The Communist Regimes in Eastern Europe: An Introduction

By Richard F. Staar | Go to book overview

Chapter 10 ECONOMIC INTEGRATION: The CMEA

BEFORE the Second World War most of Eastern Europe could be classified as economically backward. With roughly 80 percent of the population residing in rural areas and more than half of the gainfully employed engaged in agriculture, Eastern Europe was almost self-sufficient in food and there was both a small requirement for and a limited output of manufactured goods. The one exception was Czechoslovakia, where certain lines of industry were highly developed. Elsewhere, the growth of a strong industrial working class and a healthy bourgeoisie in the urban areas was stunted.

The military occupation of certain East European states and the transformation of others into Nazi satellites during the war altered the economies in some areas. Under compulsion to turn out materiel for the Wehrmacht and help supply the domestic needs of Nazi Germany, the industries of Czechoslovakia, Hungary, and what is today East Germany underwent considerable expansion. Romania served primarily as a producer of agricultural commodities and petroleum. On the other hand, Bulgaria and Poland were allowed to stagnate. All the countries suffered war damage, but Czechoslovakia emerged with relatively less than the others.1 All eventually became satellites of the U.S.S.R.

After the war, while Stalin still lived the economies of the satellite states remained under the tight control of Moscow. These countries were even discouraged from developing economic links among themselves. Most major business transactions had to proceed through the Soviet Union. Following the death of Stalin, however, a transformation took place. A meeting in March

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1
In 1945, however, Czechoslovak industry was producing at only 50 percent of its 1937 level. V. I. Morozov, Sovet Ekonomicheskoi Vzaimopomoshchi; soyuz ravnykh ( Moscow 1964), pp. 80-81.

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