Buffer zone

Despite the promises made by Stalin at the Yalta Conference to allow free elections, he had in fact started turning Eastern Europe into a buffer zone between the USSR and Western Europe.

Stalin feared that Eastern Europe could be the doorway for an attack on the USSR by the West.

During 1946–47, Stalin made sure that Communist governments came to power in all the countries of Eastern Europe (the countries which the USSR had conquered in 1945).

Timeline: Soviet takeover of Eastern Europe

CountryYearMethods used
Albania 1945 A communist government took power at the end of World War Two. The Communists then executed the leaders of all the other parties.
East Germany 1945 East Germany was part of the Soviet zone of occupation as agreed at the Yalta Conference and in 1945 the Soviets set up a communist regime there.
Romania1945In the 1945 elections, a communist-led coalition government (a government made up of more than one political party) was elected. The Communists gradually removed their coalition partners and abolished the Romanian monarchy.
Bulgaria1946In 1946 the Bulgarian monarchy was abolished. Later that year, a communist government was elected and gradually eradicated its opponents.
Poland1947Fearing that a non-communist government would be elected in 1947, Stalin invited 16 non-communist politicians to Moscow, where they were arrested. With their political opponents removed, the Polish communists won the election.
Hungary1948Hungary was invaded by the Russians, and in 1945 the Allies agreed that Russian troops should stay there. Stalin allowed elections, in which the non-communists won a big majority. However, communist politician, Rakosi hinted that the Russians would take over if need be. Then he got control of the police, and started to arrest his opponents. He set up a brutal secret police unit, the AVO. By 1947, Rakosi had complete control. The gradual takeover by the communists was completed on 18 August 1949, when Hungary became the People's Republic of Hungary.
Czechoslovakia1948Czechoslovakia was the last country in Eastern Europe to fully fall to communism in 1948. At elections that year only communists were allowed to stand and a communist government was elected.