Salami Tactics: the Soviet takeover of eastern Europe


Like a plague overlooked by incompetent doctors, the new political order, called communism, spread...  With the power of guns, few communists and mutual agreement of the Allies, Communist Russia became the new ruler over the country.

What followed was the systematic destruction of democracy, by terror, murder, corruption, lies and propaganda. 

People died, were arrested, deported.  The luckiest ones fled the country.  The rest of them entered a dark era.

Amateur writer Camelia Krausmann, The Communist Takeover of Central and Eastern Europe after 1945 on

Camelia, who lists her first job as ‘carpenter’, is a contributor on many subjects from surviving breast cancer to how to make Turkish coffee.



Detailed account 

Did Salami tactics happen?


What was different about Yugoslavia?




•  Salami Tactics




◄ 1945: the arrows show the British and Americans from the west, the Russians from the east, advancing into Germany.  

Most  of eastern Europe (except for Yugoslavia) fell under the control of Russia (although Finland was slightly different).



During 1946–47, Stalin made sure that Communist governments came to power in all the countries of eastern Europe (the countries which Russia had conquered in 1945).



Did you know?

Churchill was worried about Soviet influence in eastern Europe even during the war, and clashed with Stalin over it at the Tehran Conference of 1943.

In October 1944, Churchill went to Moscow to meet Stalin face-to-face and made the so-called ‘percentages agreement’, where Churchill suggested that Russia and Britain agree ‘spheres of influence’ in the different countries of eastern Europe (Romania 90-10, Greece 10-90, Yugoslavia and Hungary 50-50 etc.).  Stalin agreed.

Although the Soviet Union took complete 100% control of the Iron Curtain countries after the war, Stalin did keep his promise to stay out of Greece.



The Hungarian Communist Rakosi described this process as ‘slicing salami’ – gradually getting rid of all opposition, bit-by-bit. In this way, Russia gained control of:


Albania (1945) – the Communists took power after the war without opposition Bulgaria (1945) – a left-wing coalition gained power in 1945; the Communists then executed the leaders of all the other parties.


Poland (1947) – a coalition government took power in 1945, but Stalin arrested all the non-Communist leaders in 1945, and the Communists forced the other non-Communists into exile.


Romania (1945–1947) – a left-wing coalition was elected in 1945; the Communists gradually took over control.


Hungary (1947) – Hungary was invaded by the Russians, and in 1945 the allies agreed that Russian troops should stay there. Stalin allowed elections, in which the non-communists won a big majority. However, some communists were elected, led by a pro-Russian called Rakosi. Rakosi now started demanding that groups which opposed him should be banned. If not, he hinted, the Russians would take over the country. Then he got control of the police, and started to arrest his opponents. He set up a sinister and brutal secret police unit, the AVO. By 1947 Rakosi had complete control over Hungary.


Czechoslovakia (1945–48) – a left-wing coalition was elected in 1945. In 1948, the Communists banned all other parties and killed their leaders.


East Germany (1949) – the Russian turned their zone of Germany into the German Democratic Republic in 1949.  


Powerpoint presentation explaining the cartoon

Source A

In this American cartoon from 1946, the thief labelled ‘Russia’ is caught stealing a bag labelled ‘territorial grabs’.   He is being helped by Stalin, who is dressed like a policeman and holding a truncheon.   Policeman Truman, from the 'World League Police Station' is too late  to stop him.

Click here for the interpretation



Source B

What is surprising about the fact that the Soviet Union, worried about its future safety, wants governments friendly to it in Finland, Poland and Romania?

Stalin, writing in March 1946



Source C

... Russia saw it as protecting herself from future attack.   The West saw it as empire-building.






1.   Make a spidergram showing all the factors that helped Communists take power.

2.   Explain how the case of Hungary illustrates ‘salami tactics’.

3.   Use Sources A, C and D to explain how the West saw the Russian takeover of eastern Europe.


Powerpoint presentation explaining the cartoon

Source D

This cartoon by the British cartoonist Illingworth was published in June 1947

Click here for the interpretation