- History of colonialism
The historical phenomenon of
colonisationis one that stretches around the globe and across time, including such disparate peoples as the Hittites, the Incasand the British, although the term " colonialism" is normally used with reference to European overseas empires rather than land-based empires, European or otherwise, which are better described by the term "imperialism". Examples of land-based empires include the Mongol Empire, a large empire stretching from the Western Pacificto Eastern Europe, the Empire of Alexander the Great, the Umayyad Caliphate, the Persian Empire, the Roman Empire, the Byzantine Empire. The Ottoman Empirewas created across Mediterranean, North Africaand into Southern Europeand existed during the time of European colonization of the other parts of the world.
European colonialism began in the fifteenth century with the "
Age of Discovery", led by Spanish and Portuguese exploration of the Americas, and the coasts of Africa, the Middle East, India, and East Asia. During the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, England, Franceand Hollandestablished their own overseas empires, in direct competition with each other. The end of the eighteenth and early nineteenth century saw the first era of decolonizationwhen most of the European colonies in the Americas gained their independence from their respective metropoles. Spain and Portugal were irreversibly weakened after the loss of their New Worldcolonies, but the Kingdom of Great Britain(after the union of England and Wales, and Scotland), France and Holland turned their attention to the Old World, particularly South Africa, Indiaand South East Asia, where coastal enclaves had already been established. The industrialization of the nineteenth century led to what has been termed the era of New Imperialism, when the pace of colonization rapidly accelerated, the height of which was the Scramble for Africa, in which Belgiumwas a major and Germanya lesser participant. During the twentieth century, the overseas colonies of the losers of World War Iwere distributed amongst the victors as mandates, but it was not until the end of World War IIthat the second phase of decolonization began in earnest. In 1999 Portugal returned the last of Europe's colonies in Asia, Macau, to China, ending an era that had lasted five hundred years.
Exploration and expansion (1415-1870)
Iberian exploration and colonization
European colonisation of both Eastern and
Western Hemispheres has its roots in Portuguese exploration. There were financial and religious motives behind this exploration. By finding the source of the lucrative spice trade, the Portuguese could reap its profits for themselves. They would also be able to probe the existence of the fabled Christian kingdom of Prester John, with a view to encircling the Islamic Ottoman Empire. The first foothold outside of Europe was gained with the conquest of Ceutain 1415. During the fifteenth century Portuguese sailors discovered the Atlantic islands of Madeira, Azores, and Cape Verde, which were duly populated, and pressed progressively further along the west African coast until Bartolomeu Diasdemonstrated it was possible to sail around Africa by rounding the Cape of Good Hopein 1488, paving the way for Vasco da Gamato reach Indiain 1498.
Portuguese successes led to Spanish financing of a mission by
Christopher Columbusin 1492 to explore an alternative route to Asia, by sailing west. When Columbus eventually made landfall in what are now called the Bahamashe believed he had reached the coast of Japan, but had in fact "discovered" the peripheral islands of a new continent, the Americas.
After Columbus' return to Europe, competing Spanish and Portuguese claims to undiscovered lands were settled in 1494 with the
Treaty of Tordesillas, which divided the world outside of Europe in an exclusive duopoly between the Iberian kingdoms along a north-south meridian 370 leagues west of Cape Verde. Technically this meant that all of the Americas were open to Spanish colonization, but when Pedro Alvares Cabral's voyage to India was blown off course and landfall made on the Brazilian coast, this accident of navigation and an inability at the time to accurately measure longitudemeant that Brazilended up within the Portuguese half.
During the 16th century the Portuguese continued to press both eastwards and westwards into the Oceans. Towards Asia they made the first direct contact between Europeans and the peoples inhabiting present day countries such as
Mozambique, Madagascar, Sri Lanka, Malaysia, Indonesia, East Timor( 1512), China, and finally Japan). In the opposite direction, the Portuguese colonized the huge territory that eventually became Brasil, and the Spanish conquistadoresestablished the vast Viceroyalties of New Spain, New Granada and Peru. In Asia, the Portuguese encountered ancient and well populated societies, and established a seaborne empire consisting of armed coastal trading posts along their trade routes (such as Goa, Malaccaand Macau), so they had relatively little cultural impact on the societies they forced their way into trading with. In the Western Hemisphere, the European colonization involved the emigration of large numbers of settlers, soldiers and administrators intent on owning land and exploiting the relatively primitive (by Old World standards) native population. The result was that the colonization of the New World was catastrophic: native peoples were no match for European technology, ruthlessness or their diseases which decimated the indigenous population.
Spanish treatment of the indigenous populations provoked a fierce debate, the
Valladolid Controversy, over whether Indians possessed souls and if so, whether they were entitled to the basic rights of mankind. Bartolomé de Las Casas, author of " A Short Account of the Destruction of the Indies", championed the cause of the natives, and was opposed by Sepúlveda, who claimed Amerindianswere "natural slaves".
The Roman Catholic Church played a large role in Spanish and Portuguese overseas activities. The Dominicans and
Jesuits, notably Francis Xavierin Asia, were particularly active in this endeavour. Many buildings erected by the Jesuits still stand, such as the Cathedral of Saint Paul in Macauand the Santisima Trinidad de Paraná in Paraguay, an example of a Jesuit Reduction.
As characteristically happens in any colonialism, European or whatever, previous or subsequent, both Spain and Portugal profited handsomely from their new found overseas colonies: the Spanish from
goldand silverfrom mines such as Potosíand Zacateca, the Portuguese from the huge markups they enjoyed as trade intermediaries, particarlarly during the Nambantrade period. The influx of precious metals to the Spanish monarchy's coffers allowed it to finance costly religious wars in Europe which ultimately proved its undoing: the supply of metals was not infinite and the large inflow caused inflation.
The boundaries specified by the Treaty of Tordesillas were put to the test a second time when
Ferdinand Magellan, a Portuguese explorer sailing under the Spanish flag reached the Philippines. The two by now global empires, which had set out from opposing directions, had finally met on the other side of the world.
Northern European challenges to the Iberian hegemony
It was not long before the exclusivity of Iberian claims to the Americas was challenged by other up and coming European powers, primarily the
Netherlands, Franceand England: the view taken by the rulers of these nations is epitomized by the quotation attributed to Francis I of Francedemanding to be shown the clause in Adam's will excluding his authority from the New World.
This challenge initially took the form of piratical attacks (such as those by
Francis Drake) on Spanish treasure fleets or coastal settlements, but later the Northern European countries began establishing settlements of their own, primarily in areas that were outside of Spanish interests, such as what is now the eastern seaboard of the U.S. and Canada, or islands in the Caribbean, such as Aruba, Martiniqueand Barbados, that had been abandoned by the Spanish in favour of the mainland and larger islands.
Whereas Spanish colonialism was based on the religious conversion and exploitation of local populations via
encomiendas (many Spaniards emigrated to the Americas to elevate their social status, and were not interested in manual labour), Northern European colonialism was bolstered by those emigrating for religious reasons (for example, the Mayflowervoyage). The motive for emigration was not to become an aristocrat or to spread one's faith but to start a new society afresh, structured according to the colonists wishes. The most populous emigration of the seventeenth century was that of the English, who after a series of wars with the Dutch and French came to dominate the eastern coast of the present day U.S. and Canada.
However, the English, French and Dutch were no more averse to making a profit than the Spanish and Portuguese, and whilst their areas of settlement in the Americas proved to be devoid of the precious metals found by the Spanish, trade in other commodities and products that could be sold at massive profit in Europe provided another reason for crossing the Atlantic, in particular
furs from Canada, tobaccoand cottongrown in Virginiaand sugarin the islands of the Caribbean and Brazil. Due to the massive depletion of indigenous labour, plantation owners had to look elsewhere for manpower for these labour-intensive crops. They turned to the centuries old slave trade of west Africa and began transporting Africans across the Atlantic on a massive scale - historians estimate that the Atlantic slave tradebrought between 10 and 12 million African (mostly black skinned) slaves to the New World. The islands of the Caribbean soon came to be populated by slaves of African descent, ruled over by a white minority of plantation owners interested in making a fortune and then returning to their home country to spend it.
Role of companies in early colonialism
From its very outset, Western colonialism was operated as a joint public-private venture. Columbus' voyages to the Americas were partially funded by Italian investors, but whereas the Spanish state maintained a tight reign on trade with its colonies (by law, the colonies could only trade with one designated port in the mother country and treasure was brought back in special convoys), the English, French and Dutch granted what were effectively trade
monopoliesto joint-stock companies such as the East India Companies and the Hudson's Bay Company.
European colonies in India
In 1498, the Portuguese set foot in
Goa. Rivalry among reigning European powers saw the entry of the Dutch, British, French, Danish among others. The fractured debilitated kingdoms of India were gradually taken over by the Europeans and indirectly controlled by puppet rulers. In 1600, Queen Elizabeth Iaccorded a charter, forming the East India Company to trade with India and eastern Asia. The British landed in India in Suratin 1612. By the nineteenth century, they had assumed direct and indirect control over most of India.
Independence in the Americas (1770-1820)
During the five decades following 1770, Britain, France, Spain and Portugal lost their most valuable coloniesFact|date=September 2007, their possessions in the Americas.
Britain and The Thirteen Colonies
After the conclusion of the
Seven Years' Warin 1763, Britain had emerged as the world's dominant power, but found itself mired in debt and struggling to finance the Navy and Army necessary to maintain a global empire. The British Parliament's attempt to raise taxes on the North American colonists raised fears among the Americans that their rights as "Englishmen," particularly their rights of self-government, were in danger. A series of disputes with Parliament over taxation led first to informal committees of correspondenceamong the colonies, then to coordinated protest and resistance. A standing army was formed by the United Colonies, and independence declared on July 4 1776, by the Second Continental Congress. The American War of Independencecontinued until 1783 when the Treaty of Paris was signed. Britain recognised the sovereignty of the United States over the territory bounded by Canada to the North, Florida to the South, and the Mississippi River to the west.
France and the Haitian Revolution (1791-1804)
Haïtian Revolution, a slave revolt led by Toussaint L'Ouverturein the French colony of Saint-Domingue, established Haïtias a free, black republic, the first of its kind, and the second independent nation in the Western Hemisphereafter the United States. Africans and people of African ancestry freed themselves from slavery and colonization by taking advantage of the conflict among whites over how to implement the reforms of the French Revolutionin this slave society. Although independence was declared in 1804, it was not until 1825 that it was formally recognised by King Charles X of France.
pain and the Wars of Independence in Latin America
The gradual decline of Spain as an imperial power throughout the seventeenth century was hastened by the
War of the Spanish Succession(1701-1714), as a result of which it lost its European imperial possessions. The death knell for the Spanish Empire in the Americas was Napoleon's invasion of the Iberian peninsula in 1808. With the installation of his brother Joseph on the Spanish throne, the main tie between the metropole and its American colonies, the Spanish monarchy, had been cut, leading the colonists to question their continued subordination to a declining and distant country.
With an eye on the events of the American Revolution forty years earlier, revolutionary leaders began bloody wars of independence against Spain, whose armies were ultimately unable to maintain control. By 1821, Spain had been ejected from the mainland of the American continent, leaving a collection of independent republics that stretched from Chile and Argentina in the south to Mexico in the north. Spain's colonial possessions were reduced to
Cuba, Puerto Rico, the Philippinesand a number of small islands in the Pacific, all of which she was to lose to the United Statesin the 1898 Spanish-American Waror sell to Germanyshortly thereafter.
Portugal and Brazil
Brazil was the only country in Latin America to gain its independence without bloodshed. The invasion of Portugal by
Napoleonin 1808 had forced King Joao VI to flee to Brazil and establish his court in Rio de Janeiro. For thirteen years, Portugal was ruled from Brazil (the only instance of such a reversal of roles between colony and metropole) until his return to Portugal in 1821. His son, Dom Pedro, was left in charge of Brazil and in 1822 he declared independence from Portugal and himself the Emperor of Brazil. Unlike Spain's former colonies which had abandoned the monarchy in favour of republicanism, Brazil therefore retained its links with its monarchy, the House of Braganza.
European colonies in India.
New Imperialism (1870-1914)
The policy and ideology of European colonial expansion between the 1870s and the outbreak of World War I in 1914 are often characterised as the "New Imperialism". The period is distinguished by an unprecedented pursuit of what has been termed "empire for empire's sake", aggressive competition for overseas territorial acquisitions and the emergence in colonising countries of doctrines of racial superiority which denied the fitness of subjugated peoples for self-government.
During this period, Europe's powers added nearly 8,880,000 square miles (23,000,000 km²) to their overseas colonial possessions. As it was mostly unoccupied by the Western powers as late as the 1880s, Africa became the primary target of the "new" imperialist expansion (known as
The Scramble for Africa), although conquest took place also in other areas — notably south-east Asia and the East Asian seaboard, where Japan joined the European powers' scramble for territory.
Berlin Conference(1884 - 1885) mediated the imperial competition among Britain, France and Germany, defining "effective occupation" as the criterion for international recognition of colonial claims and codifying the imposition of direct rule, accomplished usually through armed force.
A decade later, rival imperialisms would collide in the 1898
Fashoda Incident, during which war between France and Britain was barely avoided. This fear led to new alliances, and in 1904 the " Entente Cordiale" was signed between both powers. Imperialistic rivalry between the European powers was a main cause of the triggering of World War Iin 1914.
In Germany, rising
pan-germanismwas coupled to imperialism in the " Alldeutsche Verband" ("Pangermanic League"), which argued that Britain's world power position gave the British unfair advantages on international markets, thus limiting Germany's economic growth and threatening its security.
The Scramble for Africa
Many European statesmen and industrialists wanted to accelerate the
Scramble for Africa, securing colonies before they strictly needed them. The champion of Realpolitik, Bismarck thus pushed a Weltpolitikvision ("World Politic"), which considered the colonization as a necessity for the emerging German power. German colonies in Togoland, Samoa, South-West Africaand New Guineahad corporate commercial roots, while the equivalent German-dominated areas in East Africaand Chinaowed more to political motives. The British also took an interest in Africa, using the East Africa company to take over Kenya and Uganda. The British crown formally took over in 1895 and renamed the area the East Africa Protectorate. Leopold II of Belgiumpersonally owned the Congo Free Statefrom 1885 to 1908, while the Dutch had the Dutch East Indies.
In the same manner, Italy tried to conquer its "
place in the sun", acquiring Somalilandin 1899-90, Eritreaand 1899, and, taking advantage of the " Sick man of Europe", the Ottoman Empire, also conquered Tripolitaniaand Cyrenaica(modern Libya) with the 1911 Treaty of Lausanne. The conquest of Ethiopia, which had remained the last African independent territory, had to wait till the Second Italo-Abyssinian Warin 1935-36 (the First Italo–Ethiopian Warin 1895-96 had been a disaster for Italian troops).
The Portuguese and
Spanish colonial empirewere smaller, mostly legacies of past colonization. Most of their colonies had acquired independence during the Latin American revolutionsat the beginning of the nineteenth century.
Imperialism in Asia
In Asia, the
Great Game, which lasted from 1813 to 1907, opposed the British Empire against Imperial Russiafor supremacy in central Asia. China was opened to Western influence starting with the First and Second Opium Wars (1839-1842; 1856-1860). After the visits of Commodore Matthew Perry in 1852-1854, Japanopened itself to the Western world during the Meiji Era(1868-1912).
The above basically concerns India and China.
But other or the same forms of Imperialism, that should not be overlooked, were in action in Burma, Indonesia (Netherlands East Indies), Malaya and the Philippines.
Inter-War Period (1918-1939)
The colonial map was redrawn following the defeat of Germany and the
Ottoman Empireafter the first World War(1914-18). Colonies from the defeated empires were transferred to the newly founded League of Nations, which itself redistributed it to the victorious powers as "mandates".
The secret 1916
Sykes-Picot Agreementpartitioned the Middle East between Britain and France, and the 1917 Balfour Declaration promised to the international Zionist movement their support in creating a Jewish homeland in Palestine, later to become the state of Israel. French mandates included Syria and Lebanon, whilst the British were handed Iraq and Palestine. The bulk of the Arabian peninsula became the independent Kingdom of Saudi Arabiain 1922. The discovery of the world's largest easily accessible crude oil deposits led to an influx of Western oil companiesthat dominated the region's economies until the 1970s, and making the emirs of the oil states immensely rich, enabling them to consolidate their hold on power and giving them a stake in preserving Western hegemony over the region.
During the 1920-30s
Iraq, Syriaand Egyptmoved towards independence, although the British and French did not formally depart the region until they were forced to do so after World War II.
After being closed for centuries to Western influence,
Japanopened itself to the West during the Meiji Era(1868-1912), characterized by swift modernization and borrowings from European culture (in law, science, etc.) This, in turn, helped make Japan the modern power that it is now, which was symbolized as soon as the 1904-1905 Russo-Japanese War: this war marked the first victory of an Asian people against a European imperial power, and led to widespread fears among European populations (first appearance of the " Yellow Peril"). During the first part of the twentieth century, while China was still victim of various European imperialisms, Japan became an imperialist power, conquering what it called a " Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere".
Japan's encroachment on
Koreabegan with the 1876 Treaty of Kanghwawith the Joseon Dynastyof Korea, increased with the 1895 assassination of Empress Myeongseongand the 1905 Eulsa Treaty, and was completed with the illicit 1910 Japan-Korea Annexation Treaty. In 1910, Korea was formally annexed to the Japanese Empire. The Japanese colonization of Korea was particularly brutal, even by twentieth century standards. This brutal colonization included the use of Korean " comfort women" who were forced to serve as sex slaves in Japanese Army brothels.
In 1931 Japanese army units based in
Manchuriaseized control of the region; full-scale war with China followed in 1937, drawing Japan toward an overambitious bid for Asian hegemony (Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere), which ultimately led to defeat and the loss of all its overseas territories after World War II (see Japanese expansionism and Japanese nationalism). As in Korea, the Japanese treatment of the Chinese people was particularly brutal as exemplified by the Nanjing Massacre.
Anticolonialist movements had begun to gain momentum after the close of World War I, which had seen colonial troops fight alongside those of the metropole, and U.S. President
Woodrow Wilson's speech on the Fourteen Points. However, it was not until the end of World War II that they fully mobilised. British Prime Minister Winston Churchilland U.S. President Franklin Roosevelt's 1941 Atlantic Charterdeclared that the signatories would "respect the right of all peoples to choose the form of government under which they will live". Though Churchill subsequently claimed this applied only to those countries under Nazi occupation, rather than the British Empire, the words were not so easily retracted: for example, the legislative assembly of Britain's most important colony, India, passed a resolution stating that the Charter should apply to it too.
To nationalist movements, it was hypocritical and morally indefensible for colonial governments to expect their colonies to fight side by side with them in a struggle against the racist ideologies of
Nazismand fascism, yet at the same time expect to return to the white supremacy of the status ante bellum, once hostilities had ceased. Moreover, Roosevelt and the American public were firmly of the mind that they were not, as Life magazineput it in 1942, "fighting ... to hold the British Empire together".
In 1945, the
United Nations(UN) was founded when 50 nations signed the UN Charter, which included a statement of its basis in the respect for the principle of equal rights and self-determination of peoples. In 1952, demographer Alfred Sauvycoined the term " Third World" in reference to the French Third Estate. The expression distinguished nations that aligned themselves with neither the West nor with the Soviet Blocduring the Cold War. In the following decades, decolonization would strengthen this group which began to be represented at the United Nations. The Third World's first international move was the 1955 Bandung Conference, led by Nehrufor India, Nasser for Egypt and Titofor Yugoslavia. The Conference, which gathered 29 countries representing over half the world's population, led to the creation of the Non-Aligned Movementin 1961.
Although the U.S. had first opposed itself to colonial powers, in particular during the 1956
Suez crisisbetween Egypt, France, the UK and Israel, the Cold War concerns about Soviet influence in the Third World caused it to downplay its advocacy of popular sovereignty and decolonization. France thus had a free hand in the First Indochina War(1946-1954) and in the Algerian war of independence(1954-1962), where torturetechniques were heavily employed (the Algerian war would become a military model of counter-insurgencytactics, and has been studied ever since in military schools through-out the world). Furthermore, attempts such as Mossadegh's nationalisationof the petroil in Iran were blocked by the U.S., who supported a coup in 1953 order to impose the Shah (the covert operation was named Operation Ajax). The next year, when Guatemala's president Arbenz tried to nationalise the United Fruit, the CIAoverthrew him and replaced him by a military "junta" in Operation PBSuccess.
In spite of these interferences in other states, decolonization itself was a seemingly unstoppable process. In 1960, after several
wars of national liberation, the UN had reached 99 members states: the decolonization of Africawas almost complete. In 1980, the UN had 154 member states, and in 1990, after Namibia's independence, 159 states [ Cite web|title=Growth in United Nations Membership, 1945-2005|publisher= United Nations| year=2000 | accessdate = 2006 | url=http://www.un.org/Overview/growth.htm ] But what could be seen retrospectively as a gigantic and quiet wave representing the " Zeitgeist" ("Spirit of Times") overthrowing the domination of European colonialist powers was in fact the product of the struggle of the colonized people, whom many paid it with their lives.
In effect, although the anticolonialist struggle didn't lead in all cases to wars such as the Algerian War (1954-62), it was nevertheless bloody. Many anticolonialist leaders were assassinated in more or less obscure circumstances in the 1960s, whether by foreign powers or internal enemies, sometimes supported by foreign powers who more or less openly supported
dictatorships(for example, France and its ties with the " Françafrique"). The most famous names shouldn't dissimulate others less-known leaders, but a quick enumeration of slain anti-imperialist leaders would include Patrice Lumumba, the first Prime minister of the Democratic Republic of the Congoassassinated in 1961; Sylvanus Olympio, the first president of Togo, assassinated in 1963 (quickly replaced by Gnassingbé Eyadéma, who would rule Togo until his death in 2005); Mehdi Ben Barka, leader of the Moroccan opposition, whom was preparing the Tricontinental Conferencewhich was supposed to gather in La Habanain 1966 national liberation movements (not states) from all continents in order to organize the anti-imperialist struggle (kidnapped in Paris); Eduardo Mondlane, the leader of the Mozambiquan FRELIMO, allegedly assassinated by "Aginter Press", the Portuguese branch of Gladio[ See [http://www.isn.ethz.ch/php/documents/collection_gladio/chronology.htm ISN Zurich Institute] hosted by ETH ZurichUniversity ] — NATO's anti-communistparamilitary organization during the Cold War — Amilcar Cabral, Oscar Romero, the prelate archbishop of San Salvadorand a proponent of Liberation Theology, or Dulcie September, African National Congress(ANC) activist murdered in Paris in 1988. [ See Assassinated anticolonialist leaders subsection in the Decolonizationarticle for a more complete list ]
Role of the USSR and China
Soviet Unionwas a main supporter of decolonization movements. While the Non-Aligned Movement, created in 1961 following the Bandung 1955 Conference, was supposedly neutral, the "Third World" being opposed to both the "First" and the "Second" Worlds, geopolitical concerns, as well as the refusal of the U.S. to support decolonization movements against its NATOEuropean allies, led the national liberation movements to look increasingly toward the East. However, China's appearance on the world scene, under the leadership of Mao Zedong, created a rupture between the Soviet Union and independentists movements. Globally, the non-aligned movement, led by Nehru(India), Tito(Yugoslavia) and Nasser (Egypt) tried to create a block of nations powerful enough to be dependent on neither the U.S. nor the Soviet Union, but finally tilted towards the U.S.S.R, while smaller liberation movements, both by strategic necessity and ideological choice, were supported either by Moscow or by Peking. The Cuban government, led by Fidel Castroafter the Cuban revolutionof 1959, was at first neutral before turning itself towards Moscow. Cuba also sponsored liberation movements in Angola and Mozambique. Few liberation movements were totally independent from foreign aid.
The USSR, which had grafted onto the
Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republicseveral countries that had had short-lived independence ( Ukraine, Georgia, Armenia, Azerbaijan, and the lands of Central Asia), never reconciled itself to having lost West Ukraine, West Belarus, Bessarabia, and the three Baltic states(territories which formerly belonged to the Russian Empire) in the course of 1919-21. Thus they aimed to annex these territories as well as to obtain a buffer zone from Finlandin 1939-40 ("see Winter War"). After the Soviet invasion of Poland following the corresponding German invasion that marked the start of World War IIin 1939, the Soviet Unionannexed eastern parts (so-called " Kresy") of the Second Polish Republic("see Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact"). In 1940 the Soviet Union annexed Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania("see Occupation of Baltic states"), Bessarabiaand Bukovina. [ [http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/05/06/AR2005050601338.html Memories of Soviet Repression Still Vivid in Baltics] , Washington Post, 7 May, 2005]
The Soviet Union emerged from
World War IIas one of the two major world powers, a position maintained for four decades through its hegemony in Eastern Europe. Claiming to be Leninist, the USSR proclaimed itself foremost enemy of imperialism, supporting armed, national independence or anti-Western movements in the Third World[ [http://www.country-data.com/cgi-bin/query/r-12696.html Soviet Union - Central and South America] ] [ [http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/africa/6171927.stm Profile: Mengistu Haile Mariam] , BBC] [ [http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1E1-AfghanWar.html Afghanistan War] , Columbia Encyclopedia] while simultaneously dominating Eastern Europe and Central Asia. Marxists and Maoists to the left of Trotsky, such as Tony Cliff, claim the Soviet Union was imperialist. Maoists claim it occurred after Khrushchev's ascension in 1956; Cliff says it occurred under Stalinin the 1940s. [ [http://www.thehistorychannel.co.uk/site/encyclopedia/article_show/imperialism/m0096887.html Soviet imperialism] ] During the Cold War, the term " Eastern Bloc" (or "Soviet Bloc") was used to refer to the Soviet Unionand countries it controlled in Central and Eastern Europe( Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, East Germany, Hungary, Poland, Romania). [ [http://www.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv/NSAEBB/NSAEBB76/ The 1956 Hungarian Revolution] ] [ [http://info-poland.buffalo.edu/classroom/longhist6.html The Historical Setting: The Polish People's Republic] ] [ [http://www.radio.cz/en/article/44313 The Soviet Invasion of Czechoslovakia and the crushing of the Prague Spring] ]
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