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Council for Mutual Economic Assistance
Совет Экономической Взаимопомощи
Map of Comecon member states as of November 1986
  Formal members which did not participate
  Associates who actually participated
Abbreviation COMECON, CMEA, CAME
Formation 5-8 January 1949
Founder  Soviet Union
Founded at Moscow, Soviet Union
Extinction 28 June 1991
Type Economic organization
Headquarters Moscow, Soviet Union
Region served
Worldwide (mainly Eastern Bloc and socialist states)
Main organ
(see section for details).

The Council for Mutual Economic Assistance (

  •  This article incorporates public domain material from websites or documents of the Library of Congress Country Studies.
    • Germany (East) Country Study (TOC), Data as of July 1987, Appendix B: The Council for Mutual Economic Assistance, Library of Congress Call Number DD280.6 .E22 1988.
  • Adam Zwass, "The Council for Mutual Economic Assistance: The Thorny Path from Political to Economic Integration", M.E. Sharpe, Armonk, NY 1989.
  • Robert Bideleux and Ian Jeffries, A History of Eastern Europe: Crisis and Change, Routledge, 1998. ISBN 0-415-16111-8.
  • Michael Kaser, Comecon: Integration Problems of the Planned Economies, Royal Institute of International Affairs/ Oxford University Press, 1967. ISBN 0-192-14956-3


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z aa ab ac ad ae af ag ah ai aj "Germany (East)", Library of Congress Country Study, Appendix B: The Council for Mutual Economic Assistance
  2. ^ For example, this is the usage in the Library of Congress Country Study that is heavily cited in the present article.
  3. ^
  4. ^ Zwass, 1989, p.4
  5. ^ a b c Bideleux and Jeffries, 1998, p. 536.
  6. ^ Bideleux and Jeffries, 1998, p. 534–5.
  7. ^ Kaser, 1967, pp. 9-10.
  8. ^ a b Bideleux and Jeffries, 1998, p. 535.
  9. ^ W. Wallace and R. Clarke, Comecon, Trade, and the West, London: Pinter (1986), p. 1, quoted by Bideleux and Jeffries, 1998, p. 536.
  10. ^ Bideleux and Jeffries, 1998, p. 536–7.
  11. ^ Elena Dragomir, ‘The formation of the Soviet bloc’s Council for Mutual Economic Assistance: Romania’s involvement’, Journal Cold War Studies, xiv (2012), 34–47.
  12. ^ Elena Dragomir, 'The creation of the Council for Mutual Economic Assistance as seen from the Romanian Archives', in Historical Research, September 2014.
  13. ^ Bideleux and Jeffries, 1998, p. 539–541.
  14. ^ Bideleux and Jeffries, 1998, p. 541–2.
  15. ^ a b Bideleux and Jeffries, 1998, p. 542–3.
  16. ^ Bideleux and Jeffries, 1998, p. 543–4.
  17. ^ a b Bideleux and Jeffries, 1998, p. 544.
  18. ^ Bideleux and Jeffries, 1998, p. 559.
  19. ^ Bideleux and Jeffries, 1998, p. 560.
  20. ^ Bideleux and Jeffries, 1998, p. 553.
  21. ^ Bideleux and Jeffries, 1998, p. 560–1.
  22. ^ a b c d e Bideleux and Jeffries, 1998, p. 561.
  23. ^ Bideleux and Jeffries, 1998, p. 566.
  24. ^ Bideleux and Jeffries, 1998, p. 564, 566.
  25. ^ Bideleux and Jeffries, 1998, p. 564.
  26. ^ a b Bideleux and Jeffries, 1998, p. 568–9.
  27. ^ Bideleux and Jeffries, 1998, p. 568.
  28. ^ Bideleux and Jeffries, 1998, p. 571–2.
  29. ^ Bideleux and Jeffries, 1998, p. 579.
  30. ^ Abel Aganbegyan, quoted in Bideleux and Jeffries, 1998, p. 580.
  31. ^ Bideleux and Jeffries, 1998, p. 580.
  32. ^ Bideleux and Jeffries, 1998, p. 580–582; the quotation is on p. 582.
  33. ^ Bideleux and Jeffries, 1998, p. 582.
  34. ^ a b Bideleux and Jeffries, 1998, p. 537.
  35. ^ Bideleux and Jeffries, 1998, p. 538.
  36. ^ a b Bideleux and Jeffries, 1998, p. 539.
  37. ^ Bideleux and Jeffries, 1998, p. 540.
  38. ^ Bideleux and Jeffries, 1998, p. 540–1.
  39. ^ a b Bideleux and Jeffries, 1998, p. 565.
  40. ^ Bideleux and Jeffries, 1998, p. 569.
  41. ^ Bideleux and Jeffries, 1998, p. 570 makes the assertion about this being the dominant view, and cites several examples.
  42. ^ Bideleux and Jeffries, 1998, p. 570–1.
  43. ^
  44. ^ Zwass, 1989, pp. 14-21
  45. ^ Bideleux and Jeffries, 1998, p. 567.


See also

Soviet efforts to exercise political power over its Comecon partners, however, were met with determined opposition. The "sovereign equality" of members, as described in the Comecon Charter, assured members that if they did not wish to participate in a Comecon project, they might abstain. Central and East European members frequently invoked this principle in fear that economic interdependence would further reduce political sovereignty. Thus, neither Comecon nor the Soviet Union as a major force within Comecon had supranational authority. Although this fact ensured some degree of freedom from Soviet economic domination of the other members, it also deprived Comecon of necessary power to achieve maximum economic efficiency.[1]

Soviet domination of Comecon was a function of its economic, political, and military power. The Soviet Union possessed 90 percent of Comecon members' land and energy resources, 70 percent of their population, 65 percent of their national income, and industrial and military capacities second in the world only to those of the United States .The location of many Comecon committee headquarters in Moscow and the large number of Soviet nationals in positions of authority also testified to the power of the Soviet Union within the organization.[1]

See: International relations within the Comecon

International relations within the Comecon

See: Comprehensive Program for Socialist Economic Integration

Prices, exchange rates, coordination of national plans

As remarked above, most Comecon foreign trade was a (sometimes corrupt) state monopoly, placing several removes between a producer and a foreign customer.[39] Unlike the EEC, where treaties mostly limited government activity and allowed the market to integrate economies across national lines, Comecon needed to develop agreements that called for positive government action. Furthermore, while private trade slowly limited or erased national rivalries in the EEC, state-to-state trade in Comecon reinforced national rivalries and resentments.[45]

Comecon joined together 450 million people in 10 countries and on 3 continents. The level of industrialization from country to country differed greatly: the organization linked two underdeveloped countries – Mongolia, and Vietnam – with some highly industrialized states. Likewise, a large national income difference existed between European and non-European members. The physical size, military power, and political and economic resource base of the Soviet Union made it the dominant member. In trade among Comecon members, the Soviet Union usually provided raw materials, and Central and East European countries provided finished equipment and machinery. The three underdeveloped Comecon members had a special relationship with the other seven. Comecon realized disproportionately more political than economic gains from its heavy contributions to these three countries' underdeveloped economies. Socialist economic integration or "plan coordination" formed the basis of Comecon's activities. In this system, which mirrored the member countries' planned economies, the decisions handed down from above ignored the influences of market forces or private initiative. Comecon had no supranational authority to make decisions or to implement them. Its recommendations could only be adopted with the full concurrence of interested parties and (from 1967[22]) did not affect those members who declared themselves disinterested parties.[1]

In the 1980s, the EEC incorporated the 270 million people in Europe into economic association through intergovernmental agreements aimed at maximizing profits and economic efficiency on a national and international scale. The EEC was a supranational body that could adopt decisions (such as removing tariffs) and enforce them. Activity by members was based on initiative and enterprise from below (on the individual or enterprise level) and was strongly influenced by market forces.[1]

[1] Although Comecon was loosely referred to as the "

European trade blocs as of the late 1980s. EEC member states are marked in blue, EFTA – green, and Comecon – red.

Comecon versus the European Economic Community

Over the years of its functioning, Comecon acted more as an instrument of mutual economic assistance than a means of economic integration, with multilateralism as an unachievable goal.[44]

  • The Charter (1959) stated that "the sovereign equality of all members" was fundamental to the organization and procedures of Comecon.[1][17]
  • The Comprehensive Program further emphasized that the processes of integration of members' economies were "completely voluntary and do not involve the creation of supranational bodies." Hence under the provisions of the Charter, each country had the right to equal representation and one vote in all organs of Comecon, regardless of the country's economic size or the size of its contribution to Comecon's budget.[1]
  • From 1967, the "interestedness" provisions of the Charter reinforced the principle of "sovereign equality." Comecon's recommendations and decisions could be adopted only upon agreement among the interested members, and each had the right to declare its "interest" in any matter under consideration.[1][22]
  • Furthermore, in the words of the Charter (as revised in 1967), "recommendations and decisions shall not apply to countries that have declared that they have no interest in a particular matter."[1][22]
  • Although Comecon recognized the principle of unanimity, from 1967 disinterested parties did not have a veto but rather the right to abstain from participation. A declaration of disinterest could not block a project unless the disinterested party's participation was vital. Otherwise, the Charter implied that the interested parties could proceed without the abstaining member, affirming that a country that had declared a lack of interest "may subsequently adhere to the recommendations and decisions adopted by the remaining members of the Council."[1] However, a member country could also declare an "interest" and exercise a veto.[22]

Comecon was an interstate organization through which members attempted to coordinate economic activities of mutual interest and to develop multilateral economic, scientific, and technical cooperation:[1]

Nature of operation

International economic organizations generally took the form of either joint enterprises, international economic associations or unions, or international economic partnerships. The latter included Interatominstrument (nuclear machinery producers), Intertekstilmash (textile machinery producers), and Haldex (a Hungarian-Polish joint enterprise for reprocessing coal slag).[1]

These affiliated agencies were divided into two categories: intergovernmental economic organizations (which worked on a higher level in the member countries and generally dealt with a wider range of managerial and coordinative activities) and international economic organizations (which worked closer to the operational level of research, production, or trade). A few examples of the former are the International Bank for Economic Cooperation (managed the transferable ruble system), the International Investment Bank (in charge of financing joint projects), and Intermetall (encouraged cooperation in ferrous metallurgy).[1]

Several affiliated agencies, having a variety of relationships with Comecon, existed outside the official Comecon hierarchy. They served to develop "direct links between appropriate bodies and organizations of Comecon member countries."[1]

1974 Medallion 10th Anniversary of Intermetall, that was founded in 1964 in Budapest

Affiliated agencies

The scientific institutes on standardization and on economic problems of the world socialist system concerned themselves with theoretical problems of international cooperation. Both were headquartered in Moscow and were staffed by experts from various member countries.[1]

The six interstate conferences (on water management, internal trade, legal matters, inventions and patents, pricing, and labor affairs) served as forums for discussing shared issues and experiences. They were purely consultative and generally acted in an advisory capacity to the Executive Committee or its specialized committees.[1]

In 1956 eight standing commissions were set up to help Comecon make recommendations pertaining to specific economic sectors. The commissions have been rearranged and renamed a number of times since the establishment of the first eight. In 1986 there were twenty-four standing commissions, each headquartered in the capital of a member country and headed by one of that country's leading authorities in the field addressed by the commission. The Secretariat supervised the actual operations of the commissions. The standing commissions had authority only to make recommendations, which had then to be approved by the Executive Committee, presented to the Session, and ratified by the interested member countries. Commissions usually met twice a year in Moscow.[1]

The international Secretariat, Comecon's only permanent body, was Comecon's primary economic research and administrative organ. The secretary, who has been a Soviet official since Comecon creation, was the official Comecon representative to Comecon member states and to other states and international organizations. Subordinate to the secretary were his deputy and the various departments of the Secretariat, which generally corresponded to the standing commissions. The Secretariat's responsibilities included preparation and organization of Comecon sessions and other meetings conducted under the auspices of Comecon; compilation of digests on Comecon activities; conduct of economic and other research for Comecon members; and preparation of recommendations on various issues concerning Comecon operations.[1]

The Council Committee for Cooperation in Planning was the most important of the four. It coordinated the national economic plans of Comecon members. As such, it ranked in importance only after the Session and the Executive Committee. Made up of the chairmen of Comecon members' national central planning offices, the Council Committee for Cooperation in Planning drew up draft agreements for joint projects, adopted a resolution approving these projects, and recommended approval to the concerned parties. If its decisions were not subject to approval by national governments and parties, this committee would be considered Comecon's supranational planning body.[1]

There were four council committees: Council Committee for Cooperation in Planning, Council Committee for Scientific and Technical Cooperation, Council Committee for Cooperation in Material and Technical Supply, and Council Committee for Cooperation in Machine Building. Their mission was "to ensure the comprehensive examination and a multilateral settlement of the major problems of cooperation among member countries in the economy, science, and technology." All committees were headquartered in Moscow and usually met there. These committees advised the standing commissions, the Secretariat, the interstate conferences, and the scientific institutes in their areas of specialization. Their jurisdiction was generally wider than that of the standing commissions because they had the right to make policy recommendations to other Comecon organizations.[1]

Other entities

The highest executive organ in Comecon, the Executive Committee, was entrusted with elaborating policy recommendations and supervising their implementation between sessions. In addition, it supervised work on plan coordination and scientific-technical cooperation. Composed of one representative from each member country, usually a deputy chairman of the Council of Ministers, the Executive Committee met quarterly, usually in Moscow. In 1971 and 1974, the Executive Committee acquired economic departments that ranked above the standing commissions. These economic departments considerably strengthened the authority and importance of the Executive Committee.[1]

Executive Committee

Each country appointed one permanent representative to maintain relations between members and Comecon between annual meetings. An extraordinary Session, such as the one in December 1985, might be held with the consent of at least one-third of the members. Such meetings usually took place in Moscow.[1]

[1] The Session of the Council for Mutual Economic Assistance, officially the highest Comecon organ, examined fundamental problems of socialist economic integration and directed the activities of the Secretariat and other subordinate organizations. Delegations from each Comecon member country attended these meetings. Prime ministers usually headed the delegations, which met during the second quarter of each year in a member country's capital (the location of the meeting was determined by a system of rotation based on

The Session

The official hierarchy of Comecon consisted of the Session of the Council for Mutual Economic Assistance, the Executive Committee of the Council, the Secretariat of the Council, four council committees, twenty-four standing commissions, six interstate conferences, two scientific institutes, and several associated organizations.[1]

Although not formally part of the organization's hierarchy, the Conference of First Secretaries of Communist and Workers' Parties and of the Heads of Government of the Comecon Member Countries was Comecon's most important organ. These party and government leaders gathered for conference meetings regularly to discuss topics of mutual interest. Because of the rank of conference participants, their decisions had considerable influence on the actions taken by Comecon and its organs.[1]


On the other hand, Czechoslovak trams (Tatra T3) and jet trainers (L-29) were the standard for all Comecon countries, including the USSR, and other countries could develop their own designs but only for their own needs, like Poland (respectively, Konstal trams and TS-11 jets). Poland was a manufacturer of light helicopters for Comecon countries (Mi-2 of the Soviet design). The USSR developed their own model Kamov Ka-26 and Romania produced French helicopters under license for their own market. In a formal or informal way, often the countries were discouraged from developing their own designs that competed with the main Comecon design.

The organization of Comecon was officially focused on common expansion of states, more effective production and building relationships between countries within. And as in every planned economy, operations did not reflect state of market, innovations, availability of items or the specific needs of a country. One example came from former Czechoslovakia. In the 1970s the Communist party of Czechoslovakia finally realized that there was a need for underground trains. Czechoslovak designers projected a cheap but technologically innovative underground train. The train was a state-of-the-art project, capable of moving underground or on the surface using standard rails, had a high number of passenger seats, and was lightweight. According to the designers the train was technologically more advanced than the trains used in New York's Subway, London's Tube or the Paris Metro. However, due to the plan of Comecon, older Soviet trains were used, which guaranteed profit for the Soviet Union and work for workers in Soviet factories. That economical change lead to the cancellation of the R1 trains by A. Honzík. The Comecon plan, though more profitable for the Soviets, if less resourceful for the Czechs and Slovaks, forced the Czechoslovak government to buy trains "Ečs (81-709)" and "81-71", both of which were designed in early 1950s and were heavy, unreliable and expensive. (Materials available only in Czech Republic and Slovakia, video included)[43]

Ineffective production

Beginning no later than the early 1970s,[40] Soviet petroleum and natural gas were routinely transferred within Comecon at below-market rates. Most Western commentators have viewed this as implicit, politically motivated subsidization of shaky economies to defuse discontents and reward compliance with Soviet wishes.[41] However, other commentators say that this may not have been deliberate policy, noting that whenever prices differ from world market prices, there will be winners and losers. They argue that this may have been simply an unforeseen consequence of two factors: the slow adjustment of Comecon prices during a time of rising oil and gas prices, and the fact that mineral resources were abundant in the Comecon sphere, relative to manufactured goods. A possible point of comparison is that there were also winners and losers under EEC agricultural policy in the same period.[42]

Oil transfers

With few exceptions, foreign trade in the Comecon countries was a state monopoly, and the state agencies and captive trading companies were often corrupt. Even at best, this tended to put several removes between a producer and any foreign customer, limiting the ability to learn to adjust to foreign customers' needs. Furthermore, there was often strong political pressure to keep the best products for domestic use in each country. From the early 1950s to Comecon's demise in the early 1990s, intra-Comecon trade, except for Soviet petroleum, was in steady decline.[39]

Within Comecon, there were occasional struggles over just how this system should work. Early on, [37] While historians are not unanimous on why this was stymied, it clearly threatened the sovereignty not only of the smaller states, but even of the Soviet Union itself, since an international body would have had real power; Stalin clearly preferred informal means of intervention in the other Comecon states.[38] This lack of either rationality or international central planning tended to promote autarky in each Comecon country, because none fully trusted the others to deliver goods and services.[36]

International barter helped preserve the Comecon countries' scarce hard currency reserves. In strict economic terms, barter inevitably harmed countries whose goods would have brought higher prices in the free market or whose imports could have been obtained more cheaply, and benefitted those for whom it was the other way around. Still, all of the Comecon countries gained some stability, and the governments gained some legitimacy,[34] and in many ways this stability and protection from the world market was viewed, at least in the early years of Comecon, as an advantage of the system, as was the formation of stronger ties with other communist countries.[35]

Working with neither meaningful exchange rates nor a market economy, Comecon countries had to look to world markets as a reference point for prices, but unlike agents acting in a market, prices tended to be stable over a period of years, rather than constantly fluctuating, which assisted central planning. Also, there was a tendency to underprice raw materials relative to the manufactured goods produced in many of the Comecon countries.[34]


The final Comecon council session took place June 28, 1991 in Budapest, and led to an agreement to disband within 90 days.[33]

The program was not a success. "The Gorbachev regime made too many commitments on too many fronts, thereby overstretching and overheating the Soviet economy. Bottlenecks and shortages were not relieved but exacerbated, while the (Central and) East European members of Comecon resented being asked to contribute scarce capital to projects that were chiefly of interest to the Soviet Union…"[31] Furthermore, the liberalization that by June 25, 1988 allowed Comecon countries to negotiate trade treaties directly with the European Community (the renamed EEC), and the "Sinatra doctrine" under which the Soviet Union allowed that change would be the exclusive affair of each individual country marked the beginning of the end for Comecon. Although the Revolutions of 1989 did not formally end Comecon, and the Soviet government itself lasted until 1991, the March 1990 meeting in Prague was little more than a formality, discussing the coordination of non-existent five-year plans. From January 1, 1991, the countries shifted their dealings with one another to a hard currency market basis. The result was a radical decrease in trade with one another, as "(Central and) Eastern Europe… exchanged asymmetrical trade dependence on the Soviet Union for an equally asymmetrical commercial dependence on the European Community."[32]

The 1985 Comprehensive Program for Scientific and Technical Progress and the rise to power of Soviet general secretary Mikhail Gorbachev increased Soviet influence in Comecon operations and led to attempts to give Comecon some degree of supranational authority. The Comprehensive Program for Scientific and Technical Progress was designed to improve economic cooperation through the development of a more efficient and interconnected scientific and technical base.[1] This was the era of perestroika ("restructuring"), the last attempt to put the Comecon economies on a sound economic footing.[29] Gorbachev and his economic mentor Abel Aganbegyan hoped to make "revolutionary changes" in the economy, foreseeing that "science will increasingly become a 'direct productive force', as Marx foresaw… By the year 2000… the renewal of plant and machinery… will be running at 6 percent or more per year."[30]


One economic success of the 1970s was the development of Soviet oil fields. While doubtless "(Central and) East Europeans resented having to defray some of the costs of developing the economy of their hated overlord and oppressor,"[27] they benefited from low prices for fuel and other mineral products. As a result, Comecon economies generally showed strong growth in the mid-1970s. They were largely unaffected by the 1973 oil crisis.[26] Another short-term economic gain in this period was that détente brought opportunities for investment and technology transfers from the West. This also led to an importation of Western cultural attitudes, especially in Central Europe. However, many undertakings based on Western technology were less than successful (for example, Poland's Ursus tractor factory did not do well with technology licensed from Massey Ferguson); other investment was wasted on luxuries for the party elite, and most Comecon countries ended up indebted to the West when capital flows died out as détente faded in the late 1970s, and from 1979 to 1983, all of Comecon experienced a recession from which (with the possible exceptions of East Germany and Bulgaria) they never recovered in the Communist era. Romania and Poland experienced major declines in the standard of living.[28]

In this period, there were some efforts to move away from central planning, by establishing intermediate industrial associations and combines in various countries (which were often empowered to negotiate their own international deals). However, these groupings typically proved "unwieldy, conservative, risk-averse, and bureaucratic," reproducing the problems they had been intended to solve.[26]

While such integration was to remain a goal, and while Bulgaria became yet more tightly integrated with the Soviet Union, progress in this direction was otherwise continually frustrated by the national central planning prevalent in all Comecon countries, by the increasing diversity of its members (which by this time included Mongolia and would soon include Cuba) and by the "overwhelming asymmetry" and resulting distrust between the many small member states and the Soviet "superstate" which, in 1983, "accounted for 88 percent of Comecon's territory and 60 percent of its population."[25]

Also until the late 1960s, the official term for Comecon activities was cooperation. The term integration was always avoided because of its connotations of monopolistic capitalist collusion. However, after the "special" council session of April 1969 and the development and adoption (in 1971) of the Comprehensive Program for the Further Extension and Improvement of Cooperation and the Further Development of Socialist Economic Integration by Comecon Member Countries, Comecon activities were officially termed integration (equalization of "differences in relative scarcities of goods and services between states through the deliberate elimination of barriers to trade and other forms of interaction"). Although such equalization had not been a pivotal point in the formation and implementation of Comecon's economic policies, improved economic integration had always been Comecon's goal.[1][24]

From its founding until 1967, Comecon had operated only on the basis of unanimous agreements. It had become increasingly obvious that the result was usually failure. In 1967, Comecon adopted the "interested party principle", under which any country could opt out of any project they chose, still allowing the other member states to use Comecon mechanisms to coordinate their activities. In principle, a country could still veto, but the hope was that they would typically choose just to step aside rather than either veto or be a reluctant participant.[22] This aimed, at least in part, at allowing Romania to chart its own economic course without leaving Comecon entirely or bringing it to an impasse.[23]

Brezhnev era

Once again, however, efforts at transnational [18] This was resisted by Czechoslovakia, Hungary, and Poland, but most emphatically by increasingly nationalistic Romania, which strongly rejected the notion that they should specialize in agriculture.[19] In Central and Eastern Europe, only Bulgaria happily took on an assigned role (also agricultural, but in Bulgaria's case this had been the country's chosen direction even as an independent country in the 1930s).[20] Essentially, by the time the Soviet Union was calling for tight economic integration, they no longer had the power to impose it. Despite some slow headway—integration increased in petroleum, electricity, and other technical/scientific sectors—and the 1963 founding of an International Bank for Economic Co-operation, Comecon countries all increased trade with the West relatively more than with one another.[21]

However, once again, trouble arose. The Polish protests and Hungarian uprising led to major social and economic changes, including the 1957 abandonment of the 1956-1960 Soviet five-year plan, as the Comecon governments struggled to reestablish their legitimacy and popular support.[16] The next few years saw a series of small steps toward increased trade and economic integration, including the introduction of the "transferable rouble", revised efforts at national specialization, and a 1959 charter modeled after the 1957 Treaty of Rome.[17]

After Stalin's death in 1953, Comecon again began to find its footing. In the early 1950s, all Comecon countries had adopted relatively autarkic policies; now they began again to discuss developing complementary specialties, and in 1956, ten permanent standing committees arose, intended to facilitate coordination in these matters. The Soviet Union began to trade oil for Comecon manufactured goods. There was much discussion of coordinating five-year plans.[15]

Khrushchev era

One important legacy of this brief period of activity was the Sofia principle, adopted at the August 1949 Comecon council session in Bulgaria. This radically weakened intellectual property rights, making each country's technologies available to the others for a nominal charge that did little more than cover the cost of documentation. This, naturally, benefited the less industrialized Comecon countries, and especially the technologically lagging Soviet Union, at the expense of East Germany and Czechoslovakia and, to a lesser extent, Hungary and Poland. (This principle would weaken after 1968, as it became clear that it discouraged new research—and as the Soviet Union itself began to have more marketable technologies.)[15]

At first, planning seemed to be moving along rapidly. After pushing aside Nikolai Voznesensky's technocratic, price-based approach (see further discussion below), the direction appeared to be toward a coordination of national economic plans, but with no coercive authority from Comecon itself. All decisions would require unanimous ratification, and even then governments would separately translate these into policy.[13] Then in summer 1950, probably unhappy with the favorable implications for the effective individual and collective sovereignty of the smaller states, Stalin "seems to have taken [Comecon's] personnel by surprise," bringing operations to a nearly complete halt, as the Soviet Union moved domestically toward autarky and internationally toward an "embassy system of meddling in other countries' affairs directly" rather than by "constitutional means". Comecon's scope was officially limited in November 1950 to "practical questions of facilitating trade."[14]

Recent research by the Romanian researcher Elena Dragomir suggests that Romania played a rather important role in the Comecon's creation in 1949. Dragomir argues that Romania was interested in the creation of a “system of cooperation” to improve its trade relations with the other people’s democracies, especially with those able to export industrial equipment and machinery to Romania.[11] According to Dragomir, in December 1948, the Romanian leader Gheorghe Gheorghiu-Dej sent a letter to Stalin, proposing the creation of the Comecon.[12]

Comecon was established at a Moscow economic conference January 5–January 8, 1949, at which the six founding member countries were represented; its foundation was publicly announced on January 25; Albania joined a month later and East Germany in 1950.[8]

However, as always, Stalin's precise motives are "inscrutable"[8] They may well have been "more negative than positive", with Stalin "more anxious to keep other powers out of neighbouring buffer states… than to integrate them."[9] Furthermore, GATT's notion of nondiscriminatory treatment of trade partners was incompatible with notions of socialist solidarity.[5] In any event, proposals for a customs union and economic integration of Central and Eastern Europe date back at least to the Revolutions of 1848 (although many earlier proposals had been intended to stave off the Russian and/or communist "menace")[5] and the state-to-state trading inherent in centrally planned economies required some sort of coordination: otherwise, a monopolist seller would face a monopsonist buyer, with no structure to set prices.[10]

The Comecon was founded in 1949 by the Soviet Union, Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Poland, and Romania. The primary factors in Comecon's formation appear to have been Joseph Stalin's desire to cooperate and strengthen the international socialist relationship at an economic level with the lesser states of Central Europe,[1] and which were now, increasingly, cut off from their traditional markets and suppliers in the rest of Europe.[5] Czechoslovakia, Hungary, and Poland had remained interested in Marshall aid despite the requirements for a convertible currency and market economies. These requirements, which would inevitably have resulted in stronger economic ties to free European markets than to the Soviet Union, were absolutely unacceptable to Stalin, who in July 1947, ordered these communist-dominated governments to pull out of the Paris Conference on the European Recovery Programme. This has been described as "the moment of truth" in the post-World War II division of Europe.[6] According to the Soviet view the "Anglo-American bloc" and "American monopolists ... whose interests had nothing in common with those of the European people" had spurned East-West collaboration within the framework agreed within the United Nations, that is, through the Economic Commission for Europe.[7]



  • Yugoslavia was the only country considered to have associate member status. On the basis of the 1964 agreement, Yugoslavia participated in twenty-one of the thirty-two key Comecon institutions as if it were a full member.[1]
  • Finland, Iraq, Mexico, and Nicaragua had a nonsocialist cooperant status with Comecon. Because the governments of these countries were not empowered to conclude agreements in the name of private companies, the governments did not take part in Comecon operations. They were represented in Comecon by commissions made up of members of the government and the business community. The commissions were empowered to sign various "framework" agreements with Comecon's Joint Commission on Cooperation.[1]
  • After 1957 Comecon allowed certain countries with communist or pro-Soviet governments to attend sessions as observers. In November 1986, delegations from Democratic Republic of Afghanistan, Ethiopia, Laos, Nicaragua, and the People's Democratic Republic of Yemen (South Yemen) attended the 42nd Council Session as observers.[1]

There were three kinds of relationships – besides the 10 full memberships – with the Comecon:

In the late 1980s there were ten full members: the Soviet Union, six East European countries, and three extraregional members. Geography, therefore, no longer united Comecon members. Wide variations in economic size and level of economic development also tended to generate divergent interests among the member countries. All these factors combined to give rise to significant differences in the member states' expectations about the benefits to be derived from membership in Comecon. Unity was provided instead by political and ideological factors. All Comecon members were "united by a commonality of fundamental class interests and the ideology of Marxism-Leninism" and had common approaches to economic ownership (state versus private) and management (plan versus market). In 1949 the ruling communist parties of the founding states were also linked internationally through the Cominform, from which Yugoslavia had been expelled the previous year. Although the Cominform was disbanded in 1956, interparty links continued to be strong among Comecon members, and all participated in periodic international conferences of communist parties. Comecon provided a mechanism through which its leading member, the Soviet Union, sought to foster economic links with and among its closest political and military allies. The East European members of Comecon were also militarily allied with the Soviet Union in the Warsaw Pact.[1]

[4] Collectively, the members of the Comecon did not display the necessary prerequisites for economic integration: their level of industrialization was low and uneven, with a single dominant member (the Soviet Union) producing 70% of the community national product.[1] In the late 1950s, a number of communist-ruled non-member countries — the









Observer status





February 1949:

January 1949:

Map of Comecon member states as of November 1986
  Formal members which did not participate
  Associates who actually participated


  • In AlbanianKëshilli i Ndihmës Ekonomike Reciproke, KNER
  • In BulgarianСъвет за икономическа взаимопомощ (Sǎvet za ikonomičeska vzaimopomošt), СИВ (SIV)
  • In CzechRada vzájemné hospodářské pomoci, RVHP
  • In EstonianVastastikkuse Majandusabi Nõukogu, VMN
  • In GermanRat für gegenseitige Wirtschaftshilfe, RGW (only East Germany was a member)
  • In HungarianKölcsönös Gazdasági Segítség Tanácsa, KGST
  • In LatvianSavstarpējās ekonomiskās palīdzības padome, SEPP
  • In LithuanianEkonominės Savitarpio Pagalbos Taryba, ESPT
  • In PolishRada Wzajemnej Pomocy Gospodarczej, RWPG
  • In PortugueseConselho para Assistência Económica Mútua, CAEM (Mozambique had a cooperation agreement)
  • In RomanianConsiliul de Ajutor Economic Reciproc, CAER
  • In RussianСове́т экономи́ческой взаимопо́мощи (Sovet ekonomicheskoy vzaimopomoshchi), СЭВ (SEV)
  • In SlovakRada vzájomnej hospodárskej pomoci, RVHP
  • In SpanishConsejo de Ayuda Mutua Económica, CAME (Cuba was a member)
  • In UkrainianРада Економічної Взаємодопомоги, РЕВ
  • In VietnameseHội đồng Tương trợ Kinh tế, HĐTTKT
An East German stamp celebrating the 40th anniversary of Comecon in 1989

Name in various languages


  • Name in various languages 1
  • Membership 2
  • Observer status 3
  • History 4
    • Foundation 4.1
    • Khrushchev era 4.2
    • Brezhnev era 4.3
    • Perestroika 4.4
  • Exchange 5
    • Oil transfers 5.1
    • Ineffective production 5.2
  • Structure 6
    • The Session 6.1
    • Executive Committee 6.2
    • Other entities 6.3
    • Affiliated agencies 6.4
  • Nature of operation 7
  • Comecon versus the European Economic Community 8
  • Prices, exchange rates, coordination of national plans 9
  • International relations within the Comecon 10
  • See also 11
  • Notes 12
  • References 13

According to some historians, Moscow was concerned about the Marshall Plan. Comecon was then meant to prevent countries in the Soviets’ sphere of influence from moving towards that of the Americans and South-East Asia.

The descriptive term was often applied to all multilateral activities involving members of the organization, rather than being restricted to the direct functions of Comecon and its organs.[2] This usage was sometimes extended as well to bilateral relations among members, because in the system of socialist international economic relations, multilateral accords — typically of a general nature — tended to be implemented through a set of more detailed, bilateral agreements.[1]


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