The Soviet Block : Trends



NATIONALISM : the GDR stated that Germany's socialist east had done a much better job in regard to DENAZIFICATION than the capitalist west, which its propaganda often described as turncoat Naxis and US lackeys. In the GDR, nationalist statements were strictly taboo. Yet after the socialist system faltered, racism became much more visible in the territory of the former GDR than in the western parts of Germany, foreigners such as Vietnamese workers finding themselves targetted by Skinheads etc.
Rhetorics stating 'socialist brotherhood' were hollow; East Germans suspected the Poles of coming across the border and buying up (scarce) goods, thus reducing the supplies available for them. Visitors of Poland, once recognized as (East) Germans, were called Nazis, bullied or worse.
Rumania pursued a policy openly discriminating against its national minorities, the Transylvanian Germans, Hungarians and Gypsies. Most of the Germans emigrated to Germany since the early 1970es. In the late 1980es, the Hungarian Red Cross opened refugee campd for Transylvanian Hungarians fleeing Rumania; sarcasts commented on the symbolic opening of the Iron Curtain early in 1989 that they should take down the curtain on the Austrian vorder and set it up on the Rumanian border.
In multiethnic YUGOSLAVIA, nationalism was treated as a taboo as long as TITO ruled. In the decade after him, nationalism reemerged, politicians such as FRANJO TUDJMAN (Croatia) and SLOBODAN MILOSEVIC using it to establish power bases for themselves.


PACIFISM : The socialist governments of the east were interested in supporting pacifist tendencies in the west. The GDR tolerated pacifist grassroot groups on its soil; the slogan SWORDS INTO PLOUGHSHARES was drafted in East Germany. Yet the movement was closely observed by the STASI (secret police); those who refused to serve in the army were imprisoned.


ENVIRONMENTALISM : as the socialist governments invested little into filters, as, because of outdated facilities, accidents happened with increased frequency, as in the aftermath of the OIL CRISIS Czechs, Poles, East Germans made the most possible use of their (highly pollutant) coal resources, pollution was a problem more pressing than in the west. Among the visible problems : the Elbe river practically dead, moonscapes in the area where anthracit coal was won in open-cast mining (Bitterfeld, GDR); fresh snow falling in brown colour (coaldust), the forest on the Elbsandstein Mountains practically dead, the coal mining area in Upper Silesia (Poland) highly polluted, the area around CHERNOBYL so highly radioactive that the consumption of berries and mushrooms, of vegetables grown and animals kept there is prohibited.
Grassroots environmentalist groups emerged at many locations. The governments regarded them with suspicion, ordered supervision by the respective secret services; the formation of larger organizations was not permitted. Actions thus were limited to a local level.


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This page is part of World History at KMLA
First posted on July 18th 2001, last revised on November 11th 2004

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