Eastern Bloc Emigration and Defection

Eastern Bloc emigration and defection was a point of controversy during the Cold War. After World War II, emigration restrictions were imposed by countries in the Eastern Bloc, which consisted of the Soviet Union and its satellite states in Central and Eastern Europe. Legal emigration was in most cases only possible in order to reunite families or to allow members of minority ethnic groups to return to their homelands.

Eastern Bloc governments argued that strict limits to emigration were necessary to prevent a brain drain. The United States and Western European governments argued that they represented a violation of human rights. Despite the restrictions, defections to the West occurred.

After East Germany tightened its zonal occupation border with West Germany, the city sector border between East Berlin and West Berlin became a loophole through which defection could occur. This was closed with the erection of the Berlin Wall in 1961. Thereafter, emigration from the Eastern Bloc was effectively limited to illegal defections, ethnic emigration under bilateral agreements, and a small number of other cases.

Eastern Bloc
Soviet Socialist Republics
  • Armenian SSR
  • Azerbaijan SSR
  • Byelorussian SSR
  • Estonian SSR
  • Georgian SSR
  • Kazakh SSR
  • Kirghiz SSR
  • Latvian SSR
  • Lithuanian SSR
  • Moldavian SSR
  • Russian SFSR
  • Tajik SSR
  • Turkmen SSR
  • Ukrainian SSR
  • Uzbek SSR
Allied states
  • People's Republic of Hungary
  • People's Republic of Poland
Socialist Republic of Romania
  • German Democratic Republic
People's Republic of Albania
  • People's Republic of Bulgaria
Federal People's Republic of
Related organisations
  • Cominform
  • Warsaw Pact
World Federation of
Trade Unions World Federation of
Democratic Youth
Dissent and opposition Forest Brothers
  • in Lithuania
  • in Latvia
  • in Estonia
Operation "Jungle"
  • Goryani movement
  • Ukrainian Insurgent Army
  • Romanian anti-communism
1953 uprisings
  • in Plzeň
  • in East Germany
1956 protests
  • in Georgia
  • in Poznań
  • Hungarian Revolution of 1956
  • Novocherkassk massacre
  • Prague Spring
Warsaw Pact invasion of
  • 1968 Red Square demonstration
  • Solidarity
  • Jeltoqsan
  • Braşov Rebellion
  • April 9 tragedy
  • Black January
  • Charter 77
Cold War events
  • Marshall Plan
  • Berlin Blockade
  • Tito–Stalin split
  • 1948 Czechoslovak coup
  • 1961 Berlin Wall crisis
  • 1980 Moscow Olympics
  • Revolutions of 1989
  • Polish Round Table Agreement
  • Fall of communism in Albania
  • Singing Revolution
  • End of the Soviet Union
  • Dissolution of Czechoslovakia
January 1991
  • in Lithuania
  • in Latvia

Read more about Eastern Bloc Emigration And Defection:  Defectors, End of Restrictions, See Also

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