As Europe marks the 20th anniversary of the Soviet collapse, this nation is opening a museum dedicated to the totalitarian past. A debate is raging on whether the museum romanticizes the Soviet era or teaches new generations about its horrors.
Other former communist countries like the Czech Republic and Hungary have long had similar museums; the fact it has taken Bulgaria this long to open one is a sign of its fraught transition to democracy.
Read More at Bulgaria museum enshrines Soviet era – The Boston Globe.
The Boston Globe
They were three days that shook the world – and shook the Soviet Union so hard that it fell apart.
But for better or worse? Twenty years on from the Soviet coup that ultimately ended Mikhail Gorbachev’s political career and gave birth to 15 new states, The Guardian was keen to explore just how well those 15 former Soviet republics had performed as independent countries. Our data team mined statistics from sources ranging from the World Bank, the UNHCR, the UN Crime Trends Survey and the Happy Planet Index to compare the performance of the countries. And we combed through the OSCE’s reports on every election in each country since 1991 to see where democracy was taking hold – and where it was not wanted.
By Mark Rice-Oxley, Ami Sedghi, Jenny Ridley and Sasha Magill – The Guardian
This week marks the seventieth anniversary of one of history’s most consequential rendezvous—a secret maritime meeting between President Franklin Delano Roosevelt and UK prime minister Winston Churchill. That August 1941 summit produced the short but profoundly influential Atlantic Charter. Barely 300 words long, it would shape the course of the twentieth century.
The leaders met at a time of extraordinary peril. In Western Europe, only valiant Britain had withstood the Nazi onslaught. Hitler had turned east, hoping to devastate Stalin’s Soviet Union. The United States, where isolationist sentiment ran high, clung to tenuous neutrality.
Story by Stewart M Patrick – Council on Foreign Relations
Historical clothing design of the day is from the Air Force – Roundels series, the the roundels used by the Air Force of the German Democratic Republic (East Germany). Each day a new design is chosen and an article is posted to highlight the historical significance of the design.
Occupation zone borders in Germany, 1947. The territories east of the Oder-Neisse line, under Polish and Soviet administration/annexation, are shown as white as is the likewise detached Saar protectorate. Berlin is the multinational area within the Soviet zone.
The Yalta Conference
At the Yalta Conference, held in February 1945, the United States, United Kingdom, and the Soviet Union agreed on the division of Germany into occupation zones. Estimating the territory that the converging armies of the western Allies and the Soviet Union would overrun, the Yalta Conference determined the demarcation line for the respective areas of occupation. It was also decided that a “Committee on Dismemberment of Germany” was to be set up. The purpose was to decide whether Germany was to be divided into several nations, and if so, what borders and inter-relationships the new German states were to have. Following Germany’s surrender, the Allied Control Council, representing the United States, Britain, France, and the Soviet Union, assumed governmental authority in postwar Germany. Economic demilitarization however (especially the stripping of industrial equipment) was the responsibility of each zone individually.
The Potsdam Conference
The Potsdam Conference of July/August 1945 officially recognized the zones and confirmed jurisdiction of the Soviet Military Administration in Germany from the Oder and Neisse rivers to the demarcation line. The Soviet occupation zone included the former states of Brandenburg, Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, Saxony, Saxony-Anhalt, and Thuringia. The city of Berlin was placed under the control of the four powers. The German territory east of the Oder-Neisse line, equal in size to the Soviet occupation zone, was handed over to Poland and the Soviet Union for defacto annexation. The millions of Germans still remaining in these areas were over a period of several years expelled and replaced by Polish and Soviet settlers. Estimates of casualties from the expulsion range from hundreds of thousands to several million. In the GDR the euphemism “resettlement” was officially used to describe this event, in order to tone down hostility towards its fellow Eastern Bloc government in Poland, and the Soviet Union, which endorsed the scheme.
Each occupation power assumed rule in its zone by June 1945. The powers originally pursued a common German policy, focused on denazification and demilitarization in preparation for the restoration of a democratic German nation-state. Over time however the western zones and the Soviet zone drifted apart economically, not least because of the Soviets’ much greater use of disassembly of German industry under its control as a form of reparations. Reparations were officially agreed among the Allies from 2 August 1945, with ‘removals’ prior to this date not included. According to Soviet Foreign Ministry data, Soviet troops organised in specialised “trophy” battalions organised removals of 1.28m tons of materials and 3.6m tons of equipment (excluding large quantities of agricultural produce). No agreement on reparations could be reached at the Potsdam Conference, but by December 1947 it was clear that Western governments were unwilling to accede to the Soviet request for $10bn in reparations. As a result the Soviet occupation sought to extract the $10bn from its occupation zone in eastern Germany, in addition to the trophy removals; Naimark (1995) estimates $10bn to have been transferred in material form by the early 1950s, including in 1945 and 1946 over 17,000 factories, amounting to a third of the productive capital of the eastern occupation zone. Continue reading