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Cominform

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History

The Allies' defeat of the Axis powers in the Second World War was a victory over fascism. During this time, the allied powers worked together and had a common goal. However, a new rivalry was to emerge between them: the one between Western capitalism and Soviet communism. How did the Soviet Union establish a strong communist presence in Europe with Cominform?

Cominform: an organisation established in October 1947 by Stalin and headed by the Soviet Union. Its official title was the Information Bureau of Communist and Workers' Parties. Its goal was to unite the ideologies of communist nations after the Second World War and help to maintain Soviet influence over its satellite states.

Let's find out what led to the creation of Cominform, what it achieved, and how it affected the Cold War.

Lenin's Comintern

The Comintern was the unofficial predecessor of Cominform but had openly more aggressively expansionist policies. After Lenin established it, the Second Congress of Comintern was held in Moscow in 1920 and communist party representatives from 37 countries attended. Lenin expressed a desire for communist world domination, which caused tension with the West due to the number of countries that attended.

Comintern: established by Vladimir Lenin in 1919 after the Bolshevik Revolution in 1917. It was the first international body aimed at uniting communist parties and spreading communism across the world.

Cominform Vladimir Lenin speaks to Russian people during the Russian Revolution 1917 StudySmarterLenin succeeded in leading the Bolshevik Revolution in 1917. Shortly afterwards he set up Comintern in 1919. This can be considered the beginning of Soviet expansionism which threatened the West, Wikimedia Commons.

When Stalin took power in 1922, Comintern continued to operate. However, when the USSR joined the Allies in 1941 during the Second World War, Stalin dissolved Comintern in 1943 to ease the growing tensions with the West. Although the dissolution was the USSR's demonstration of cooperation with its new allies, internally, communist parties understood the action to also dissolve their ties with the Soviet Union.

The spread of communism was still on Stalin's agenda. After the Second World War, the Soviet Union's Red Army had liberated much of Eastern Europe from the Nazis but had not withdrawn its troops from these countries. Some communist parties were elected in Europe, and by 1947, communism had spread to Yugoslavia, Poland, Hungary, Romania, and Bulgaria.

The creation of Cominform

After the war, tensions were high between the West and the USSR, in particular regarding the United States' concerns over how Eastern European countries were electing communist governments. A series of significant speeches and foreign policy decisions increased the political tensions between the US and the USSR during the late 1940s.

Timeline of the creation of Cominform

The following timeline shows some key events that led to the creation of Cominform and later Comecon. The deteriorating international relations between the US and USSR during this time set the stage for the Cold War.

YearEvent
12 March 1947US President Harry Truman issued the 'Truman Doctrine'.
5 June 1947The Marshall Plan was first announced.
12 July 1947The Conference of European Economic Cooperation was held in Paris.
5 October 1947Cominform was created.
February 1948The Czechoslovakian Communist party successfully organised a coup with Stalin's support.
3 April 1948The Marshall Plan was enacted.
January 1949Stalin introduced Comecon.

US Foreign Policy

In response to the spread of communism across Europe, Harry Truman announced the US foreign policy of containment, known as the Truman Doctrine. The doctrine supported US international initiatives to discourage communist politics abroad.

Cominform President Harry Truman gives his speech StudySmarterWhen President Harry Truman gave his speech asking for economic support for Greece and Turkey in March 1947 it became known as the 'Truman Doctrine' and paved the way for further US foreign policies of intervention in European politics and economics, Wikimedia Commons.

In his speech, Truman stated that the world was divided between the two camps: 'individual liberty' (Western Capitalism) and 'terror and oppression' (nations states under Soviet communism). The tough wording of the Truman Doctrine indicated a change in the US response to USSR political ideology and condemnation of Stalin's actions in Eastern Europe.

US Secretary of State George Marshall proposed the Marshall Plan in 1947 to provide economic aid to Europe after the destruction of the Second World War. It was one of the first major examples of US foreign policy in response to the Truman Doctrine.

Stalin interpreted the economic aid as the US currying favours for 'Western imperialism' in Europe. He believed that behind the Western economic aid there were political motivations.

Cominform and Comecon

In response to the retaliatory US foreign policy against Stalin's occupation of Eastern Europe, the USSR created Cominform to unite communism under Soviet leadership. The countries that joined the USSR came to be known as the Soviet Bloc and were under the USSR's sphere of influence.

Members of Cominform

Although Cominform is seemingly a successor of Comintern, the subtle difference was that the USSR wanted to establish a united communist ideology based on Stalin's version of communism (Stalinism) rather than spread different interpretations of the political ideology. In 1947, Poland hosted the founding meeting of Cominform with representatives of nine national communist parties. They came from the following countries:

  • USSR
  • Poland
  • Hungary
  • Yugoslavia
  • Bulgaria
  • Romania
  • Czechoslovakia
  • Italy
  • France

The initial meeting was to discuss communist governments' successes, such as in Yugoslavia and Czechoslovakia, and the failures of Italy and France to establish communist control of their countries. The USSR delegates put forth some aims for Cominform in order to unite the political ideology.

Progress of Cominform

Throughout the four meetings of Cominform, its members developed the post-war communist cause, with particular emphasis on the USSR's political leadership.

Cominform Joseph Stalin and Andrei Zhdanov and Kirov's funeral in 1934 StudySmarterJoseph Stalin (left) and Andrei Zhdanov (right) were close colleagues during Stalin's leadership. Zhdanov represented Stalin and the USSR in Cominform meetings and was regarded as second-in-command, Wikimedia Commons.

In the first meeting in September 1947, Andrei Zhdanov, Stalin's second-in-command, agreed with Truman's description of Europe divided into two camps but defined them as the 'democratic camp' (the Soviet Union and its communist allies) and the 'imperialist camp' (the United States and its capitalist allies). Zhdanov championed the anti-fascist beliefs of communism and criticised the US as 'anti-democratic' and similar to Hitler's fascism.

In January 1948, the second meeting of Cominform was held in Yugoslavia and stated the importance of propaganda and the press. Cominform members established a permanent board for its newspaper For a Lasting Peace, For a Peoples' Democracy, which was first published in late 1947. The newspaper published articles explaining the communist cause and strengthening the ideology.

Cominform's headquarters had been operating out of Belgrade, the capital of Yugoslavia, which demonstrated the country's centrality to the organisation. However, when the communist president of Yugoslavia, Josip Tito, proposed that a communist nation would love its home nation more than the 'land of socialism' of the USSR, Stalin considered this a dangerous departure from his form of communism. Demonising 'Titoism', Stalin wanted exclusive Soviet control of communist countries and expelled Yugoslavia from Cominform in the third meeting held in June 1948.

The final meeting of Cominform was held in November 1949 in Hungary and pushed for an 'Anti-Titoist' campaign to ensure allegiance to the USSR. Many communist politicians who were considered secret imperialists, zionists or not fully supportive of Stalin were trialled and executed. After the Chinese Revolution in 1949, China's communism significantly weakened Europe's position as the centre of communist ideology. The USSR started to devote its efforts to creating more effective methods of economical control and influence with the creation of Comecon.

Comecon

Cominform Comecon member states in 1980s StudySmarterThe red parts of the map show Comecon member states in the 1980s. The spread of communism throughout the twentieth century increased international tensions with Western capitalist nations, Wikimedia Commons.

In January 1949, the USSR established Comecon, a system of economic support for communist countries that was Stalin's answer to the Marshall Plan. The original members of Comecon were:

  • USSR
  • Czechoslovakia
  • Poland
  • Hungary
  • Romania
  • Bulgaria

Comecon's mission was to maintain post-Second World War communist economies through group support offered by the USSR. Comecon members agreed to prioritise other communists in trade deals and minimise the American political influence. This was meant to safeguard the Eastern European economic recovery solely for the benefit of communist nations and to maintain communism.

Comecon's successes include Eastern Europe's development of a rail network, an electric power grid, and an oil supply through the 'Friendship' pipeline which transported Soviet oil to its satellite states. Outside of Europe, Comecon also had a global reach, economically supporting Cuba, Mongolia, and Vietnam with Cold War alliances.

Consequences of Cominform and Comecon

In terms of the tensions between Communist and Western states, Stalin's political and economic initiatives contributed to the beginning of the Cold War. The centralising of political ideology and economy on both sides set the stage for the tension between the camps.

Consequences for the communist States

For communist countries, Cominform and Comecon seemingly brought political and economical stability. However, ultimately they strengthened Stalin's control of Eastern Europe and communism.

Cominform was Stalin's method of ideological and political control. By uniting communist countries to follow his interpretation of communism, known as Stalinism, the USSR became a politically powerful nation. Its satellite states formed both a barrier to protect the USSR from invasion from the west, such as from Germany during the Second World War and also extended the reach of the USSR across Europe.

Comecon was Stalin's method of economic control. As the USSR centralised communist economies and aided the Eastern European post-Second World War recovery, he made communist trade exclusive. This attempted to isolate communist countries from Western trade, both furthering communist nations' reliance on the USSR and restricting Western trade from Eastern Europe.

Both Cominform and Comecon had benefits for the USSR, aiding its progression into a superpower and extending its influence across the world. This influence caused tensions with Western powers as communism spread.

Consequences for the West

The spread of communism led by Stalin led to increased tensions with the West in the post-Second World War environment. Despite the supposed world peace after the defeat of Hitler, the US understood the formations of Cominform and Comecon as antagonistic communist actions against Western capitalism. This led to the formation of NATO.

Cominform Map of NATO member countries expansion StudySmarterThis map shows the expansion of NATO members throughout the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, Wikimedia Commons.

There were 12 founding members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO):

  • United States
  • United Kingdom
  • France
  • Belgium
  • Canada
  • Luxembourg
  • The Netherlands
  • Portugal
  • Italy
  • Norway
  • Iceland
  • Denmark

Western countries established NATO on 4 April 1949 as a military alliance which followed the US policy of containment. The increasing military defensive measures enacted by NATO and Comecon antagonised each side and furthered the tensions between the USSR and US.

Cominform - Key takeaways

  • Comintern was formed in 1919 after the Russian Revolution and demonstrated the first significant international alliance of communist nations. Lenin's intentions for communist expansion threatened the Western allies, and Stalin dissolved the organisation in 1943.
  • Stalin established Cominform in 1947 to unite the ideologies of communist nations under the USSR's leadership. The organisation had nine founding member nations and four meetings where it discussed communist propaganda and adherence to Stalinism.
  • Comecon was established in 1949 to provide a centralised communist economic support system. Although Eastern European countries benefitted from certain developments such as railroads, electric power grids, and oil supplies, ultimately it was a method for Stalin to extend control of his satellite states in Europe.
  • The US' Truman Doctrine and Marshall Plan (1947) were policies of communist containment and economic support in Europe for Second World War reparations. Both policies offered aid in exchange for maintaining capitalism in Europe and stopping Soviet expansion. Stalin pressured his satellite states to decline America's support.
  • NATO was formed in 1949 as a Western alliance in the face of possible Soviet military action. The creation of Cominform and Comecon had increased tensions between the US and USSR, leading to the formation of alliances on both sides and to the antagonising events of the Cold War.

Cominform

Cominform is the political organisation formed in 1947 by the USSR to maintain Stalinist communism in Eastern Europe. Nine national communist parties attended the first meeting: USSR, Poland, Hungary, Yugoslavia, Bulgaria, Romania, Czechoslovakia, Italy and France.

Cominform was a communist alliance that extended Stalin's control over Eastern Europe. After the Red Army did not withdraw from the countries it liberated in WWII, communism began to spread across the continent. Cominform was a demonstration to the West that communism was gaining traction and the US in particular felt threatened by the USSR, so political tensions arose.

The nine founding communist party members of Cominform were: the USSR, Poland, Hungary, Yugoslavia, Bulgaria, Romania, Czechoslovakia, Italy and France.

Stalin wanted to extend the USSR's influence across Europe. Cominform united the newly emerging communist nations in Eastern Europe under the Stalinist banner and maintained the  USSR's satellite states. Cominform was ultimately a form of Stalin's political and ideological control of communist countries.

There were a total of four meetings of Cominform members. The meetings discussed the spread of communist propaganda and enforced Stalin's version of communism to establish USSR control of the members. When Yugoslavian leader Josip Tito expressed nationalism over absolute allegiance to the USSR, Yugoslavia was expelled from Cominform in 1948. This demonstrated Stalin's aims of uniting communist countries to be under the USSR's control.

Final Cominform Quiz

Question

How many countries initially joined Cominform?

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Answer

9

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Question

Why was Belgrade chosen as the seat of the organisation?

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Answer

It was most convenient for the other members to get to

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Question

What was the purpose of Cominform?

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Answer

To spread communism in Europe

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Question

Why was Yugoslavia removed from Cominform?

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Answer

They were accused of deviating from Marxism-Leninism

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Question

Why was Cominform dissolved?

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Answer

They became largely irrelevant after the successful revolutions in China

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Question

How did Stalin gain control of Eastern European countries after WWII?

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Answer

The Red Army had liberated them from the Nazis, and they did not withdraw after the War.

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Question

When was Cominform established?

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Answer

October 1947

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Question

Which came first?

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Answer

Comintern

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Question

When did Truman issue the "Truman Doctrine"?

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Answer

March 1947

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Question

What did the 1947 Conference of European Economic Cooperation discuss?

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Answer

Which countries would get Marshall Plan support.

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Question

When was Cominform established?

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Answer

October 1947

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Question

How did Stalin affect the Conference of European Economic Cooperation in July 1947?

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Answer

He pressured USSR satellite states not to attend.

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Question

How many national communist parties attended the founding meeting of Cominform in 1947?

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Answer

9

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Question

What was the name of Cominform's newspaper, first published in late 1947?

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Answer

"For a Lasting Peace, For a Peoples' Democracy"

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Question

When was Comecon established?

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Answer

January 1949

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Question

What were the 2 main consequences of Cominform and Comecon?

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Answer

Extension of Stalin's political and economical power.

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