An Overview of European History
Prehistoric people lived on the European continent as long ago as the Ice Age. Civilization began to come from Egypt and Asia by way of the islands of the Aegean Sea in about 2000 BC. In time this flowered into the splendors of Greek and Roman culture. Europe's recorded history begins with these cultures.
After centuries of progress and power, the Roman Empire was divided into two parts at the death of Theodosius the Great in AD 395. The Western Empire had Rome as its capital; the Byzantine, or Eastern, Empire had its capital at Constantinople, now called Istanbul. Beyond the boundaries of the Roman world were numerous barbaric peoples, divided into three main groups: remnants of the Celtic peoples in outlying parts of the British Isles; Germanic, or Teutonic, folk living along the Rhine and Danube rivers and in the Scandinavian peninsula; and the great population of the Slavs, ancestors of the modern Poles, Russians, Czechs, Serbians, and others, whose tribes even then lived east of the Teutons.
Germanic Invasions of the Roman Empire
The Germanic barbarians were divided chiefly into Goths, Burgundians, Vandals, Alemanni, Bavarians, Langobards (Lombards), Franks, Angles, Saxons, and Frisians. The Gothic tribes (Visigoths and Ostrogoths) had been established along the shores of the lower Danube and the Black Sea for nearly 200 years. This region was invaded by the Huns from central Asia. Its inhabitants pushed westward, causing the great Gothic invasion of AD 375. Gaul was overrun chiefly by Visigoths, Burgundians, and Franks; Spain by Vandals, Suevi, and Visigoths; Africa by Vandals, crossing from Spain. Italy suffered a number of invasions, especially those of the Visigoths, Ostrogoths, and Lombards; Britain, after being abandoned by its Roman garrison in AD 410, became prey to Angles and Saxons sailing in their pirate vessels from their homes about the mouth of the Elbe River. The influence of Rome--its language, law, and government--left a stamp that has not yet been wholly effaced.
By 800 Charlemagne had consolidated the Germanic conquests into an empire that stretched from the Ebro River in Spain to beyond the Elbe and from the North Sea to a little south of Rome. The decline of classical civilization was checked. Something of the Roman tradition of unity, order, and centralization was preserved in the face of advancing feudalism. Christianity was spread through most of Western Europe. Islam was established in Spain after 711 and lingered there until the Moors were conquered in 1492
Rise of Modern States
The division of the Frankish empire between Charlemagne's grandsons in the Treaty of Verdun (843) was the starting point of the kingdoms and nations of France and Germany. In 962, under Otto I, king of Germany, the empire in the West was revived with the title Holy Roman Empire. It included only Germany and Italy. Its power declined until its extinction in 1806. The Byzantine Empire fulfilled its function as a bulwark against Asian conquest and Islam until it was overwhelmed by the Ottoman Turks in the fall of Constantinople in 1453. On the lands of present-day Hungary lived the Asian Avars, whose place was taken in the 10th century by their kindred, the Magyars. Nothing but the little Kingdom of Asturias was left of the Gothic power in Spain. From this seed grew the Christian realms of Castile, Leon, and Aragon. They were consolidated in the 15th century into the kingdom of the Catholic sovereigns of Spain.
After raiding the coasts of all Western Europe in the 9th century, the Vikings established settlements in western France in 850. As Normans they gave a new dynasty to England (1066) and conquered Naples and Sicily.
Gradually the Capetian kings of France were able to reconstitute the unity of their kingdom and set it on a path of internal growth. In the 15th century, under Louis XI, it was the first strong monarchical state of modern times. The States of the Church were set up in Italy as the temporal dominion of the pope. Poland and Russia became settled Christian lands, and the heathen Prussians were Christianized and Germanized by the Teutonic Knights. Feudalism, Christianity, monasticism, and medieval art and learning spread. The Crusades, the growth of town life, and revived commerce helped prepare the way for that rebirth of the human spirit called the Renaissance.
Wars of Religion and Conquest
The expedition of Charles VIII of France, in 1494, to assert his claim to inherit Naples and Sicily started a series of wars over Italy which embroiled France and Spain for a half century. The close of the conflict left Charles V, emperor of the Holy Roman Empire, ruler of united Spain and Germany and of Sardinia, Sicily and Naples, Milan, the Netherlands, the county of Burgundy (Franche-Comte), and a great part of the New World. His brother Ferdinand I, archduke of Austria and emperor and head of the German branch of the Hapsburgs, obtained by marriage Silesia, Bohemia, and that part of Hungary which had not fallen to the victorious Turks. The power of the Spanish Hapsburgs, under Charles's son, Philip II, and his successors, steadily declined. During these wars the Protestant Reformation, begun by Martin Luther, got such a strong start that it could not be stamped out by the Catholic rulers
The Thirty Years' War (1618-48) between Catholic and Protestant rulers left the Holy Roman Empire greatly weakened and practically confined to Germany and Austria (see Thirty Years' War). France became again the first power of Europe. It had obtained much of the Burgundian lands (including Franche-Comte, conquered by Louis XIV). Savoy, straddling the French Alps, was becoming an Italian power. Spain still held the Spanish Netherlands (Belgium) and a great part of Italy. The Protestant Netherlands (Holland) and Switzerland had freed themselves by successful revolt from the empire.
Sweden, independent of Denmark since 1523, was one of the great powers. It had conquered territories from Germany, Poland, and Russia. Denmark still ruled Norway. The Duchy of Prussia, united to the mark of Brandenburg in 1618, was soon (1701) to give its name to a new German kingdom erected by the military power of the Hohenzollerns.
Shifting Fortunes of the Nations
In the 16th century Poland (in union with Lithuania since 1569) was one of the most powerful states of Europe, stretching from the Baltic almost to the Black Sea. The 18th century saw its steady decline. Russia, under Peter the Great and Catherine II, became a formidable and disquieting power in the 18th century. Turkey, though decreased since its high-water mark of conquest in the 17th century, still retained the greater part of the former Eastern Empire. Venice held an extensive sway in the Adriatic and the eastern Mediterranean; and Genoa held Corsica until it passed to France in 1768.
Soon after the outbreak of the French Revolution in 1789, Poland ceased to exist, through partition by its greedy neighbors. Prussia had risen to the rank of a great power following the wars of Frederick the Great. Sweden had lost the leadership of northern Europe. The Spanish Netherlands had passed to Austria in 1713, at the close of the War of the Spanish Succession; and branches of the French House of Bourbon ruled the parts of Italy that had been Spanish, as well as Spain itself. England had become the head of a British Empire. Its people had originated the inventions which led to the Industrial Revolution. The "Mother of Parliaments" was the model to the world of constitutional government and political liberty during the first half of the 19th century.
French Revolution and Napoleonic Wars
The French Revolution and the wars of Napoleon I brought widespread changes in Europe. Napoleon's direct empire extended over Germany west of the Rhine, the Netherlands, northwestern Germany, and a great part of Italy and Dalmatia. In addition, his brother Joseph was king of Spain, his brother-in-law Joachim Murat sat on the throne of Naples, and the Grand Duchy of Warsaw and the Confederation of the Rhine were under rulers he chose.
After the fall of Napoleon at Waterloo in 1815, the Congress of Vienna forced France to retire within its old limits and in large part restored the old government. Russia was allowed to annex Finland from Sweden and to increase its Polish territories by absorbing the Grand Duchy of Warsaw. Prussia was enlarged. Austria was given northern Italy in exchange for Belgium, which was united with Holland. Norway was taken from Denmark and given to Sweden, with which it remained united until 1905. The German states (reduced from several hundred to 38, including Austria and Prussia) were organized into a loose union called the German Confederation.
The Holy Alliance and the Grand Alliance
In 1815 Czar Alexander I of Russia drafted a vague treaty, called the Holy Alliance, pledging the monarchs of Europe to take for their rule of conduct "only the Christian religion." More effective was the Grand, or Quadruple, Alliance, formed in the same year by Austria, Prussia, Russia, and Great Britain. (France was later admitted.) This had the purpose of preserving legitimate (meaning hereditary) government and the terms of the Vienna settlement.
This group of states dominated the Concert of Europe, the system whereby no important change might take place without the consent of these Great Powers. An accompanying principle, the balance of power, required that no one of the Great Powers should become strong enough to dominate the others.
Industrial Revolution and Growing Nationalism
No pressure of the Great Powers could permanently block change. The intense nationalism and hatred of absolute monarchs developed in France by the Revolution had spread. The Industrial Revolution inventions made factories and railroads possible. Wealth increased and the new industrial rich resented control by the landed nobility and demanded government protection of manufacturing and trade.
Yet for 30 years, under the leadership of Prince Metternich of Austria, the Great Powers preserved much of the Vienna settlement. In 1830 Belgium broke away from The Netherlands. France replaced its absolutist Bourbon king by a monarchy more favorable to business. The Concert broke a democratic revolt in Spain, and Russia put down a nationalist revolt in Poland. In 1848 a temporary republic was set up in France. In 1849 the king of Prussia and the Austrian emperor were forced to grant constitutions.
Again reaction triumphed. France submitted to the dictatorship of Napoleon III. The Frankfurt Assembly failed to prepare an acceptable German constitution. Austria suppressed a Hungarian rebellion and reconquered its Italian provinces.
New States and Limited Monarchies
For a half century nationalism developed--the political union of people with common racial, territorial, or emotional attachments. France helped the Kingdom of Sardinia free the rest of Italy, which was then united into one kingdom. Otto von Bismarck, prime minister of Prussia, undertook three wars which drove Austria out of the German Confederation. He united the rest of the Germans in the German Empire under the rule of the king of Prussia.
The Turkish Empire in Europe gradually fell apart, and the Concert supervised the establishment of the small nations as they broke away--the Christian Balkan states of Greece, Serbia, Bulgaria, and Romania. When Russia attempted to intervene in Turkey in 1853, the ensuing Crimean War (1854-56) forced Russia to submit to a settlement by the Concert.
The principle of nationalism was sometimes violated. Bismarck, after the Franco-Prussian War (1870-71), annexed Alsace-Lorraine, with a largely French population, because German industry needed the region's iron and potash. In 1867, after its defeat by Prussia, Austria formed the dual monarchy of Austria-Hungary, making the people of a number of nationalities subject to these two.
Meanwhile, though the poorer classes were becoming more dependent economically on factory owners, they were gaining political freedom. In 1815 Great Britain was still largely controlled by a few landowning families. Beginning in 1837 the right to vote was given to progressively larger groups of citizens, until by the time of World War I it was possessed by nearly all adult males. In 1911 the House of Lords lost its power to veto laws voted by the more democratic House of Commons. In 1870 Napoleon III was driven from the French throne, and a republic was set up. In Spain a revolt in 1868 against the despotic Queen Isabella succeeded, but the new democratic government failed to find another sovereign. Italy in the process of unification drove out the absolute monarchs formerly in control, substituting the democratic monarchs of the House of Savoy. The Scandinavian countries, The Netherlands, and Belgium lived under monarchs with strictly limited powers.
Colonies and Alliances
In the latter part of the 19th century the industrialists of the Great Powers were able to produce more than they could sell at home, and they also needed raw materials produced elsewhere. So they pushed their governments to seek colonies abroad rather than fight one another for European markets. Great Britain, France, and Germany conquered great colonial empires in Asia and Africa. Russia spread all the way across northern Asia. These empires came into contact, and friction developed.
From this situation developed an armaments race and systems of alliances that eventually broke up the Concert. Germany and Austria-Hungary, fearing Russia, formed an alliance. France and Russia, fearing Germany, did likewise. Italy, piqued at France, which blocked its African expansion, joined Germany and Austria in the Triple Alliance but wavered when France made concessions. Great Britain, though preferring to avoid continental alliances, feared Germany's growing navy and entered into the Triple Entente with France and Russia.
World War I
In 1912, against the wishes of the Concert, the Balkan States went to war to capture the Turkish territory inhabited by their nationals, lands that belonged to the disintegrating Ottoman Empire. Serbia, exulting in the ensuing victory, started propaganda for annexing Bosnia and Herzegovina, part of Austria-Hungary inhabited by Serbs.
The assassination of Francis Ferdinand, Austria's crown prince, in the Bosnian capital of Sarajevo, on June 28, 1914, was a result of this propaganda. Austria's determination to crush Serbia brought Russia, as protector of the Slavic states, to Serbia's side. The two systems of alliances then engulfed all Europe in World War I
The changes in Europe that resulted from the war were far-reaching. Old boundaries and political institutions disappeared, social classes rose and fell, and perplexing new economic problems appeared. The czar of Russia was killed and was replaced by a proletarian soviet system under the dictator Lenin. The emperors of Germany and Austria were dethroned, and republics were established. The sultan of Turkey was replaced by Ataturk, who was an army-supported dictator. Revolts of farmers in Eastern Europe broke up the great estates into small farms and reduced the old agricultural nobility. Labor received new rights. England, Germany, Russia, and Poland gave women the vote. Subject peoples broke Austria-Hungary apart and tore pieces from western Russia.
Every government was deeply in debt. War taxes, property destruction estimated at 90 billion dollars, and the death of family wage earners had impoverished the people. Insolvent governments issued paper money, which in Germany and elsewhere lost all value and ruined those living on savings.
The Peace Treaties
The Paris Peace Conference attempted the task of reconstruction through a series of separate treaties with the defeated states. It was hoped that the Concert of Europe might be replaced by a democratic League of Nations, in which all states would be represented.
Otherwise the treaties embodied all the war's fears and hatreds. The Treaty of Versailles with Germany returned Alsace-Lorraine to France, took away Germany's colonies, disarmed Germany on land and sea and in the air, and forced it to make undetermined reparations payments for war damages.
The other defeated states were also disarmed. The treaties of St-Germain with Austria and Trianon with Hungary were based on the principle of nationalism. Poland achieved independence; Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia were created; and Romania and Italy received parts of the old Austro-Hungarian Empire. Bulgaria lost much territory through the Neuilly Treaty. The Ottoman Empire was almost completely dismembered by the Treaty of Sevres, but Mustapha Kemal revolted and forced more favorable terms in the Treaty of Lausanne in 1923.
The Great Powers recognized by treaties the independence of the Baltic nations carved from Russia--Finland, Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia--and of Poland, which was restored from fragments of Germany, Austria, and Russia.
Measures to Promote Peace
It was expected that the new League system would later remedy the injustices of the peace settlement and meet new political problems as they arose. In 1920 the Permanent Court of International Justice was set up at The Hague to settle legal disputes and to give opinions at the League's request. The League itself brought about peaceful arbitration of several quarrels between nations. In 1925 the major powers signed the Locarno Treaties, agreeing to maintain their existing frontiers and reaffirming their willingness to submit all disputes to the League. In the Kellogg-Briand Pact of 1928 they further agreed to renounce war "as an instrument of national policy." Along with these pledges to maintain peace came widespread reduction in armaments. Conferences to limit naval construction were held in 1921-22 and in 1930. In 1932 a general disarmament conference, attended by delegates of 59 nations, was held in Geneva.
With such promise of lasting peace, Europe began to rebuild. From 1924 to 1929 business improved, and paper money was again given definite value. Citizens of the United States lent billions to Europe's countries and cities for reconstruction.
France, always fearful of Germany, helped organize the Little Entente--Czechoslovakia, Romania, and Yugoslavia, which also were bent on maintaining the Paris peace settlement. France formed alliances with these countries and with Poland, which had equal cause to fear Germany.
With the German default on reparations payments in 1922, however, France felt strong enough to act alone. It seized the important Ruhr Valley but then agreed to a reparations settlement, the Dawes Plan, which in turn was replaced by the Young Plan in 1929, granting easier terms.
In 1925 Aristide Briand of France and Gustav Stresemann of Germany agreed on behalf of their states to respect their common frontiers and to maintain the demilitarized zone in the Rhineland. They secured a guarantee from Great Britain and Italy of this settlement (the Locarno Treaties), and Germany was then admitted to the League of Nations. France insisted on keeping Germany disarmed, and the Little Entente applied similar pressure to Austria, Hungary, and Bulgaria.
Rise of Mussolini and Hitler
In the economic crises that rocked the nations after the war, those that had long enjoyed democratic government weathered these storms without changing their political systems. Other countries fell under arbitrary one-man rule. The first to be brought under a dictator was Russia, where Communists seized power in 1917. In 1922 Benito Mussolini made himself master of Italy, and in 1933 Adolf Hitler became the "leader" of the German people. Poland, Austria, Spain, and some of the Balkans also abandoned parliamentary government. In most of these countries free enterprise was supplanted by socialistic government control, free speech by propaganda. Mussolini and Hitler diverted the resources of their nations to building up military power and flouted international law.
After Hitler's rise to power in 1933, Germany and Italy, at first individually and then together, began to upset the political structure that had grown out of World War I. The two dictators regarded their nations as the "have nots," wronged by the Versailles Treaty. France and England were the "haves," interested in maintaining the status quo.
So Hitler in 1933 announced Germany's withdrawal from the League. He then threw off the restrictions of the peace treaty by rebuilding Germany's army, navy, and air force. Italy followed the German lead by invading Ethiopia. As Mussolini's forces, despite League sanctions, neared victory, Hitler in March 1936 sent troops into the Rhineland.
Rome-Berlin Axis Defies the Democracies
In October 1936 Italy and Germany announced an agreement to support their "parallel interests." This accord, known as the Rome-Berlin Axis, was later widened by the inclusion of Japan in an "anti-Comintern" pact. Although ostensibly directed against the Soviet Union and Communism everywhere in the world, the pact was employed against the democracies.
With Italy checking France, Japan menacing the Soviet Union, and Germany forcing concessions from the nations of central Europe, the strong strategic position of the alliance was evident. France was divided by internal strife. England was unprepared to defend itself at home, in the Mediterranean, and in the Far East at the same time. In 1937 the two announced a willingness to satisfy the "legitimate grievances" of Germany and Italy.
Hitler Takes Austria and Czechoslovakia
Hitler then began his conquests. In March 1938 he occupied Austria and annexed it to Germany. Next he demanded the German-speaking Sudetenland from Czechoslovakia. By threatening war, he forced England and France, in an agreement at Munich in September 1938 (the Munich Pact), to permit him to seize the Sudetenland. The Soviet Union then asserted that its offer to aid Czechoslovakia had been refused by France and England. Hitler, in March 1939, took more of Czechoslovakia. Hungary, now in the anti-Comintern pact, and Poland took the rest.
Armed intervention by Germany and Italy in the Spanish civil war helped the rebels defeat the loyalists. General Francisco Franco seized Madrid on March 28, 1939. Franco then established a Fascist dictatorship and joined the anti-Comintern pact. In March 1939 England and France promised to defend the independence of Poland. After Italy seized Albania in April, England and France extended their pledge to Romania, Greece, and Turkey.
World War II and Its Aftermath
The new system of guarantees divided Europe into armed factions of Axis and anti-Axis nations, with the Soviet Union standing aloof until it made a pact with Germany in August 1939. Defying France and England, Hitler demanded Danzig from Poland. When Poland refused, Hitler invaded Poland on Sept. 1, 1939. Two days later England and France declared war on Germany. The Soviet Union entered the war on the Allied side after Hitler invaded it on June 22, 1941. The United States came in after Japan attacked Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941.
The war in Europe ended when Germany's surrender was announced on May 8, 1945, which came to be called V-E Day (Victory in Europe Day). V-E Day found all Europe in need of help. Scores of cities lay in ruins. Villages were wiped out. Railways, highways, ports, and canals had been destroyed. Farmers needed seed, draft animals, and machinery.
Dispirited people of most countries tended to shift the burden to their governments. Socialists and Communists vied for political power. The Socialists advocated only moderate control over business and social institutions, while the Communists aimed at total control. Unwilling to sacrifice all self-government, Western Europe inclined toward moderate socialism. Eastern Europe, long used to dictatorial rule, leaned toward Communism. In all nations except the Soviet Union, Communists were a political minority. However, the parties were well organized and firmly directed by the Soviet Union.
The Struggle for Peace and Power
A new struggle for power began. For centuries Austrian or German strength had served as a buffer between Western Europe and the Slavic East. The war destroyed this pattern. The Soviet Union emerged as the strongest nation on the continent. Britain's power was at an ebb. France and others suffered political strife. The conflict between democratic Western Europe and totalitarian Communism obstructed efforts to reconstruct Europe and establish world peace.
Just before the war ended in August 1945 the anti-Axis countries had formed the United Nations (UN). Its purpose was to keep the peace. In the UN Security Council, however, the Soviet Union used its veto to block actions unfavorable to its policies.
The Soviet Union set up puppet regimes in nations occupied by its troops--Poland, Hungary, and all the Balkans except Greece, where Britain had a foothold. Soviet troops also held eastern Austria and eastern Germany. Seizing more than reparations, the Soviet Union virtually stripped these nations.
Treaties and New Boundaries
In October 1946 delegates from 21 UN nations agreed on peace terms for all Axis nations except Austria, Germany, and Japan. On Feb. 10, 1947, in Paris, the Allies signed peace treaties with Italy, Romania, Bulgaria, Hungary, and Finland. The Soviet Union made territorial gains from Romania, Finland, Czechoslovakia, Poland, and East Prussia and absorbed the Baltic States. It added some 260,000 square miles (670,000 square kilometers) to its European area
Communism Divides Europe
When the war against the Fascist dictators was won, Communism began to spread throughout Europe. The Soviet Union trained leaders from other countries, who then returned to their homelands to build Communist parties. Behind the Iron Curtain--the term coined by former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill to describe the division of Eastern from Western Europe--the Communists gained control of nearly all the central and eastern parts of Europe. The Soviet Union worked to strengthen the emerging Communist elements in other countries. In order to prevent rehabilitation in war-torn Europe, the Soviet Union thwarted the drawing up of peace treaties for Austria and Germany.
The Truman Doctrine and the Marshall Plan
After the Soviet Union refused to cooperate with other nations in Europe and in the UN, the United States abandoned its historic isolation. In 1947 it proclaimed the Truman Doctrine, aimed at "containing" Soviet expansion. Financial aid was given to Greece and Turkey. Greece also received military aid in the fight against the Greek Communist guerrillas.
The United States then proposed a bold, basic idea for the economic recovery of Europe: the European Recovery Plan, popularly known as the Marshall Plan, named for United States Secretary of State George C. Marshall. Under the Marshall Plan, economic aid was offered to all European nations that worked out a program for rehabilitation. The war and its aftermath had drained Europe's economy. Italy, Britain, France, and The Netherlands had lost valuable colonies. Various trade barriers hindered commerce. Outdated machinery and industrial methods kept European products at high prices in world markets.
The Western European nations voted to accept the Marshall Plan. The Organization for European Economic Cooperation (OEEC) was founded in 1948 to collaborate with the United States in the program. It set up a monetary clearinghouse--the European Payments Union.
The Soviet Union forbade its satellite countries to take part in the program. It "persuaded" Czechoslovakia to withdraw its original intention to accept. In 1948 Czechoslovak Communists seized control of the country in a political coup.
The Soviet Union continued to block a German peace treaty. Because Germany's economic recovery was hampered by its division into occupation zones, the United States and Great Britain merged their zones in 1947. The French added their area in 1948.
The Cold War
The Soviet Union launched a Cold War--a series of obstructionist acts designed to make the Allies quit Germany. The Soviet Union blockaded the Allied sector of Berlin from mid-1948 to mid-1949 to keep food and supplies from the city. The Allies overcame the blockade of their land routes with a huge airlift in which planes even brought coal and machinery. In 1949 the Allied zones of Germany were united in the Federal Republic of Germany, or West Germany, and the Communists set up the German Democratic Republic, or East Germany. Berlin remained divided inside East Germany.
Mutual Defense Organizations
The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) was formed in 1949 to protect Western Europe. It included most Western European countries, the United States, and Canada. The objective of NATO was to join the forces of all members in the defense of any member nation that might be attacked.
Such neutral nations as Switzerland and Sweden did not join NATO, and such countries as Austria and Finland were excluded by stipulations of the peace treaties drawn up at the end of World War II. France, an original member of NATO, withdrew from the integrated military command in 1966. The same treaty that paved the way for NATO led to the formation in 1955 of the Western European Union (WEU), whose members are Belgium, Luxembourg, The Netherlands, Italy, Germany, the United Kingdom, Portugal, Spain, and France.
After West Germany was admitted into NATO the Soviet Union forced the signing of the Warsaw Pact, a treaty establishing the mutual defense organization known as the Warsaw Treaty Organization (WTO). Members were East Germany, Poland, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, and the Soviet Union. Albania, an original signer of the treaty, withdrew in 1968; Yugoslavia, with its independent views on Communism, remained outside.
The Soviet Union meanwhile continued to alternate attack and conciliation in the Cold War. In 1955 the Soviet Union agreed to a peace treaty with Austria. In 1956 some concessions were made to Poland, but, when Hungary's resistance fighters revolted, the Soviets brutally crushed the uprising.
Communists tightened their control over East Germany after an unsuccessful revolt in 1953. Each year thousands of East Germans fled to West Berlin. In 1961 the Communist government closed the border, building a wall to prevent the further escape of East Germans. The Soviet Union demanded that the Allies withdraw from West Berlin.
Soviet agreement with the United States and Great Britain to a limited test-ban treaty in 1963 lessened fears of a Soviet nuclear attack. Peace was again threatened in 1968 by the Soviet-led invasion of Czechoslovakia.
Beginning in 1989, as most of the governments of Eastern Europe relaxed or abandoned Communism for freer economies and greater democracy, the future of the Warsaw Pact appeared in doubt. In 1991 it was officially dissolved.
Eurocommunism and the Reform of Communism
The invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968 stimulated a movement that had begun shortly before World War II--a growing independence from Soviet domination of Communists outside the Soviet bloc. The movement became known as Eurocommunism and was especially strong in Italy, Spain, and France as well as in Japan, Australia, and Venezuela. Eurocommunists shared several common principles: rejection of the subordination of all Communist parties to Soviet monolithic world Communism; support of the establishment of socialism through legitimate political means and free elections; backing of alliances with other parties that support similar objectives; and rejection of atheism as an essential ingredient of Communism. The Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979 further strained the ties of Eurocommunists with Moscow.
Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev's policies of glasnost (openness) and perestroika (restructuring) brought electoral, economic, and Communist party reforms to the Soviet Union and to the Soviet bloc. The policies and reforms also brought protests and greater demands for change. On Nov. 9, 1989, East and West Berliners flooded through holes in the Berlin Wall when travel restrictions were relaxed in East Germany.
The Soviet-oriented governments of Poland, Hungary, Czechoslovakia, East Germany, Romania, and Bulgaria began to relax the Communist party's monopoly on power or to abandon Communism for democratically elected governments and expanded market economies. The Soviet Baltic states declared their independence in 1990, though the Soviet Union refused to recognize their declarations and cracked down on the wayward republics. Then, in a stunning reversal, after the failure of an August 1991 coup that attempted to depose Gorbachev, the Soviet Union itself suspended all activities of the Communist party. Individual republics took over the property and the funds of the Communist party, and the Baltic states were granted independence. In December the Soviet Union ceased to exist, and 11 of the former republics joined together to form a new union called the Commonwealth of Independent States
Beginning in the late 1960s, European cities were often the scene of terrorist attacks. Among the more notorious events of the 1970s and 1980s were the attack in 1972 on Israeli athletes in the Olympic village in Munich, West Germany, by the Palestinian organization known as Black September; the assassination in Madrid in 1973 of Spain's Premier Luis Carrero Blanco by Basque militants, who wanted Basque independence from Spain and France; the kidnapping in Rome and later murder in 1978 of Italy's five-time premier, Aldo Moro, by the Red Brigades; the assassination in 1979 of the English statesman and last viceroy of India, Lord Louis Mountbatten, by a bomb placed in his fishing boat in Ireland by the Provisional Irish Republican Army; the attempted assassination in 1981 of Pope John Paul II in the Vatican by a member of the Turkish nationalist Grey Wolves; the assassination in 1986 of Sweden's Prime Minister Olof Palme in Stockholm; and the bombing of Pan American Airlines flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, in 1988. Attacks on embassies, the hijacking of airplanes and luxury ocean liners, and bombings at airports, railroad stations, stores, and nuclear plants--all in the name of extremist causes--became increasingly frequent.
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