Cold War: Soviet control of Eastern Europe Return to the gallery menu
Worksheets Big Question  

What sources will you choose from the case study on Hungary 1956 and Czechoslovakia 1968 and why?

The Background
In 1944 and 1945 the Red Army drove across Eastern Europe in its fight against the Nazis. After the war, Stalin was determined that the USSR would control Eastern Europe. That way, Germany or any other state would not be able to use countries like Hungary or Poland as a staging post to invade. His policy was simple.

  • Each Eastern European state had a Communist government loyal to the USSR.
  • Each state's economy was tied to the economy of the USSR.
  • If Communist control was threatened, each state could use its own army or secret police, or call on the Red Army for help.
  • The Warsaw Pact of 1955 bound all of the Eastern European states closely to the USSR.

Stalin died in 1953 and by 1955 a new policy seemed to be developing. The new Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev seemed to want better relations with the West and reform in the USSR. In Eastern Europe, they hoped for less tight Soviet control. In 1956 Khrushchev gave various concessions to Poland.

Hungary 1956
The events in Poland gave hope to Hungary. Hungarians were fed up with many aspects of Communist rule. However, the main reason they began protesting in October 1956 was probably to do with their national pride. They resented the increasing number of Russian officials, advisers, security officers and technical experts who they felt were taking over their country. Protests began in the summer of 1956 but by October the Moscow backed Hungarian leaders were pushed out and the popular Imre Nagy took over. He brought in a series of radical policies. The most radical of all was his plan to make Hungary a neutral state and pull out of the Warsaw Pact. This was too much for Soviet leader Khrushchev who sent in tanks and troops to crush the revolt. It was bloody and brutal, with thousands of casualties. The Western powers protested, but they knew they could do little to help Hungary in what was the USSR's 'back yard'.

* Source 1 Source 2 Source 3 Source 4 Source 5 Source 6 Source 7

Czechoslovakia 1968
Czechs were traditionally more friendly to the USSR and more in favour of Communism than the other Eastern European states. Despite this, by 1968 they felt that the Communist party needed to reform. It needed new economic policies and needed to be more open and encourage free speech. In early 1968 this feeling brought Alexander Dubcek to power in Czechoslovakia. There was a new Soviet leader by this time as well - Leonid Brezhnev. He watched anxiously as Dubcek reformed Czech economic policies and allowed the Czech media to interrogate Communist party leaders live on radio and TV. Unlike Hungary, Dubcek was a loyal supporter of the Warsaw Pact. Like Hungary, he went too far for the Soviet leader and the tanks moved in to Prague in August 1968. There was fighting, but not as serious as in Hungary 12 years earlier. Again, the West protested, but was unable to take any serious action.

Your Task
Your task is to study the sources on the Hungary 1956 and Czechoslovakia 1968 and decide what they tell historians about how the Cold War worked. You will also have to decide which sources you want to use in your exhibition.

The worksheet will help you to keep track of your work.