Thursday, August 28, 2014

(1945 TO 1973) Conditions of Europe in the said period - World History

War-devastated Europe after 1945 was a continent on an ideological fault-line: capitalist and democratic in the west, communist and authoritarian in the east. The division was clear, too, in the west’s superior economic performance. Despite the confrontation, the continent also experienced a growing stability and prosperity. 

EUROPE WAS A REGION  of extraordinary desolation in 1945. More than 30 million people had been killed and 16 million permanently displaced from their homes. Many of Europe’s greatest cities lay in ruins. Industrial production had sunk to one-third of the pre-war level, agricultural production to half. The war also left a legacy of bitterness. Collaborators with fascism were ostracised, imprisoned or murdered while the revival of communism brought real fears of social collapse in the areas of Europe not under Soviet rule.

New frontiers 

The first task was to dismantle Hitler’s New Order in Europe. The new frontiers of Germany were agreed by the Allied powers at Yalta (February 1945) and Pots-dam (July 1945). Germany lost its eastern territories to Poland and was separated from Austria. Czech and Yugoslav sovereignty was restored. In the east, however, the German New Order was replaced by a Soviet one. The USSR moved westward to absorb most of the territories of the former Tsarist empire – eastern Poland, the Baltic States, Bessarabia. Czech democracy, briefly restored in 1945, was over-turned in 1948. Only Yugoslavia, under the rule of Tito’s communists, retained real independence from Moscow. The other stares of eastern Europe had traded one dictatorship for another. 

Economic revival 

The economic and social revival of Europe depended on the two super powers: the USA and the Soviet Union. In western Europe revival was linked to American economic strength. Through the UN and the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development the USA pumped $17 billion into Europe’s economy. In 1947 a European Recovery Programme was set up which released another $11.8 billion. In 1948, 16 nations qualifying for aid set up the Organization for European Economic Cooperation to coordinate the aide programme, the harbinger of much closer economic collaboration over the following decades. In 1952, France, Germany, Italy and the Benelux countries set up the European Coal and Steel Community to coordinate industry in their countries. In 1957 they moved to a full customs union, the European Economic Community.

Western Europe underwent the greatest economic boom in its history. By 1950 output of goods was 35 per cent higher than in 1938, by 1964 it was 250 per cent higher. Even in eastern Europe’s command economy there was sustained economic growth though the price was high, low living standards, pollution and police oppression. The gap between the two economic system widened greatly in the 1950s and 1960s, fuelling popular unrest in the East. There were strikes and political protests in East Germany and Poland in 1953, in Hungry in 1956 and Czechoslovakia in 1968, all violently suppressed by the USSR.

In the West, the EEC made another war between France and Germany virtually unthinkable and the two countries’ relationship lay at the heart of the continent’s new political alignment from the 1950s onwards. Economic growth encouraged political stability, too. Democracy was restored in Italy in 1946, in West Germany in 1949, in Austria in 1955. Authoritarianism survived in Portugal and Spain, and emerged briefly in Greece after 1967, but it remained the exception. Local independence movement in Northern Ireland, the Basque region of Spain and in Corsica produced sporadic violence, but the nationalist tensions that brought war twice since 1914 finally evaporated. 

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