After World War II ended in 1945, the Iron Curtain divided Western Europe from Eastern Europe. Eastern Europe was under the influence of the Soviet Union.
Each country in Eastern Europe was under Communist rule and heavily influenced by the Soviet Union. When the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, the bordering countries declared independence and began integration into the European community. The countries of Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia each broke into multiple countries of nation-states. Czechoslovakia peacefully agreed to separate into the Czech Republic and the Republic of Slovakia. Yugoslavia was not so fortunate, with years of war.
Governments that had been controlled by Communist dictators or authoritarian leaderships before 1991 now held public elections as a step toward democracy. The fall of Communism led to economic reforms that shifted countries from central planning to open markets. Under central planning, the governments had decided which products were produced and how many of each.
The open markets invited private capitalism and western corporate businesses. The power of the state was transferred from the Communist elite to the private citizen. The now-independent countries of Eastern Europe shifted their economies away from the collapsing Communist state and toward the core industrial countries of Western Europe and the European Union (EU).
The transition Eastern Europe experienced in the last few decades has not been easy. Most of the countries require help from Western Europe for trade and economic development. The EU is the major economic and political entity of Europe.
Source: Eastern Europe
By Saylor Academy, CC-BY 3.0