Eastern Bloc emigration and defection

Eastern Bloc emigration and defection

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Eastern Bloc emigration and defection was a point of controversy during the Cold War
Cold War
The Cold War was the continuing state from roughly 1946 to 1991 of political conflict, military tension, proxy wars, and economic competition between the Communist World—primarily the Soviet Union and its satellite states and allies—and the powers of the Western world, primarily the United States...

. After World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

, emigration restrictions were imposed by countries in the Eastern Bloc
Eastern bloc
The term Eastern Bloc or Communist Bloc refers to the former communist states of Eastern and Central Europe, generally the Soviet Union and the countries of the Warsaw Pact...

, which consisted of the Soviet Union
Soviet Union
The Soviet Union , officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics , was a constitutionally socialist state that existed in Eurasia between 1922 and 1991....

 and its satellite state
Satellite state
A satellite state is a political term that refers to a country that is formally independent, but under heavy political and economic influence or control by another country...

s in Eastern and Central Europe. Legal emigration was in most cases only possible in order to reunite families or to allow members of minority ethnic groups to return to their homelands.

Eastern Bloc governments argued that strict limits to emigration were necessary to prevent a brain drain. The United States and Western European governments argued that they represented a violation of human rights. Despite the restrictions, defect
Defection
In politics, a defector is a person who gives up allegiance to one state or political entity in exchange for allegiance to another. More broadly, it involves abandoning a person, cause or doctrine to whom or to which one is bound by some tie, as of allegiance or duty.This term is also applied,...

ions to the West occurred.

After East Germany tightened its zonal occupation border with West Germany
West Germany
West Germany is the common English, but not official, name for the Federal Republic of Germany or FRG in the period between its creation in May 1949 to German reunification on 3 October 1990....

, the city sector border between East Berlin
East Berlin
East Berlin was the name given to the eastern part of Berlin between 1949 and 1990. It consisted of the Soviet sector of Berlin that was established in 1945. The American, British and French sectors became West Berlin, a part strongly associated with West Germany but a free city...

 and West Berlin
West Berlin
West Berlin was a political exclave that existed between 1949 and 1990. It comprised the western regions of Berlin, which were bordered by East Berlin and parts of East Germany. West Berlin consisted of the American, British, and French occupation sectors, which had been established in 1945...

 became a loophole through which defection could occur. This was closed with the erection of the Berlin Wall
Berlin Wall
The Berlin Wall was a barrier constructed by the German Democratic Republic starting on 13 August 1961, that completely cut off West Berlin from surrounding East Germany and from East Berlin...

 in 1961. Thereafter, emigration from the Eastern Bloc
Eastern bloc
The term Eastern Bloc or Communist Bloc refers to the former communist states of Eastern and Central Europe, generally the Soviet Union and the countries of the Warsaw Pact...

 was effectively limited to illegal defections, ethnic emigration under bilateral agreements, and a small number of other cases.

Creation of the Eastern Bloc




Bolsheviks took power in Russia following the Russian Revolution of 1917
Russian Revolution of 1917
The Russian Revolution is the collective term for a series of revolutions in Russia in 1917, which destroyed the Tsarist autocracy and led to the creation of the Soviet Union. The Tsar was deposed and replaced by a provisional government in the first revolution of February 1917...

. During the Russian Civil War
Russian Civil War
The Russian Civil War was a multi-party war that occurred within the former Russian Empire after the Russian provisional government collapsed to the Soviets, under the domination of the Bolshevik party. Soviet forces first assumed power in Petrograd The Russian Civil War (1917–1923) was a...

 that followed, coinciding with the Red Army
Red Army
The Workers' and Peasants' Red Army started out as the Soviet Union's revolutionary communist combat groups during the Russian Civil War of 1918-1922. It grew into the national army of the Soviet Union. By the 1930s the Red Army was among the largest armies in history.The "Red Army" name refers to...

's entry into Minsk
Minsk
- Ecological situation :The ecological situation is monitored by Republican Center of Radioactive and Environmental Control .During 2003–2008 the overall weight of contaminants increased from 186,000 to 247,400 tons. The change of gas as industrial fuel to mazut for financial reasons has worsened...

 in 1919, Byelorus was declared the Socialist Soviet Republic of Byelorussia
Socialist Soviet Republic of Byelorussia
The Socialist Soviet Republic of Byelorussia or Soviet Socialist Republic of Belarus was an early republic in the historical territory of Belarus after the collapse of the Russian Empire as a result of the October Revolution....

. After more conflict, the Byelorussian Soviet Socialist Republic was declared in 1920. With the defeat of Ukraine
Ukraine
Ukraine is a country in Eastern Europe. It has an area of 603,628 km², making it the second largest contiguous country on the European continent, after Russia...

 in the Polish-Ukrainian War
Polish-Ukrainian War
The Polish–Ukrainian War of 1918 and 1919 was a conflict between the forces of the Second Polish Republic and West Ukrainian People's Republic for the control over Eastern Galicia after the dissolution of Austria-Hungary.-Background:...

, after the March 1921 Peace of Riga
Peace of Riga
The Peace of Riga, also known as the Treaty of Riga; was signed in Riga on 18 March 1921, between Poland, Soviet Russia and Soviet Ukraine. The treaty ended the Polish-Soviet War....

 following the Polish-Soviet War
Polish-Soviet War
The Polish–Soviet War was an armed conflict between Soviet Russia and Soviet Ukraine and the Second Polish Republic and the Ukrainian People's Republic—four states in post–World War I Europe...

, central and eastern Ukraine were annexed into the Soviet Union as the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic. In 1922, the Russian SFSR, Ukraine SSR, Byelorussian SSR
Byelorussian SSR
The Byelorussian Soviet Socialist Republic was one of fifteen constituent republics of the Soviet Union. It was one of the four original founding members of the Soviet Union in 1922, together with the Ukrainian SSR, the Transcaucasian SFSR and the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic...

 and Transcaucasian SFSR
Transcaucasian SFSR
The Transcaucasian Socialist Federative Soviet Republic , also known as the Transcaucasian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic, the Transcaucasian SFSR and the TSFSR for short, was a short-lived republic of the Soviet Union, lasting from 1922 to 1936...

 were officially merged
Treaty on the Creation of the USSR
The Treaty on the Creation of the USSR is a document that legalized the creation of a union of several Soviet republics in the form of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics...

 as republics creating the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, or Soviet Union
Soviet Union
The Soviet Union , officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics , was a constitutionally socialist state that existed in Eurasia between 1922 and 1991....

.

At the end of World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

, all eastern and central European capitals (except Athens
Athens
Athens , is the capital and largest city of Greece. Athens dominates the Attica region and is one of the world's oldest cities, as its recorded history spans around 3,400 years. Classical Athens was a powerful city-state...

) were controlled by the Soviet Union
Soviet Union
The Soviet Union , officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics , was a constitutionally socialist state that existed in Eurasia between 1922 and 1991....

. During the final stages of the war, the Soviet Union
Soviet Union
The Soviet Union , officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics , was a constitutionally socialist state that existed in Eurasia between 1922 and 1991....

 began the creation of the Eastern Bloc
Eastern bloc
The term Eastern Bloc or Communist Bloc refers to the former communist states of Eastern and Central Europe, generally the Soviet Union and the countries of the Warsaw Pact...

 by directly annexing several countries as Soviet Socialist Republics that were originally effectively ceded to it by Nazi Germany in the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact
Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact
The Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact, named after the Soviet foreign minister Vyacheslav Molotov and the German foreign minister Joachim von Ribbentrop, was an agreement officially titled the Treaty of Non-Aggression between Germany and the Soviet Union and signed in Moscow in the late hours of 23 August 1939...

.

These included Eastern Poland
Poland
Poland , officially the Republic of Poland , is a country in Central Europe bordered by Germany to the west; the Czech Republic and Slovakia to the south; Ukraine, Belarus and Lithuania to the east; and the Baltic Sea and Kaliningrad Oblast, a Russian exclave, to the north...

 (incorporated into three different SSRs), Latvia
Latvia
Latvia , officially the Republic of Latvia , is a country in the Baltic region of Northern Europe. It is bordered to the north by Estonia , to the south by Lithuania , to the east by the Russian Federation , to the southeast by Belarus and shares maritime borders to the west with Sweden...

 (became Latvia SSR), Estonia
Estonia
Estonia , officially the Republic of Estonia , is a state in the Baltic region of Northern Europe. It is bordered to the north by the Gulf of Finland, to the west by the Baltic Sea, to the south by Latvia , and to the east by Lake Peipsi and the Russian Federation . Across the Baltic Sea lies...

 (became Estonian SSR), Lithuania
Lithuania
Lithuania , officially the Republic of Lithuania is a country in Northern Europe, the biggest of the three Baltic states. It is situated along the southeastern shore of the Baltic Sea, whereby to the west lie Sweden and Denmark...

 (became Lithuania SSR), part of eastern Finland
Finland
Finland , officially the Republic of Finland, is a Nordic country situated in the Fennoscandian region of Northern Europe. It is bordered by Sweden in the west, Norway in the north and Russia in the east, while Estonia lies to its south across the Gulf of Finland.Around 5.4 million people reside...

 (became Karelo-Finnish SSR
Karelo-Finnish SSR
The Karelo-Finnish Soviet Socialist Republic was a short-lived republic that was a part of the former Soviet Union. The republic existed from 1940 until it was merged back into the Russian SFSR in 1956 ....

, and later merged into the Russian SFSR) and northern Romania
Romania
Romania is a country located at the crossroads of Central and Southeastern Europe, on the Lower Danube, within and outside the Carpathian arch, bordering on the Black Sea...

 (became the Moldavian SSR
Moldavian SSR
The Moldavian Soviet Socialist Republic , commonly abbreviated to Moldavian SSR or MSSR, was one of the 15 republics of the Soviet Union...

). By 1945, these additional annexed countries totaled approximately 180,000 additional square miles, or slightly more than the area of West Germany, East Germany and Austria combined.

Other states were converted into Soviet Satellite
Satellite state
A satellite state is a political term that refers to a country that is formally independent, but under heavy political and economic influence or control by another country...

 states, such as the People's Republic of Poland
People's Republic of Poland
The People's Republic of Poland was the official name of Poland from 1952 to 1990. Although the Soviet Union took control of the country immediately after the liberation from Nazi Germany in 1944, the name of the state was not changed until eight years later...

, the People's Republic of Hungary
People's Republic of Hungary
The People's Republic of Hungary or Hungarian People's Republic was the official state name of Hungary from 1949 to 1989 during its Communist period under the guidance of the Soviet Union. The state remained in existence until 1989 when opposition forces consolidated in forcing the regime to...

, the Czechoslovak Socialist Republic
Czechoslovak Socialist Republic
The Czechoslovak Socialist Republic was the official name of Czechoslovakia from 1960 until end of 1989 , a Soviet satellite state of the Eastern Bloc....

, the People's Republic of Romania, the People's Republic of Albania, and later East Germany from the Soviet zone of German occupation. The Federal People's Republic of Yugoslavia was also considered part of the Bloc, though a Tito-Stalin split
Tito-Stalin Split
The Tito–Stalin Split was a conflict between the leaders of Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, which resulted in Yugoslavia's expulsion from the Communist Information Bureau in 1948...

 occurred in 1948 followed by the formation of the Non-Aligned Movement
Non-Aligned Movement
The Non-Aligned Movement is a group of states considering themselves not aligned formally with or against any major power bloc. As of 2011, the movement had 120 members and 17 observer countries...

.

Fleeing and expelled ethnic Germans in the Eastern Bloc at the end of the war



At the end of, and following World War II, at least twelve million ethnic German Volksdeutsche
Volksdeutsche
Volksdeutsche - "German in terms of people/folk" -, defined ethnically, is a historical term from the 20th century. The words volk and volkische conveyed in Nazi thinking the meanings of "folk" and "race" while adding the sense of superior civilization and blood...

 or Reichsdeutsche fled or were expelled, mostly in and from Soviet
Soviet Union
The Soviet Union , officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics , was a constitutionally socialist state that existed in Eurasia between 1922 and 1991....

-occupied territories becoming the Eastern Bloc
Eastern bloc
The term Eastern Bloc or Communist Bloc refers to the former communist states of Eastern and Central Europe, generally the Soviet Union and the countries of the Warsaw Pact...

, making it the largest movement of any European people in modern history. The expulsions had been agreed upon before the end of the war by the Allies
Allies
In everyday English usage, allies are people, groups, or nations that have joined together in an association for mutual benefit or to achieve some common purpose, whether or not explicit agreement has been worked out between them...

. At least two million people perished due to flight and expulsion, 400,000 to 600,000 of whom by physical force. Almost all of these occurred between 1944 and 1948:
German expellees
Expelled from Ethnic German population 1944/1945 Fled or expelled Died during flight or expulsion
Estonia, Latvia
Latvian SSR
The Latvian Soviet Socialist Republic , also known as the Latvian SSR for short, was one of the republics that made up the Soviet Union. Established on 21 July 1940 as a puppet state during World War II in the territory of the previously independent Republic of Latvia after it had been occupied by...

, Lithuania
Lithuanian SSR
The Lithuanian Soviet Socialist Republic , also known as the Lithuanian SSR, was one of the republics that made up the former Soviet Union...

 and Memel Territory
256,000 256,000 66,000
German areas annexed into Poland
territories east of the Oder-Neisse line
Oder-Neisse line
The Oder–Neisse line is the border between Germany and Poland which was drawn in the aftermath of World War II. The line is formed primarily by the Oder and Lusatian Neisse rivers, and meets the Baltic Sea west of the seaport cities of Szczecin and Świnoujście...


annexed into Poland
Poland
Poland , officially the Republic of Poland , is a country in Central Europe bordered by Germany to the west; the Czech Republic and Slovakia to the south; Ukraine, Belarus and Lithuania to the east; and the Baltic Sea and Kaliningrad Oblast, a Russian exclave, to the north...

 by the Soviet Union
Soviet Union
The Soviet Union , officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics , was a constitutionally socialist state that existed in Eurasia between 1922 and 1991....

10,000,000 7,400,000 1,225,000
Poland
People's Republic of Poland
The People's Republic of Poland was the official name of Poland from 1952 to 1990. Although the Soviet Union took control of the country immediately after the liberation from Nazi Germany in 1944, the name of the state was not changed until eight years later...


excluding former eastern territories of Germany
1,400,000 675,000 263,000
Romania  785,000 347,000 101,000
Czechoslovakia
Czechoslovak Socialist Republic
The Czechoslovak Socialist Republic was the official name of Czechoslovakia from 1960 until end of 1989 , a Soviet satellite state of the Eastern Bloc....

 
3,274,000 2,921,000 15,000 - 30,000
Hungary
People's Republic of Hungary
The People's Republic of Hungary or Hungarian People's Republic was the official state name of Hungary from 1949 to 1989 during its Communist period under the guidance of the Soviet Union. The state remained in existence until 1989 when opposition forces consolidated in forcing the regime to...

 
597,000 259,000 53,00
Yugoslavia
Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia
The Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia was the Yugoslav state that existed from the abolition of the Yugoslav monarchy until it was dissolved in 1992 amid the Yugoslav Wars. It was a socialist state and a federation made up of six socialist republics: Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia,...

 
550,000 523,000 135,000
Totals 16,862,000 12,381,000 2,081,000


The total figures include a considerable exodus of Germans from areas near the front lines as the Red Army
Red Army
The Workers' and Peasants' Red Army started out as the Soviet Union's revolutionary communist combat groups during the Russian Civil War of 1918-1922. It grew into the national army of the Soviet Union. By the 1930s the Red Army was among the largest armies in history.The "Red Army" name refers to...

 advanced towards German-settled areas. Many were aware of the Soviet reprisals on German civilians, such as Soviet soldiers committing rape and other crimes. News of these atrocities, like the disputed Nemmersdorf massacre, were also, in part, exaggerated and spread by the Nazi propaganda
Nazi propaganda
Propaganda, the coordinated attempt to influence public opinion through the use of media, was skillfully used by the NSDAP in the years leading up to and during Adolf Hitler's leadership of Germany...

 machine. Many of these ethnic Germans also fled to the future East Germany, within the Eastern Bloc.

Conditions in the Eastern Bloc




Throughout the Eastern Bloc, both in the Soviet Socialist Republic and the rest of the Bloc, Russia was given prominence, and referred to as the naibolee vydajuščajasja nacija (the most prominent nation) and the rukovodjaščij narod (the leading people). The Soviets promoted the reverence of Russian actions and characteristics, and the construction of Soviet Communist structural hierarchies in the other countries of the Eastern Bloc.

The defining characteristic of communism implemented in the Eastern Bloc
Eastern bloc
The term Eastern Bloc or Communist Bloc refers to the former communist states of Eastern and Central Europe, generally the Soviet Union and the countries of the Warsaw Pact...

 was the unique symbiosis of the state with society and the economy, resulting in politics and economics losing their distinctive features as autonomous and distinguishable spheres. Initially, Stalin directed systems that rejected Western institutional characteristics of market economies
Market economy
A market economy is an economy in which the prices of goods and services are determined in a free price system. This is often contrasted with a state-directed or planned economy. Market economies can range from hypothetically pure laissez-faire variants to an assortment of real-world mixed...

, democratic governance (dubbed "bourgeois democracy" in Soviet parlance) and the rule of law subduing discretional intervention by the state. The Soviets mandated expropriation and etatization of private property.

The Soviet-style "replica regimes" that arose in the Bloc not only reproduced Soviet command economies, but also adopted the brutal methods employed by Joseph Stalin
Joseph Stalin
Joseph Vissarionovich Stalin was the Premier of the Soviet Union from 6 May 1941 to 5 March 1953. He was among the Bolshevik revolutionaries who brought about the October Revolution and had held the position of first General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union's Central Committee...

 and Soviet secret police to suppress real and potential opposition. Communist regimes in the Eastern Bloc saw even marginal groups of opposition intellectuals as a potential threat because of the bases underlying Communist power therein. The suppression of dissidence and opposition was a central prerequisite for the security of Communist power within the Eastern Bloc, though the degree of opposition and dissident suppression varied by country and time throughout the Bloc.

In addition, media in the Eastern Bloc served as an organ of the state, completely reliant on, and subservient to, the ruling Communist parties, with radio and television organizations being state-owned, while print media was usually owned by political organizations, mostly by the ruling Communist party. Furthermore, the Eastern Bloc experienced economic mis-development by central planners resulting in those countries following a path of extensive rather than intensive development, and lagged far behind their western European counterparts in per capita Gross Domestic Product. Empty shelves in shops even in East Germany provided an open reminder of the inaccuracy of propaganda regarding purported magnificent and uninterrupted economic progress.

Emigration restrictions in the USSR





Although the first program of the Bolshevik movement in Russia included a demand for the "abolition of passports", just two months after the Russian Revolution of 1917
Russian Revolution of 1917
The Russian Revolution is the collective term for a series of revolutions in Russia in 1917, which destroyed the Tsarist autocracy and led to the creation of the Soviet Union. The Tsar was deposed and replaced by a provisional government in the first revolution of February 1917...

, the new regime instituted passport controls and forbade the exit of belligerent nationals. The reasoning was partly because emigration was conflated with opposition to the socialist state and also the fear that emigration would inflate opposition armies. The 1918 Treaty of Brest-Litovsk
Treaty of Brest-Litovsk
The Treaty of Brest-Litovsk was a peace treaty signed on March 3, 1918, mediated by South African Andrik Fuller, at Brest-Litovsk between Russia and the Central Powers, headed by Germany, marking Russia's exit from World War I.While the treaty was practically obsolete before the end of the year,...

 obligated Russia to allow emigration of non-Russians who wanted German citizenship, but the regime attempted to reduce this flow by allowing it during only one month. Beginning in 1919, travel abroad required the approval of the NKVD
NKVD
The People's Commissariat for Internal Affairs was the public and secret police organization of the Soviet Union that directly executed the rule of power of the Soviets, including political repression, during the era of Joseph Stalin....

, with the additional consent of the Special Department of the Cheka
Cheka
Cheka was the first of a succession of Soviet state security organizations. It was created by a decree issued on December 20, 1917, by Vladimir Lenin and subsequently led by aristocrat-turned-communist Felix Dzerzhinsky...

 added in 1920. In 1922, after the Treaty on the Creation of the USSR
Treaty on the Creation of the USSR
The Treaty on the Creation of the USSR is a document that legalized the creation of a union of several Soviet republics in the form of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics...

, both the Ukrainian SSR
Ukrainian SSR
The Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic or in short, the Ukrainian SSR was a sovereign Soviet Socialist state and one of the fifteen constituent republics of the Soviet Union lasting from its inception in 1922 to the breakup in 1991...

 and the Russian SFSR issued general rules for travel that foreclosed virtually all departures, making legal emigration all but impossible. However, the Soviet Union could not control its borders until a system of border guards was created through a special corp of the Gosudarstvennoye Politicheskoye Upravlenie (GPU), such that by 1928, even illegal departure was all but impossible.

In 1929, even more strict controls were introduced, decreeing that any Soviet official serving abroad who went over "to the camp of the enemies of the working class and the peasants" and refused to return would be executed within twenty four hours of being apprehended. In 1932, as Stalin's first Five Year Plan forced collectivization, to allocate scarce housing and weed out "nonproductive" elements, internal passport controls were introduced
Passport system in the Soviet Union
The Soviet passport is an identity document issued upon the laws of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics for the citizen of the USSR. For the general purposes of identity certification Soviet passports contained such data as name, date of birth, sex, place of birth, nationality and citizenship...

. When combined with individual city Propiska
Propiska
Propiska was both a residence permit and migration recording tool in the Russian Empire before 1917 and from 1930s in the Soviet Union. It was documented in local police registers and certified with a stamp in internal passports....

 ("place of residence") permits, and internal freedom of movement restrictions often called the 101st kilometre
101st kilometre
101st kilometre is a colloquial name for the law restricting freedom of movement in the Soviet Union.In the Soviet Union, the rights of an inmate released from the prison would typically still be restricted for a long period of time...

, these rules greatly restricted mobility within even small areas. When the Soviet Constitution of 1936 was promulgated, virtually no legal emigration took place, except for very limited family reunification and some forced deportations. Very small numbers snuck into Romania, Persia and Manchuria, but the bulk of the population remained essentially captive. Moskovskaya Pravda
Moskovskaya Pravda
Moskovskaya pravda , is a leading daily morning newspaper of Russia, and formerly of the Soviet Union. It was first published in 1918....

 later described the decision to emigrate as "unnatural and like burying someone alive." Those wishing to leave were viewed not just as deserters, but traitors.

The mobilization of labor in the Soviet Union was not feasible if emigration remained an option with the relative low standard of living that existed at that time. Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev
Nikita Khrushchev
Nikita Sergeyevich Khrushchev led the Soviet Union during part of the Cold War. He served as First Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union from 1953 to 1964, and as Chairman of the Council of Ministers, or Premier, from 1958 to 1964...

 later stated "We were scared, really scared. We were afraid the thaw might unleash a flood, which we wouldn't be able to control and which could drown us. How could it drown us? It could have overflowed the banks of the Soviet riverbed and formed a tidal wave that which would have washed away all the barriers and retaining walls of our society."

In addition, emigration restrictions were used to keep secrecy about life in the Soviet Union. Starting in 1935, Joseph Stalin
Joseph Stalin
Joseph Vissarionovich Stalin was the Premier of the Soviet Union from 6 May 1941 to 5 March 1953. He was among the Bolshevik revolutionaries who brought about the October Revolution and had held the position of first General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union's Central Committee...

 had already effectively sealed off outside access to the Soviet Socialist Republics (and until his death), effectively permitting no foreign travel inside the Soviet Union such that outsiders did not know of the political processes that had taken place therein. During this period, and even for 25 years after Stalin's 1953 death, the few diplomats and foreign correspondents that were permitted inside the Soviet Union were usually restricted to within a few miles of Moscow, while their phones were tapped, their residences were restricted to foreigner-only locations and they were constantly followed by Soviet authorities. Dissenters who approached such foreigners were arrested. For many years after World War II, even the best informed foreigners did not know the number of arrested or executed Soviet citizens, or how poorly the Soviet economy had performed.

1945 to 1950 mass Eastern European migration westward


After Soviet occupation of Eastern Europe
Eastern Europe
Eastern Europe is the eastern part of Europe. The term has widely disparate geopolitical, geographical, cultural and socioeconomic readings, which makes it highly context-dependent and even volatile, and there are "almost as many definitions of Eastern Europe as there are scholars of the region"...

 at the end of World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

, the majority of people living in the newly acquired areas aspired for independence and wanted the Soviet troops to leave. While millions of ethnic Germans fled or were expelled from Eastern Europe
Expulsion of Germans after World War II
The later stages of World War II, and the period after the end of that war, saw the forced migration of millions of German nationals and ethnic Germans from various European states and territories, mostly into the areas which would become post-war Germany and post-war Austria...

, about four million ethnic Germans were prevented from leaving by advancing Soviet troops or deported to remote areas of the Soviet Union as part of Stalin's policy towards the German population.

Before 1950, over 15 million immigrants emigrated from Soviet-occupied eastern European countries to the west in the five years immediately following World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

. Until the early 1950s, the lines between German occupation zones could be easily crossed. Taking advantage of this route, the number of Eastern Europeans applying for political asylum in West Germany was 197,000 in 1950, 165,000 in 1951, 182,000 in 1952 and 331,000 in 1953, One reason for the sharp 1953 increase was fear of potential further Sovietization
Sovietization
Sovietization is term that may be used with two distinct meanings:*the adoption of a political system based on the model of soviets .*the adoption of a way of life and mentality modelled after the Soviet Union....

 with the increasingly paranoid actions of Joseph Stalin
Joseph Stalin
Joseph Vissarionovich Stalin was the Premier of the Soviet Union from 6 May 1941 to 5 March 1953. He was among the Bolshevik revolutionaries who brought about the October Revolution and had held the position of first General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union's Central Committee...

 in late 1952 and early 1953. 226,000 had fled in the just the first six months of 1953. Because of the lack of resources and space in West Germany, at the request of Truman in 1952, the United States increased its resettlement admissions quotas under the United States Escapee Program (USEP). After the Hungarian Revolution of 1956, 171,000 Hungarian refugees had crossed the border into Austria, while 20,000 crossed into Yugoslavia.

In 1948, in the debate of a Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the Soviets objected to the language that "everyone has the right to leave any country including his own." Arguing that "it would encourage emigration", the Soviets wanted to add the phrase "in accordance with the procedure laid down in the laws of that country", with only Poland and Saudi Arabia supporting the Soviet proposal.

Emigration restriction and the German zonal border






Restrictions implemented in the Eastern Bloc during the Cold War stopped most East-West migration, with only 13.3 million migrations westward between 1950 and 1990. By the early 1950s, the Soviet approach to controlling national movement was emulated by most of the rest of the Eastern Bloc (along with China, Mongolia and North Korea), with heavy restrictions preventing such emigration. A Hungarian economist stated that "it was quite obvious that the socialist countries—like other countries—intend to prevent their professionals, trained at the expense of their society, from being used to enrich other countries." Eastern European spokesmen maintained that they were keeping would-be emigrants from suffering from insufficient linguistic and cultural preparation. They also stressed the debt that individuals owed to socialist states, which offered care from birth, including subsidized education and training and, thus, they justified the emigration restrictions as an "education tax" with the states having a right to recoup its investment. Open emigration policies would create a "brain drain
Brain drain
Human capital flight, more commonly referred to as "brain drain", is the large-scale emigration of a large group of individuals with technical skills or knowledge. The reasons usually include two aspects which respectively come from countries and individuals...

", forcing the state to readjust its wage structure at a cost to other economic priorities. Bulgarian and Romanian representatives had long argued that they could not afford to match western salaries and, without emigration restrictions, they "would become like Africa." The restrictions presented a quandary for some Eastern Bloc states that had been more economically advanced and open than the Soviet Union, such that crossing borders seemed more natural—especially between where no prior border existed between East and West Germany.

Up until 1952, the lines between Soviet-occupied eastern Germany and the western occupied zones could be easily crossed in most places. Accordingly, before 1961, most of that east-west flow took place between East and West Germany, with over 3.5 million East Germans emigrating to West Germany before 1961, which comprised most of the total net emigration of 4.0 million emigrants from all of Central and Eastern Europe between 1950 to 1959. In response to growing numbers crossing the borders, the Soviet Union instituted tighter border controls around their zone, the Inner German border. In 1955, the Soviet Union passed a law transferring control over civilian access in Berlin to East Germany, which officially abdicated the Soviets from direct responsibility of matters therein, while passing control to a regime not recognized in the west. When large numbers of East Germans then defected under the guise of "visits", the new East German state essentially eliminated all travel to the west in 1956. Soviet East German ambassador Mikhail Pervukhin
Mikhail Pervukhin
Mikhail Gyeorgievich Pervukhin was a Soviet official during the Stalin Era, Khrushchev Era and the early Brezhnev Era. He served as a First Deputy Chairman of the Council of Ministers, literally First Vice-Premier of the Soviet Union, from 1955 to 1957....

 observed that "the presence in Berlin of an open and essentially uncontrolled border between the socialist and capitalist worlds unwittingly prompts the population to make a comparison between both parts of the city, which unfortunately, does not always turn out in favor of the Democratic [East] Berlin."

With the closing of the Inner German border officially in 1952, the city sector border in Berlin remained considerably more accessible than the rest of the border because it was administered by all four occupying powers. Accordingly, Berlin became the main route by which East Germans left for the West. East Germany introduced a new passport law on December 11, 1957, that reduced the overall number of refugees leaving East Germany, while drastically increasing the percentage of those leaving through West Berlin from 60% to well over 90% by the end of 1958. Those actually caught trying to leave East Berlin were subjected to heavy penalties, but with no physical barrier and even subway train access to West Berlin, such measures were ineffective. Accordingly, the Berlin sector border was essentially a "loophole" through which East Bloc citizens could still escape. The 3.5 million East Germans that had left by 1961 totaled approximately 20% of the entire East German population.

"Brain drain"


The emigrants tended to be young and well educated, leading to the brain drain
Brain drain
Human capital flight, more commonly referred to as "brain drain", is the large-scale emigration of a large group of individuals with technical skills or knowledge. The reasons usually include two aspects which respectively come from countries and individuals...

 feared by officials in East Germany. Yuri Andropov
Yuri Andropov
Yuri Vladimirovich Andropov was a Soviet politician and the General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union from 12 November 1982 until his death fifteen months later.-Early life:...

, then the CPSU
Communist Party of the Soviet Union
The Communist Party of the Soviet Union was the only legal, ruling political party in the Soviet Union and one of the largest communist organizations in the world...

 Director on Relations with Communist and Workers Parties of Socialist Countries, wrote an urgent August 28, 1958, letter to the Central Committee about the significant 50% increase in the number of East German intelligentsia among the refugees. Andropov reported that, while the East German leadership stated that they were leaving for economic reasons, testimony from refugees indicated that the reasons were more political than material. He stated "the flight of the intelligentsia has reached a particularly critical phase." SED
Socialist Unity Party of Germany
The Socialist Unity Party of Germany was the governing party of the German Democratic Republic from its formation on 7 October 1949 until the elections of March 1990. The SED was a communist political party with a Marxist-Leninist ideology...

 leader Walter Ulbricht
Walter Ulbricht
Walter Ulbricht was a German communist politician. As First Secretary of the Socialist Unity Party from 1950 to 1971 , he played a leading role in the creation of the Weimar-era Communist Party of Germany and later in the early development and...

 saw not only a problem from "brain drain", but also the Grenzgänger problem of 50,000 East Berliners working in West Berlin. Rural citizens disaffected after collectivization campaigns also caused the flight of tens of thousands of farmers, including one third of the wealthier farmers, leaving over 10% of East Germany's arable land fallow and resulting in food shortages. The farmers that remained were disinclined to do more than produce for their own needs because fixed procurement prices meant little profit, and conspicuous production invited hasty inclusion in a collective or state farm. The exodus intensified existing shortages of goods and services in the shortage economy
Shortage economy
Shortage economy is a term coined by the Hungarian economist, János Kornai. He used this term to criticize the old centrally-planned economies of the communist states of the Eastern Bloc...

.

By 1960, the combination of World War II and the massive emigration westward left East Germany with only 61% of its population of working age, compared to 70.5% before the war. The loss was disproportionately heavy among professionals—engineers, technicians, physicians, teachers, lawyers and skilled workers. The direct cost of manpower losses has been estimated at $7 billion to $9 billion, with East German party leader Walter Ulbricht
Walter Ulbricht
Walter Ulbricht was a German communist politician. As First Secretary of the Socialist Unity Party from 1950 to 1971 , he played a leading role in the creation of the Weimar-era Communist Party of Germany and later in the early development and...

 later claiming that West Germany owed him $17 billion in compensation, including reparations as well as manpower losses. In addition, the drain of East Germany's young population potentially cost it over 22.5 billion marks in lost educational investment. The brain drain of professionals had become so damaging to the political credibility and economic viability of East Germany that the re-securing of the Soviet imperial frontier was imperative. At the same time, there were positive consequences of the emigration, including the removal of anti-Russian nationalists and vocal opponents, which might have helped East Germany to avoid some of the unrest that developed in Hungary, Poland and Czechoslovakia.

After the Berlin Wall



Even with the Inner German border strengthening, emigration through Berlin began to swell, with 144,000 in 1949, 199,000 in 1960 and 207,000 in the first seven months of 1961 alone. Orderly planning had become almost impossible in East Germany, with entire towns existing without physicians, crops going unharvested and fifty-five year-olds put to work running street cars. The East German economy was on the verge of collapse. With fears of drastic action in Berlin, on July 15, 1961 Ulbricht
Walter Ulbricht
Walter Ulbricht was a German communist politician. As First Secretary of the Socialist Unity Party from 1950 to 1971 , he played a leading role in the creation of the Weimar-era Communist Party of Germany and later in the early development and...

 called a rare press conference, insisting that "no one has any intention of building a wall," but made clear that "the outflow has to stop." He added "it goes without saying that the so-called refugee camps in West Berlin"—the transit camps at which refugees were processed en route from West Berlin to West Germany—"will be closed down."

On August 13, 1961, a barbed-wire
Barbed wire
Barbed wire, also known as barb wire , is a type of fencing wire constructed with sharp edges or points arranged at intervals along the strand. It is used to construct inexpensive fences and is used atop walls surrounding secured property...

 barrier that would become the Berlin Wall
Berlin Wall
The Berlin Wall was a barrier constructed by the German Democratic Republic starting on 13 August 1961, that completely cut off West Berlin from surrounding East Germany and from East Berlin...

 separating East and West Berlin was erected by East Germany. Two days later, police and army engineers began to construct a more permanent concrete wall. The construction briefly caused fears of a military crisis, though only 11,000 western troops were located in Berlin compared to 500,000 Soviet troops surrounding them deployed in East Germany. Along with the wall, the 830 mile zonal border became 3.5 miles wide on its East German side in some parts of Germany with a tall steel-mesh fence running along a "death strip" bordered by bands of plowed earth, to slow and to reveal the prints of those trying to escape, and mined fields.

Thereafter, only 5,000 crossed the Berlin Wall between 1961 and 1989. Consequently, after the erection of the Wall, the total net emigration from Central and Eastern Europe fell even further to 1.9 million between 1960 and 1969, 1.1 million between 1970 and 1979. This increased somewhat to 2.3 million between 1980 and 1989 with increased ethnic emigration after Mikhail Gorbachev
Mikhail Gorbachev
Mikhail Sergeyevich Gorbachev is a former Soviet statesman, having served as General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union from 1985 until 1991, and as the last head of state of the USSR, having served from 1988 until its dissolution in 1991...

 came to power in the mid-1980s. More than 75% of those emigrating from Eastern Bloc countries between 1950 and 1990 did so under bilateral agreements for "ethnic migration", and religious minorities, such as those from Bulgaria (ethnic Turks and other Muslims), Poland (ethnic Germans, ethnic Hungarians and Jews), Romania (ethnic Germans, ethnic Hungarians, Jews) and Yugoslavia (ethnic Turks and other Muslims). Most Soviets allowed to leave during this time period were ethnic Jews permitted to emigrate to Israel after a series of embarrassing defections in 1970 caused the Soviets to open very limited ethnic emigrations. About 10% of emigrants were refugee migrants under the Geneva Convention of 1951. Emigration from Eastern Bloc
Eastern bloc
The term Eastern Bloc or Communist Bloc refers to the former communist states of Eastern and Central Europe, generally the Soviet Union and the countries of the Warsaw Pact...

 countries was as follows:
Emigration from Eastern Bloc countries through 1982
EWLINE
Country Total % of Pop Notes
Albania  Under 1,000 0.0% 1946–1982; no emigration
Bulgaria  431,000 5.3% 1946–1982; 300,000 ethnic Turks to Turkey
Czechoslovakia
Czechoslovak Socialist Republic
The Czechoslovak Socialist Republic was the official name of Czechoslovakia from 1960 until end of 1989 , a Soviet satellite state of the Eastern Bloc....

 
1,973,000 14.0% 1946–1982; 1.57 million Germans expelled in 1946 and 200,000 Czechs and Slovaks fled during the 1968 Soviet invasion
Warsaw Pact invasion of Czechoslovakia
On the night of 20–21 August 1968, the Soviet Union and her main satellite states in the Warsaw Pact – Bulgaria, the German Democratic Republic , Hungary and Poland – invaded the Czechoslovak Socialist Republic in order to halt Alexander Dubček's Prague Spring political liberalization...

East Germany  3,365,000 19.8% 1948–1982; almost all before Berlin Wall
Berlin Wall
The Berlin Wall was a barrier constructed by the German Democratic Republic starting on 13 August 1961, that completely cut off West Berlin from surrounding East Germany and from East Berlin...

 in 1961
Hungary
People's Republic of Hungary
The People's Republic of Hungary or Hungarian People's Republic was the official state name of Hungary from 1949 to 1989 during its Communist period under the guidance of the Soviet Union. The state remained in existence until 1989 when opposition forces consolidated in forcing the regime to...

 
332,000 3.3% 1946–1982; 200,000 fled during Hungarian Revolution of 1956
Poland
People's Republic of Poland
The People's Republic of Poland was the official name of Poland from 1952 to 1990. Although the Soviet Union took control of the country immediately after the liberation from Nazi Germany in 1944, the name of the state was not changed until eight years later...

 
1,877,000 6.0% 1946–1982; 1.3 million Aussiedler (German origin through East German program)
Romania  424,000 2.2% 1946–1982; many were Aussiedler (ethnic Germans)
Soviet Union
Soviet Union
The Soviet Union , officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics , was a constitutionally socialist state that existed in Eurasia between 1922 and 1991....

 
500,000 0.2% 1948–1982; All ethnic Jews, Germans and Armenians; other emigration impossible except for ethnic and familial


Albania's tight security allowed almost no emigration, while almost all of East Germany's emigration took place before the erection of the Berlin Wall. Because of East Germany's cultural affinity with West Germany and the viewing of West German television depicting western life throughout most of East Germany, East Germany was more prone to population loss.


Providing further emigration pressure was the growing gap in living standards between western Europe and the Eastern Bloc after the 1960s. Everyday complaints over consumer goods, supplies or wages could all too readily lead to comparisons with Western conditions. The quality of goods displayed by "aunts" and Intershop
Intershop
Intershop was a chain of government-run retail stores in the German Democratic Republic in which only hard currencies could be used to purchase high-quality goods. The East German mark was not accepted as payment...

s, where visitors would buy premium goods with foreign currency (see also Beryozka
Beryozka
Beriozka was a twin chain of state-run retail stores in the Russian SFSR that sold goods for hard currency. Beriozkas sold goods that were either unavailable or more expensive in regular shops...

, Pewex
Pewex
Pewex was a chain of hard currency shops in communist Poland...

, Tuzex
Tuzex
Tuzex, during the period of communist rule in Czechoslovakia, was a network of shops in which it was possible to use hard currency or Tuzex vouchers to purchase foreign, mainly western luxury goods, unavailable at regular stores. The Czechoslovak koruna was not accepted. The name Tuzex is a...

 and Corecom
Corecom
Corecom was a chain of hard-currency stores during the Communist rule in Bulgaria . Goods were often priced cheaper than in the West, however, they were still inaccessible for most Bulgarians because the national currency, the lev, was not accepted at the stores...

), heightened Easterners' sense of their second-class status and this, in turn, impacted upon their perception of economic arrangements in their own country. Walter Freidrich, director of the Leipzig Institute, complained that "shortcomings and weaknesses in our own country (e.g., problems with supply of consumer goods and spare parts; media policy; rose tinted perspectives; real democratic participation, etc) are coming increasingly into focus and subjected to sharper criticisms. To a growing extent, doubt is cast on the superiority of socialism." Stasi
Stasi
The Ministry for State Security The Ministry for State Security The Ministry for State Security (German: Ministerium für Staatssicherheit (MfS), commonly known as the Stasi (abbreviation , literally State Security), was the official state security service of East Germany. The MfS was headquartered...

 reports complained about individuals who had been given privileged access to travel to the West for work with "stories of the 'overwhelming range of commodities available . . . or with reports of East German goods on sale there at knock-down prices."

Legal restrictive mechanisms


Defection attempts from the Soviet Union
Soviet Union
The Soviet Union , officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics , was a constitutionally socialist state that existed in Eurasia between 1922 and 1991....

 were governed by two laws: (i) illegal traveling abroad without a passport was a crime punishable by one to three years in prison, even in cases where the destination was another Eastern Bloc country; and (ii) illegal defection to a non-Eastern Bloc state and refusal to return home was considered treason against the state. To remove the temptation for such treason, the Soviets invested heavily in border controls, with lengthy criminal rules regarding approaching a border region. Almost no emigration occurred from the Soviet Union in the 1950s and 1960s, except for ethnic Armenians returning to Armenia. In 1973, the United States Congress made liberalizing the Soviet emigration policy a prerequisite for lifting trade barriers, resulting in the emigration of 370,000 Soviet citizens, mostly ethnic Jews. A second wave of emigration started in 1986-87, after Mikhail Gorbachev
Mikhail Gorbachev
Mikhail Sergeyevich Gorbachev is a former Soviet statesman, having served as General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union from 1985 until 1991, and as the last head of state of the USSR, having served from 1988 until its dissolution in 1991...

 came to power, with most emigrants being ethnic Jews, ethnic Germans, Armenians, Greeks or Pentecostals.

Because of various international accords, non-Soviet Eastern Bloc countries did not explicitly ban emigration. Instead, they introduced a long series of approvals an applicant must obtain beyond the passport office—including local police, employers and the state housing commission—with no time limit set for action. Applications could be denied, without appeal, on a variety of subjective grounds, such as national security and "the interest of the state." Much was left to administrative discretion and unpublished internal directives, with the odds against eventually receiving after years of the process being extremely high. Like in the Soviet Union, attempting to leave without permissions to a non-Eastern Bloc state was punishable as treason, with Albania and Romania invoking the death penalty for such offenses. Even after families applied to leave to join refugees fleeing during the confusion of the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968, Czechoslovakian authorities informed them "it is contrary to the State's interest to allow Czechoslovak citizens long-term private sojourns abroad, and that includes emigration. However, emigration was also used as a sort of release valve to hasten the departure of limited prominent vocal dissenters.

In 1964, Yugoslavia
Yugoslavia
Yugoslavia refers to three political entities that existed successively on the western part of the Balkans during most of the 20th century....

 became the only communist country in Europe to allow its citizens to emigrate. Others qualified as refugees claiming to "escape" during crises, such as those fleeing during the Hungarian Revolution of 1956, the 1968 Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia, the Polish Solidarity events and various events that occurred in East Germany, Bulgaria and Albania in the late 1980s.

Circumventing the Helsinki Accords




The Helsinki Accords
Helsinki Accords
thumb|300px|[[Erich Honecker]] and [[Helmut Schmidt]] in Conference on Security and Co-operation in Europe held in Helsinki 1975....

 of 1975 were an important Cold War-era agreement signed by most European countries, including those of the Eastern Bloc
Eastern bloc
The term Eastern Bloc or Communist Bloc refers to the former communist states of Eastern and Central Europe, generally the Soviet Union and the countries of the Warsaw Pact...

, the United States and Canada. It governed various territorial agreements, frontier disputes, human rights, the threat of force and other items. The "third basket" of the Helsinki Accords contained pledges to uphold rights to international travel, family contact and freedom of information, and to promote cultural exchanges. In East Germany, while the government downplayed the existence of this provision in the media, as potential emigrants came to slowly perceive that exit visas might be attainable to some, 7,200 first time applicants applied in the late 1970s.

West Germany negotiated the exodus of some ethnic Germans from Poland
People's Republic of Poland
The People's Republic of Poland was the official name of Poland from 1952 to 1990. Although the Soviet Union took control of the country immediately after the liberation from Nazi Germany in 1944, the name of the state was not changed until eight years later...

 in exchange for financial inducements, including large loans. Similarly, Romania was paid a fixed amount of 5,000 Deutsche Marks (DM) per ethnic German permitted to leave, which was increased to 7,800 DM in 1983 and to 11,000 DM in 1988. East Germany exported 70,000 political prisoners to West Germany, in exchange for 70,000 DM per head paid by West Germany, which netted East Germany 3.4 billion Deutsche Marks at a time when it was in financial crisis. East Germany viewed the payments they received for the release not as ransom, but as compensation of the damage such individuals inflict on socialist order, as well as reimbursement for their costs of education. However, letting some leave legally set a dangerous precedent, including the long term threat of the general public strongly moving for a right to emigrate. The Central Committee in 1988 warned that "the necessary commitment to preventing attempts to emigrate is not present in many", "the required prevailing atmosphere of opposition to these phenomena has not yet been achieved" and trade union "functionaries or brigade leaders sometimes state that they fail to understand why these citizens are not permitted to emigrate."

The regimes' strategy was to grant applications selectively and with long delays in a process that was designed to be demeaning, frustrating and leading to years of applicants waiting for a leaving date that would never arrive. In addition, while waiting, applicants were subject to baleful discrimination, faced workplace firing or demotion, were denied university access and were forced to relinquish their passports resulting in the denial of travel rights even within their country or residence. In 1984, twenty-five Czechoslovakians
Czechoslovak Socialist Republic
The Czechoslovak Socialist Republic was the official name of Czechoslovakia from 1960 until end of 1989 , a Soviet satellite state of the Eastern Bloc....

 occupied a West German embassy in Prague
Prague
Prague is the capital and largest city of the Czech Republic. Situated in the north-west of the country on the Vltava river, the city is home to about 1.3 million people, while its metropolitan area is estimated to have a population of over 2.3 million...

 demanding asylum in the west while seven East Germans did so in the library of the United States Berlin embassy. The authorities relented, and that year witnessed a huge rise in legal emigration, with applications swelling to 57,6000, 29,800 of which were granted. Small groups of organized applicants had already held vigils calling for legal emigration since the late 1970s. The movement and application figures grew by the late 1980s as the east-west prosperity gap widened resulting in West German citizenship looking more attractive, while authorities were at a loss how to address the application rise. Increasing visa grants in the late 1980s accompanying a 1988 decision to prioritize those for citizens who engaged in protests provided incentives to further expand the movement. The East German SED
Socialist Unity Party of Germany
The Socialist Unity Party of Germany was the governing party of the German Democratic Republic from its formation on 7 October 1949 until the elections of March 1990. The SED was a communist political party with a Marxist-Leninist ideology...

 party conceded that "[t]he emigration problem is confronting us with a fundamental problem of [East Germany]'s development" and this challenge "threatens to undermine beliefs in the correctness of the party's policies." The move accompanied a growing dissolving of confidence that the problems facing socialism could ever be solved and whether that system was the future.

By the late 1980s, Hungary had allowed citizens over fifty five years old to leave and liberalized family reunification emigration, along with increased travel permissions. Romania also liberalized emigration for family reunification purposes. By the mid-1980s, East Germany extended its program receiving payment for political prisoner release to the west to include "family reunification." The political prisoner payments became so large that East Germany accounted for them in their state economic planning process. Emigration restriction liberalisation in 1989 followed another flood of outmigration to West Germany during the Revolutions of 1989
Revolutions of 1989
The Revolutions of 1989 were the revolutions which overthrew the communist regimes in various Central and Eastern European countries.The events began in Poland in 1989, and continued in Hungary, East Germany, Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia and...

 indirectly through third countries—such as Hungary, Czechoslovakia and Poland—which accelerated the demise of the East German government when the closure of the borders precipitated demonstrations.

Defectors


Although international movement was, for the most part, strictly controlled, there was a steady loss through escapees who were able to use ingenious methods to evade frontier security. In East Germany, the term Republikflucht
Republikflucht
"Republikflucht" and "Republikflüchtling" were the terms used by authorities in the German Democratic Republic to describe the process of and the person leaving the GDR for a life in West Germany or any other Western country .The term...

 (fugitives from the Republic) was used for anyone wishing to leave to non-socialist countries. Republikflucht attempts to leave the East Germany constituted a criminal act and carried severe penalties. Regarding the reasoning for such restrictions, a propaganda booklet published by the Socialist Unity Party of Germany
Socialist Unity Party of Germany
The Socialist Unity Party of Germany was the governing party of the German Democratic Republic from its formation on 7 October 1949 until the elections of March 1990. The SED was a communist political party with a Marxist-Leninist ideology...

 (SED) in 1955 for the use of party agitators outlined the seriousness of 'flight from the republic'
Republikflucht
"Republikflucht" and "Republikflüchtling" were the terms used by authorities in the German Democratic Republic to describe the process of and the person leaving the GDR for a life in West Germany or any other Western country .The term...

, stating "leaving the GDR is an act of political and moral backwardness and depravity", and "workers throughout Germany will demand punishment for those who today leave the German Democratic Republic, the strong bastion of the fight for peace, to serve the deadly enemy of the German people, the imperialists and militarists". Moreover, an attempt to flee via East Germany's fortified borders involved considerable personal risk of injury or death. Estimates for those killed attempting to escape over the Berlin Wall range from 136 to just over 200. About 75,000 people were caught and imprisoned.

Famous defectors include Joseph Stalin's daughter Svetlana Alliluyeva
Svetlana Alliluyeva
Svetlana Iosifovna Alliluyeva , later known as Lana Peters, was the youngest child and only daughter of Soviet Premier Joseph Stalin and Nadezhda Alliluyeva, Stalin's second wife...

 (though she returned in 1984), Mig-25 pilot Viktor Belenko
Viktor Belenko
Viktor Ivanovich Belenko is Soviet defector and aerospace engineer and lecturer. Belenko was sentenced to death in the Soviet Union for state treason. He was born in Nalchik, Russian SFSR in a Ukrainian family...

, U.N. Undersecretary General Arkady Shevchenko
Arkady Shevchenko
Arkady Nikolayevich Shevchenko , a Soviet diplomat, was the highest-ranking Soviet official to defect to the West.Shevchenko joined the diplomatic service of the Soviet Union as a young man and rose through the ranks of the Soviet Foreign Ministry, becoming advisor to Andrei Gromyko, Minister for...

, chess grand master Viktor Korchnoi
Viktor Korchnoi
Viktor Lvovich Korchnoi ; pronounced in the original Russian as "karch NOY"; Ви́ктор Льво́вич Корчно́й, born March 23, 1931 is a professional chess player, author and currently the oldest active grandmaster on the tournament circuit...

, and ballet stars Mikhail Baryshnikov
Mikhail Baryshnikov
Mikhail Nikolaevich Baryshnikov is a Soviet and American dancer, choreographer, and actor, often cited alongside Vaslav Nijinsky and Rudolf Nureyev as one of the greatest ballet dancers of the 20th century. After a promising start in the Kirov Ballet in Leningrad, he defected to Canada in 1974...

, Natalia Makarova
Natalia Makarova
Nataliya Romanovna Makarova is the legendary Soviet-Russian-born prima ballerina. The History of Dance, published in 1981, notes that “Her performances set standards of artistry and aristocracy of dance which mark her as the finest ballerina of her generation.” She has also won awards as an...

 and Alexander Godunov
Alexander Godunov
Alexander Borisovich Godunov was a Russian-American ballet danseur and film actor, whose defection caused a diplomatic incident between the USA and the USSR.-Biography:...

. Famous East German defectors include author Wolfgang Leonhard
Wolfgang Leonhard
Wolfgang Leonhard is a German political author, historian, and expert on Communism. He is the only living member of the Ulbricht Group.-Early years:...

, East German soldier Conrad Schumann
Conrad Schumann
Hans Conrad Schumann was an East German soldier who famously defected to West Germany during the construction of the Berlin Wall in 1961.-Early life:...

 who was photographed jumping the Berlin wall while it was under construction and a number of European football players, including Jörg Berger
Jörg Berger
Jörg Berger was a German football manager and player, who last managed Arminia Bielefeld.- Coaching career :...

.

While media sources often reported high level defections, non-prominent defections usually went unreported. The number of non-public "black stream" defectors is not known.

On June 15, 1970, twelve mostly Jewish defectors were caught attempting to hijack a plane to escape
Dymshits-Kuznetsov hijacking affair
The Dymshits–Kuznetsov aircraft hijacking affair was an attempt to hijack a civilian aircraft on 15 June 1970 by a group of Soviet refuseniks in order to escape to the West...

 from the Soviet Union, and were assigned harsh sentences, including death sentences for the two leaders, which were later commuted to 15 years in a labor camp. At least six attempted skyjacking defection attempts were made from Armenia, the Soviet Union and Lithuania from 1970 to 1971.

There were 3 hijackings of airliners by GDR citizens in order to escape to Western Germany; the most well-known is the LOT Polish Airlines Flight 165 hijacking
LOT Polish Airlines Flight 165 hijacking
LOT Polish Airlines Flight 165 hijacking was the hijacking of a LOT Polish Airlines that occurred on August 30, 1978. The hijackers from East Germany were seeking political asylum in West Germany...

 in 1978.

A more comprehensive compilation of defectors exists in the List of Eastern Bloc defectors.

End of restrictions






In 1985, following the Era of Stagnation, reform-minded Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev
Mikhail Gorbachev
Mikhail Sergeyevich Gorbachev is a former Soviet statesman, having served as General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union from 1985 until 1991, and as the last head of state of the USSR, having served from 1988 until its dissolution in 1991...

 signaled the trend toward greater liberalization. Emigration increased following liberalizations passed in 1986. For example, the flow of ethnic Germans from the Eastern Bloc dramatically increased from 42,786 per year in 1986 to 202,673 in 1988. The Soviet Union was facing a period of severe economic decline and needed Western technology. Subsidies to foreign client states further strained the moribund Soviet economy.

The first signs of major reform came in 1986 when Gorbachev launched a policy of glasnost
Glasnost
Glasnost was the policy of maximal publicity, openness, and transparency in the activities of all government institutions in the Soviet Union, together with freedom of information, introduced by Mikhail Gorbachev in the second half of the 1980s...

(openness) in the Soviet Union, and emphasized the need for perestroika
Perestroika
Perestroika was a political movement within the Communist Party of the Soviet Union during 1980s, widely associated with the Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev...

(economic restructuring). Though glasnost advocated openness and political criticism, at the time, it was only permitted in accordance with the political views of the ruling powers. The general public in the Eastern bloc
Eastern bloc
The term Eastern Bloc or Communist Bloc refers to the former communist states of Eastern and Central Europe, generally the Soviet Union and the countries of the Warsaw Pact...

 were still threatened by secret police
Secret police
Secret police are a police agency which operates in secrecy and beyond the law to protect the political power of an individual dictator or an authoritarian political regime....

 and political repression.

Believing Gorbachev's reform initiatives would be short-lived, orthodox Communist rulers like East Germany's Erich Honecker
Erich Honecker
Erich Honecker was a German communist politician who led the German Democratic Republic as General Secretary of the Socialist Unity Party from 1971 until 1989, serving as Head of State as well from Willi Stoph's relinquishment of that post in 1976....

, People's Republic of Bulgaria's Todor Zhivkov
Todor Zhivkov
Todor Khristov Zhivkov was a communist politician and leader of the People's Republic of Bulgaria from March 4, 1954 until November 10, 1989....

, Czechoslovak Socialist Republic
Czechoslovak Socialist Republic
The Czechoslovak Socialist Republic was the official name of Czechoslovakia from 1960 until end of 1989 , a Soviet satellite state of the Eastern Bloc....

's Gustáv Husák
Gustáv Husák
Gustáv Husák was a Slovak politician, president of Czechoslovakia and a long-term Communist leader of Czechoslovakia and of the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia...

, and Socialist Republic of Romania’s Nicolae Ceauşescu
Nicolae Ceausescu
Nicolae Ceaușescu was a Romanian Communist politician. He was General Secretary of the Romanian Communist Party from 1965 to 1989, and as such was the country's second and last Communist leader...

 obstinately ignored the calls for change. "When your neighbor puts up new wallpaper, it doesn't mean you have to too," declared one East German politburo member.

By 1989, the Soviet Union had repealed the Brezhnev Doctrine
Brezhnev Doctrine
The Brezhnev Doctrine was a Soviet Union foreign policy, first and most clearly outlined by S. Kovalev in a September 26, 1968 Pravda article, entitled “Sovereignty and the International Obligations of Socialist Countries.” Leonid Brezhnev reiterated it in a speech at the Fifth Congress of the...

 in favor of non-intervention in the internal affairs of its Warsaw Pact
Warsaw Pact
The Warsaw Treaty Organization of Friendship, Cooperation, and Mutual Assistance , or more commonly referred to as the Warsaw Pact, was a mutual defense treaty subscribed to by eight communist states in Eastern Europe...

 allies, termed the Sinatra Doctrine
Sinatra Doctrine
"Sinatra Doctrine" was the name that the Soviet government of Mikhail Gorbachev used jokingly to describe its policy of allowing neighboring Warsaw Pact nations to determine their own internal affairs...

 in a joking reference to the song "My Way
My Way (song)
"My Way" is a song popularized by Frank Sinatra. Its lyrics were written by Paul Anka and set to music based on the French song "Comme d'habitude" composed in 1967 by Claude François and Jacques Revaux, with lyrics by Claude François and Gilles Thibault. Anka's English lyrics are unrelated to the...

". A wave of Revolutions of 1989
Revolutions of 1989
The Revolutions of 1989 were the revolutions which overthrew the communist regimes in various Central and Eastern European countries.The events began in Poland in 1989, and continued in Hungary, East Germany, Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia and...

, sometimes called the "Autumn of Nations", swept across the Eastern Bloc. In the People's Republic of Poland
People's Republic of Poland
The People's Republic of Poland was the official name of Poland from 1952 to 1990. Although the Soviet Union took control of the country immediately after the liberation from Nazi Germany in 1944, the name of the state was not changed until eight years later...

 in April 1989, the Solidarity organization was legalized, allowed to participate in parliamentary elections and captured a stunning 99 out of the 100 available parliamentary seats (with the one remaining seat taken by an independent candidate). Hungary had achieved some lasting economic reforms and limited political liberalization during the 1980s, but major reforms only occurred following the replacement of János Kádár
János Kádár
János Kádár was a Hungarian communist leader and the General Secretary of the Hungarian Socialist Workers' Party, presiding over the country from 1956 until his forced retirement in 1988. His thirty-two year term as General Secretary makes Kádár the longest ruler of the People's Republic of Hungary...

 as General Secretary of the Communist Party in 1988.

In August 1989, the People's Republic of Hungary
People's Republic of Hungary
The People's Republic of Hungary or Hungarian People's Republic was the official state name of Hungary from 1949 to 1989 during its Communist period under the guidance of the Soviet Union. The state remained in existence until 1989 when opposition forces consolidated in forcing the regime to...

 removed its physical border restrictions
Removal of Hungary's border fence
The removal of Hungary's border fence with Austria in May 1989 was a historic event during the Cold War, directly prior to the revolutionary wave known as the "Autumn of Nations".-History:...

 with Austria. The next month, more than 13,000 East German tourists in Hungary escaped to Austria, while Hungary prevented a larger number of East Germans from crossing the border, returning them to Budapest. The Monday demonstrations in East Germany
Monday demonstrations in East Germany
The Monday demonstrations in East Germany in 1989 and 1990 were a series of peaceful political protests against the authoritarian communist government of the German Democratic Republic that took place every Monday evening.- Overview :...

  began, with East German protesters demanding rights such as the freedom to travel to foreign countries and to elect a democratic government. With regard to East Germans demanding emigration rights in Czechoslovakia
Czechoslovak Socialist Republic
The Czechoslovak Socialist Republic was the official name of Czechoslovakia from 1960 until end of 1989 , a Soviet satellite state of the Eastern Bloc....

, West German Foreign Minister Hans-Dietrich Genscher
Hans-Dietrich Genscher
Hans-Dietrich Genscher is a German politician of the liberal Free Democratic Party . He served as Foreign Minister and Vice Chancellor of Germany from 1974 to 1982 and, after a two-week pause, from 1982 to 1992, making him Germany's longest serving Foreign Minister and Vice Chancellor...

 negotiated an agreement that allowed them to travel to the West, in trains that had to pass first through East Germany. When the trains passed Dresden
Dresden
Dresden is the capital city of the Free State of Saxony in Germany. It is situated in a valley on the River Elbe, near the Czech border. The Dresden conurbation is part of the Saxon Triangle metropolitan area....

 central station in early October, police forces had to stop people from trying to jump on the trains.

By October 9, 1989, just after the celebrations for the 40th anniversary of East Germany thousands of protesters gathered , what had begun as a few hundred gatherers at the Nikolai Church in East Berlin
East Berlin
East Berlin was the name given to the eastern part of Berlin between 1949 and 1990. It consisted of the Soviet sector of Berlin that was established in 1945. The American, British and French sectors became West Berlin, a part strongly associated with West Germany but a free city...

 chanting "Wir sind das Volk!" ("We are the people!"). Although some demonstrators were arrested, the threat of large-scale intervention by security forces never materialized, with SED
Socialist Unity Party of Germany
The Socialist Unity Party of Germany was the governing party of the German Democratic Republic from its formation on 7 October 1949 until the elections of March 1990. The SED was a communist political party with a Marxist-Leninist ideology...

 leader Helmut Hackenberg and others not receiving precise orders for such action from a surprised East Berlin. These were followed by even larger protests exceeding 300,000 the next week. East German leader Honecker
Erich Honecker
Erich Honecker was a German communist politician who led the German Democratic Republic as General Secretary of the Socialist Unity Party from 1971 until 1989, serving as Head of State as well from Willi Stoph's relinquishment of that post in 1976....

 remained opposed to internal reform, with his regime even going so far as forbidding the circulation of Soviet publications that it viewed as subversive. Faced with ongoing civil unrest, the ruling Socialist Unity Party
Socialist Unity Party of Germany
The Socialist Unity Party of Germany was the governing party of the German Democratic Republic from its formation on 7 October 1949 until the elections of March 1990. The SED was a communist political party with a Marxist-Leninist ideology...

 (SED) deposed Honecker in mid-October, and replaced him with Egon Krenz
Egon Krenz
Egon Krenz is a former politician from East Germany , and that country's last Communist leader...

.

A wave of refugees left East Germany for the West through Czechoslovakia, which was tolerated by the new Krenz government and in agreement with the communist Czechoslovak government. In order to ease the complications, the Krenz-led politburo had decided on November 9 to allow East Germans to travel directly to West Berlin the next day. As rumors spread, before the regulations went into effect, on the night of November 9, tens of thousands of Eastern Berliners flooded Checkpoint Charlie
Checkpoint Charlie
Checkpoint Charlie was the name given by the Western Allies to the best-known Berlin Wall crossing point between East Berlin and West Berlin during the Cold War....

 and other checkpoints along the wall, crossing into East Berlin. The surprised and overwhelmed border guards made many hectic telephone calls to their superiors, but it became clear that there was no one among the East German authorities who would dare to take personal responsibility for issuing orders to use lethal force, so there was no way for the vastly outnumbered soldiers to hold back the huge crowd of East German citizens.

In the Czechoslovak Socialist Republic
Czechoslovak Socialist Republic
The Czechoslovak Socialist Republic was the official name of Czechoslovakia from 1960 until end of 1989 , a Soviet satellite state of the Eastern Bloc....

, following the suppression of a student protest in Prague
Prague
Prague is the capital and largest city of the Czech Republic. Situated in the north-west of the country on the Vltava river, the city is home to about 1.3 million people, while its metropolitan area is estimated to have a population of over 2.3 million...

, increasing protests swelled to an estimated half-million Czechs and Slovaks demanding freedoms. A two-hour general strike
General strike
A general strike is a strike action by a critical mass of the labour force in a city, region, or country. While a general strike can be for political goals, economic goals, or both, it tends to gain its momentum from the ideological or class sympathies of the participants...

, involving all citizens of Czechoslovakia, was held on November 27, 1989. Barbed wire
Barbed wire
Barbed wire, also known as barb wire , is a type of fencing wire constructed with sharp edges or points arranged at intervals along the strand. It is used to construct inexpensive fences and is used atop walls surrounding secured property...

 and other obstructions were removed from the border with West Germany
West Germany
West Germany is the common English, but not official, name for the Federal Republic of Germany or FRG in the period between its creation in May 1949 to German reunification on 3 October 1990....

 and Austria
Austria
Austria , officially the Republic of Austria , is a landlocked country of roughly 8.4 million people in Central Europe. It is bordered by the Czech Republic and Germany to the north, Slovakia and Hungary to the east, Slovenia and Italy to the south, and Switzerland and Liechtenstein to the...

 in early December. The next day, the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia
Communist Party of Czechoslovakia
The Communist Party of Czechoslovakia, in Czech and in Slovak: Komunistická strana Československa was a Communist and Marxist-Leninist political party in Czechoslovakia that existed between 1921 and 1992....

 announced that it would relinquish power and dismantle the single-party state
Single-party state
A single-party state, one-party system or single-party system is a type of party system government in which a single political party forms the government and no other parties are permitted to run candidates for election...

. On December 10, President Gustáv Husák
Gustáv Husák
Gustáv Husák was a Slovak politician, president of Czechoslovakia and a long-term Communist leader of Czechoslovakia and of the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia...

 appointed the first largely non-Communist government in Czechoslovakia since 1948, and resigned, in what was called the Velvet Revolution
Velvet Revolution
The Velvet Revolution or Gentle Revolution was a non-violent revolution in Czechoslovakia that took place from November 17 – December 29, 1989...

.

In the People's Republic of Bulgaria, on November 10, 1989 — the day after the mass crossings across the Berlin Wall — Bulgaria's long-serving leader Todor Zhivkov
Todor Zhivkov
Todor Khristov Zhivkov was a communist politician and leader of the People's Republic of Bulgaria from March 4, 1954 until November 10, 1989....

 was ousted by his Politburo and replaced with Petar Mladenov
Petar Mladenov
Petar Toshev Mladenov was a Bulgarian communist diplomat and politician. He was the last Communist leader of Bulgaria from 1989 to 1990, and briefly the first President of democratic Bulgaria in 1990.-Early life and career:...

. In February 1990 the Party voluntarily gave up its claim on power and in June 1990 the first free elections since 1931 were held, won by the moderate wing of the Communist Party, renamed the Bulgarian Socialist Party.

Unlike other Eastern Bloc
Eastern bloc
The term Eastern Bloc or Communist Bloc refers to the former communist states of Eastern and Central Europe, generally the Soviet Union and the countries of the Warsaw Pact...

 countries, the People's Republic of Romania had never undergone even limited de-Stalinization
De-Stalinization
De-Stalinization refers to the process of eliminating the cult of personality, Stalinist political system and the Gulag labour-camp system created by Soviet leader Joseph Stalin. Stalin was succeeded by a collective leadership after his death in March 1953...

. In November 1989, Ceauşescu
Nicolae Ceausescu
Nicolae Ceaușescu was a Romanian Communist politician. He was General Secretary of the Romanian Communist Party from 1965 to 1989, and as such was the country's second and last Communist leader...

, then aged 71, was re-elected for another five years as leader of the Romanian Communist Party, signaling that he intended to ride out the anti-Communist uprisings sweeping the rest of Eastern Europe. As Ceauşescu prepared to go on a state visit to Iran, on December 16, 1989, his Securitate
Securitate
The Securitate was the secret police agency of Communist Romania. Previously, the Romanian secret police was called Siguranţa Statului. Founded on August 30, 1948, with help from the Soviet NKVD, the Securitate was abolished in December 1989, shortly after President Nicolae Ceaușescu was...

 ordered the arrest and exile of a local Hungarian-speaking Calvinist minister, László Tőkés
László Tokés
László Tőkés is a Romanian politician of Hungarian ethnicity, currently serving as a Member of the European Parliament and Vice President of the European Parliament ....

 for sermons offending the regime.

Rioting followed the arrest. Returning from Iran, Ceauşescu ordered a mass rally in his support outside Communist Party headquarters in Bucharest. However, to his shock, the crowd booed as he spoke. Mass protests followed, with about 100,000 protesters occupying Operei Square chanting anti-government protests: "Noi suntem poporul!" ("We are the people!"), "Armata e cu noi!" ("The army is on our side!"), "Nu vă fie frică, Ceauşescu pică!" ("Have no fear, Ceauşescu will fall"). The Romanian military changed sides, turning on Ceauşescu, who was executed after a brief trial three days later.

In People's Socialist Republic of Albania
Albania
Albania , officially known as the Republic of Albania , is a country in Southeastern Europe, in the Balkans region. It is bordered by Montenegro to the northwest, Kosovo to the northeast, the Republic of Macedonia to the east and Greece to the south and southeast. It has a coast on the Adriatic Sea...

, a new package of regulations went into effect on July 3, 1990 entitling all Albanians over the age of 16 to own a passport for foreign travel. Meanwhile, hundreds of Albanian citizens gathered around foreign embassies to seek political asylum and flee the country.

Technically the Wall remained guarded for some time after November 9, though at a decreasing intensity. On June 13, 1990, the official dismantling of the Wall by the East German military began in Bernauer Straße. On July 1, the day East Germany adopted the West German currency, all border controls ceased, although the inter-German border had become meaningless for some time before that. That month, the final obstacle to German reunification was removed when West German Chancellor Helmut Kohl
Helmut Kohl
Helmut Josef Michael Kohl is a German conservative politician and statesman. He was Chancellor of Germany from 1982 to 1998 and the chairman of the Christian Democratic Union from 1973 to 1998...

 convinced Gorbachev to drop Soviet objections to a reunited Germany within NATO in return for substantial German economic aid to the Soviet Union.

See also

  • Soviet Empire
    Soviet Empire
    During the Cold War, the informal term "Soviet Empire" referred to the Soviet Union's influence over a number of smaller nations who were nominally independent but subject to direct military force if they tried to leave the Soviet system; see Hungarian Revolution of 1956 and Prague Spring.Though...

  • Soviet occupations
    Soviet occupations
    Soviet occupations is a term used for military occupations by the Soviet Union from the prelude to the aftermath of World War II. The term is typically used for occupations of Eastern European countries...

  • Post-Soviet states
    Post-Soviet states
    The post-Soviet states, also commonly known as the Former Soviet Union or former Soviet republics, are the 15 independent states that split off from the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics in its dissolution in December 1991...

  • Iron Curtain
    Iron Curtain
    The concept of the Iron Curtain symbolized the ideological fighting and physical boundary dividing Europe into two separate areas from the end of World War II in 1945 until the end of the Cold War in 1989...

  • Western world
    Western world
    The Western world, also known as the West and the Occident , is a term referring to the countries of Western Europe , the countries of the Americas, as well all countries of Northern and Central Europe, Australia and New Zealand...

  • Telephone tapping in the Eastern Bloc
    Telephone tapping in the Eastern Bloc
    Telephone tapping in the countries of the Eastern Bloc was a widespread method of the mass surveillance of the population by the secret police.-History:...

  • List of Soviet and Eastern Bloc defectors

External links