Eastern Europe is the eastern part of the European continent. There is no consensus on the precise area it covers, partly because the term has a wide range of geopolitical, geographical, cultural, and socioeconomic connotations. There are "almost as many definitions of Eastern Europe as there are scholars of the region".A related United Nations paper adds that "every assessment of spatial identities is essentially a social and cultural construct". One definition describes Eastern Europe as a cultural entity: the region lying in Europe with the main characteristics consisting of Greek, Byzantine, Eastern Orthodox, Russian, and some Ottoman culture influences. Another definition was created during the Cold War and used more or less synonymously with the term Eastern Bloc . A similar definition names the formerly communist European states outside the Soviet Union as Eastern Europe. The majority of historians and social scientists view such definitions as outdated or relegated, but they are still sometimes used for statistical purposes.
East is one of the four cardinal directions or points of the compass. It is the opposite direction from west.
Europe is a continent located entirely in the Northern Hemisphere and mostly in the Eastern Hemisphere. It is bordered by the Arctic Ocean to the north, the Atlantic Ocean to the west and the Mediterranean Sea to the south. It comprises the westernmost part of Eurasia.
A continent is one of several very large landmasses of the world. Generally identified by convention rather than any strict criteria, up to seven regions are commonly regarded as continents. Ordered from largest in area to smallest, they are: Asia, Africa, North America, South America, Antarctica, Europe, and Australia.
Several definitions of Eastern Europe exist today, but they often lack precision, are too general, or are outdated. These definitions vary both across cultures and among experts, even political scientists,as the term has a wide range of geopolitical, geographical, cultural, and socioeconomic connotations.
There are "almost as many definitions of Eastern Europe as there are scholars of the region".A related United Nations paper adds that "every assessment of spatial identities is essentially a social and cultural construct".
The United Nations (UN) is an intergovernmental organization tasked with maintaining international peace and security, developing friendly relations among nations, achieving international co-operation, and being a centre for harmonizing the actions of nations. It was established after World War II, with the aim of preventing future wars, and succeeded the ineffective League of Nations. Its headquarters, which are subject to extraterritoriality, are in Manhattan, New York City, and it has other main offices in Geneva, Nairobi, Vienna and the Hague. The organization is financed by assessed and voluntary contributions from its member states. Its objectives include maintaining international peace and security, protecting human rights, delivering humanitarian aid, promoting sustainable development, and upholding international law. The UN is the largest, most familiar, most internationally represented and most powerful intergovernmental organization in the world. At its founding, the UN had 51 member states; there are now 193.
While the eastern geographical boundaries of Europe are well defined, the boundary between Eastern and Western Europe is not geographical but historical, religious and cultural.
The Ural Mountains, Ural River, and the Caucasus Mountains are the geographical land border of the eastern edge of Europe.
The Ural Mountains, or simply the Urals, are a mountain range that runs approximately from north to south through western Russia, from the coast of the Arctic Ocean to the Ural River and northwestern Kazakhstan. The mountain range forms part of the conventional boundary between the continents of Europe and Asia. Vaygach Island and the islands of Novaya Zemlya form a further continuation of the chain to the north into the Arctic Ocean.
The Ural, known as Yaik before 1775, is a river flowing through Russia and Kazakhstan in Eurasia. It originates in the southern Ural Mountains and discharges into the Caspian Sea. At 2,428 kilometres (1,509 mi), it is the third-longest river in Europe after the Volga and the Danube, and the 18th-longest river in Asia. The Ural River is conventionally considered part of the boundary between the continents of Europe and Asia.
The Caucasus Mountains are a mountain system at the intersection of Europe and Asia. Stretching between the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea, it surrounds the eponymous Caucasus region and is home to Mount Elbrus, the highest peak in Europe.
In the west, however, the historical and cultural boundaries of "Eastern Europe" are subject to some overlap and, most importantly, have undergone historical fluctuations, which makes a precise definition of the western geographic boundaries of Eastern Europe and the geographical midpoint of Europe somewhat difficult.
Culture is the social behavior and norms found in human societies. Culture is considered a central concept in anthropology, encompassing the range of phenomena that are transmitted through social learning in human societies. Cultural universals are found in all human societies; these include expressive forms like art, music, dance, ritual, religion, and technologies like tool usage, cooking, shelter, and clothing. The concept of material culture covers the physical expressions of culture, such as technology, architecture and art, whereas the immaterial aspects of culture such as principles of social organization, mythology, philosophy, literature, and science comprise the intangible cultural heritage of a society.
The location of the geographical centre of Europe depends on the definition of the borders of Europe, mainly whether remote islands are included to define the extreme points of Europe, and on the method of calculating the final result. Thus, several places claim to host this hypothetical centre.
The East–West Schism (which began in the 11th century and lasts until the present) divided Christianity in Europe, and consequently, the world, into Western Christianity and Eastern Christianity.
Western Christianity is a religious category composed of the Latin Church and Protestantism, together with their offshoots such as Independent Catholicism and Restorationism. The large majority of the world's 2.4 billion Christians are Western Christians. The original and still major part, the Latin Church, developed under the bishop of Rome in the former Western Roman Empire in Antiquity. Out of the Latin Church emerged a wide variety of independent Protestant denominations, including Lutheranism and Anglicanism, starting from the Protestant Reformation in the 16th century, as did Independent Catholicism in the 19th century. Thus, the term "Western Christianity" does not describe a single communion or religious denomination, but is applied to distinguish all these denominations collectively from Eastern Christianity.
Eastern Christianity comprises church families that developed outside the Occident, with major bodies including the Eastern Orthodox Church, the Oriental Orthodox churches, the Eastern Catholic Churches, and the denominations descended from the Church of the East. The Ukrainian Lutheran Church is also an Eastern Christian church that uses the Byzantine Rite. The term is used in contrast with Western Christianity, although its scope has been one of continual discussion. Eastern Christianity consists of the Christian traditions and churches that developed distinctively over several centuries in the Middle East, Africa, Eastern Europe, Asia Minor, the Malabar coast of South India, and parts of the Far East. The term does not describe a single communion or religious denomination. Some Eastern churches have more in common historically and theologically with Western Christianity than with one another. The various Eastern churches do not normally refer to themselves as "Eastern", with the exception of the Assyrian Church of the East and the Ancient Church of the East.
Western Europe according to this point of view is formed by countries with dominant Roman Catholic and Protestant churches (including Central European countries like Austria, the Czech Republic, Germany, Hungary, Poland, and Slovakia).
Eastern Europe is formed by countries with dominant Eastern Orthodox churches, like Belarus, Bulgaria, Greece, Moldova, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Romania, Russia, Serbia, and Ukraine for instance.
The schism is the break of communion and theology between what are now the Eastern (Orthodox) and Western (Roman Catholic from the 11th century, as well as from the 16th century also Protestant) churches. This division dominated Europe for centuries, in opposition to the rather short-lived Cold War division of 4 decades.
Since the Great Schism of 1054, Europe has been divided between Roman Catholic and Protestant churches in the West, and the Eastern Orthodox Christian (many times incorrectly labeled "Greek Orthodox") churches in the east. Due to this religious cleavage, Eastern Orthodox countries are often associated with Eastern Europe. A cleavage of this sort is, however, often problematic; for example, Greece is overwhelmingly Orthodox, but is very rarely included in "Eastern Europe", for a variety of reasons, the most prominent being that Greece's history, for the most part, was more so influenced by Mediterranean cultures and contact.
The fall of the Iron Curtain brought the end of the East-West division in Europe,but this geopolitical concept is sometimes still used for quick reference by the media or sometimes for statistical purposes. Another definition was used during the 40 years of Cold War between 1947 and 1989, and was more or less synonymous with the terms Eastern Bloc and Warsaw Pact . A similar definition names the formerly communist European states outside the Soviet Union as Eastern Europe.
Historians and social scientists generally view such definitions as outdated or relegated.
Eurovoc, a multilingual thesaurus maintained by the Publications Office of the European Union, has entries for "23 EU languages"(Bulgarian, Croatian, Czech, Danish, Dutch, English, Estonian, Finnish, French, German, Greek, Hungarian, Italian, Latvian, Lithuanian, Maltese, Polish, Portuguese, Romanian, Slovak, Slovenian, Spanish and Swedish), plus the languages of candidate countries (Albanian, Macedonian and Serbian). Of these, those in italics are classified as "Central and Eastern Europe" in this source.
UNESCO,EuroVoc, National Geographic Society, Committee for International Cooperation in National Research in Demography, STW Thesaurus for Economics place the Baltic states in Northern Europe, whereas the CIA World Factbook places the region in Eastern Europe with a strong assimilation to Northern Europe. They are members of the Nordic-Baltic Eight regional cooperation forum whereas Central European countries formed their own alliance called the Visegrád Group. The Northern Future Forum, the Nordic Investment Bank, the Nordic Battlegroup, the Nordic-Baltic Eight and the New Hanseatic League are other examples of Northern European cooperation that includes the three countries collectively referred to as the Baltic states.
The Caucasus nations of Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia are included in definitions or histories of Eastern Europe. They are located in the transition zone of Eastern Europe and Western Asia. They participate in the European Union's Eastern Partnership program, the Euronest Parliamentary Assembly, and are members of the Council of Europe, which specifies that all three have political and cultural connections to Europe. In January 2002, the European Parliament noted that Armenia and Georgia may enter the EU in the future.However, Georgia is currently the only Caucasus nation actively seeking NATO and EU membership.
There are three de facto independent Republics with limited recognition in the Caucasus region. All three states participate in the Community for Democracy and Rights of Nations:
Several other former Soviet republics may be considered part of Eastern Europe
The term "Central Europe" is often used by historians to designate states formerly belonging to the Holy Roman Empire, the Austro-Hungarian Empire, and the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth.
In some media, "Central Europe" can thus partially overlap with "Eastern Europe" of the Cold War Era. The following countries are labeled Central European by some commentators, though others still consider them to be Eastern European.
Some countries in Southeast Europe can be considered part of Eastern Europe. Some of them can sometimes, albeit rarely, be characterized as belonging to Southern Europe,and some may also be included in Central Europe.
In some media, "Southeast Europe" can thus partially overlap with "Eastern Europe" of the Cold War Era. The following countries are labeled Southeast European by some commentators, though others still consider them to be Eastern European.
Partially recognized states:
Ancient kingdoms of the region included Orontid Armenia, Caucasian Albania, Colchis and Iberia (not to be confused with the Iberian Peninsula in Western Europe). These kingdoms were either from the start, or later on incorporated into various Iranian empires, including the Achaemenid Persian, Parthian, and Sassanid Persian Empires.Parts of the Balkans and some more northern areas were ruled by the Achaemenid Persians as well, including Thrace, Paeonia, Macedon, and most of the Black Sea coastal regions of Romania, Ukraine, and Russia. Owing to the rivalry between the Parthian Empire and Rome, and later between Byzantium and the Sassanid Persians, the Parthians would invade the region several times, although it was never able to hold the area, unlike the Sassanids who controlled most of the Caucasus during their entire rule.
The earliest known distinctions between east and west in Europe originate in the history of the Roman Republic. As the Roman domain expanded, a cultural and linguistic division appeared The mainly Greek-speaking eastern provinces had formed the highly urbanized Hellenistic civilization. In contrast, the western territories largely adopted the Latin language. This cultural and linguistic division was eventually reinforced by the later political east-west division of the Roman Empire. The division between these two spheres deepened during Late Antiquity and the Middle Ages due to a number of events. The Western Roman Empire collapsed in the 5th century, marking the start of the Early Middle Ages. By contrast, the Eastern Roman Empire, mostly labelled as the Byzantine Empire by subsequent historians, managed to survive and even to thrive for another 1,000 years. The rise of the Frankish Empire in the west, and in particular the Great Schism that formally divided Eastern and Western Christianity in 1054, heightened the cultural and religious distinctiveness between Eastern and Western Europe. Much of Eastern Europe was invaded and occupied by the Mongols.
The conquest of the Byzantine Empire, center of the Eastern Orthodox Church, by the Ottoman Empire in the 15th century, and the gradual fragmentation of the Holy Roman Empire (which had replaced the Frankish empire) led to a change of the importance of Roman Catholic/Protestant vs. Eastern Orthodox concept in Europe. Armour points out that Cyrillic-alphabet use is not a strict determinant for Eastern Europe, where from Croatia to Poland and everywhere in between, the Latin alphabet is used.Greece's status as the cradle of Western civilization and an integral part of the Western world in the political, cultural and economic spheres has led to it being nearly always classified as belonging not to Eastern, but to Southern or Western Europe. During the late-sixteenth and early-seventeenth centuries Eastern Europe enjoyed a relatively high standard of living. This period is also called the east-central European golden age of around 1600.
A major result of the First World War was the breakup of the Russian, Austro-Hungarian, and Ottoman empires, as well as partial losses to the German Empire. A surge of ethnic nationalism created a series of new states in Eastern Europe, validated by the Versailles Treaty of 1919. Poland was reconstituted after the partitions of the 1790s had divided it between Germany, Austria, and Russia. New countries included Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Ukraine (which was soon absorbed by the Soviet Union), Czechoslovakia, and Yugoslavia. Austria and Hungary had much-reduced boundaries. Romania, Bulgaria, and Albania likewise were independent. Many of the countries were still largely rural, with little industry and only a few urban centers. Nationalism was the dominant force but most of the countries had ethnic or religious minorities who felt threatened by majority elements. Nearly all became democratic in the 1920s, but all of them (except Czechoslovakia and Finland) gave up democracy during the depression years of the 1930s, in favor of autocratic or strong-man or single-party states. The new states were unable to form stable military alliances, and one by one were too weak to stand up against Nazi Germany or the Soviet Union, which took them over between 1938 and 1945.
Russia ended its participation in the First World War in March 1918 and lost territory, as the Baltic countries and Poland became independent. The region was the main battlefield in the Second World War (1939–45), with German and Soviet armies sweeping back and forth, with millions of Jews killed by the Nazis, and millions of others killed by disease, starvation, and military action, or executed after being deemed as politically dangerous.During the final stages of World War II the future of Eastern Europe was decided by the overwhelming power of the Soviet Red Army, as it swept the Germans aside. It did not reach Yugoslavia and Albania however. Finland was free but forced to be neutral in the upcoming Cold War. The region fell to Soviet control and Communist governments were imposed. Yugoslavia and Albania had their own Communist regimes. The Eastern Bloc with the onset of the Cold War in 1947 was mostly behind the Western European countries in economic rebuilding and progress. Winston Churchill, in his famous "Sinews of Peace" address of March 5, 1946 at Westminster College in Fulton, Missouri, stressed the geopolitical impact of the "iron curtain":
From Stettin in the Baltic to Trieste in the Adriatic an iron curtain has descended across the Continent. Behind that line lie all the capitals of the ancient states of Central and Eastern Europe. Warsaw, Berlin, Prague, Vienna, Budapest, Belgrade, Bucharest, and Sofia.
Eastern Europe after 1945 usually meant all the European countries liberated and then occupied by the Soviet army. It included the German Democratic Republic (also known as East Germany), formed by the Soviet occupation zone of Germany. All the countries in Eastern Europe adopted communist modes of control. These countries were officially independent from the Soviet Union, but the practical extent of this independence – except in Yugoslavia, Albania, and to some extent Romania – was quite limited.
The Soviet secret police, the NKVD, working in collaboration with local communists, created secret police forces using leadership trained in Moscow. As soon as the Red Army had expelled the Germans, this new secret police arrived to arrest political enemies according to prepared lists. The national Communists then took power in a normally gradualist manner, backed by the Soviets in many, but not all, cases. They took control of the Interior Ministries, which controlled the local police. They confiscated and redistributed farmland. Next the Soviets and their agents took control of the mass media, especially radio, as well as the education system. Third the communists seized control of or replaced the organizations of civil society, such as church groups, sports, youth groups, trade unions, farmers organizations, and civic organizations. Finally they engaged in large scale ethnic cleansing, moving ethnic minorities far away, often with high loss of life. After a year or two, the communists took control of private businesses and monitored the media and churches. For a while, cooperative non-Communist parties were tolerated. The communists had a natural reservoir of popularity in that they had destroyed Hitler and the Nazi invaders. Their goal was to guarantee long-term working-class solidarity.
Under pressure from Stalin these nations rejected grants from the American Marshall plan. Instead they participated in the Molotov Plan which later evolved into the Comecon (Council for Mutual Economic Assistance). When NATO was created in 1949, most countries of Eastern Europe became members of the opposing Warsaw Pact, forming a geopolitical concept that became known as the Eastern Bloc .
With the fall of the Iron Curtain in 1989, the political landscape of the Eastern Bloc, and indeed the world, changed. In the German reunification, the Federal Republic of Germany peacefully absorbed the German Democratic Republic in 1990. In 1991, COMECON, the Warsaw Pact, and the Soviet Union were dissolved. Many European nations which had been part of the Soviet Union regained their independence (Belarus, Moldova, Ukraine, as well as the Baltic States of Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia). Czechoslovakia peacefully separated into the Czech Republic and Slovakia in 1993. Many countries of this region joined the European Union, namely Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Croatia, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia.
The Balkans, also known as the Balkan Peninsula, is a geographic area in southeastern Europe with various definitions and meanings, including geopolitical and historical. The region takes its name from the Balkan Mountains that stretch throughout the whole of Bulgaria from the Serbian-Bulgarian border to the Black Sea coast. The Balkan Peninsula is bordered by the Adriatic Sea on the northwest, the Ionian Sea on the southwest, the Aegean Sea in the south and southeast, and the Black Sea on the east and northeast. The northern border of the peninsula is variously defined. The highest point of the Balkans is Mount Musala, 2,925 metres (9,596 ft), in the Rila mountain range.
The Cold War (1947–1953) is the period within the Cold War from the Truman Doctrine in 1947 to the conclusion of the Korean War in 1953. The Cold War emerged in Europe a few years after the successful US–USSR–UK coalition won World War II in Europe, and extended to 1989–91. In 1947, Bernard Baruch, the multimillionaire financier and adviser to presidents from Woodrow Wilson to Harry S. Truman, coined the term “Cold War” to describe the increasingly chilly relations between two World War II Allies: the United States and the Soviet Union.
In political science, Marxism–Leninism was the official state ideology of the Soviet Union (USSR), of the parties of the Communist International, after Bolshevisation; and is the ideology of Stalinist political parties. As revolutionary politics, the purpose of Marxism–Leninism is the transformation of a capitalist state into a socialist state, by way of two-stage revolution, which is led by a vanguard party of professional revolutionaries, drawn from the proletariat. To realise the two-stage transformation of the state, the vanguard party establishes the dictatorship of the proletariat, which determines policy through democratic centralism.
The Warsaw Pact, formally known as the Treaty of Friendship, Cooperation and Mutual Assistance, was a collective defence treaty signed in Warsaw, Poland between the Soviet Union and seven Eastern Bloc satellite states of Central and Eastern Europe in May 1955, during the Cold War. The Warsaw Pact was the military complement to the Council for Mutual Economic Assistance (CoMEcon), the regional economic organization for the socialist states of Central and Eastern Europe. The Warsaw Pact was created in reaction to the integration of West Germany into NATO in 1955 per the London and Paris Conferences of 1954, but it is also considered to have been motivated by Soviet desires to maintain control over military forces in Central and Eastern Europe.
Western Europe is the region comprising the western part of Europe. Though the term Western Europe is commonly used, there is no commonly agreed-upon definition of the countries that it encompasses.
A satellite state is a country that is formally independent in the world, but under heavy political, economic and military influence or control from another country. The term was coined by analogy to planetary objects orbiting a larger object, such as smaller moons revolving around larger planets, and is used mainly to refer to Central and Eastern European countries of the Warsaw Pact during the Cold War or to Mongolia or Tannu Tuva between 1924 and 1990, for example. As used for Central and Eastern European countries it implies that the countries in question were "satellites" under the hegemony of the Soviet Union. In some contexts it also refers to other countries in the Soviet sphere of influence during the Cold War—such as North Korea and Cuba. In Western usage, the term has seldom been applied to states other than those in the Soviet orbit. In Soviet usage, the term applied to the states in the orbit of Nazi Germany, Fascist Italy, and Imperial Japan.
The Eastern Bloc was the group of communist states of Central and Eastern Europe, West Asia, and Southwest Asia under the hegemony of the Soviet Union (USSR) during the Cold War (1947–1991) in opposition to the capitalist Western Bloc. Generally, in Western Europe the term Eastern Bloc referred to the USSR and its East European satellite states in the Council for Mutual Economic Assistance (Comecon); in Asia, the socialist bloc comprised the Socialist Republic of Vietnam, the Lao People's Democratic Republic and the People's Republic of Kampuchea, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, and the People's Republic of China. In the Americas, the communist bloc included the Caribbean Republic of Cuba, since 1961.
The Soviet Empire refers to the entire territory under the administration or various levels of influence on the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics.
The Western Allies were a political and geographic grouping among the Allied Powers of the First World War and Second World War. It generally includes the British Empire, the United States, France and various other European and Latin American countries, but excludes China, the Russian Empire and the Soviet Union, and the Kingdom of Serbia and Kingdom of Montenegro and their successor state, Yugoslavia due to different economic, geographic and political circumstances, some of which arose after the wars. Similarly, Poland and Czechoslovakia are often excluded from the term, because of their post-war forced inclusion in the Eastern Bloc, even though Polish and Czechoslovak armed forces fought alongside Western Allies. Most African and Asian allies not part of the British Commonwealth or France are often excluded from the term, though irregular Arabian and Ethiopian forces fought along the Western Allies. France is also often counted among the Western Allies, because although the Vichy Regime collaborated with the Axis powers and fought the Allies, the Free French military forces played a major role against the Axis Powers throughout the war, similarly to many nations that endured military occupation and collaboration.
The Sino-Soviet split (1956–1966) was the breaking of political relations between the People's Republic of China (PRC) and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR), caused by doctrinal divergences that arose from their different interpretations and practical applications of Marxism–Leninism, as influenced by their respective geopolitics during the Cold War (1945–1991). In the late 1950s and the early 1960s, Sino-Soviet debates about the interpretation of Orthodox Marxism became specific disputes about the Soviet Union's policies of national de-Stalinization and international peaceful coexistence with the Western world. Against that political background, the international relations of the PRC featured official belligerence towards the West, and an initial, public rejection of the Soviet policy of peaceful coexistence between the Eastern bloc and the Western bloc, which Mao Zedong said was Marxist revisionism by the Russian communists.
Southern Europe is the southern region of the European continent. Most definitions of Southern Europe, also known as Mediterranean Europe, include Spain, Italy, Malta, Corsica, Greece, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Albania, Slovenia, East Thrace of European Turkey and Cyprus. Portugal, Andorra, Vatican City, San Marino, Serbia, Kosovo and North Macedonia are also often included despite not having a coast in the Mediterranean. Some definitions may also include mainland Southern France and Monaco, which are otherwise considered parts of Western Europe, and Bulgaria, which is otherwise considered part of Eastern Europe.
Europe is often divided into regions based on geographical, cultural or historical criteria. Many European structures currently exist, some are cultural, economic, or political - examples include the Council of Europe, the European Broadcasting Union with the Eurovision Song Contest, and the European Olympic Committees with the European Games. Several transcontinental countries which border mainland Europe, are often included as belonging to a "wider Europe" including, Russia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Cyprus, Armenia, Greenland, as well as the Special member state territories and the European Union.
Central and Eastern Europe, abbreviated CEE, is a term encompassing the countries in Central Europe, the Baltics, Eastern Europe, and Southeastern Europe (Balkans), usually meaning former communist states from the Eastern Bloc in Europe. Scholarly literature often uses the abbreviations CEE or CEEC for this term. The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development also uses the term "Central and Eastern European Countries (CEECs)" for a group comprising some of these countries.
After the October Revolution of November 7, 1917 there was a movement within the Soviet Union to unite all of the people of the world under Communist rule. This included the Eastern bloc countries as well as the Balkan States. Communism as interpreted by Vladimir Lenin and his successors in the Soviet government required the abolition of religion and to this effect the Soviet government launched a long-running campaign to eliminate religion from society. Since some of these Slavic states tied their ethnic heritage to their ethnic churches, both the peoples and their churches were targeted by the Soviets.
The Iron Curtain was the name for the non-physical boundary dividing Europe into two separate areas from the end of World War II in 1945 until the end of the Cold War in 1991. The term symbolizes the efforts by the Soviet Union to block itself and its satellite states from open contact with the West and its allied states. On the east side of the Iron Curtain were the countries that were connected to or influenced by the Soviet Union, while on the west side were the countries that were allied to the United States or nominally neutral. Separate international economic and military alliances were developed on each side of the Iron Curtain.
Eastern Bloc emigration and defection was a point of controversy during the Cold War. After World War II, emigration restrictions were imposed by countries in the Eastern Bloc, which consisted of the Soviet Union and its satellite states in Central and Eastern Europe. Legal emigration was in most cases only possible in order to reunite families or to allow members of minority ethnic groups to return to their homelands.
Eastern Bloc media and propaganda was controlled directly by each country's Communist party, which controlled the state media, censorship and propaganda organs. State and party ownership of print, television and radio media served as an important manner in which to control information and society in light of Eastern Bloc leaderships viewing even marginal groups of opposition intellectuals as a potential threat to the bases underlying Communist power therein.
The following outline is provided as an overview of and topical guide to the Cold War:
The Eastern Bloc is a collective term for the former Communist countries in Central and Eastern Europe. This generally encompasses the Soviet Union and the countries of the Warsaw Pact.
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