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date: 05 May 2021

Abstract and Keywords

This article outlines the place of Eastern Europe in global communism. After considering the historical origins of communism, it concentrates on the period of state socialism (1945–89). The communist project was part of East European societies’ long-term endeavour to overcome their backwardness and to catch up with the West. It thus found itself between nation-building and Sovietization. The article argues that Eastern European communism was characterized by four major contradictions: between nation and class, state and society, production and consumption, and culture and ideology. The regimes successfully mastered these conflicts for a rather long time, acquiring a considerable degree of legitimacy in the process. Yet eventually these contradictions caused communism’s collapse in the late 1980s. Through this prism, the article traces the development of communism from popular democracy through Stalinism and de-Stalinization to ‘actually existing socialism’.

Keywords: state socialism, backwardness, nation-building, Sovietization, Eastern European communism, legitimacy, popular democracy, Stalinism, de-Stalinization, actually existing socialism.

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