As early as 1947, President Truman announced that the spread of Communism must be stopped. Just two years after the end of the war, FBI director J. Edgar Hoover said, “Communism in reality is not a political party. It is a way of life, an evil and malignant way of life. It reveals a condition akin to disease that spreads like an epidemic.” The reality behind that rhetoric was that, by 1948, many countries in Eastern Europe were controlled by communist governments. The Cold War between the West and the Eastern Bloc had been born.
Joseph Stalin died on March 5, 1953, four days after collapsing from an apparent stroke following a night of heavy drinking. He left this life untouched by justice. With the Soviet Union’s development of the nuclear bomb in 1949, Stalin’s empire in Eastern Europe seemed secure.
It was not until the 1980s that the world Stalin helped create finally fell apart. Some of the first cracks in the Eastern Bloc appeared, appropriately enough, in Poland. But it took forty-four years for the Soviet-dominated countries of Eastern Europe to gain their freedom. In a sense, for these people, World War II did not end until 1989.