Factors Contributing to the Collapse of Communism in Eastern Europe

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The loss of legitimacy, the arms race with the West and the Economic problems are the main precursor to eventual collapse of communism. While the Soviet government failed to create the correct policies to tackle their social and economic woes, their political actions in the 1980s also proved to be pivotal in the downfall of the Soviet Union and the eventual downfall of communism throughout Eastern Europe. The arms race exhausted the productive capacity of the Soviet Union and other inefficient communist regimes. This point is echoed by William Wohlforth who argues that, “Gorbachev may have had numerous reasons for seeking to withdraw from the rivalry with the United States, but a necessary precondition was the perception of reduced capability to compete”. This is a view that is supported by Dowlah and Elliot who say that “The escalation in military spending began the process of the dismantling of the Soviet nuclear war machine” and that it was “an unusually taxing game for the Soviet Union as it was necessary to devote roughly twice the proportion of soviet resources to military provisioning as the United States in order to achieve and retain parity”. This supposed withdrawal and lack of military presence also sent a message to the rest of the world that communism was not as strong as they had been in the past.

While cultural forces contributed to the collapse of communism in Eastern Europe, the disintegration of economies played the key role in driving its decline and collapsed because of the ruling elite’s inability to address the economic concerns of the people. Gorbachev’s attempts at reform in the Soviet Union were complemented by insurgent movements in Eastern Europe which saw the communist bloc collapse in a domino effect. The deteriorating economic circumstances began to contribute to dissatisfaction especially among the younger generation who were more educated, more aware and inclined to be more dissatisfied with their economic circumstances.

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Another reason that can be presented regarding the collapse of communism in Eastern Europe is one of ‘loss of legitimacy’. The crisis of legitimacy started with Stalin’s death in 1953. In his chaotic manner, Khrushchev sought to preserve Stalin’s power and to banish his legacy. Neither force nor reform could foster legitimacy; in fact, the use of force damaged the validity of communist rule in the Eastern Bloc, and the enactment of reform exposed a lack of legitimacy in the Soviet Union itself.

Thus, there are multiple external factors that played a supporting role in expediting the prolonging fall of communism in Eastern Europe. The domino effect that resulted in the fall of communist governments in Poland, Hungary, Czechoslovakia, Romania and Bulgaria can all be put down to the loss of legitimacy, the arms race and the economic downfall that was witnessed throughout the 20th century. This caused a reduction of mass support present, which showed the limits of the totalitarian model and without this backing, the respective communist governments throughout Eastern Europe had little chance of surviving.

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Factors Contributing to the Collapse of Communism in Eastern Europe. (2022, October 28). Edubirdie. Retrieved April 15, 2024, from https://edubirdie.com/examples/factors-contributing-to-the-collapse-of-communism-in-eastern-europe/
“Factors Contributing to the Collapse of Communism in Eastern Europe.” Edubirdie, 28 Oct. 2022, edubirdie.com/examples/factors-contributing-to-the-collapse-of-communism-in-eastern-europe/
Factors Contributing to the Collapse of Communism in Eastern Europe. [online]. Available at: <https://edubirdie.com/examples/factors-contributing-to-the-collapse-of-communism-in-eastern-europe/> [Accessed 15 Apr. 2024].
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