Europe 1945 - 1950

Europe 1945 - 1950

Between 1945 and 1950, hostilities began to emerge between the victors of World War Two. The city of Berlin became a focal point of this incipient discord. Stalin tried to push the other Allies out of Berlin with a blockade; America retaliated with a vastly expensive air lift. These events in Berlin confirmed many people’s burgeoning fears about Communism and Joseph Stalin’s intentions.

After the Second World War, Soviet Russia started to build barriers between herself and the West. The promises that Stalin made during the war conferences were broken. Communist governments were imposed on all eastern European nations except Yugoslavia. These actions were justifiable to Stalin: Russia had suffered hugely during the Second World War. He therefore wanted to create a buffer zone around Russia to protect the country in the event of a another war.

Clement Attlee, Harry Truman and Joseph Stalin at the Berlin Conference, 1 August 1945
Clement Attlee, Harry Truman and Joseph Stalin at the Berlin Conference, 1 August 1945

What happened in these buffer zone countries?

Poland:

In Poland, non-communist leaders were killed. The Russians were already viewed in an unfavourable light in Poland. The Russians had stayed outside of Warsaw during the uprising of 1944 and had failed to help the city’s inhabitants. In 1947, a sham election took place, in which the communists won 400 out of 450 seats. These communists were people loyal to Moscow.

Hungary:

In Hungary, the most popular political party was the Independent Smallholders’ Party. The Soviets held Eastern Europe’s only free election in Hungary in November 1945.

The Hungarian Communist Party won only 17 per cent of the votes. The Smallholders’ Party won 57 per cent of the vote: a clear majority. However, the centre-right Party was pressurized into forming a coalition in which Communists held several important positions. For example, the leader of the Communist party, Mátyás Rákosi, was given the post of deputy Prime Minister. The Communist László Rajk was made minister of the interior. In this post, he was able to create the notorious Hungarian security police force (ÁVH). Gradually, the Smallholders’ Party were forced out of politics. Several leaders of the Party were arrested in 1947. By 1950 the Communists ruled Hungary and any pretense of democracy had been dropped.

Romania:

There was an election in November 1946, which the communists won.

Bulgaria:

In Bulgaria, non-communist leaders were killed. In October 1946, the communists won a massive victory.

Yugoslavia:

Yugoslavia was a thorn in the side of Stalin. The people of Yugoslavia were loath to replace Nazi rule with Stalinist rule. They were led by Tito, a wartime guerilla leader who was idolised in his country. In the November 1946 election, Tito and his People’s Front won 96 per cent of the votes. Even Stalin could not overthrow a leader with such huge support.

Yugoslavia also had an extensive coastline on the Mediterranean Sea. America would not have wanted Russia to have instant access to the Mediterranean. If Yugoslavia was independent of Moscow, Stalin's southern naval fleet was trapped in the Black Sea. Any movement to the Mediterranean could be easily detected in Turkey. In 1946, Stalin could not afford to provoke America as the latter still had atomic supremacy.

Greece:

In Greece, the majority of the people (70 per cent) were supported the monarchy. The Communists’ attempted takeover of Greece lasted for four years (1946 to 1949). Ultimately it failed. This situation in Greece led to the "Truman Doctrine".

Conclusion

From 1945-1950, Stalin established a firm grasp on most of Eastern Europe. Winston raised his concerns about the increasing influence of Soviet Russia in his ‘Sinews of Power Speech’, on 5 March 1946. He remarked tha

"From Stettin in the north to Trieste in the south, an iron curtain has descended over Europe."

Initially, Stalin could not seriously provoke America because of her nuclear capabilities. This all changed in 1949 when Russia detonated her first Atomic bomb.

See also: Berlin after 1945

MLA Citation/Reference

"Europe 1945 - 1950". HistoryLearning.com. 2015. Web.