If the period 1970-90 was a chequered one for western Europe, its problems paled into insigni cance compared with the parallel traumas experienced by eastern Europe. Even the most pessimistic forecasters would have been hard pressed to predict the course of events. In the early 1970s, there seemed every indication that the impressive growth rates of the 1960s would continue. The Soviet Union began the period con dently, expecting to sustain communist rule both within and outwith its borders. Yet by its end, communism had withered and died in East Germany, Poland, Czechoslovakia, Bulgaria and Hungary, while it was also out of favour in countries that had pursued an independent line from Moscow (Romania and Yugoslavia). In Europe, outside the Soviet Union, communism held on by the skin of its teeth only in Albania. Moreover, the very survival of communism as the governing system of the Soviet Union was being seriously questioned, with several republics demanding their independence.