The Communist Bloc: Rise, Expansion, and Collapse

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The Communist Bloc (1945-1982)

The Soviet Union and the “People's Democracies”

The Soviet Union emerged as a military superpower after World War II. Following Stalin's death in 1953, Nikita Khrushchev initiated a “de-Stalinization” process, but his successor, Leonid Brezhnev, halted the reforms.

In Central and Eastern Europe, the Soviet Union established “people's democracies” that imposed Soviet institutions. Despite this, living standards in these countries never reached Western levels.

China under Mao Zedong

A civil war erupted in China in 1945, leading to the communist victory in 1949. This resulted in the creation of two states:

  • People's Republic of China, led by Mao Zedong
  • Republic of China in Taiwan

Mao's regime maintained political control through the Communist Party and suppressed opposition. He implemented strict egalitarianism and controlled private life.

The Cuban Revolution

In 1959, a revolution led by Fidel Castro triumphed in Cuba. Castro established a pro-communist system characterized by single-party rule, a planned economy, and social control. Cuba became a platform for spreading communism in Latin America, with Che Guevara playing a key role.

The United States attempted to invade Cuba in 1961 but failed, leading to an economic blockade.

The Communist Bloc (1982-1991)

The Break-up of the Soviet Union

Gorbachev's Reforms

In 1982, the Soviet Union faced a severe political and economic crisis. Mikhail Gorbachev initiated reforms, including disarmament talks with the United States and “Perestroika” (a set of political and economic reforms aimed at democratization and liberalization).

These reforms faced opposition from both radical reformers and hardliners.

From the USSR to the CIS

In 1991, Gorbachev granted greater autonomy to Central and Eastern European countries. Shortly after, the USSR dissolved and was replaced by the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS).

The Break-up of the Communist Bloc

The European people's republics took advantage of the USSR's internal problems and initiated a reform process known as the “Autumn of Nations.”

The fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 symbolized the division of Europe. In 1990, German reunification was completed.

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