What was the USSR’s Reaction to the Berlin Wall?

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The construction of the Berlin Wall in 1961 was a significant event in the history of the Cold War. It divided the city of Berlin into East and West, separating families and friends. The Berlin Wall was built by the German Democratic Republic (GDR), which was under Soviet control at the time. In this article, we will explore how the USSR, as the dominant power in the GDR, reacted to the construction and impact of the Berlin Wall.

The Soviet Influence in East Germany

Before delving into the Soviet reaction to the Berlin Wall, it is essential to understand the influence the USSR had on East Germany. After World War II, Germany was divided into four occupation zones controlled by the Soviet Union, the United States, the United Kingdom, and France. The Soviet zone eventually became the German Democratic Republic, a socialist state that relied heavily on the USSR.

The USSR saw East Germany as a crucial ally and considered it a buffer zone between Western Europe and the Soviet Union. They aimed to prevent Western influence from penetrating further into Eastern Europe.

The Construction of the Berlin Wall

On August 13, 1961, the East German government, with Soviet support, started building the Berlin Wall. The official reason given for its construction was to protect East Germany’s “socialist achievements” from Western capitalist influences. However, its primary purpose was to halt the increasing number of East Germans fleeing to West Berlin and, eventually, to the West.

Although the decision to build the wall originated from the East German leadership, the USSR played a crucial role in its approval and implementation. Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev supported the construction of the wall as a means to stabilize the GDR and prevent the mass exodus of its citizens.

Soviet Reaction to the Berlin Wall

The Soviet Union officially described the Berlin Wall as an “anti-fascist protective barrier.” They argued that the wall was necessary to protect East Germany from the threat of Western imperialism and espionage. Soviet propaganda portrayed the wall as a symbol of socialist protection and security.

Internally, the USSR viewed the wall as a way to strengthen their control over the GDR. By preventing East Germans from leaving, they aimed to maintain political stability within the East German regime and prevent further embarrassment caused by the brain drain.

International Reaction

Externally, the Western world, especially the United States, vehemently opposed the construction of the Berlin Wall. President John F. Kennedy famously declared his support for the people of Berlin, emphasizing the fundamental rights of freedom and mobility. The United States saw the wall as a physical manifestation of the Iron Curtain and a symbol of Soviet oppression.

The division of Berlin through the construction of the wall became a highly visible representation of the tensions and ideological conflict between the Eastern and Western blocs during the Cold War.

The Soviet Stance on the Wall’s Purpose

The USSR consistently maintained that the Berlin Wall was essential for the protection of East Germany against Western aggression. They argued that the wall prevented espionage, infiltration, and subversive activities orchestrated by the West.

However, it is worth noting that the wall primarily served Soviet interests. It not only strengthened their grip over East Germany but also acted as a propaganda tool to shape the narratives of socialism and capitalism.

The Fall of the Berlin Wall

In November 1989, the Berlin Wall finally fell, marking a turning point in German and European history. The collapse of the wall was a result of various factors, including the political changes occurring within the USSR itself.

The Soviet Union, under the leadership of Mikhail Gorbachev, gradually implemented policies of glasnost (openness) and perestroika (restructuring). These policies, along with mounting pressure for change from citizens in both East and West Germany, eventually led to the opening of the border and the subsequent reunification of Germany.

In Conclusion

The USSR initially supported and facilitated the construction of the Berlin Wall to maintain control over East Germany and prevent its citizens from fleeing to the West. The wall served as a physical barrier and symbol of the ideological conflict of the Cold War. However, the eventual fall of the wall and the reunification of Germany demonstrated the limitations of Soviet power and the changing political landscape within the USSR itself.

Today, the Berlin Wall stands as a historical reminder of the divisions caused by the Cold War and the triumph of freedom over oppression.




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