The Soviet Union the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, was a socialist state in Eurasia that existed from 1922 to 1991. Nominally a union of multiple national Soviet republics, its government and economy were centralized; the country was a one-party state, governed by the Communist Party with Moscow as its capital in its largest republic, the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic. Other major urban centres were Leningrad, Minsk, Alma-Ata, Novosibirsk, it spanned over 10,000 kilometres east to west across 11 time zones, over 7,200 kilometres north to south. It had five climate zones: tundra, steppes and mountains; the Soviet Union had its roots in the 1917 October Revolution, when the Bolsheviks, led by Vladimir Lenin, overthrew the Russian Provisional Government which had replaced Tsar Nicholas II during World War I. In 1922, the Soviet Union was formed by a treaty which legalized the unification of the Russian, Transcaucasian and Byelorussian republics that had occurred from 1918. Following Lenin's death in 1924 and a brief power struggle, Joseph Stalin came to power in the mid-1920s.
Stalin committed the state's ideology to Marxism–Leninism and constructed a command economy which led to a period of rapid industrialization and collectivization. During his rule, political paranoia fermented and the Great Purge removed Stalin's opponents within and outside of the party via arbitrary arrests and persecutions of many people, resulting in at least 600,000 deaths. In 1933, a major famine struck the country. Before the start of World War II in 1939, the Soviets signed the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact, agreeing to non-aggression with Nazi Germany, after which the USSR invaded Poland on 17 September 1939. In June 1941, Germany broke the pact and invaded the Soviet Union, opening the largest and bloodiest theatre of war in history. Soviet war casualties accounted for the highest proportion of the conflict in the effort of acquiring the upper hand over Axis forces at intense battles such as Stalingrad and Kursk; the territories overtaken by the Red Army became satellite states of the Soviet Union.
The post-war division of Europe into capitalist and communist halves would lead to increased tensions with the United States-led Western Bloc, known as the Cold War. Stalin died in 1953 and was succeeded by Nikita Khrushchev, who in 1956 denounced Stalin and began the de-Stalinization; the Cuban Missile Crisis occurred during Khrushchev's rule, among the many factors that led to his downfall in 1964. In the early 1970s, there was a brief détente of relations with the United States, but tensions resumed with the Soviet–Afghan War in 1979. In 1985, the last Soviet premier, Mikhail Gorbachev, sought to reform and liberalize the economy through his policies of glasnost and perestroika, which caused political instability. In 1989, Soviet satellite states in Eastern Europe overthrew their respective communist governments; as part of an attempt to prevent the country's dissolution due to rising nationalist and separatist movements, a referendum was held in March 1991, boycotted by some republics, that resulted in a majority of participating citizens voting in favor of preserving the union as a renewed federation.
Gorbachev's power was diminished after Russian President Boris Yeltsin's high-profile role in facing down a coup d'état attempted by Communist Party hardliners. In late 1991, Gorbachev resigned and the Supreme Soviet of the Soviet Union met and formally dissolved the Soviet Union; the remaining 12 constituent republics emerged as independent post-Soviet states, with the Russian Federation—formerly the Russian SFSR—assuming the Soviet Union's rights and obligations and being recognized as the successor state. The Soviet Union was a powerhouse of many significant technological achievements and innovations of the 20th century, including the world's first human-made satellite, the first humans in space and the first probe to land on another planet, Venus; the country had the largest standing military in the world. The Soviet Union was recognized as one of the five nuclear weapons states and possessed the largest stockpile of weapons of mass destruction, it was a founding permanent member of the United Nations Security Council as well as a member of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, the World Federation of Trade Unions and the leading member of the Council for Mutual Economic Assistance and the Warsaw Pact.
The word "Soviet" is derived from a Russian word сове́т meaning council, advice, harmony and all deriving from the proto-Slavic verbal stem of vět-iti, related to Slavic věst, English "wise", the root in "ad-vis-or", or the Dutch weten. The word sovietnik means "councillor". A number of organizations in Russian history were called "council". For example, in the Russian Empire the State Council, which functioned from 1810 to 1917, was referred to as a Council of Ministers after the revolt of 1905. During the Georgian Affair, Vladimir Lenin envisioned an expression of Great Russian ethnic chauvinism by Joseph Stalin and his supporters, calling for these nation-states to join Russia as semi-independent parts of a greater union, which he named as the Union of Soviet Republics of Europe and Asia. Stalin resisted the proposal, but accepted it, although with Lenin's agreement changed the name of the newly proposed sta
People's Republic of the Congo
The People's Republic of the Congo was a Marxist–Leninist socialist state, established in 1969 in the Republic of the Congo. Led by the Congolese Party of Labour, it existed until 1991 when, following the dissolution of the Soviet Union, the country's earlier name was restored and André Milongo was named transitional prime minister; the People's Republic of the Congo had 2,153,685 inhabitants in 1988. There were 15 different ethnic groups, although most people were Teke. 8,500 Europeans were present as well of French extraction. French was the official language. Most of the population was centered in urban areas such as Brazzaville. Literacy was 80%, but infant mortality was high. Alphonse Massamba-Débat, who became the president of the Republic of the Congo in 1963, was the first African head of state who proclaimed himself a Marxist, he established a single party system in 1964 around his own political group, the National Revolution Movement. Massamba-Débat was elected Secretary General of the National Revolution Movement while Ambroise Édouard Noumazalaye became its First Secretary.
The Congolese single party was backed by a well-armed popular militia, the Défense Civile, headed by Ange Diawara. However, by 1968 mounting protests led Massamba-Débat to throw in prison one of its leaders, Captain Marien Ngouabi. Seeing that the militant leftist opposition was not giving up, Massamba-Débat ended up yielding and proclaimed an amnesty, freeing Marien Ngouabi, among other political prisoners in mid 1968. Following the amnesty Massamba-Débat relinquished his power in September giving way to a period of instability. On 31 December 1968 Marien Ngouabi became the head of state; the new leader proclaimed a Socialist-oriented state in the form of a "Popular Republic" on 31 January 1969. The administration became centralized in Brazzaville and the main government posts were taken over by Congolese Workers' Party —Parti congolais du travail — cadres after abolishing the national assembly of the previous republic; the Marxist-Leninist PCT held a constitutive congress in the capital from 29 to 31 December 1969, becoming the sole party of the new state.
Marien Ngouabi further introduced a number of communist policies —such as nationalizing the means of production— in the succeeding years. Ngouabi was assassinated in 1977 and was succeeded by colonel Joachim Yhombi-Opango, who ruled until February 1979, when Denis Sassou-Nguesso rose to power. In the same manner as other African communist states of the Cold War era, the People's Republic of the Congo shared close ties with the Soviet Union; this association remained strong after Ngouabi's assassination in 1977. However, the PCT government maintained a close relationship with France throughout its existence. In mid-1991, the Sovereign National Conference removed the word populaire from the country's official name, while replacing the flag and anthem, used under the PCT government; the Sovereign National Conference ended the PCT government, appointing a transitional Prime Minister, André Milongo, invested with executive powers. President Denis Sassou Nguesso was allowed to remain in office in a ceremonial capacity during the transitional period.
Cold War§Competition in the Third World Media related to People's Republic of the Congo at Wikimedia Commons
Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia
The Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia was a country located in central and Southeastern Europe that existed from its foundation in the aftermath of World War II until its dissolution in 1992 amid the Yugoslav Wars. Covering an area of 255,804 km², the SFRY was bordered by the Adriatic Sea and Italy to the west and Hungary to the north and Romania to the east, Albania and Greece to the south; the nation was a socialist state and a federation governed by the League of Communists of Yugoslavia and made up of six socialist republics: Bosnia and Herzegovina, Macedonia, Montenegro and Slovenia with Belgrade as its capital. In addition, it included two autonomous provinces within Serbia: Vojvodina; the SFRY's origin is traced to 26 November 1942, when the Anti-Fascist Council for the National Liberation of Yugoslavia was formed during World War II. On 29 November 1945, the Federal People's Republic of Yugoslavia was proclaimed after the deposition of King Peter II, thus ending the monarchy.
Until 1948, the new communist government sided with the Eastern Bloc under the leadership of Josip Broz Tito at the beginning of the Cold War, but after the Tito–Stalin split of 1948, Yugoslavia pursued a policy of neutrality. It became one of the founding members of the Non-Aligned Movement, transitioned from a planned economy to market socialism; the SFRY maintained neutrality during the Cold War as part of its foreign policy. It was a founding member of CERN, the United Nations, Non-Aligned Movement, OSCE, IFAD, WTO, BTWC. Following the death of Tito on 4 May 1980, the Yugoslav economy started to collapse, which increased unemployment and inflation; the economic crisis led to a rise in ethnic nationalism in early 1990s. With the collapse of communism in Eastern Europe, inter-republic talks on transformation of the federation failed. In 1991 some European states recognized their independence; the federation collapsed along federal borders, followed by the start of the Yugoslav Wars, the final downfall and breakup of the federation on 27 April 1992.
Two of its republics and Montenegro, remained within a reconstituted state known as the "Federal Republic of Yugoslavia", but this union was not recognized internationally as the official successor state to the SFRY. The term "former Yugoslavia" is now used retrospectively; the name Yugoslavia, an Anglicised transcription of Jugoslavija, is a composite word made up of jug and slavija. The Slavic word jug means'south', while slavija denotes a'land of the Slavs'. Thus, a translation of Jugoslavija would be'South-Slavia' or'Land of the South Slavs'; the full official name of the federation varied between 1945 and 1992. Yugoslavia was formed in 1918 under the name Kingdom of Serbs and Slovenes. In January 1929, King Alexander I assumed dictatorship of the kingdom and renamed it the Kingdom of Yugoslavia, for the first time making the term "Yugoslavia"—which had been used colloquially for decades —the official name of the state. After the Kingdom was occupied by the Axis during World War II, the Anti-Fascist Council for the National Liberation of Yugoslavia announced in 1943 the formation of the Democratic Federal Yugoslavia in the substantial resistance-controlled areas of the country.
The name deliberately left the republic-or-kingdom question open. In 1945, King Peter II was deposed, with the state reorganized as a republic, accordingly renamed Federal People's Republic of Yugoslavia, with the constitution coming into force in 1946. In 1963, amid pervasive liberal constitutional reforms, the name Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia was introduced; the state is most referred to by the latter name, which it held for the longest period of all. Of the three main Yugoslav languages, the Serbo-Croatian and Macedonian language name for the state was identical, while Slovene differed in capitalization and the spelling of the adjective "Socialist"; the names are as follows: Serbo-Croatian and Macedonian languages Latin: Socijalistička Federativna Republika Jugoslavija Cyrillic: Социјалистичка Федеративна Република Југославија Serbo-Croatian pronunciation: Macedonian pronunciation: Slovene language Socialistična federativna republika Jugoslavija Due to the length of the name, abbreviations were used to refer to the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, though the state was most known as Yugoslavia.
The most common abbreviation is SFRY, though SFR Yugoslavia was used in an official capacity by the media. On 6 April 1941, Yugoslavia was invaded by the Axis powers led by Nazi Germany. Yugoslav resistance was soon established in two forms, the Royal Yugoslav Army in the Homeland and the Communist Yugoslav Partisans; the Partisan supreme commander was Josip Broz Tito, under his command the movement soon began establishing "liberated territories" which attracted the attention of occupying forces. Unlike the various nationalist militias operating in occupied Yugoslavia, the Partisans were a pan-Yugoslav movement promoting the "brotherhood and unity" of Yugoslav nations, representing the republican, left-wing, socialist elements of the Yugoslav political
People's Republic of Bulgaria
The People's Republic of Bulgaria was the official name of Bulgaria, when it was a socialist republic. The People's Republic of Bulgaria existed from 1946 to 1990 and it was ruled by the Bulgarian Communist Party, which in turn ruled together with its coalition partner, the Bulgarian Agrarian National Union. Bulgaria was part of Comecon and a member of the Warsaw Pact and was allied with the Soviet Union during the Cold War; the Bulgarian resistance movement during World War II deposed the Kingdom of Bulgaria administration in the Bulgarian coup d'état of 1944 which ended the country's alliance with the Axis powers and led to the People's Republic in 1946. The BCP modelled its policies after those of the Soviet Union, transforming the country over the course of a decade from an agrarian peasant society into an industrialized socialist society. In the mid 1950s and after the death of Stalin, conservative hardliners lost influence and a period of social liberalization and stability followed under Todor Zhivkov.
Varying degrees of conservative or liberal influence followed. After a new energy and transportation infrastructure was constructed, by 1960 manufacturing became the dominant sector of the economy and Bulgaria became a major exporter of household goods and on computer technologies, earning it the nickname of "Silicon Valley of the Eastern Bloc"; the country's high productivity levels and high scores on social development rankings made it a model for other socialist countries' administrative policies. In 1989, after a few years of liberal influence, political reforms were initiated and Todor Zhivkov, who had served as head of the party since 1954, was removed from office in a BCP congress. In 1990, under the leadership of Georgi Parvanov the BCP changed its name to the Bulgarian Socialist Party and adopted a centre-left political ideology in place of Marxism–Leninism. Following the BSP victory in the 1990 election, the first contested multi-party election since 1931, the name of the state was changed to the Republic of Bulgaria.
Geographically, the People's Republic of Bulgaria had the same borders as present-day Bulgaria and it bordered the Black Sea to the east. On 1 March 1941, the Kingdom of Bulgaria signed the Tripartite Pact, became a member of the Axis Powers; as a result of the German invasion of Yugoslavia and Greece in April, Bulgaria came to occupy large parts of these countries. In 1942, the Fatherland Front was formed from a mixture of Communists and Liberals. In 1944, with the entry of the Red Army in Romania, the Kingdom of Bulgaria changed its alliance and declared neutrality. On 5 September, the Soviet Union declared war on the kingdom and three days the Red Army entered north-eastern Bulgaria, prompting the government to declare support in order to minimise military conflict. On 9 September, communist partisans launched a coup d'état which de facto ended the rule of the Bulgarian monarchy and its administration, after which a new government assumed power led by the Fatherland Front, which itself was led by the Bulgarian Communist Party.
After taking power, the FF formed a coalition under the former ruler Kimon Georgiev, including the Social Democrats and the Agrarians. Under the terms of the peace settlement, Bulgaria was allowed to keep Southern Dobruja, but formally renounced all claims to Greek and Yugoslav territory. 150,000 Bulgarians settled during the occupation were expelled from Western Thrace. The Communists deliberately took a minor role in the new government at first, while the Soviet representatives held the real power. A Communist-controlled People's Militia was set up, which harassed and intimidated non-Communist parties. On 1 February 1945, Regent Prince Kiril, former Prime Minister Bogdan Filov, hundreds of other officials of the kingdom were arrested on charges of war crimes. By June and the other Regents, twenty-two former ministers, many others had been executed; the new government began to arrest Nazi collaborators. As the war came to a halt, the government expanded its campaign of political revolution to attack economic elites in banking and private business.
This strengthened when it became apparent that the United States and United Kingdom had little interest in Bulgaria. In November 1945, Communist Party leader Georgi Dimitrov returned to Bulgaria after 22 years in exile, he made a truculent speech. Elections held a few weeks resulted in a large majority for the Fatherland Front. In September 1946, the monarchy was abolished by plebiscite, which resulted in 95.6 percent voting in favour of a republic, young Tsar Simeon II was sent into exile. The Communists took power, Bulgaria was declared a People's Republic. Vasil Kolarov, the number-three man in the party, became President. Over the next year, the Communists consolidated their hold on power. Elections for a constituent assembly in October 1946 gave the Communists a majority. A month Dimitrov became prime minister; the Agrarians refused to co-operate with the authorities, in June 1947 their leader Nikola Petkov was arrested. Despite strong international protests he was executed in September; this marked the establishment of a Communist establishment in Bulgaria.
In December 1947, the constituent assembly ratified a new constitution for the republic, referred to as the "Dimitrov Constitution". The constitution was drafted with the help of Soviet jurists using the 1936 Soviet Constitution as a model. By 1948, the remaining opposition parties were either dissolved.
Informbiro was a period in the history of Yugoslavia which spanned from 1948 to 1955, characterised by conflict and schism with the Soviet Union. The word Informbiro is the Yugoslav name for the Cominform, an abbreviation for "Information Bureau," from "Communist Information Bureau"; the term refers to the Cominform Resolution of June 28, 1948 that accused the Communist Party of Yugoslavia, among other things, of "depart from Marxism-Leninism", exhibiting an "anti-Soviet attitude," "meeting criticism with hostility" and "reject to discuss the situation at an Informbureau meeting." Following these allegations, the resolution expelled the KPJ from Cominform. As a result, Yugoslavia fell outside of the Soviet sphere of influence, the country's brand of communism, with its independence from the Soviet line, was called Titoism by Moscow and considered treasonous. Party purges against suspected "Titoites" were conducted throughout Eastern Europe; the Tito–Stalin, or Yugoslav–Soviet split took place in the spring and early summer of 1948.
Its title pertains to Josip Broz Tito, at the time the Yugoslav Prime Minister, Soviet Premier Joseph Stalin. In the West, Tito was thought of as a loyal communist leader, second only to Stalin in the Eastern Bloc. However, having liberated itself with only limited Red Army support, Yugoslavia steered an independent course, was experiencing tensions with the Soviet Union. Yugoslavia and the Yugoslav government considered themselves allies of Moscow, while Moscow considered Yugoslavia a satellite and treated it as such. Previous tensions erupted over a number of issues, but after the Moscow meeting, an open confrontation was beginning. Next came an exchange of letters directly between the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, the Communist Party of Yugoslavia. In the first CPSU letter of 27 March 1948, the Soviets accused the Yugoslavs of denigrating Soviet socialism via statements such as "socialism in the Soviet Union has ceased to be revolutionary", it claimed that the KPJ was not "democratic enough", that it was not acting as a vanguard that would lead the country to socialism.
The Soviets said that they "could not consider such a Communist party organization to be Marxist-Leninist, Bolshevik". The letter named a number of high-ranking officials as "dubious Marxists" inviting Tito to purge them, thus cause a rift in his own party. Communist officials Andrija Hebrang and Sreten Žujović supported the Soviet view. Tito, saw through it, refused to compromise his own party, soon responded with his own letter; the KPJ response on 13 April 1948 was a strong denial of the Soviet accusations, both defending the revolutionary nature of the party, re-asserting its high opinion of the Soviet Union. However, the KPJ noted that "no matter how much each of us loves the land of socialism, the Soviet Union, he can in no case love his own country less". In a speech, the Yugoslav Prime Minister stated We are not going to pay the balance on others' accounts, we are not going to serve as pocket money in anyone's currency exchange, we are not going to allow ourselves to become entangled in political spheres of interest.
Why should it be held against our peoples that they want to be independent? And why should autonomy be restricted, or the subject of dispute? We will not be dependent on anyone again! The 31 page-long Soviet answer of 4 May 1948 admonished the KPJ for failing to admit and correct its mistakes, went on to accuse it of being too proud of their successes against the Germans, maintaining that the Red Army had "saved them from destruction"; this time, the Soviets named Josip Broz Tito and Edvard Kardelj as the principal "heretics", while defending Hebrang and Žujović. The letter suggested; the KPJ responded by expelling Hebrang and Žujović from the party, by answering the Soviets on 17 May 1948 with a letter which criticized Soviet attempts to devalue the successes of the Yugoslav resistance movement. On 19 May 1948, a correspondence by Mikhail A. Suslov informed Josip Broz Tito that the Communist Information Bureau, or Cominform, would be holding a session on 28 June 1948 in Bucharest completely dedicated to the "Yugoslav issue".
The Cominform was an association of communist parties, the primary Soviet tool for controlling the political developments in the Eastern Bloc. The date of the meeting, 28 June, was chosen by the Soviets as the triple anniversary of the Battle of Kosovo Field, the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand in Sarajevo, the adoption of the Vidovdan Constitution. Tito invited, refused to attend under a dubious excuse of illness; when an official invitation arrived on 19 June 1948, Tito again refused. On the first day of the meeting, 28 June, the Cominform adopted the prepared text of a resolution, known in Yugoslavia as the "Resolution of the Informbiro". In it, the other Cominform members expelled Yugoslavia, citing "nationalist elements" that had "managed in the course of the past five or six months to reach a dominant position in the leadership" of the KPJ; the resolution warned Yugoslavia that it was on the path back to bourgeois capitalism due to its nationalist, independence-minded positions, accused the party itself of "Trotskyism".
This was followed by t
Socialist Republic of Romania
The Socialist Republic of Romania refers to Romania under Marxist-Leninist one-party communist rule that existed from 1947 to 1989. From 1947 to 1965, the state was known as the Romanian People's Republic; the country was a Soviet-aligned Eastern Bloc state with a dominant role for the Romanian Communist Party enshrined in its constitutions. As World War II ended, Romania, a former Axis member, was occupied by the Soviet Union, the sole representative of the Allies. On 6 March 1945, after mass demonstrations by communist sympathizers and political pressure from the Soviet representative of the Allied Control Commission, a new pro-Soviet government that included members of the outlawed Romanian Workers' Party was installed. More members of the Workers' Party and communist-aligned parties gained control of the administration and pre-war political leaders were eliminated from political life. In December 1947, King Michael was coerced to abdicate and the People's Republic of Romania was declared.
At first, Romania's scarce post-war resources were drained by the "SovRoms", new tax-exempt Soviet-Romanian companies that allowed the Soviet Union to control Romania's major sources of income. Another drain was the war reparations paid to the Soviet Union. In the 1950s, Romania's communist government began to assert more independence, for example, the withdrawal of all Soviet troops from Romania by 1958. In the 1960s and 1970s, Nicolae Ceaușescu became General Secretary of the Communist Party, Chairman of the State Council and assumed the newly established role of President in 1974. Ceaușescu's denunciation of the 1968 Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia and a brief relaxation in internal repression helped give him a positive image both at home and in the West. However, rapid economic growth fueled in part by foreign credits gave way to an austerity and political repression that led to the fall of his totalitarian government in December 1989. A large number of people were executed or died in custody during communist Romania's existence, most during the Stalinist era of the 1950s.
While judicial executions between 1945 and 1964 numbered 137, deaths in custody are estimated in the tens or hundreds of thousands. Many more were imprisoned for political, economical or other reasons and suffered abuse, torture and/or death. Geographically, Romania bordered the Black Sea to the east; when King Michael, supported by the main political parties, overthrew Ion Antonescu in August 1944, breaking Romania away from the Axis and bringing it over to the Allied side, Michael could do nothing to erase the memory of his country's recent active participation in the German invasion of the Soviet Union. Romanian forces fought under Soviet command, driving through Northern Transylvania into Hungary proper, on into Czechoslovakia and Austria. However, the Soviets treated Romania as conquered territory, Soviet troops remained in the country as occupying forces under the pretext that Romanian authorities could not guarantee the security and stability of Northern Transylvania; the Yalta Conference had granted the Soviet Union a predominant interest in Romania, the Paris Peace Treaties failed to acknowledge Romania as a co-belligerent, the Red Army was sitting on Romanian soil.
The Communists, as all political parties, played only a minor role in the first Michael's wartime governments, headed by General Constantin Sănătescu, though their presence increased in the one led by Nicolae Rădescu. This changed in March 1945, when Dr. Petru Groza of the Ploughmen's Front, a party associated with the Communists, became prime minister, his government was broad-based on paper, including members of most major prewar parties except the Iron Guard. However, the Communists held the key ministries, most of the ministers nominally representing non-Communist parties were, like Groza himself, fellow travelers; the King was not happy with the direction of this government, but when he attempted to force Groza's resignation by refusing to sign any legislation, Groza chose to enact laws without bothering to obtain Michael's signature. On 8 November 1945, King Michael's name day, a pro-monarchy demonstration in front of the Royal Palace in Bucharest escalated into street fights between opposition supporters and soldiers and pro-government workers, resulting in dozens of killed and wounded.
Despite the King's disapproval, the first Groza government brought women's suffrage. However, it brought the beginnings of Soviet domination of Romania. In the elections of 19 November 1946, the Communist-led Bloc of Democratic Parties claimed 84% of the votes; these elections were characterized by widespread irregularities, including intimidation, electoral fraud, assassinations Archives confirm suspicions at the time that the election results were, in fact, falsified. After forming a government, the Communists moved to eliminate the role of the centrist parties. A show trial of their leadership was arranged, they were put in jail. Other parties were forced to "merge" with the Communists. In 1946 and 1947, several high-ranking members in the pro-Axis government were executed as war criminals for their involvement in the Holocaust and for attacking the Soviet Union. Ant
The Forest Brothers were Estonian and Lithuanian partisans who waged a guerrilla war against Soviet rule during the Soviet invasion and occupation of the three Baltic states during, after, World War II. Similar anti-Soviet Eastern European resistance groups fought against Soviet and communist rule in Bulgaria, Poland and western Ukraine; the Red Army occupied the independent Baltic states in 1940–1941 and, after a period of German occupation, again in 1944–1945. As Stalinist repression intensified over the following years, 50,000 residents of these countries used the forested countryside as a natural refuge and base for armed anti-Soviet resistance. Resistance units varied in size and composition, ranging from individually operating guerrillas, armed for self-defense, to large and well-organized groups able to engage significant Soviet forces in battle; the term Forest Brothers first came into use in the Baltic region during the chaotic Russian Revolution of 1905. Varying sources refer to forest brothers of this era either as peasants revolting or as schoolteachers seeking refuge in the forest.
Estonia and Lithuania gained their independence in 1918 after the collapse of the Russian Empire. The ideals of nationalism and self-determination had taken hold with many people as a result of having the independent states of Estonia and Latvia for the first time since the 13th century. At the same time, Lithuanians re-established a sovereign state, which had a rich former history, having been the largest country in Europe during the 14th century, but, occupied by the Russian Empire since 1795. Allied declarations such as the Atlantic Charter had offered promise of a post-war world in which the three Baltic nations could re-establish themselves. Having experienced occupation by the Soviet regime followed by the Nazi regime, many people were unwilling to accept another occupation. Unlike Estonia and Latvia where the Germans conscripted the local population into military formations within the Waffen-SS, Lithuania never had its own Waffen-SS division. In 1944 the Nazi authorities had created an ill-equipped but 20,000-strong "Lithuanian Territorial Defense Force" under General Povilas Plechavičius to combat Soviet partisans led by Antanas Sniečkus.
The Germans, however came to see this force as a nationalist threat to their occupation regime. The senior staff were arrested on May 15, 1944, with General Plechavičius being deported to the concentration camp in Salaspils, Latvia; however half of the remaining forces formed guerrilla units and dissolved into the countryside in preparation for partisan operations against the Red Army as the Eastern Front approached. The guerrilla operations in Estonia and Latvia had some basis in Adolf Hitler's authorization of a full withdrawal from Estonia in mid-September 1944 — he allowed any soldiers of his Estonian forces the 20th Waffen-SS Division, who wished to stay and defend their homes to do so — and in the fate of Army Group Courland, among the last of Hitler's forces to surrender after it became trapped in the Courland Pocket on the Courland Peninsula in 1945. Many Estonian and Latvian soldiers, a few Germans, evaded capture and fought as Forest Brothers in the countryside for years after the war.
Others, such as Alfons Rebane and Alfrēds Riekstiņš escaped to the United Kingdom and Sweden and participated in Allied intelligence operations in aid of the Forest Brothers. While the Waffen-SS was found guilty of war crimes and other atrocities and declared a criminal organization after the war, the Nuremberg Trials explicitly excluded conscripts in the following terms: The Tribunal declares to be criminal within the meaning of the Charter the group composed of those persons, accepted as members of the SS as enumerated in the preceding paragraph, who became or remained members of the organization with knowledge that it was being used for the commission of acts declared criminal by Article 6 of the Charter, or who were implicated as members of the organization in the commission of such crimes, however, those who were drafted into membership by the State in such a way as to give them no choice in the matter, who had committed no such crimes. In 1949–1950 the United States Displaced Persons Commission investigated the Estonian and Latvian divisions and on September 1, 1950, adopted the following policy: The Baltic Waffen SS Units are to be considered as separate and distinct in purpose, ideology and qualifications for membership from the German SS, therefore the Commission holds them not to be a movement hostile to the Government of the United States under Section 13 of the Displaced Persons Act, as amended.
The Latvian government has asserted that the Latvian Legion composed of the 15th and 19th Latvian Waffen-SS divisions, was neither a criminal nor collaborationist organization. The ranks of the resistance swelled with the Red Army's attempts at conscription in the Baltic states after the war, with fewer than half the registered conscripts reporting in some districts; the widespread harassment of disappearing conscripts' families pushed more people to evade authorities in the forests. Many enlisted men deserted. With the German invasion of the Soviet Union on June 22, 1941, Joseph Stalin made a public statement on the radio calling for a scorched earth policy in the areas to be abandoned on July 3. About 10,000 Forest Brothers, which had organized themselves into countrywide Omakaitse organizations, attacked the forces of the NKVD, destruction battalions and the 8th Army (Major General Lj