Editors Note: We're blogging through We Didn't Start the Fire by Billy Joel.
After World War II, the alliance of the USSR and the United States fell apart. The vast differences in the political structures of the countries turned them into enemies. The United States started to promote and protect democracy, while the USSR took over and enforced communism across many countries - what turned into the Eastern Bloc.
At the end of the war, the USSR was still nervous about Germany and potential attacks in the future. They created alliances with the countries on their western border, which the countries agreed to due to the USSR having freed them from Germany. However, Stalin turned these alliances into occupations, creating the Eastern Bloc out of Bulgaria, Romania, Hungary, Poland, parts of Czechoslovakia, and Eastern Germany, with China, Yugoslavia, and Albania being added later.
Yugoslavia was the first to leave the Bloc, being expelled in 1948 after a new leader turned the country away from Stalin’s command. While they denounced the country, the USSR decided not to attack.
As the USSR continued to occupy other countries, other countries began to feel nervous about the expansion of communism. The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) was created, including countries like the United States, England, Canada, France, Italy, and West Germany. The USSR saw this as a threat, and, in response, created the Warsaw Pact, a treaty with all of its communist allies.
Over time, many countries attempted to break away from the Bloc, with the USSR bringing them back in using different political tactics, and, in some cases, the military. Eventually, China and Albania successfully left. Czechoslovakia and Poland both attempted to break away, but military action brought them back in.
The bloc existed until Mikhail Gorbachev took control. He made it clear he was removing the policy of forcing communism on other countries. The Eastern Bloc finally fell and was dissolved in 1989.