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History 59: Class 21 The Eastern Blocks 1950s/1960s & 1968 in East

and West
A. Thaw? And Repression in Eastern Europe 1953 61
a. 1947 Crackdowns one party states institutionalized, satellite
system with Soviet Union in center of Eastern Europes spread of
i. Change and fluidity exited. Perceptible change with Stalins
b. Stalins Death, 1953
i. Power struggle for 4 years, before Khrushchev came to
ii. Reminiscent of Stalin himself, humble background.
iii. Cultivated image of being country-rooted, put on persona to
disarm opponents
iv. Secret Speech in 1956 closed door meeting of the Party
Congress denounces Stalins methods
1. He himself had participated in some of these methods
(part of the apparatus and complicit with the whole
2. Denounced him as incompetent.
3. In doing so, Khrushchev consolidates own power within
Communist Party at the risk of destabilising USSR and
Eastern bloc
4. In 1958, he fully consolidated power with slightly less
dictatorship from center
c. Uncertainty in the USSR before and during Khrushchevs rule
i. Decentralised economic planning from center, more
autonomy to regional authorities
ii. Stalins body from Lenin mausoleum removed
iii. Stalins name was removed from street names
iv. Slightly more intellectual freedom
1. One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich written, open
discussion of Stalins gulags
2. Focus on agriculture domestically. Still not up to 1928
pre-collectivisation levels
3. 90 million acres soldiers sent to cultivate the land for
wheat not a roaring success
v. Foreign affairs
1. Conciliatory or provocation?
a. Met Eisenhower in 1955, Iowa tour in 1959,
visited 20th Century Fox Studios to learn from
American practices on farm etc.
2. Provocateur US and USSR embroiled in UN
involvement and regime change in the Congo in 1960.
Increased pressure on Berlin with 1961 introduction of
Berlin Wall, 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis
a. Kennedy, president of the time, had 2 messages
sent to him (one softer message, one harsh
message) unclear of Soviet stance
emblematic of Soviet foreign policy (conciliatory
or provocative?)

3. Thaw or rigidity?
d. Resistance in Eastern Europe: Poland, Hungary, Germany
i. Stalins death in 1953 unleashed way of relief and revolt
across peoples democracies
ii. Life had grown increasingly bleak with low wages, sustenance
problems under one party rule. They believed in socialism,
but disillusioned due to low quality of life
iii. 1953 Czechoslovakia protests when regime confiscated
peoples savings to rebuild society
iv. East Berlin strike that developed into armed revolt Soviet
repression 25 killed, 600 repressed
1. Its still a mess! little reconstruction efforts Soviet
policy was still about extracting from Germans.
2. Domestic regimes tried to take a more conciliatory
approach, feared Soviet intervention (inspired by
Soviet Union but would prefer autonomy)
3. This goes furthest in Hungary (Socialist Premier)
a. Imre Nagy decided to relax or halt
collectivization, allowed some to disband, more
resources directed to consumer goods, relaxed
censorship, Hungarian route to Socialism talked
about attempting to remove Soviet influence
b. Muscled out by hardliners in 1956 that wished to
stick closer to Soviets.
c. Communists intellectual however demonstrated,
but authorities forbid sympathy demonstration
for Poles. 200 000 people go into streets, Nagy
recalled to try and quell popular unrest.
d. Rural collectives rise up in protest as well
e. Oct 29 government announces Soviet troops
withdrawal, Nagy announces free elections,
multi-party system, withdraw from Warsaw
f. Unfortunately, rest of world was focused on Suez
Crisis; explains lack of meaningful western
g. Soviets march back in 1 week later, kill 3000
people with shelling and tanks, installed
hardliner Janos Kadar. Nagy killed.
h. DEMONSTRATES limited tolerance on evolution
of socialism, lack of Western military
i. Cements Warsaw Pact and this is the Soviet
sphere of influence
4. Poland communist intellectuals openly questioned
what the Soviet controls role Poland own way?
Wladyslav Gomulka
a. Also stops collectivization in 1956, moderate
stance over Catholic Church
b. Set the tone for regime that was friendly to the
USSR, within Soviet orbit, but simultaneously

remains identity of Catholicism and independent

5. Berlin
a. Eastern Germans flee Germany via Berlin
i. Soviet response was to harass these
ii. Multiplied efforts to leave after 1953
revolts and 1956 hungarian revolt and its
iii. Forced western occupiers, that didnt work
iv. 1961 Khrushchev ordered building of
Berlin Wall sealing this way of escape.
B. Unrest in 1968
a. The wider world
i. January 31 - Vietnamese launch Tet Offensive turning point
in Vietnam War many American casualties, public
perceptions changed.
ii. March Czech President resigned
iii. April Martin Luther King is assassinated, protests in
Columbia U over Vietnam war, civil rights
iv. May /June uprisings in France and Czechoslovakia. Student
protests in Senegal and Tunisia.
v. June Bobby Kennedy shot dead
vi. August Soviets invaded Czechoslovakia and ended Prague
vii. Summer Olympic games Apartheid protest by South African
participation from African states led to boycott
1. Black Power salute
viii. October Mexico student protest repressed, Peru uprising,
Northern Ireland uprising
ix. Winter Brazil protest, crackdown.
1. Possible causes
a. Huge demographic bump Baby Boomers and
youngsters that revolted
b. France
i. Period of strong economic growth
ii. Strong executive with Fifth Republic
1. Communist bloc had losing steam after post-war gains
iii. New youth movement ferment
iv. In 1960s, younger than on average since 1830s
v. Cultural effects evident with New Wave Cinema:
1. Youth rejection of French cultural heritage
2. Critical of contemporary life
vi. Explosion of education as well
1. Nanterre: University of Paris student felt this was
impersonal machine, being sorted, NOT educated;
resources not sufficient.
2. Leftist students trashed American office in Paris upon
Tet Offensive
a. Daniel Cohn-Bendit (Dany le Rouge) led
occupation of classrooms that supported
students who trashed American student office.

b. Students called to disciplinary action at the

Sorbonne, HQ of University of Paris
c. Sympathy demonstration in the courtyard for
students being disciplined.
d. Arrests grown into riots, university of Paris
entirely shut down. Major demonstration.
Thousands of people met by riot police.
e. June 9 million people on strike. mass support
(French working class).
f. Situationists International non-Soviet Marxists
get involved. Ran the University from students
side at Sorbonne.
i. Critical of advanced populism, worried
about alienation of people.
ii. Anti-Soviet, anti-capitalist
iii. Sought direct democracies, bottom-up
approaches, rejection of proliferation of
iv. Great strike movement in France de
Gaulle in trouble?
1. Social disorder not favored; called
for elections biggest Conservative
majority (70%) fear of the
dangers of the disorder.
a. Leftists supported de Gaulle
too, fear of these parties.
2. This movement ultimately fizzles
out not committed enough to
keep the revolution going.
a. Focus on women rights,
green movement instead.
c. The Prague Spring
i. Brezhnev ousts Khrushchev in 1964. Engineer
1. Not dynamic, flashy person
2. Middle-of-the-road, consensus style of leadership.
3. Immobility and stagnation in the USSR
4. Represents nomenklatura - people who only know the
Soviet system of rule did not know Lenins rule etc.
a. Late 1960s, these are comfortably placed in the
system bureaucrats as 60 years old etc.
ii. 1968:
1. Causes
a. Nationalism of Slovaks
b. Desire for Freedom of Expression amongst
intellectuals and soviet officials.
c. Working conditions
2. Protestors wanted to REFORM the system in place
3. Dubcek advocated for Slovak autonomy, called for
reforms so that the party did not have to govern in
Police manner desire to make Socialism more
attractive. Allowed dissent to flourish to a degree,

decentralized government, tried to keep the Soviets

a. Torrent of ferment Prague Spring
b. Kovaly pro-communist still, in light of being a
Jew having survived the war, husband execution
by Stalinists saw her desiring to go the Czech
way to Socialism
4. Dubcek ended censorship in June, but worried
Communists if this could destabilize their society.
5. August 21 1968 (East Germany, Poland, Hungary and
Bulgaria with USSR troops 500 000) terrified of
losing their control of their own country, invaded
6. Soviet justification on Brezhnev Doctrine limited
national determination, but a threat to one was a
threat to all.
a. Al had actually condemned this EXCEPT those
that participated in this Spring
7. They still HOWEVER believed in some form of socialism
C. Discussion of Sources