Communist nations are quickly disappearing from the world as we move further away from the Cold War and into the 21st century. Today the world has only five remaining Communist nations, most of which are struggling to hold on to any remaining political and economic power in the largely capitalist world that surrounds them. Here’s an in-depth look at the situations of the five remaining communist nations of the world, and the last five to move away from Marxist Ideologies.
The smaller of the two countries named Congo (Brazzaville refers to the capital in order to distinguish them–Kinshasa is the larger), The People’s Republic of the Congo was the second-latest Marxist state on the African continent. The People’s Republic was founded after a leftist militant coup in 1970. The initial leader, Marien Ngouabi, led the local Marxist/Leninist party for seven years before himself being assassinated. The nation maintained strong ties to semi-socialist France as well as the Soviet Union–the Soviet Union was the largest sponsor of African Marxist countries. Like many of the 1992 transitions from Communism, the initial transition was relatively peaceful. Sadly, the peace did not last, with a civil war following in the late 1990s, and peace has only returned alongside single-party rule, with much international concern for the human rights of indigenous communities.
Following the conclusion of World War II, Albania ended up more closely linked to its northern neighbor, Yugoslavia, than its southern neighbor, Greece. As such, it became a communist nation, even after its relations with Yugoslavia deteriorated. At that point, the ruling clique aligned with the Soviet Union–but even this link was short-lived, with relations with China eventually becoming critical to securing independent leadership from Yugoslavia. In the 1970s, even this relationship deteriorated, and Albania began establishing relations with France, Italy, and other non-communist powers. Following the execution of the Romanian communist leadership in 1989, Albania began to formalize elections and other human rights, before transitioning from communism in 1992 and eventually establishing a new constitution in 1998. Albania applied for European Union membership in 2009, reflecting a strong transition to western-style democracy.
A federation of many disparate nations, the original Yugoslavia was formed in 1918 following World War I, and took its Communist form in 1943. Today, its former constituents include Serbia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Macedonia, Slovenia, Montenegro, and Kosovo–a disparate group once united under the banner of the “Land of the Southern Slavs”, the translation of Yugoslavia. Only the first six were recognized as Federal States under Yugoslavia, with Kosovar independence coming only later. Ruled initially by the communist Tito, Yugoslavia had a split with the Soviet Union almost immediately after the war, and Tito retained relatively good relations with the United States–although not too close, as he never joined NATO. After his death in 1980, uprisings began later in the 1980s, and degenerated into a protracted war through the 1990s. Conflict largely subsided in 1999, and today all former members are either in the E.U. (Slovenia and Croatia), candidates (Macedonia, Montenegro, and Serbia), or potential future candidates (Kosovo as well as Bosnia and Herzegovina). Investigations into war crimes in the former Yugoslavia have continued to the present day, as the dissolution of the state was a violent and bloody episode.
With Soviet support, the first Communist regime was established in Afghanistan in 1978, and it survived in various forms until 1992. The leaders initially after the revolution, Nur Muhammad Taraki and Hafizullah Amin, instituted a number of reforms, including equal rights for women and land reform. Both were assassinated before 1980, however, and the reforms were eventually rolled back. The Soviet Union remained a military force through most of the 1980s, and millions of refugees left for neighboring Pakistan and Iran. Without Soviet backup, the ruling Communist clique was unable to maintain power, and the government collapsed in 1992. The country has been embroiled in civil war essentially ever since, with the US replacing the Soviets as the main force powering the government–but nevertheless, armed conflict has been ever-present, with or without Communism. This country of 25 million remains one of the poorest countries on earth.
After winning its independence from Portugal in 1975, two groups aimed to dominate the new-found Republic: one (the MPLA) backed by the USSR, and the other (UNITA) backed by the US. The MPLA won out, and Angola was a communist republic until the broad collapse of most communist countries in 1992. With strong ties to the USSR, Caribbean Communist country Cuba, and fellow south African, Portuguese-speaking country Mozambique–which turned communist at the same time. Civil war between the two sides began in 1975 and lasted, with some quieter periods, until 2002–though the fall of Communist rule came in 1992, and some resistance continued beyond 2002. Today, Angola is a hotbed for Chinese investment, and with its oil riches it has a rapidly increased GDP per person (although inequality remains high and many residents are quite poor). Peace has been relatively lasting, with over a decade since cessation of conflict, and many economic improvements have been made since then.
A commonality between the aforementioned Communist nations are their connection to the USSR, and Vietnam’s current status is no different. After the First Indochina war Vietnam was split into two halves–North Vietnam becoming Communist with the support of the Soviet Union, and South Vietnam remaining democratic with support from the United States. After the Vietnam War, and decades of national and international conflict, the United States and South Vietnam los the war and Vietnam was reunited as a Communist nation in 1976.
While Vietnam remained truly communist from 1976-1986, the country eventually needed to reach out for international support and aid; which resulted in many political and economic reforms. As a result of these reforms, Vietnam is today one of the world’s fastest growing economies. Yet, there are still problematic aspects of the country’s system: income inequality, access to medicine, and gender equality being some of the biggest.
Supported by both neighboring Vietnam and the Soviet Union, Laos underwent a Communist revolution in 1975. The nation’s governing system is run by high-ranked officials in Laos’ military. Laos has historically been largely influenced by Vietnam’s Communist government–leaving it largely isolated from trade with the rest of the world, among other consequences to its economic development.
Laos has been accused of committing genocide against the nation’s Hmong minority. In fact, during the late 1900s the United States received hundreds of thousands of Hmong refugees who were fleeing their homeland’s communist repression and persecution.
Today Laos is ranked #23 of the world’s poorest countries.
The Cuban Revolution in all of its glory is one of the most well-known events in the history of the Americas. Today, Cuba remains the only Communist country outside of Asia, since its revolution in 1959. Fidel Castro has continued to be the single-party ruler of the small Caribbean island since the date of the revolution’s success in the 1960s.
The Cuban Revolution was a bloody event, and the Communist dictatorship succeeded in executing thousands of citizens for political crimes. The United States has attempted to eliminate Fidel Castro on several occasions, but failing repetitively.
Unlike some other Communist nations, Cuba has a respectable healthcare system available to all citizens; it’s ranked one of the best in the world.
Much like the case of Vietnam, Korea was split into two countries in 1910–the Soviet-backed North Korea and the United States-backed South Korea. In 1948 North Korea turned Communist. In the 1950s the Korean War was fought over the two nations’ sovereignty, and while fighting between the two nations has ceased, there was never a signed treaty–meaning that they are still technically at war.
The infamous Kim family has acted as dictators since 1948, and the family is in fact constitutionally defined as rulers according to a 2013 constitutional amendment. Today, North Korea is avidly protected by its Communist neighbor China and it is also, worrisomely, one of the only nations in the world with nuclear technologies, which it has threatened to use against foreign nations including the United States many times.
China has one of the biggest and most prosperous economies of the world and, somewhat surprisingly, remains a Communist superpower. The Communist party gained control of the country in 1949, initially led by Mao Zedong and his Little Red Book which wielded Communist control around the nation. The goal of Mao’s Cultural Revolution was to eliminate cultural and capitalist influences from the nation. Market economics were introduced to China in the 1970s, when it was increasingly clear that Mao’s ideas were effectively destroying China. Ever since, China’s economy has been among the fastest growing in the world: turning it into the superpower that it is today, a lucky benefit of the capitalist reforms introduced into the nation’s Communist ideology.
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