The world is governed by ever-changing ideologies. Once dominated by the capitalism vs communism debate, the status quo has now shifted to democracy vs pseudo-democratic regimes or the left wing vs right wing debate.. In the not-so-distant past, the world witnessed the spread of communism as a formidable force. During the Cold War, Russia, the communist stronghold of the world, competed with the USA, the capitalist hub of the world.
The 40-year-long Cold War led to a lot of destruction and ultimately ended with the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991.
Today, in this blog, we will discuss the list of communist countries in the world. During the Cold War, there were many countries that adopted the Marxist-Lenin ideologies, however, most of them introduced economic and political reforms and have turned democratic now. Let us now explore why each of these countries did or did not change their communist ideology.
What is Communism?
Communism is a socio-economic and political ideology rooted in the works of notable scholars like Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels. Its initial ideology was discussed in the work of Communist Manifesto, a book written by Marx and Engels.
At its core, communism envisions a classless society where the means of production and resources are collectively owned by the community or the state. It aims for a society where wealth and resources are distributed equally among its members.
Communism is opposite to capitalism where private ownership and individualism are the main tenants. Communism seeks to address socio-economic inequalities, promote social justice, and achieve a utopian society free from exploitation and oppression. However, the practical implementation of communism has historically varied among nations, often deviating from the idealistic vision proposed by its scholarly proponents.
What Are the Current Communist Countries in the World?
1) China (People’s Republic of China)
China’s status as a communist state is unique in the modern world, with its combination of centralized political control, state ownership of key sectors, and market-oriented economic reforms. It continues to be a subject of interest and debate in the global arena.
Of all the communist countries of the world, China seems to be the most popular. The Chinese communist party was founded in 1921 and was influenced by the writings of Fredrick Engels and Karl Marx. The party called for the complete abolition of private property. It also called for the creation of a planned economy and a classless society.
Under the leadership of Mao Zedong, the communist party of China gained control over China. But this was no easy victory, as it took the party decades to declare victory over the nationalist forces. With the victory of the CCP, China turned into the People’s Republic of China.
Over the course of history, China has evolved and integrated some features of other types of political economies, like socialism and capitalism. China’s economy follows a model of the socialist market economy. While it has introduced market-oriented reforms since the late 1970s, key industries and sectors of the economy remain under state control. The government plays a significant role in economic planning.
Moreover, China is characterized by one-party rule, with the CCP being the only legal political party. The CCP’s dominance in political life is enshrined in the Chinese constitution. The Chinese government, under Xi Xinping also maintains strong control over political and ideological matters. There is censorship over media, public discourse and even the internet.
In recent years, China has emerged as a global superpower, not just in economic terms but also in areas like technology, trade, and diplomacy. This rise has raised questions about how a communist state can play such a prominent role in the global economy.
2) Cuba (Republic of Cuba)
The Cuban Revolution led by Fidel Castro in 1959 overthrew the authoritarian regime of Fulgencio Batista, establishing a communist government. This event marked the beginning of communist rule in Cuba.
Cuba is officially known as the Republic of Cuba and is governed by the Communist Party of Cuba. It is one of the few remaining countries that openly adhere to communist ideology. The Communist Party has been the ruling authority since 1965.
Cuba follows a one-party system, with no parties other than the Communist Party having any legal standing. This means that all the power, both political and social, is highly vested and consolidated in the hands of this one party.
Like China, the communist party of Cuba also holds strict control over key sectors of the economy. Institutions like education, healthcare, and telecommunications are all directly controlled by the party. Not just that, but state-owned enterprises are given control over land, production and distribution of goods.
Despite international pressure, especially during the Cold War and Soviet disintegration, Cuba has maintained its communist principles. Currently, it has a very complex relationship with the United States. The USA has placed a decades-long trade embargo on Cuba which significantly hampers its economy. However, Cuba is not an isolated country and has managed to build strong relations with other communist and socialist countries of the world.
3) Laos (Lao People’s Democratic Republic)
Laos experienced a communist revolution in 1975, led by the Pathet Lao, a communist political movement. This marked the establishment of a communist state following the collapse of the Kingdom of Laos. Laos, officially known as the Lao People’s Democratic Republic, operates under a single-party communist system. The Lao People’s Revolutionary Party (LPRP) is the sole legal political entity, and it has held power since the country’s establishment in 1975.
Lao People’s Democratic Republic draws inspiration from the Marxist and Leninist principles and adheres strictly to the communist ideology. Its government combines both communist and socialist ideologies with its strong commitment to maintain social equity and collectivism.
The Lao government exercises significant control over various sectors, including education, healthcare, and major industries. State-owned enterprises play a central role in the economy, emphasizing central planning and control.
Lao is often categorized as an isolated nation, however, it does have close relations with other communist-socialist nations like China and Vietnam. It is also a landlocked country, so has little say in governing its foreign policy matters. The country also has engaged in international diplomacy and is a member of regional and international organizations.
While Lao maintains a commitment to communist principles, it has also been adapting to economic changes and international interactions in recent years.
4) North Korea (DPRK, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea)
North Korea, a country popular for its isolationist policies and dispute with South Korea, is known as the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. It is characterized by a totalitarian regime where the ruling Workers’ Party of Korea (WPK) holds absolute power.
North Korea follows the Juche ideology, an official state philosophy developed by Kim Il Sung, the country’s first leader. Juche emphasizes self-reliance, nationalism, and the central role of the state and its leader. Moreover, North Korea exercises a one party system, where the family of Kim has long held power. The current leader is Kim Jong-un who is notorious for making rash decisions for the country.
The North Korean government exercises strict control over every aspect of its citizens’ lives, including education, employment, and access to information. The state owns and operates most industries, and there is little room for private enterprise. The strict control over the internet has often faced backlash from the rest of the countries.
North Korea is not just communist, but it also receives a lot of wrath for its nuclear ambitions and human rights concerns. It has ongoing tensions with South Korea and the USA (which gives South Korea a nuclear umbrella).
In short, North Korea’s communist system, coupled with its isolation and strict state control, has made it one of the most enigmatic and closed-off countries in the world. The government’s commitment to its unique Juche ideology has led to a society that is largely cut off from external influences and tightly controlled by the ruling regime.
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5) Vietnam (Socialist Republic of Vietnam)
Vietnam’s path to communism was intricate, sparked during French colonial rule in the 19th century, nurturing nationalist movements like the Indochinese Communist Party. World War II’s chaos allowed the ICP, led by figures like Ho Chi Minh, to gain momentum.
In 1976, North Vietnam merged with the South, forming the Socialist Republic of Vietnam under the influence of the Communist Party of Vietnam, deeply rooted in Marxism-Leninism. This enduring communist legacy continues to shape Vietnam’s political landscape.
Vietnam, a country riddled with continuous wars and disputes, is officially known as the Socialist Republic of Vietnam. The country follows a one-party system, with the Communist Party of Vietnam holding all state power and governing the country.
The CPV follows a communist ideology rooted in Marxism-Leninism. The party’s principles guide Vietnam’s socio-political and economic policies. In the 20th century, the country implemented some economic reforms that are known as Đổi Mới. These reforms introduced market-oriented policies while maintaining the CPV’s political control. As a result, Vietnam’s economy has experienced significant growth and modernization.
Currently, the government of Vietnam holds centralized power and controls the economy and state-owned enterprises. Additionally, it detests the electoral process and does not give any room for opposition parties to express their dissent.
Additionally, despite the economic reforms and openness to foreign investment, Vietnam remains a one-party socialist republic. While there have been discussions about political reforms, the CPV’s leadership remains paramount.
Countries That were Previously Communist
Vladimir Lenin led the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia in 1917; this began the Communist era in Russia. The Bolsheviks, a faction of the Russian Social Democratic Labor Party, seized power from the Provisional Government, marking the end of the Russian Provisional Government and the start of the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic.
In 1922, The Russian Federative Socialist Republic joined with other Soviet Republics and formed the USSR (Union of Soviet Socialist Republics). Russia became the largest and most influential part of the Soviet Union. As a communist state, the Soviet Union had a government that had complete control over all aspects of the economy. Industries were also centralized.
During the Cold War Era, both Russia and the USA tried to spread communism and capitalism respectively. The period saw the spread of communism to Eastern Europe and the establishment of satellite states under Soviet influence. The dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991 also marked the end of communism in Russia. Russia emerged as the Russian Federation and continues to be that till today.
After the end of World War II, Poland underwent a significant political transformation. It was occupied by Soviet forces, which established a communist regime. In 1947, Poland became a communist People’s Republic. Initially, Poland was considered a satellite state of the Soviet Union. The Union imposed its economic and political policies on Poland.
As a communist state, Poland was governed by one party: the Polish United Workers Party. The PZPR controlled the economy, the government and all other institutions of Poland. Poland adopted a centrally planned economy, similar to the Soviet Union. This involved state ownership of major industries and a focus on heavy industrialization.
The fall of communism in Poland was soon inevitable. Despite its one-party system, the country saw trade union movements rising and challenging the communist regime. The movement advocated for political, economic and workers’ rights reforms. The union eventually won and led to the collapse of communism in Poland.
Hungary, like many Eastern European countries, experienced Soviet influence and control after World War II. In 1949, Hungary officially became the Hungarian People’s Republic, signaling the establishment of a communist government.
During the communist era, Hungary was led by the Hungarian Working Party. Although there were other parties, MDP was the only party with any legal standing. It controlled the economy, the media and the government. As in other communist states, this one-party rule suppressed political pluralism.
Hungary also implemented policies where it nationalized agriculture and industry. Additionally, it advocated for land collectivization. Their attempt to create a centrally planned economy was influenced by the policies implemented by the Soviet Union.
In 1956, Hungary witnessed a significant anti-communist uprising against the Soviet-backed government. The Hungarian Revolution sought political reforms and greater independence from the Soviet Union. The revolt was eventually crushed by Soviet military intervention.
Hungary transitioned to a democracy in the late 1980s. The ruling party Hungarian Socialist Party introduced economic and political reforms, thus becoming the Republic of Hungary in 1989.
4. Czech Republic
The Czech Republic, formerly known as the Czechoslovak Socialist Republic, was established in 1948. The Communist Party seized control in a coup and established a one-party state with Soviet backing, leading to decades of communist rule.
As a communist state, the country implemented a centrally planned economy, industries were centralized and the government took control of all major economic sectors.
Moreover, the country also imposed strict censorship and controlled media outlets. Political parties and opposition were banned, and dissent was dealt with with an iron fist. However, In 1968, during a period known as the Prague Spring, Czechoslovakia experienced a brief period of liberalization. A Soviet-led invasion crushed this movement and reaffirmed the communist control.
Later, in The late 1980s, Czechoslovak saw a wave of anti-communist protests. Figures like Vaclav Havel led the Velvet Revolution that brought communist rule to an end. In 1993, the country split into to nations, the Slovakia and the Czech Republic; a democratic system was introduced in both.
Romania, like many Eastern European countries, was under Nazi influence during World War II. As the war ended, the Soviet Red Army occupied Romania, and communist influence began to grow. After the world war ended, Romania experienced chaos. In 1947, its King was forced to abdicate his position. A communist regime soon took over.
Romania, under Nicolae Ceaușescu, experienced one of the most repressive communist regimes in Eastern Europe. Ceaușescu’s rule was characterized by censorship, surveillance, and a cult of personality. The secret police, known as the Securitate, had a strong grip on the population.
During the communist rule, the government also implemented a strong, centralized economy. Industrialization came under the state, and forced collectivization of agriculture was enforced. But like in other countries, communism did not survive in Romania either.
Unlike its counterparts, Romania was not able to shrug off communism easily. It was actually one of the last Eastern European countries to get rid of the system. In December 1989, a series of protests and demonstrations led to a violent revolution. Ceaușescu and his wife were captured, tried, and executed. This marked the end of communism in Romania.
Communist influence in Bulgaria began in the early 20th century, but it wasn’t until after World War II that the Bulgarian Communist Party, led by Georgi Dimitrov, gained control. After World War II ended, Bulgaria became heavily influenced by the communist regime. It became a People’s Republic in 1946.
The Bulgarian government centralized the economy and brought it under the control of the government. It also followed the Soviet model to its core thus nationalizing all of its industries.
Moreover, under the leadership of Todor Zhivkov, Bulgaria’s communist regime was marked by political repression, censorship, and a one-party system. Dissent was not tolerated, and the secret police closely monitored the population.
Communism in Bulgaria fell in the late 1980s. As the political and social unrest increased, communism became highly unpopular. It is worth noting that, unlike its counterparts, Bulgaria experienced a peaceful transition from communism to democracy. The Bulgarian Communist Party gave up its monopoly on power, and by 1990, Bulgaria was on the path to democracy.
7. East Germany (German Democratic Republic)
After the Second World War ended, Germany was divided into four occupation zones, each governed by one victor. These included the American zone, the British zone, the French Zone and the Soviet Zone. The Soviet zone became East Germany, while the other three zones formed West Germany. This division was a result of the geopolitical tensions between the Allied powers.
The German Democratic Republic or East Germany was led by the Socialist Unity Party and was heavily influenced by the Soviet system. It had a repressive regime and was governed by a totalitarian regime. The Ministry for State Security, commonly known as the Stasi, was one of the most intrusive secret police agencies in the world. It spied on citizens, suppressed dissent, and enforced loyalty to the regime.
Like other communist states, a planned and centralized economy was enforced. However, communism saw its downfall when the wall of Berlin was taken down thus marking the end of the Cold War.
In the late 1980’s, peaceful protests and demonstrations happened all across East Germany. The demand for political reforms and democracy grew and in 1989, the SED abandoned its monopoly on power. This led to the collapse of the GDR and communism in East Germany.
The Kingdom of Yugoslavia was formed in 1918 when the Second World War ended. It united several South Slavic regions like Serbia, Montenegro, Croatia and others. Initially a monarchy, the country soon underwent a socialist transformation under the dynamic leadership of Josip Broz Tito. The Federal People’s Republic of Yugoslavia was proclaimed in 1945.
Unlike other communist nations, Yugoslavia adopted a unique foreign policy. It did not establish relations with either of the Eastern or Western blocs led by the USA or the Soviet Union. In fact, its president, Tito’s Yugoslavia was a founding member of the Non-Aligned Movement, advocating for a neutral position in the Cold War.
Moreover, the country adopted a unique economic system known as the Self-Management Socialism. It aimed to decentralize economic decision-making by involving workers in the management of their enterprises. The system worked for some time, however, the death of Tito in 1980 increased ethnic tensions between the residing groups.
In 1990, the country disintegrated. This led to many ethnic conflicts and wars in the republics. By the mid-1990s, the federation had disintegrated, and the various republics became independent states.
The history of communism in Mongolia began in the early 20th century. Mongolia became the Mongolian People’s Republic in 1920. After turning communist, it developed a strong relationship with the Soviet Union. The country adopted a socialist system of governance, aligned with Soviet-style communism.
Like many other communist states, Mongolia implemented a centralized economic system and land reforms. Nomadic herders’ traditional lifestyles were significantly altered as livestock and land were brought under state control.
Moreover, Mongolia, inspired by the Chinese Cultural Revolution, initiated its own cultural and political transformation in the late 1960s. This period saw the purging of political opponents, suppression of traditional Mongolian culture, and the promotion of socialist ideals.
Mongolia began to transition to democracy in the 1980s. Political unrest and protests happened during this period and led to mass unrest. However, in 1990, Mongolia underwent a peaceful transition to a market-oriented economy and multi-party democracy.
Today, Mongolia is a democratic country with a capitalist, market economy. However, it still retains some elements of the communist past, such as a single-chamber parliament.
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In summary, looking at the list of communist countries around the world helps us learn about the different political ideas and systems in various nations. It shows how some countries have changed from communism to other types of government, while others still have communism.
These political ideas affect how countries work together globally. Gaining a deep understanding of the range of political ideologies is essential for a thorough grasp of the world’s geopolitical stage.
What is a communist country?
A communist country is characterized by government control over the means of production and the goal of achieving a classless society. This sets it apart from other political and economic systems like democracies or monarchies.
What are the most popular communist countries in the world?
Some popular communist countries include China, Cuba, Vietnam, and North Korea. Other countries that used to be communist include Russia, Hungary and Mongolia.
Have any countries transitioned from communism to other forms of government?
Yes, for example, Russia and several Eastern European countries shifted from communism to different governance systems in the late 20th century.
How can communism impact international relations?
Communism can influence a country’s foreign policies, alliances, and trade relationships, often leading to ideological conflicts with non-communist nations.