“The Doctrine of Limited Sovereignty” in the East European Policy of the USSR and Its Revision (1956–1989)

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Abstract. As early as in the 1950s, especially in connection with the events of the fall of 1956 in Hungary, the need appeared for the formation of the Soviet doctrine of intrabloc policy aimed at keeping under the military-political control of the USSR (if it was necessary – by force) the countries of Central and South-Eastern Europe, which fell under its influence as the result of the Second World War. However, this policy demanded its detailed ideological foundation as late as in 1968, when a large-scale military action was undertaken by five member countries of the Warsaw Pact to suppress the “Prague Spring”. The concept of the Soviet foreign policy towards the bloc allies, which was reflected in some program manifestations of 1968, as defined in the West as the doctrine of limited sovereignty or the “Brezhnev doctrine”. Polish crisis of 1980–1981 demonstrated the objective limits that stood in the way of the practical application of this doctrine. With the coming to power of Mikhail Gorbachev and his team in 1985 the Soviet leadership launched a revision of the principles of its policy towards the allied countries but it was not inclined to exert pressure on the communist leaders of Eastern Europe to reassess the specific facts of the Allies’ military intervention in the internal affairs of these countries. The official revision of the Soviet concept, which affirmed the principle of collective responsibility for what is happening in one of the bloc’s allied countries, was announced on December 1989, after the “velvet revolution” in Czechoslovakia.

Keywords: USSR foreign policy, Eastern Europe, Soviet bloc, Warsaw Pact, the doctrine of collective responsibility, the doctrine of limited sovereignty, the Hungarian events of 1956, the Prague Spring of 1968, the Polish crisis of 1980–1981, M. Gorbachev, disintegration world socialist system.

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