Europe rebuilt in the shadow of the Cold War.  The dawn of the nuclear age added to rising tensions between the Western Powers and the Soviet Union.  The Soviet Red Army, which had liberated Eastern Europe now became an occupying force.  With Soviet backing, the Communists in Eastern European states pushed aside other political parties until they held unchallenged authority.  They nationalized industries and undertook massive forced collectivization of agriculture. Germany, devastated by total defeat, lay between these two sides. Even with the death of Stalin in 1953, the Soviet Union held tight control over its eastern states. The Soviets intervened to crush a revolt in Hungary in 1956 and in Czechoslovakia in 1968.  These actions added to the strained relations between east and west.

In the meantime, Western Europe slowly recovered from the ordeal of total war.  In Britain, the Labour government laid the foundation for the welfare state while the sun set on their empire.  France and Italy were restored to parliamentary rule and became more prosperous by the late 1950’s.  The German Federal republic experienced its “economic miracle” in the 1950’s.  In Greece, Spain and Portugal, repressive dictatorships gave way to parliamentary regimes.

The end of the Soviet Union and of communism in Eastern Europe in 1989 were arguably the most significant occurrences of the post war era.  Soviet leader Gorbachev initialed a series of bold economic and political reforms, hoping to maintain communism by eliminating its authoritarian nature and by encouraging greater political participation and economic prosperity.  When movements for reform burgeoned in the countries of the Eastern European bloc, Gorbachev made it clear he would reverse the Brezhnev Doctrine and not intervene.  With this, the fate of communism in Eastern Europe was sealed for the current time. 

Starting with the BeNeLux countries, economic cooperation was seen as the means for a more secure Europe.  France, Germany and Italy joined to expand this economic relationship. The Treaty of Rome established the European Economic Community (EEC).  With France and Germany as key members, the hope was to create a secure and peaceful Europe through economics.The Community grew until the 1993 Maastrict Treaty transformed the EEC into the  Euroepan Union (EU).  The EU is not longer just an economic institution, it is concerned with the daily, economic, technological and political life of its members.  The European Parliament and the bureaucrats in Brussels now have a direct impact on its 24 Euopean members.

Unit Seven Syllabus

 Reader XVI: 
Cold War Conflicts
and Social Transformation
1945 to the Present
Renee Magritte
 pp. 541-549  pp. 559-568
 pp. 550-568  pp. 568-575

The Mighty Divide: Making East and West
Class 1: The Cold War or But I Thought We Were Friends
Class 2 & 3:  The Western Renaissance, 1945-1968, or A Whole New World
Class 4 & 5: The East, or We Will Bury You, No, Seriously, We Will
Class 6: Social Transformation
Class 7: The Late Cold War, 1968-1985, or Is IT Feed or Starve a Cold War?
The Seventy Year Experiment: Communism, Perestroika and Glasnost
Class 8 & 9: The Gorbachev Era or Gorbi! Gorbi! Gorbi!
Class 10: The Revolution of 1989, Part I, or Lapping at Freedom's Walls
Class 11: The Revolution of 1989, Part II, or They All Fall Down
Modern Day
Class 12: Progress of European History (Project)
Class 13: Whither Europe Now?
Class 14, 15 & 16: Museum Presentations
Class 17 European History in 60 Minutes
Class 18: Prompt
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