The Council for Mutual Economic Assistance (Comecon) was established in January 1949 by the Soviet Union. It was an organization designed to economically unite all the communist states in the eastern bloc of Europe.

The founding member nations were the Soviet Union, Poland, Hungary, Romania, Czechoslovakia, and Bulgaria. Albania joined in February 1949, the German Democratic Republic in 1950, Yugoslavia in 1956, and Mongolia in 1962.

Several other communist states—such as China, North Korea, and North Vietnam—were official Comecon observers. Other countries gained membership or observer status in the Comecon. Council sessions were held regularly, and the leaders of member states usually met at least once each year.

Economic policies for all member states were debated and determined at the council sessions. These policies were then implemented through Comecon directives. After the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, the Comecon was formally dissolved in June of that year.

The initial charter of the organization stated three main goals to provide broader economic cooperation: “exchanging economic experience,” rendering “technical assistance,” and providing “mutual aid” to all member countries.

The original goal of the Comecon was to establish stronger ties and greater cooperation between the command economies of the Soviet Union and the Eastern-bloc states. The Comecon provided Stalin with yet another way to strengthen his control over the eastern European allies by linking their economic vitality, production, and trade directly to the Soviet Union.

Comecon map
Comecon map

The early years of the organization provided only modest results, such as bilateral trade agreements and sharing of technology between member states. Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev attempted to strengthen the organization by proposing that all member states join a centrally planned socialist commonwealth to be run from Moscow.

Smaller member states with less-developed economies and those relying more heavily on agriculture disagreed with this plan for a centralized commonwealth. However, upon his ouster from power in 1964, his attempted centralization of the Comecon and most of his other policies were abandoned.

Leonid Brezhnev and the Soviet leadership in the 1960s and 1970s recognized the need for economic acceleration and further industrial and technological development in the Soviet Union and Comecon member countries. The economic and technological gaps between countries in western Europe and those in the Comecon were becoming more evident.

Therefore, the Comecon adopted a new plan in 1971 called the Comprehensive Programme for the Further Extension and Improvement of Cooperation and the Development of Socialist Economic Integration. The basic goal of this program was to emphasize long-term planning and investments in industrial development of all member states.

The Comecon dissolved in 1991. Throughout its four decades of existence, the organization encountered many problems. The dependence of all member states on the economy of the Soviet Union created an unstable and impractical system. The planned economies of the member states did not rely on normal market forces and prices; therefore, the mechanism created a false and inflated economic situation.

When the countries traded and dealt with other states outside of the Comecon, the weakness of their economies became evident. The Comecon never completely fulfilled its objectives because of the difficulties presented when attempting to integrate multiple states’ economies.