Making Postwar Communism

Mark Pittaway

in The Oxford Handbook of Postwar European History

Published in print May 2012 | ISBN: 9780199560981
Published online September 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks in History

Making Postwar Communism

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  • History
  • European History
  • Contemporary History (Post 1945)
  • Cold War



The Soviet Union's victory in World War II offered both Moscow and Communists in Europe the opportunity to break out of the isolation that had afflicted them during the interwar years. With the end of the war in Europe in 1945, the Soviet front line traversed Central Europe from Germany's Baltic Coast in the north to the Yugoslav–Italian border in the south. By the mid-1950s, the enhanced influence of communism had been both consolidated and contained. Explaining the paradoxical consolidation and containment of communism's influence across the continent is fundamental to grasping the contours of politics in Europe during the postwar period. The dominant strand in the historiography that approaches such an explanation is informed by the perspective of international history. The pressures of survival during the precarious situation for the Soviet Union that persisted throughout 1942 reinforced the non-participatory, bureaucratic Stalinism which emerged during 1939–1940. The launch of Barbarossa underpinned an escalation in the radicalisation of Nazism.

Keywords: Soviet Union; communism; postwar period; World War II; Europe; Germany; Stalinism; Nazism; politics

Article.  9130 words. 

Subjects: History ; European History ; Contemporary History (Post 1945) ; Cold War

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