The Rise and Fall of the Brezhnev Doctrine in Soviet Foreign Policy

The Rise and Fall of the Brezhnev Doctrine in Soviet Foreign Policy

The Rise and Fall of the Brezhnev Doctrine in Soviet Foreign Policy

The Rise and Fall of the Brezhnev Doctrine in Soviet Foreign Policy

Synopsis

Since the sudden collapse of the communist system in Eastern Europe in 1989, scholars have tried to explain why the Soviet Union stood by and watched as its empire crumbled. The recent release of extensive archival documentation in Moscow and the appearance of an increasing number of Soviet political memoirs now offer a greater perspective on this historic process and permit a much deeper look into its causes.

"The Rise and Fall of the Brezhnev Doctrine in Soviet Foreign Policy is a comprehensive study detailing the collapse of Soviet control in Eastern Europe between 1968 and 1989, focusing especially on the pivotal Solidarity uprisings in Poland. Based heavily on firsthand testimony and fresh archival findings, it constitutes a fundamental reassessment of Soviet foreign policy during this period. Perhaps most important, it offers a surprising account of how Soviet foreign policy initiatives in the late Brezhnev era defined the parameters of Mikhail Gorbachev's later position of laissez-faire toward,Eastern Europe--a position that ultimately led to the downfall of socialist governments all over Europe.

Excerpt

Christmas Day 1989. The audience in the concert hall of East Berlin's Schauspielhaus sat in excited anticipation as Maestro Leonard Bernstein raised his baton to begin the fourth movement of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony. It was a moment filled with remarkable historical import and hope for the future. On stage, musicians from both East and West Germany, as well as France, the Soviet Union, and the United States, combined their talent in a single gesture that bore witness to the extraordinary transformation that was then sweeping through Eastern Europe. Caught up in the spirit of the moment, Maestro Bernstein had altered one word of the famous Choral Symphony to commemorate the unprecedented nature of the evening's celebration. The substitution of this single word—freiheit in place of the traditional freude—transformed the poetry of Schiller's "Ode to Joy," on which Beethoven had based his magnum opus, into the "Ode to Freedom." The promise of what had come to pass seemed at that moment to defy any possibility of cynicism or irony. The yoke of communist authoritarianism in Europe was finally giving way before a wave of popular demonstrations clamoring for legitimately elected governments. Planned economies were already starting to introduce elements of the free market in their commercial relations both domestically and internationally. Meanwhile, in the city that the world once expected would give birth to a global conflagration, Cold War hostility had suddenly given way before a giddy sense of international altruism. The phenomenon that would come to be known as the "Revolutions of 1989" was in the process of reshaping the postwar order in Europe as the Cold War rushed toward its stunning conclusion.

Hardly a month earlier, the Berlin Wall that had separated East and West Germany since 1961, the very icon of Cold War antagonism, had literally collapsed. With picks and sledgehammers, bulldozers and jackhammers, families separated for decades began to tear down this embodiment of the Iron Curtain which had divided Europe since the end of World War II. Newspapers across the world broadcast the news in letters inches high. Communist control was collapsing in Eastern Europe. Before the end of the year, every country in the Soviet bloc would overturn the Party's legal monopoly on power in favor of free elections and constitutional democracy. In most countries this process was so peaceful and . . .

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.