What problems did the USSR face in trying to maintain control over eastern Europe?
One major problem faced by the USSR throughout this period was the issue of nationalism. In inter-war Europe (1919-39) Communism had never achieved majority support in any country outside the USSR. Even before 1948 the issue of nationalism and national independence had affected Soviet control. In mid-1948, Communist Yugoslavia was expelled from Cominform. From 1948 to the 1990s, Yugoslavia remained a communist state independent of the USSR. Under Tito, the Yugoslavs adopted a neutral position in the Cold War. Only after Tito’s death (1980) did national tensions within Yugoslavia become a destabilising influence. These led eventually to the disintegration of Yugoslavia in the 1990s.
Nationalism also affected Soviet control in other countries. In Poland resentment against Soviet control centred on two episodes in the Second World War.
In 1943, the bodies of thousands of Polish army officers were uncovered by the Germans at Katyn in the USSR. The USSR was accused of the episodes.
In 1944, the Soviet army failed to aid the Polish Home Army in the Warsaw Uprising.
In Czechoslovakia resentment centred on the communist-led take-over of February 1948 which saw the murder or suicide of the Czech Foreign Minister, Jan Masaryk. In Hungary, which had fought as Hitler’s ally on the Eastern front (1941-44), the desire to re-assert national independence was also an issue.
Even within the Soviet Union national feeling had the potential to disrupt the state. By 1945 the USSR had absorbed formerly independent states such as Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia. Nationalist groups also existed in Georgia and the Ukraine.