The GDR: A Special Case in East Europe
For too long, Soviet policy toward East Europe after World War II was viewed as undifferentiated, just as East European societies were considered uniformly grey under Soviet domination. This was part of the "iron curtain" image created by the Cold War, which for some time remained unchallenged due in part to the lack of reliable information. In time, greater access to information and a less politicized environment allowed scholarly research to dispel the notion of East European homogeneity under Soviet influence without overlooking the changes wrought by socialization and Soviet control. It is, nonotheless, useful to recognize that there was an identifiable pattern of socialist transformation and integration into a bloc common to the region.( 1) In the most general terms, this pattern was characterized by the establishment of coalition governments throughout East Europe with loyal communist party members in critical positions, which allowed the respective communist parties to expand their influence and then consolidate power. Other basic elements included the transformation of the economies according to the Soviet model and integration of the countries into a bloc bound by economic, political, and military ties.
Today the German Democratic Republic is numbered among the countries of the "socialist commonwealth" and regarded as one of the staunchest supporters of Soviet orthodoxy within the bloc. In the decade following World War II, however, East Germany deviated from the pattern of Soviet policy toward the rest of East Europe to a significant degree. There were, of course, elements of commonality with the rest of the bloc, which must not be overlooked in consideration of East Ger