The Eastern Bloc was the group of communist states of Central and Eastern Europe, East Asia and Southeast Asia under the hegemony of the Soviet Union during the Cold War in opposition to the capitalist Western Bloc. In Western Europe the term Eastern Bloc referred to the USSR and its East European satellite states in the Council for Mutual Economic Assistance. In the Americas, the communist bloc included the Caribbean Republic of Cuba, since 1961. Soviet control of the Eastern Bloc was tested by the 1948 Czechoslovak coup d'état and the Tito–Stalin Split over the direction of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, the Chinese Communist Revolution and China's participation in the Korean War. After Stalin's death in 1953, the Korean War ceased with the 1954 Geneva Conference. In Europe, anti-Soviet sentiment provoked the Uprising of 1953 in East Germany; the break-up of the Eastern Bloc began in 1956 with Nikita Khrushchev's anti-Stalinist speech On the Cult of Personality and Its Consequences.
This speech was a factor in the Hungarian Revolution of 1956. The Sino–Soviet Split gave North Korea and North Vietnam more independence from both and facilitated the Soviet–Albanian split; the Cuban Missile Crisis preserved the Cuban Revolution from rollback by the United States, but Fidel Castro became independent of Soviet influence afterwards, most notably during the 1975 Cuban intervention in Angola. That year, the communist victory in former French Indochina following the end of the Vietnam War gave the Eastern Bloc renewed confidence after it had been frayed by Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev's 1968 invasion of Czechoslovakia to suppress the Prague Spring; this led to the Socialist People's Republic of Albania withdrawing from the Warsaw Pact aligning with Mao Zedong's China until the Sino-Albanian split. Under the Brezhnev Doctrine, the Soviet Union reserved the right to intervene in other socialist states. In response, China moved towards the United States following the Sino-Soviet border conflict and reformed and liberalized its economy while the Eastern Bloc saw the Era of Stagnation in comparison with the capitalist First World.
The Soviet–Afghan War nominally expanded the Eastern Bloc, but the war proved unwinnable and too costly for the Soviets, challenged in Eastern Europe by the civil resistanceof Solidarity. In the late 1980s, Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev pursued policies of glasnost and perestroika to reform the Eastern Bloc and end the Cold War, which brought forth unrest throughout the bloc. Unlike previous Soviet leaders in 1953, 1956 and 1968, Gorbachev refused to use force to end the 1989 Revolutions against Marxist–Leninist rule in Eastern Europe; the fall of the Berlin Wall and end of the Warsaw Pact spread nationalist and liberal ideals throughout the Soviet Union, which would soon dissolve at the end of 1991. Conservative communist elites launched a 1991 Soviet coup d'état attempt, which hastened the end of Marxist–Leninist rule in Eastern Europe; the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests in China were violently repressed by the communist government there, which maintained its grip on power. Although the Soviet Union and its rival the United States considered Europe to be the most important front of the Cold War, the term Eastern Bloc was used interchangeably with the term Second World.
This broadest usage of the term would include not only Maoist China and Cambodia, but short-lived Soviet satellites such as the Second East Turkestan Republic, the People's Republic of Azerbaijan and Republic of Mahabad, as well as the Marxist–Leninist states straddling the Second and Third Worlds before the end of the Cold War: the People's Democratic Republic of Yemen, the People's Republic of the Congo, the People's Republic of Benin, the People's Republic of Angola and People's Republic of Mozambique from 1975, the People's Revolutionary Government of Grenada from 1979 to 1983, the Derg/People's Democratic Republic of Ethiopia from 1974 and the Somali Democratic Republic from 1969 until the Ogaden War in 1977. Many states were accused by the Western Bloc of being in the Eastern Bloc when they were part of the Non-Aligned Movement; the most limited definition of the Eastern Bloc would only include the Warsaw Pact states and the Mongolian People's Republic as former satellite states most dominated by the Soviet Union.
However, North Korea was subordinate before the Korean War and Soviet aid during the Vietnam War enabled Vietnam to dominate Laos and Cambodia until the end of the Cold War. Cuba's defiance of complete Soviet control was noteworthy enough that Cuba was sometimes excluded as a satellite state altogether, as it sometimes intervened in other Third World countries when Moscow opposed this; the only surviving communist states are China, Cuba, North Korea and Laos. Their state socialist experience was more in line with decolonization from the Global North and anti-imperialism towards the West instead of the Red Army occupation of the former Eastern Bloc; the five surviving socialist states all adopted economic reforms to varying degrees. China and Vietnam are described as more state capitalist than the more traditionalist Cuba and Laos and the more Stalinist North Korea. Cambodia and Kazakhstan are still led by the same Eastern Bloc leaders as during the Cold War, though they are not Marxis
USSR anti-religious campaign (1921–1928)
The USSR anti-religious campaign was a campaign of anti-religious persecution against churches and believers by the Soviet government following the initial anti-religious campaign during the Russian Civil War. The elimination of most religion and its replacement with deism and atheism supported with a materialist world view was a fundamental ideological goal of the state. To this end the state conducted anti-religious persecutions against believers that were meant to hurt and destroy religion, it was never made illegal to be a believer or to have religion, so the activities of this campaign were veiled under other pretexts that the state invoked or invented in order to justify its activities. The persecution entered a new phase in 1921 with the resolutions adopted by the tenth CPSU congress, would set the atmosphere for the remainder of the decade's persecutions, which would enter another new phase in 1929 when new legislation was passed on prohibition of public religious activities; the 10th party congress launched Lenin's "New Economic Policy", in response to the poor state of the Russian economy that resulted from World War I, the Russian Civil War, the War Communist system used during the latter.
The state faced large scale popular revolts of workers, which Trotsky believed threatened the survival of the state. The NEP brought in some measure of limited free enterprise, was meant to compromise with the general population as well as to present the new regime in a more respectable light to the world community and thus acquire a place in the world market. To acquire a better reputation, the regime considered it detrimental to continue with the civil war policy of murdering religious believers without trials or plausible accusations. Therefore, the anti-religious campaign needed to be conducted under more respectable pretexts. However, the elimination of religion remained a fundamental ideological goal of the state. There were two main principal anti-religious campaigns that occurred in the 1920s, with one surrounding the campaign to seize church valuables and the other surrounding the renovationist schism in the Orthodox Church; this portion of the state's religious campaign came to an end in 1929, when Stalin began the implementation of a much harsher campaign that would take place in the following decade.
The tenth party congress met in early 1921 and issued the resolution "On Glavpolitprosvet and the Agitation: Propaganda Problems of the Party". This resolution called for "widescale organization and cooperation in the task of anti-religious agitation and propaganda among the broad masses of the workers, using the mass media, books and other devices. In August of that year, a plenary meeting of the Party Central Committee adopted an 11-point instruction on the interpretation and application of article 13; the instruction made a differentiation between educated believers and uneducated believers, it forbade party membership to any religious believer, a member of the clergy or who had an education, but uneducated believers were allowed party membership on an individual basis if they prove their devotion to Communism. It was decreed that such members, should be submitted to'special re-education work' in order to make them atheists; the instruction warned against rash actions in anti-religious propaganda, against giving too much publicity to'anti-religious agitation' and it stressed'serious scientific cultural-enlightenment work, building up natural-scientific foundation for a proper historical analysis of the question of religion'.
This meant that the anti-religious campaign was to be directed at building up a non-religious culture and educational system, rather than subjecting religion to ridicule and attack. It directed the Central Committee Agitation Department and the Church and Glavpolitprosvet to conform to this; the instruction emphasized that the state was fighting against all forms of religious belief and not individual religions. It was after the 10th congress that the authorities began to take measures against the public debates, which were formally suspended in 1929 and replaced with public lectures by atheists; the reason given for their cessation was that they did not satisfy public demand and that people preferred to solidify their atheism with study. Martsinkovsky was arrested and sent to exile in 1922 on account of his religious preaching that attracted people to religion and told he could return in a few years once the workers had become wiser. Despite the part of the August 1921 instruction about combating all religions, the state took a particular hardline against the Orthodox church on the pretext that it was a legacy of the Tsarist past.
This may have been a pragmatic consideration in the belief that the state was not yet strong enough in order to broaden its anti-religious activities beyond the Orthodox church. When church leaders demanded freedom of religion under the constitution, the Communists responded with terror, they executed twenty-eight bishops and 6,775 priests. Despite mass demonstrations in support of the church, repression cowed most ecclesiastical leaders into submission. Tikhon produced an encyclical on political neutrality and disengagement of the Church from worldly politics, the official propaganda depicted it as a form of camouflage to hide his real aim of support for autocratic bourgeois-aristoc
First five-year plan
The first five-year plan of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics was a list of economic goals, created by Communist Party General Secretary Joseph Stalin, based on his policy of Socialism in One Country. The plan was implemented in 1928 and took effect until 1932; the Soviet Union entered a series of five-year plans which began in 1928 under the rule of Joseph Stalin. Stalin launched what would be referred as a "revolution from above" to improve the Soviet Union’s domestic policy; the policies were centered around the collectivization of agriculture. Stalin desired to replace any policies created under the New Economic Policy; the plan, was to transition the Soviet Union from a weak, poorly controlled, agriculture state, into an industrial powerhouse. While the vision was grand, its planning was ineffective and unrealistic given the short amount of time given to meet the desired goals. In 1929, Stalin edited the plan to include the creation of "kolkhoz" collective farming systems that stretched over thousands of acres of land and had hundreds of thousands of peasants working on them.
The creation of collective farms destroyed the kulaks as a class. Another consequence of this is that peasants resisted by killing their farm animals rather than turning them over to the State when their farms were collectivized. Stalin's collectivization policies led to a famine in Ukraine, Kazakhstan as well as areas of the Northern Caucasus. Public machine and tractor stations were set up throughout the USSR, peasants were allowed to use these public tractors to farm the land, increasing the food output per peasant. Peasants were allowed to sell any surplus food from the land. However, the government planners failed to take notice of local situations. In 1932, grain production was 32% below average. Agricultural production was so disrupted; because of the plan's reliance on rapid industrialization, major cultural changes had to occur in tandem. As this new social structure arose, conflicts occurred among some of the majority of the populations. In Turkmenistan, for example, the Soviet policy of collectivization shifted their production from cotton to food products.
Such a change caused unrest within a community that had existed prior to this external adjustment, between 1928 and 1932, Turkmen nomads and peasants made it clear through methods like passive resistance that they did not agree with such policies. Prior to launching the first Soviet five-year plan, the Soviet Union had been facing threats from external sources as well as experiencing an economic and industrial downturn since the introduction of Bolshevik rule; the first war threat emerged from the East in 1924. A war scare arose in 1927 when Western nations, like Great Britain, began cutting off diplomatic relations with the Soviet Union; this created fear among the Soviets. The fear of invasion from the west left the Soviets feeling a need for rapid industrialization to increase Soviet war-making potential, to compete with the western powers. At the same time as the War Scare of 1927, dissatisfaction grew among the peasantry of the Soviet Union; this dissatisfaction arose from the famine of the early 1920s, as well as from increasing mistreatment of the peasants.
During this time the secret police had begun rounding up political dissenters in the Soviet Union. All these tensions had the potential to destroy the young Soviet Union and forced Joseph Stalin to introduce rapid industrialization of heavy industry so that the Soviet Union could address external and internal threats if needed; the central aspect of the first Soviet five-year plan was the rapid industrialization of the Soviet Union from October 1928 to December 1932, thought to be the most crucial time for Russian industrialization. Lenin himself before the time of his death, knew the importance of building a transitionary state to communism and was quoted saying "Modern industry is the key to this transformation, the time has come to construct our fatherland anew with the hands of machines." Rapid Growth was facilitated starting in 1928 and continued to accelerate because of the building of heavy industry, which in turn raised living standards for peasants escaping the countryside. The Bolsheviks' need for rapid industrialization was once again out of the fear of impending war from the West.
If war were to break out between the Soviet Union and the West, the Soviets would be fighting against some of the most industrialized nations in the world. The rapid industrialization would inhibit fears of being left unprotected if War between the Soviets and the West were to occur. To meet the needs of a possible war, the Soviet leaders set unrealistic quotas for production. To meet those unrealistic needs, the facilities had to be constructed to facilitate material production before goods could be produced. During this period 1928-1932, massive industrial centers emerged in areas that were isolated before; these factories were not only for war production, but to produce tractors to meet the needs of mechanized agriculture. The Stalingrad Tractor Plant was built with the help of western allies and was meant to play a major factor in the rapid industrialization of Russia; these isolated areas included Magnitogorsk and Nizhny Novgorod. Magnitogorsk, the largest of the rapid industrialized areas of Russia, was founded in 1743, but became more prevalent in the early 1930's by Stalin.
His plan was to make it a one-industry town. T
The Winter War was a military conflict between the Soviet Union and Finland. It began with a Soviet invasion of Finland on 30 November 1939, three months after the outbreak of World War II, ended three and a half months with the Moscow Peace Treaty on 13 March 1940; the League of Nations deemed the attack illegal and expelled the Soviet Union from the organisation. The conflict began after the Soviets sought to obtain some Finnish territory, demanding among other concessions that Finland cede substantial border territories in exchange for land elsewhere, claiming security reasons—primarily the protection of Leningrad, 32 km from the Finnish border. Finland refused, the USSR invaded the country. Many sources conclude that the Soviet Union had intended to conquer all of Finland, use the establishment of the puppet Finnish Communist government and the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact's secret protocols as evidence of this, while other sources argue against the idea of the full Soviet conquest. Finland repelled Soviet attacks for more than two months and inflicted substantial losses on the invaders while temperatures ranged as low as −43 °C.
After the Soviet military reorganised and adopted different tactics, they renewed their offensive in February and overcame Finnish defences. Hostilities ceased in March 1940 with the signing of the Moscow Peace Treaty. Finland ceded 11 percent of its territory representing 30 percent of its economy to the Soviet Union. Soviet losses were heavy, the country's international reputation suffered. Soviet gains exceeded their pre-war demands and the USSR received substantial territory along Lake Ladoga and in Northern Finland. Finland enhanced its international reputation; the poor performance of the Red Army encouraged Adolf Hitler to think that an attack on the Soviet Union would be successful and confirmed negative Western opinions of the Soviet military. After 15 months of Interim Peace, in June 1941, Nazi Germany commenced Operation Barbarossa and the Continuation War between Finland and the USSR began; until the beginning of the 19th century, Finland constituted the eastern part of the Kingdom of Sweden.
In 1809, to protect its imperial capital, Saint Petersburg, the Russian Empire conquered Finland and converted it into an autonomous buffer state. The resulting Grand Duchy of Finland enjoyed wide autonomy within the Empire until the end of the 19th century, when Russia began attempts to assimilate Finland as part of a general policy to strengthen the central government and unify the Empire through russification; these attempts were aborted because of Russia's internal strife, but they ruined Russia's relations with the Finns and increased support for Finnish self-determination movements. World War I led to the collapse of the Russian Empire during the Russian Revolution of 1917 and the Russian Civil War of 1917–1920, giving Finland a window of opportunity; the new Bolshevik Russian Government was fragile, civil war had broken out in Russia in November 1917. Thus, Soviet Russia recognised the new Finnish Government just three weeks after the declaration. Finland achieved full sovereignty in May 1918 after a 4-month civil war, with the conservative Whites winning over the socialist Reds, the expulsion of Bolshevik troops.
Finland joined the League of Nations in 1920, from which it sought security guarantees, but Finland's primary goal was co-operation with the Scandinavian countries. The Finnish and Swedish militaries engaged in wide-ranging co-operation, but focused on the exchange of information and on defence planning for the Åland Islands rather than on military exercises or on stockpiling and deployment of materiel; the Government of Sweden avoided committing itself to Finnish foreign policy. Finland's military policy included clandestine defence co-operation with Estonia; the period after the Finnish Civil War till the early 1930s proved a politically unstable time in Finland due to the continued rivalry between the conservative and socialist parties. The Communist Party of Finland was declared illegal in 1931, the nationalist Lapua Movement organised anti-communist violence, which culminated in a failed coup attempt in 1932; the successor of the Lapua Movement, the Patriotic People's Movement, only had a minor presence in national politics with at most 14 seats out of 200 in the Finnish parliament.
By the late 1930s, the export-oriented Finnish economy was growing and the nation's extreme political movements had diminished. After Soviet involvement in the Finnish Civil War in 1918, no formal peace treaty was signed. In 1918 and 1919, Finnish volunteers conducted two unsuccessful military incursions across the Soviet border, the Viena and Aunus expeditions, to annex Karelian areas according to the Greater Finland ideology of combining all Finnic peoples into a single state. In 1920, Finnish communists based in the USSR attempted to assassinate the former Finnish White Guard Commander-in-Chief, Marshal Carl Gustaf Emil Mannerheim. On 14 October 1920, Finland and Soviet Russia signed the Treaty of Tartu, confirming the old border between the autonomous Grand Duchy of Finland and Imperial Russia proper as the new Finnish–Soviet border. Finland received Petsamo, with its ice-free harbour on the Arctic Ocean. Despite the signing of the treaty, relations between the two countries remained strained.
The Finnish Government allowed volunteers to cross the border to support the East Karelian uprising in Russia in 1921, Finnish communists in the Soviet Union continued to prepare for a revanche and staged a cross-border raid into Finland, called the Pork mutiny, in 1922. In 1
The Yalta Conference known as the Crimea Conference and code-named the Argonaut Conference, held from 4 to 11 February 1945, was the World War II meeting of the heads of government of the United States, the United Kingdom and the Soviet Union for the purpose of discussing Germany and Europe's postwar reorganization. The three states were represented by President Franklin D. Roosevelt, Prime Minister Winston Churchill and Premier Joseph Stalin, respectively; the conference convened near Yalta in Crimea, Soviet Union, within the Livadia and Vorontsov Palaces. The aim of the conference was to shape a post-war peace that represented not just a collective security order but a plan to give self-determination to the liberated peoples of post-Nazi Europe; the meeting was intended to discuss the re-establishment of the nations of war-torn Europe. However, within a few short years, with the Cold War dividing the continent, Yalta became a subject of intense controversy. Yalta was the second of three major wartime conferences among the Big Three.
It was preceded by the Tehran Conference in November 1943, was followed by the Potsdam Conference in July 1945. It was preceded by a conference in Moscow in October 1944, not attended by President Roosevelt, in which Churchill and Stalin had carved up Europe into Western and Soviet spheres of influence; the Potsdam Conference was to be attended by Stalin and Harry S. Truman, Roosevelt's successor after his death. General Charles de Gaulle was not present at either the Potsdam conferences. De Gaulle attributed his exclusion from Yalta to the longstanding personal antagonism towards him by Roosevelt, although the Soviet Union had objected to his inclusion as a full participant, but the absence of French representation at Yalta meant that extending an invitation for De Gaulle to attend the Potsdam Conference would have been problematic. By the time of the Yalta Conference, the Western forces consisting of the United Kingdom, the United States, Poland and the governments-in-exile of France and Belgium, led by British general Bernard Montgomery and American generals Dwight D. Eisenhower and Omar Bradley, had liberated all of France and Belgium and were advancing into Germany, leading to the Battle of the Bulge.
In the east, Red Army Marshal Georgy Zhukov's forces were 65 km from Berlin, having pushed back the Nazis from Poland, Romania and most of Yugoslavia. By February, Germany only had loose control over the Netherlands, Denmark, Northern Italy, Northern Yugoslavia; the initiative for calling a second'Big Three' conference had come from Roosevelt hoping to meet before the US Presidential elections in November 1944, but subsequently pressing for a meeting early in 1945 at a'neutral' location in the Mediterranean. Stalin, rejected these options, he proposed instead that they meet instead in the Crimea. Stalin's fear of flying was a contributing factor in this decision. Stalin formally deferred to Roosevelt as the'host' for the conference; each of the three leaders liberated Europe. Roosevelt wanted Soviet support in the U. S. Pacific War against Japan for the planned invasion of Japan, as well as Soviet participation in the United Nations. Stalin's position at the conference was one. According to U. S. delegation member and future Secretary of State James F. Byrnes, "it was not a question of what we would let the Russians do, but what we could get the Russians to do."Poland was the first item on the Soviet agenda.
Stalin stated that "For the Soviet government, the question of Poland was one of honor" and security because Poland had served as a historical corridor for forces attempting to invade Russia. In addition, Stalin stated regarding history that "because the Russians had sinned against Poland", "the Soviet government was trying to atone for those sins." Stalin concluded that "Poland must be strong" and that "the Soviet Union is interested in the creation of a mighty and independent Poland." Accordingly, Stalin stipulated that Polish government-in-exile demands were not negotiable: the Soviet Union would keep the territory of eastern Poland they had annexed in 1939, Poland was to be compensated for that by extending its western borders at the expense of Germany. Contrasting with his prior statement, Stalin promised free elections in Poland despite the Soviet sponsored provisional government installed by him in Polish territories occupied by the Red Army. Roosevelt wanted the USSR to enter the Pacific War with the Allies.
One Soviet precondition for a declaration of war against Japan was an American official recognition of Mongolian independence from China (the Mongolian People's Republic had been the Soviet satellite s
Stalin's cult of personality
Joseph Stalin's cult of personality became a prominent part of Soviet culture in December 1929, after a lavish celebration for Stalin's 50th birthday. For the rest of Stalin's rule, the Soviet press presented Stalin as an all-powerful, all-knowing leader, Stalin's name and image became omnipresent. From 1936 the Soviet journalism started to refer to Joseph Stalin as the Father of Nations; the Soviet press praised Stalin, describing him as "Great", "Beloved", "Bold", "Wise", "Inspirer", "Genius". It portrayed him as a caring yet strong father figure, with the Soviet populace as his "children". Interactions between Stalin and children became a key element of the personality cult. Stalin engaged in publicized gift giving exchanges with Soviet children from a range of different ethnic backgrounds. Beginning in 1935, the phrase, "Thank You Dear Comrade Stalin for a Happy Childhood!" appeared above doorways at nurseries and schools. Speeches described Stalin as "Our Best Collective Farm Worker", "Our Shockworker, Our Best of Best", "Our Darling, Our Guiding Star".
The image of Stalin as a father was one way in which Soviet propagandists aimed to incorporate traditional religious symbols and language into the cult of personality. The cult of personality adopted the Christian traditions of procession and devotion to icons through the use of Stalinist parades and effigies. By reapplying various aspects of religion to the cult of personality, the press hoped to shift devotion away from the church and towards Stalin; the press aimed to demonstrate a direct link between Stalin and the common people. Shortly after the revolution of October 1917 the Ivan Tovstukha drafted up a biographical section featuring Stalin for the Russian Granat Encyclopedia Dictionary. Though most of the description of Stalin's career was much embellished, it had gained so much favor with the public that they released a fourteen-page pamphlet of it alone named Joseph Vissarionovich Stalin: A Short Biography with a print run of 50,000. However, these sorts of accounts declined after World War II.
Another prominent part of Stalin's image in the mass media was his close association with Vladimir Lenin. The Soviet press maintained that Stalin had been Lenin's constant companion while the latter was alive, that as such, Stalin followed Lenin's teachings and could continue the Bolshevik legacy after Lenin's death. Stalin fiercely defended the correctness of Lenin's views in public, in doing so Stalin implied that, as a faithful follower of Leninism, his own leadership was faultless. Lenin did not want Stalin to succeed him, stating that "Comrade Stalin is too rude" and suggesting that the party find someone "more patient, more loyal, more polite". Stalin did not succeed in suppressing Lenin's Testament suggesting that others remove Stalin from his position as leader of the Communist party; however some such as historian Stephen Kotkin have argued that these statements of Lenin were forgeries, they were not written or signed by Lenin but were spoken by him and taken down. According to V. Sakharov the dates on these forged portions contradict the dates in the diaries of Lenin's secretaries and doctors.
Kotkin argues that the leaders of the party, both Stalin and his opponents knew these segments were forged and for this reason they didn't have much impact and Stalin wasn't removed from his post though he offered to step down. Stalin did not contest the validity of the forged segment but turned it into a propaganda weapon against his enemies; the forged section called him "too rude". Lenin's sister Maria defended Stalin against his opponents regarding his friendship with Lenin. Lenin's wife N. Krupskaya came to Stalin's defense, despite earlier being a supporter of Zinoviev. After Lenin's death 500,000 copies of a photograph of the Lenin and Stalin chatting as friends on a bench appeared throughout the Soviet Union. Before 1932, most Soviet propaganda posters showed Stalin together; this propaganda was embraced by Stalin, who weaponized this relationship in speeches to the proletarian, stating Lenin was "the great teacher of the proletarians of all nations" and subsequently identifying himself with the proletarians by their kinship as mutual students of Lenin.
However the two figures merged in the Soviet press. The press attributed any and all success within the Soviet Union to the wise leadership of both Lenin and Stalin, but Stalin alone became the professed cause of Soviet well-being. Stalin became the focus of literature, music and film that exhibited fawning devotion. An example was A. V. Avidenko's "Hymn to Stalin": Thank Stalin. Thank you because I am joyful. Thank you because I am well. No matter how old I become, I shall never forget. Centuries will pass, the generations still to come will regard us as the happiest of mortals, as the most fortunate of men, because we lived in the century of centuries, because we were privileged to see Stalin, our inspired leader... Everything belongs to thee, chief of our
Occupation of the Baltic states
The occupation of the Baltic states involved the military occupation of the three Baltic states—Estonia and Lithuania—by the Soviet Union under the auspices of the 1939 Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact in June 1940. They were incorporated into the Soviet Union as constituent republics in August 1940, though most Western powers never recognised their incorporation. On 22 June 1941, Nazi Germany attacked the Soviet Union and within weeks occupied the Baltic territories. In July 1941, the Third Reich incorporated the Baltic territory into its Reichskommissariat Ostland; as a result of the Red Army's Baltic Offensive of 1944, the Soviet Union recaptured most of the Baltic states and trapped the remaining German forces in the Courland pocket until their formal surrender in May 1945. The Soviet "annexation occupation" or occupation sui generis of the Baltic states lasted until August 1991, when the three countries regained their independence; the Baltic states themselves, the United States and its courts of law, the European Parliament, the European Court of Human Rights and the United Nations Human Rights Council have all stated that these three countries were invaded and illegally incorporated into the Soviet Union under provisions of the 1939 Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact.
There followed occupation by Nazi Germany from 1941 to 1944 and again occupation by the Soviet Union from 1944 to 1991. This policy of non-recognition has given rise to the principle of legal continuity of the Baltic states, which holds that de jure, or as a matter of law, the Baltic states had remained independent states under illegal occupation throughout the period from 1940 to 1991. In its reassessment of Soviet history that began during perestroika in 1989, the Soviet Union condemned the 1939 secret protocol between Germany and itself. However, the Soviet Union never formally acknowledged its presence in the Baltics as an occupation or that it annexed these states and considered the Estonian and Lithuanian Soviet Socialist Republics as three of its constituent republics. On the other hand, the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic recognized in 1991 the events of 1940 as "annexation". Nationalist-patriotic Russian historiography and school textbooks continue to maintain that the Baltic states voluntarily joined the Soviet Union after their peoples all carried out socialist revolutions independent of Soviet influence.
The post-Soviet government of the Russian Federation and its state officials insist that incorporation of the Baltic states was in accordance with international law and gained de jure recognition by the agreements made in the February 1945 Yalta and the July–August 1945 Potsdam conferences and by the 1975 Helsinki Accords, which declared the inviolability of existing frontiers). However, Russia agreed to Europe's demand to "assist persons deported from the occupied Baltic states" upon joining the Council of Europe in 1996. Additionally, when the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic signed a separate treaty with Lithuania in 1991, it acknowledged that the 1940 annexation as a violation of Lithuanian sovereignty and recognised the de jure continuity of the Lithuanian state. Most Western governments maintained that Baltic sovereignty had not been legitimately overridden and thus continued to recognise the Baltic states as sovereign political entities represented by the legations—appointed by the pre-1940 Baltic states—which functioned in Washington and elsewhere.
The Baltic states recovered de facto independence in 1991 during the dissolution of the Soviet Union. Russia started to withdraw its troops from the Baltics in August 1993; the full withdrawal of troops deployed by Moscow ended in August 1994. Russia ended its military presence in the Baltics in August 1998 by decommissioning the Skrunda-1 radar station in Latvia; the dismantled installations were repatriated to Russia and the site returned to Latvian control, with the last Russian soldier leaving Baltic soil in October 1999. Early in the morning of August 24, 1939, the Soviet Union and Germany signed a ten-year non-aggression pact, called the Molotov–Ribbentrop pact; the pact contained a secret protocol by which the states of Northern and Eastern Europe were divided into German and Soviet "spheres of influence". In the north, Finland and Latvia were assigned to the Soviet sphere. Poland was to be partitioned in the event of its "political rearrangement"—the areas east of the Narev and San Rivers going to the Soviet Union while Germany would occupy the west.
Lithuania, adjacent to East Prussia, would be in the German sphere of influence, although a second secret protocol agreed in September 1939 assigned the majority of Lithuanian territory to the Soviet Union. According to this secret protocol, Lithuania would regain its historical capital Vilnius subjugated during the inter-war period by Poland. Following the end of Soviet invasion of Poland on 6 October, the Soviets pressured Finland and the Baltic states to conclude mutual assistance treaties; the Soviets questioned the neutrality of Estonia after the escape of an interned Polish submarine on 18 September. A week on 24 September, the Estonian foreign minister was given an ultimatum in Moscow; the Soviets demanded the conclusion of a treaty of mutual assistance to establish military bases in Estonia. The Estonians had no choice but to accept naval and army bases on two Estonian islands and at the port of Paldiski; the corresponding agreement was signed on 28 September 1939. Latvia followed on 5 October 1939 and Lithuania shortly thereafter, on 10 October 1939.
The agreements permitted the Soviet Union to establish military bases on the Baltic states' territory for the duration of the European war and to station 25,000 Soviet soldiers in Estonia, 30,000 in