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Most Eastern European states had some form of revolt or another against the Soviet regime, e.g. 1956 Hungary, 1968 Czech Republic and 1980 Polish strikes. However, there was no major uprising in East Germany (presumably because of the large number of Soviet soldiers stationed there) and Germany threw out Honecker after the Czechs, Hungarians and Poles. Were Germans really just more acquiescing of the Soviet domination, or was this public order solely to do with the large number of Soviet troops in the area?

I ask because even today there are still lingering sentiments of Russophobia in Hungarians and especially Poles, but an East German would be apathetic.

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I don't know about Hungary, but I wouldn't connect Russophobia in Poland only to the time of Soviet regime. In fact, Poland and Russia have very difficult relationship for at least 250 years now starting from partitions of Poland. Also, the basic motives behind the Solidarity movement in the '80 were not against Soviet Russia in general, but against massive mismanagement of economy by the Polish government at the time. This wouldn't be as likely to happen if politicians of the time were better economists, regardless of Soviet influence in Poland. –  liori Aug 4 '13 at 20:16
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Soviet troops left East Germany, American troops however are still in West Germany. –  gerrit Aug 4 '13 at 20:53
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@gerrit Soviet troops were thrown out of East Germany, Germany is very happy to keep the Americans there spending money, even working hard to stop the US government from withdrawing them because of the damage it'd do to the German economy. Different scenarios. –  jwenting Aug 5 '13 at 8:31
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@gerrit politics.stackexchange.com/questions/1788/… for your interest, although no one has answered it :( –  Evil Washing Machine Aug 5 '13 at 12:03
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@liori - "250 years"? Poland tried to occupy Russia signifiantly earlier than 250 years ago. 250 is simply when Russians gained a (near permanent) upper hand in the long standing conflict. –  DVK Aug 12 '13 at 4:03

5 Answers 5

up vote 5 down vote accepted

As knut's answer points out, it's strange that your list of Eastern Bloc uprisings omits the events of 1953.

So, no, East Germans were not as a general rule more passive or acquiescent to the imposition of soviet rule than any of the other populations of Eastern Europe.

Churches, small businesses, non-communist political parties, independently minded clubs and organisations (like the scouts), non-communist radio stations and newspapers etc etc had to be coerced, bribed, tricked or infiltrated into compliance using all the same techniques across East Germany as were used elsewhere in Eastern Europe. Anne Applebaum's recent book Iron Curtain: The Crushing of Eastern Europe is rich in detailed information on this topic.

In fact the Applebaum book is a study of the similarities between the Poland, Hungary and East Germany (she has very little to say about the other Soviet satellites), and shows how the patterns of totalitarian control (and indeed resistance) were the same in all three countries.

Nevertheless, to try to answer the final section of your question ... if there was anything unique in the East German situation which made communist government easier to impose, what did it comprise?

1) For those who desired a proper and symbolic break from Nazism, communism was an authentic alternative. Victor Klemperor was an example of an East German citizen whose anti-fascism bound him to the regime (to the extent of participating in government) even though he was never a communist. The title of his diaries for the post-war period The Lesser Evil alludes to his attitude to the regime.

2) Inauthentic as it was, the East German sense of identity and nationhood was problematic for dissidents. Whereas a dissident Pole, Romanian etc could still think of himself as a loyal or true Pole (or Romanian etc), how was a dissident of Leipzig to think of himself? A loyal East German? Preposterous. A true German? Perhaps, but what a can of worms!

3) Of the Eastern Bloc countries, East Germany was amongst the most prosperous, or at least was perceived that way. It may well have received preferential levels of economic assistance from Moscow in order to maintain that status, though I don't have sources for this.

4) Although Republikflucht was of course a problem, East Germany, unlike other Eastern bloc countries was able to use deportation to West Germany as a safety valve. It could rid itself of its most troublesome dissidents and thereby prevent the build up, within the country, of an established and organised opposition.

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Could you explain abit more on this East German sense of identity? I always believed it was a post-cold war myth due to the discrimination of the better off west german states. Why was there a unique identity in east germany but on the other hand west germans saw themselves as just germans? –  Evil Washing Machine Aug 5 '13 at 12:06
    
@SchwitJanwityanujit you're right. everything i can find deals with ostalgia post-1989, rather than national feeling pre-1989. i've edited accordingly. –  Tea Drinker Aug 6 '13 at 23:53

Your assumption is wrong, there was the Uprising of 1953 in East Germany

And the Fall of the Iron Curtain was also initiated by the East German mass protests.

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Yes I did indeed miss that...for some reason the 1953 East German strike isn't covered as much as 1956 or 1968! As for the Fall of the Iron curtain, I would argue that Poland and Hungary led the way, in fact I see the removal of the curtain being 19th August, when Hungary officially opened its borders with Austria, allowing the escape of many Eastern European nationals and starting the snowball. –  Evil Washing Machine Aug 5 '13 at 12:01
    
This is off-topic but in my opinion Solidarnosc, a Polish movement, deserves more credit for the eventual fall of the iron curtain than anyone, although Hungarian, Czech, East German and other Warsaw Pact dissidents also played a part. –  Eugene Seidel Aug 5 '13 at 13:33

As an addendum to knut - and I'm lifting a quote from an answer I gave to another question - There is a quote from a Russian General about fighting East Germans that comes to mind for this particular question.

Penkovskly, for instance, cited Gen. Kupin, the Commander of the Soviet Tank Army in Dresden and others stationed in East Germany as asserting that

“in case of a Berlin crisis or a war we would have to kill both West and East Germans. Everything is ready to fight against not only West Germany but East Germany as well, because the Germans have Anti-Soviet sentiments”

Page 12, Right Column

This came from "Intelligence Estimates of the Warsaw Pact" from "Studies in Intelligence Vol. 51, No 4 (Extracts-December 2007)"

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Possibly this may be relevant.

This map shows the vote share of the party Die Linke ("The Left", former Socialist United Party, the ruling party of the GDR) at the German elections in 2009:

enter image description here

As you can see, the former SUP received a high share of votes in East Germany, sometimes exceeding 30%, much more than in West Germany. If you compare this to Poland or Hungary you will see that the East Germans are much more left-leaning in their sympathies. They probably could be even more loyal to Socialism when all the state media were supportive of the socialist party.

If East Germany was independent today, the Die Linke could come to be winners of the elections.

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The reason why the uprising in Berlin of 1953 was not so widely publicized could be because the uprising could be seen as an attempt of a fascist revanche. Such uprisings in a defeated country were well expected due to degraded level of life, contributions and lost national pride.

The uprising was closer to the end of WWII than anti-Communist coups in other East block countries, and the West still had not develop united line on how to react and whether to support such developments.

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These claims need a reference. Also the claim that the West later did develop a united line, of which I have never heard. –  Lennart Regebro Aug 5 '13 at 16:54
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-1: Who exactly could see the 1953 uprising as a fascist revanche? I strongly doubt anyone could have bought that line. Berthold Brecht for one wasn't buying it: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Die_L%C3%B6sung –  Felix Goldberg Aug 6 '13 at 9:25
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@Felix Goldberg it was less than ten years after the war, and neo-Nazi tendencies are strong to this day. –  Anixx Aug 6 '13 at 13:26
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That's a non-sequitur. Are you contending that Neo-Nazis participated in the 1953 uprising? Or that the Western countries could have thought this likely back then? Both notions seem very weird and would need some serious butressing with evidence to stand. –  Felix Goldberg Aug 6 '13 at 13:31
    
Do you have any sources to back this claim? Any statements from the US JSC which claim that the uprising could be seen as a fascist revanche and not Soviet mismanagement and oppression? If not then I will downvote this answer. –  Evil Washing Machine Aug 6 '13 at 14:58

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