Eastern Europe: The Great Transformation 1985-1991
Pub Date: January 01, 1992
Product Format: Essay
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"Socialism is the wave of the future" ran the communist slogan once repeated incessantly throughout the world. Socialism was supposedly irresistible and irreversible. The global "coorelation of forces" would inevitably shift against the West, and the Soviet Union and its allies would ultimately emerge as global victors. But it was communism that went into the trash bin of history. Contrary to the findings of many distinguished academics, not a single communist regime was able to acquire legitimacy among its subjects. The communists nomenclatura universally turned out to be a new ruling class, bent on its own social and economic advancement. Both of the former Soviet Union and its Warsaw Pact allies suffered from countless internal contraditions that defied solution. As the economic, military, demographic, ecological, and political problems of the communists states kept growing, the rulers' confidence and cohesion diminished. At the sametime the Western powers, both the United States and the European Community, appeared increasingly attractive as role models. The Soviet Union could not quiet discontent at home by glorious victories abroad. The Soviet armies failed in Afghanistan; the cause of "scientific socialism" ran aground in countries as far afield as Ethiopia, Angola, Mozambique. The West massively rearmed. The Soviet empire suffered from "overstretch"' and revolutions broke out all over Eastern and Central Europe in 1989, peaceful risings that the Soviet leadership would not and could not suppress. The shape of revolution varied in the various Eastern and Central European countries--but the results were the same: the communist order collapsed, leaving behind a legacy of economic disaster, ethnic rivalry, and political distrust. The problems facing the new governments are grim--fortunately the long-term future for all the former Warsaw Pact countries looks better than their communist past.