The early 1950a was a period of growing difficulty within the Soviet bloc. The indirect Soviet conflict with the United States In Korea and the open break between Stalin and Tito caused Stalin to tighten his hold on the Eastern bloc. Purges of the communist parties which began throughout East Europe in 1949 led to uncertainty and fear which paralyzed virtually every facet of society. This underlying, pervasive tension, coupled with the cumulative effects of exploitive elements of Soviet economic policy in East Europe, especially in East Germany, undermined economic well-being everywhere. Stalin's sudden death in March 1953 raised anew the question of East Germany's future. The unsettled nature of leadership succession compounded economic hardships imposed by the Construction of Socialism Program and unleashed pent-up tension and resentment culminating in the June uprising, a turning point in Soviet-East German relations.