The Cold War developed from disagreements on the postwar European world. The Soviet Union wanted to feel secure on the western border and did not want to give up what it had gained in Eastern Europe by defeating Germany. Eastern Europe was an area of disagreement in that the United States and Great Britain were in favor of democratic freedom for the liberated nations of Eastern Europe, however Stalin feared this would lead to traditional anti-Soviet attitudes if they were allowed free elections and he therefore was against the plans of the West. The Red Army proceeded to install pro-Soviet governing regimes in Poland, Romania, Bulgaria, and Hungary.
The civil war in Greece between the Communist People’s Liberation Army and the anti-Communist forces over control of Greece led to the creation of the Truman Doctrine. It stated that if the Soviets were not stopped in Greece the US would have to face the spread of communism worldwide. President Truman was concerned about the possibility of Soviet expansion, and the Truman Doctrine paved the way for US funding to countries who were threatened by it. The Marshall Plan was based on the belief that Communist aggression fed off economic turmoil and provided funding for the recovery of Europe. Albania, Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, East Germany, Hungary, Poland, Romania, and the Soviet Union became a military alliance in the Warsaw Pact which was divided from NATO. At the end of World War II, the Soviets occupied all of Eastern Europe and the Balkans except for Greece, Albania, and Yugoslavia.
Both Albania and Yugoslavia had Communist resistance movements during the war and the Communist Party assumed power when the war ended. Communist governments were placed in East Germany, Bulgaria, Romania, Poland, Hungary and later Czechoslovakia. Hungary attempted to become independent from Soviet control but was crushed by the Soviet Union’s armed forces in 1956. The Red Army attacked Budapest after Nagy, the Hungarian leader, declaring Hungary a free nation with free elections which meant the end of Communist rule in Hungary. The Soviets reestablished control of the country. Worker protests erupted in Poland in 1956 which led to the Polish Communist Parties adopting reforms and pledging to remain loyal to the Warsaw Pact in Soviet exchange allowing Poland to follow its own path to socialism.
The election of Alexander Dubcek as first secretary of the Communist Party led to a period of euphoria in Czechoslovakia known as “Prague Spring.” This was induced by reforms including freedom of speech and press, freedom to travel abroad, and a relaxing of the secret activities of the police. In order to stop the spreading of what was referred to as “spring fever”, the Red Army invaded Czechoslovakia in August 1968 and crushed the movement. Gustav Husak, Dubcek’s replacement, abolished Dubcek’s reforms and reestablished the old order.
The speech by soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev was given at the Fifth Congress of the Polish United Workers’ Party to justify the invasion of Czechoslovakia. In it, he explains that crushing this attempt was to protect communism itself, or in other words the whole working class movement and its socialist goals. He says that Czechoslovakia, by damaging socialism in their country, in essence deviates from its international duty. A man living in a society cannot be free from the society nor free from the common interests of the community.
In other words, the crushing of rebellion is stated as working for the good of the whole Communist nation to fight against “small nation narrow-mindedness, seclusion and isolation.” He attributes this as a domino effect, the weakening of any links in the world system of socialism directly affecting all of the socialist countries. This would have been detrimental not only to Czechoslovakia’s interests but other socialist states. According to Breshnev, the invasion was an international duty to defend socialist gains.