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Russia's Control Over Eastern Europe: A reassessment of a historic power-imbalance

By Angelina Burkhardt

From Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

Russia's Control Over Eastern Europe: A reassessment of a historic power-imbalance: Notícias recentes

The fall of communism in Eastern Europe (1989) is widely regarded as one of the most crucial turning points in the 20th century Cold War. Although this moment in history is seen as the fall of the Soviet Union, the emancipation of Eastern Europe is merely the product of a domino effect, beginning with Gorbachev’s loosening of power leading to the crumbling of several European alliances. For us to assess the Soviet Union’s long-lasting influence on its former communist allies, we must first highlight the consequences of the second world war. 

Coming out of world war 2, Germany’s once-powerful government was collapsing while the Soviet Union was stronger than it had ever been, taking advantage of Eastern Europe quickly weakening the economy in the post-war period. Germany was split into the communist east, and democratic west, while countries such as Bulgaria, Albania, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Poland, Romania, and Yugoslavia had quickly had their economies tightly tied to the Soviet Union making them politically and economically dependent on the communist regime. Many historians claim that the post-war period was almost as horrific as the war itself. Where it was reported that hundred-thousands of women had been raped by Soviet soldiers, people were living off of 800 calories a day, citizens had all their properties confiscated, labor camps called “Gulags” imprisoned millions of people to work from dawn till dusk until they dropped dead and millions punished for resisting the communist ideologies. Although Eastern Europe was experiencing ideological bitterness, citizens slowly realized they had no choice but to give in to their invading oppressor. 

The relationship between the USSR and the USA deteriorated after world war 2. The crashing views of communism and capitalism, dictatorship and democracy, control and freedom sparked the emergence of the Cold War, characterized by an aggressive arms race, several proxy wars, and ideological bids for political dominance. While western Germany was quickly recovering and making remarkable economic progress due to the Marshall plan imposed by the USA, eastern Europe was struggling to maintain the illusion of a bright communist future. The regiments imposed by the Soviets were unethical, economically corrupt, and politically hostile. Eastern Europe continuously suffered due to the inevitable effects of the forced, strict communistic ideologies from the USSR. Everything the Soviet Union was imposing onto its allies was in the goal to brainwash the population into a false sense of communist superiority. They established new governments, built military bases to keep a strong grasp on the population, drained all of the country's intellectual as well as economic resources for their use, suppressed all movements that doubted the people in power, and killed anyone trying to gain access to the western world. 

Now that we have established the basis of the USSR’s control over Eastern Europe, we can better highlight the long-term consequences of the tyrannical communist power forced onto post-soviet nations. Since the fall of the Soviet Union, Russia has steadily been using specific tools to keep its ex-allies in line with its economic, political, and social interests. Russia keeps post-soviet countries at a constant level of political hostility by raising frozen conflicts- the most recent of which was in Ukraine. Places such as Moldova, Georgia, Armenia, and Ukraine all have unresolved territorial disputes that are usually directly supported by Russia. Due to these unresolved conflicts, Russia deliberately isolates former soviet-states from cooperative organizations such as NATO and the EU that promote economic and political stability. The Soviets’ influence is also at the basis of the high levels of corruption countries such as Romania and Bulgaria face today. Due to the aggressive enforcement of centralized economies, where the state-controlled things from production prices to individual incomes, the incentives for bribes became the only way to run businesses. The implementation of the communist economic ideology and the lingering dependency on Russia bred long-term corruption in countries such as Bulgaria, which is deemed to be in the top three most corrupt countries in Europe. Because of the corrupt systems in eastern Europe, things such as education have not been newly updated since the communist eras, leading the general citizen to have no other choice but seek a better standard of living in the western world. 

Russia's spheres of economic, political, and social influence are the deep-rooted reasons for which post-soviet states are now struggling to keep up with the western world. The long-spun corruption that encompasses these countries is in no way slowing down any time soon. The long-spun dependency on Russia for economic support is in no way slowing down either. On the surface level we can see the communist mark the Soviets left on eastern Europe through the brutalist architecture, and the widespread use of the Russian language. However, once we dive deep into the history of the USSR’s deliberate weakening of eastern Europe for their own gains, we begin to see the true impact Russia had on their allies. 

Russia's Control Over Eastern Europe: A reassessment of a historic power-imbalance: Texto
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