, how much of a difference was there, hmm...

A lot. In practical terms, there was a lot of difference.

Start from the fact that there were, actually, two iron curtains.

An Eastern German could, possibly with some paperwork, travel to Poland or to Hungary or whatever. His trip to USSR was a bit harder to do, though not impossible (still, once in the USSR he'd be subject to a lot of restrictions: a Bulgarian foreign student in Moscow would need a permit to travel out of town, for instance, nor would he be able to go to areas "closed" to foreigners, etc.). In more liberal countries, such as, say Hungary, a native could even travel occasionally to the West, sort of, as a matter of course, at least by the early 80s (say, every few years and if there were no bad problems on file, etc. etc.). Even in Eastern Germany the level of contacts w/ the West was infinitely higher than that normal inside the USSR proper.

A Russian could buy a train ticket and go to Estonia, no questions asked. But travelling further west was very, very difficult. Normally, the first foreign trip would have to be to a super-safe place, such as Bulgaria. Before the trip (which would almost inevitably have to be sponsored by, say, his union organization), such Russian tourist/visitor would have to go to the district Party Committee, where he'd be examined on all sorts of matters, with probing questions asked about how he'd respond to "provocations" while abroad (yes, "provocations" in Bulgaria).  If the first trip were a success (i.e., nobody reported anything bad, etc., etc.) one could hope to be allowed to go to, say, Czechoslovakia. Only after some trips to sociallist countries could a trip to a capitalist country or Yugoslavia be authorized (Yugoslavs were treated as capitalists for these purposes). Any minor hiccup on file and all foreign trips would be cut for the individual in question. Being "vyezdnoj" (literally, "exitable") even to sociallist countries was a big privillege, that would be the first one to be withdrawn if there were any doubts.

Politically, there were big issues as well. Zhivkov in Bulgaria or Hoenecker in GDR were actual local "number ones". Within the Soviet Union the nominal leaders ("First Party Secretaries") would also be local ethnics. However, more often than not, the true power belonged to the "Second Secretary", who'd almost always be an ethnic Russian sent from Moscow. Even if the strong First Secretary actually had the real authority (some of them would be on the Politburo, etc., far outranking the "seconds" in the hierarchy), he had to tolerate a Moscow emissary as his second in command. 

There were many ways in which the satelites were "tansitional" in terms of the degree of control between the USSR and the rest of the world. It did make a lot of difference for them.
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« Reply #13 on: November 08, 2009, 09:22:41 pm »
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Annexing Eastern Europe would have mean abolishing the Soviet frontier. Even the Baltics and Western Ukraine were not always fully safe acquisitions. Not only they continued active armed struggle till about 1953 (Lithuanian war was quite bloody, as was its Ukrainian counterpart), but even once absorbed they were viewed as a bit of "domestic West", "domestic abroad". Many people always liked to go to, say Estonia, for a bit of "freedom": Estonians were always a tiny bit apart, not like the others (hey, they continued to produce chewing gum for decades until the Soviet food industry decided to do it - and they had their own kinds of chewing gum always! I tell you: for a little Soviet chap Estonian chewing gum was always akin to an illicit look abroad).

Now, the Balts are few in number, but Eastern Europeans are numerous. Even if they didn't revolt at annexation (Poles would for sure; some others might as well), they'd be very hard to integrate. The'd look different, talk different, think different, they'd be subversive - and they'd be in full contact w/ the Russians.  It might not matter as much as long as Stalin was alive, but in the relatively vegetarian years after his death this arrangement would become very unstable.  Had such annexation been attempted, the USSR would have broken up by 1970, in my opinion.
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« Reply #14 on: November 09, 2009, 06:33:53 am »
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What made them "swallow" the ones they did swallow though?  Were the swallowed ones already more "Russian" at the time?  What is the big difference between say, the Ukraine and Poland?  Latvia and Romania?  Georgia and Hungary?

The answer is: Russian Empire.

Apart from Poland, all the other territories were Russian not long before !

Which territories? You must mean the opposite: apart from Poland none had been Russian.

But then, for that matter, the same was true of Western Ukraine and Eastern Prussia: neither Lviv nor Koenigsburg had ever been part of the Russian Empire.

Yeah, my sentence was unclear, indeed...

You're right for Western Ukraine and you're right it's a good example of what would have occurred in Eastern Europe in case of "swallowing up" by the USSR: armed rebellions.
But, my point was that MOST Ukraine was in the Russian Empire. And, well, even in the Catholic West, the Ukrainian "ethnicity" (I know, it's stupid to call it like that) and common origin made Ukraine far closer to Russia than the Polish territories which were inside the Russian Empire.

As for Eastern Prussia, you can't really say the same: how many Germans left in Königsberg in 1945-46....? Well, the history of this territory "disappeared".
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« Reply #15 on: November 09, 2009, 08:51:05 am »
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Just returnning to previous point.

I would strongly disagree that countries had no autonomy.

After 1956 Poland has the least repressive regime, with Hungary coming very close second.

In 1956 new Polish leadership, in much of USSR displeasure, kicked off stalinist officers from the army and send them back to Moscow, including Marshal Rokosowski.

In 1970/1980 both Gierek and Jaruzelski dealed with opposition, which would be unthinkeable for Moscow comrades.
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« Reply #16 on: November 09, 2009, 08:56:56 am »
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Just returnning to previous point.

I would strongly disagree that countries had no autonomy.

After 1956 Poland has the least repressive regime, with Hungary coming very close second.

In 1956 new Polish leadership, in much of USSR displeasure, kicked off stalinist officers from the army and send them back to Moscow, including Marshal Rokosowski.

In 1970/1980 both Gierek and Jaruzelski dealed with opposition, which would be unthinkeable for Moscow comrades.

Yep, and of course, there was Romania.

And Hungary, with Kadar guaranteeing the USSR that there wouldn't be any more revolt and any more independent foreign policy, but gaining some greater autonomy in internal affairs.

And even Bulgaria in the 1950s, with some "troubling" relations with Tito...

And even Czechoslovakia in the 1970s, again with good relations with Yugoslavia (even though that may have been a way for the USSR to "test" indirectly something with a declining Tito).
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« Reply #17 on: November 09, 2009, 09:34:51 am »
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It would have been interesting if Karelia would have been still Soviet Republic in 1991 and become a independent state. The annected parts of Finland were only partly combined with Karelian SSR. Part of them became part of Leningrad oblast and Murmansk oblast.
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« Reply #18 on: November 09, 2009, 12:47:57 pm »
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It would have been interesting if Karelia would have been still Soviet Republic in 1991 and become a independent state. The annected parts of Finland were only partly combined with Karelian SSR. Part of them became part of Leningrad oblast and Murmansk oblast.

Well, the bulk of lands taken from Finland weren't part of Karelia, and the bulk of Karelia had never been Finland. Still, it would have been quite interesting Smiley
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« Reply #19 on: November 10, 2009, 06:11:38 am »
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Otto Kuusinen was an example of what would have occurred in the Politburo, had USSR "swallowed up Eastern Europe after WW2"...
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