6.5: Eastern Europe

Eastern Europe
Lonely Planet: Introducing Eastern Europe

After World War II ended in 1945, Europe was divided into Western Europe and Eastern Europe by the Iron Curtain.

What Was The Iron Curtain? Where did the term come from? The cold war?

Eastern Europe fell under the influence of the Soviet Union, and the region was separated from the West. When the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, all the Soviet Republics bordering Eastern Europe declared independence from Russia and united with the rest of Europe. The transition Eastern Europe has experienced in the last few decades has not been easy; however, most of the countries are now looking to Western Europe for trade and economic development. Cooperation continues between Eastern and Western Europe, and the European Union (EU) has emerged as the primary economic and political entity of Europe.

The collapse of Communism and the Soviet Union led to upheaval and transition in the region of Eastern Europe in the 1990s. Each country in the region was under Communist rule. The countries bordering Russia were once part of the Soviet Union, and those countries not part of the Soviet Union were heavily influenced by its dominant position in the region. When the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, the bordering countries declared independence and began the process of integration into the European community. Moldavia changed its name to Moldova. The countries of Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia each broke into multiple countries and, because of the diverse ethnic populations, organized around the concept of nation-states. Czechoslovakia peacefully agreed to separate into two states: the Czech Republic and the Republic of Slovakia. Yugoslavia was not so fortunate.

Most Eastern European political borders resemble ethnic boundaries. Each of the regions once resembled nation-states. In principle, Romania is set apart for Romanians, Hungary for Hungarians, and so on. Few are true nation-states because of ethnic minorities located within their borders, but the countries held on to their common heritage throughout the Communist era. In most Eastern European countries, cultural forces have brought people together to publicly support the move to unite and hold onto a heritage that is as old as Europe itself.

Governments that had been controlled by Communist dictators or authoritarian leaderships before 1991 were opened up to democratic processes with public elections. With the fall of Communism came economic reforms that shifted countries from central planning to open markets. Under central planning, the governments dictated which products were produced and how many of each were to be produced. The open markets invited private capitalism and western corporate businesses.

The power of the state was transferred from the Communist elite to the private citizen. People could vote for their public officials and could choose businesses and work individually. With the EU looming over the realm, the now-independent countries of Eastern Europe shifted their economic direction away from Moscow and the collapsing Communist state and toward the core industrial countries of Western Europe and the EU.

Danzig HD Mapper: The History of Eastern Europe: Every Year
Suggestion: Play the video at 2x speed. 😉
Animated infographic that illustrates the absurdities often applied when the term “Eastern Europe” is used. Which countries are in Eastern Europe? Does Eastern Europe as we knew it exist? Has the extent of Eastern Europe changed since the Cold War?

Let’s take a look at some of the countries in this region of the world!

Key Takeaways:

✎ After World War II ended in 1945, Europe was divided into Western Europe and Eastern Europe by the Iron Curtain. Western Europe promoted capitalist democracies, and Eastern Europe came under the Communist influence of the Soviet Union. After the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, Eastern Europe began to transition toward Western European ideals.

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Next: Hungary, Czech Republic, and Slovakia

Image and additional information credits:

Eastern Europe map
By Self – Own work, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=6673546

4 thoughts on “6.5: Eastern Europe

  1. Is it time to scrap “Eastern Europe”? | The Economist video is unavailable

    1. Thank you SO much for letting us know! I found the same video and embedded it. 🙂

  2. The second video on this page (It’s History: The Iron Curtain has Descended And Germany Gets Divided I THE COLD WAR) currently says it is unavailable because it is a private video.

    1. Thank you SO much for letting us know! I’ll look for a replacement asap. 🙂

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