Soon after the formation of the Soviet Union, emigration restrictions were put in place to keep citizens from leaving the various countries of the Soviet Socialist Republics, though some defections still occurred. During and after World War II, similar restrictions were put in place in non-Soviet countries of the Eastern Bloc, which consisted of the Communist states of Central and Eastern Europe (except Communist Yugoslavia) and the People's Republic of Mongolia.
Until 1952, however, the Inner German border between East Germany and West Germany could be easily crossed in most places. Accordingly, before 1961, most of that east–west flow took place between East and West Germany, with over 3.5 million East Germans emigrating to West Germany before 1961. On August 13, 1961, a barbed-wire barrier, which would become the Berlin Wall separating East and West Berlin, was erected by East Germany.
Although international movement was, for the most part, strictly controlled, there was a steady loss through escapees who were able to use ingenious methods to evade frontier security. Numerous notable Eastern Bloc citizens defected to non-Eastern Bloc countries.
The following list of Eastern Bloc defectors contains notable defectors from East Germany, the Soviet Union, Poland, Bulgaria, Romania, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, and Albania before those countries' conversions from Communist states in the early 1990s.
|Tünde Fejér||ballet||Hungary||1955||Defected to France|
|Mihály Kőszegi||athlete||Hungary||1956||Defected during 1956 Summer Olympics, father of Major League Baseball shortstop Gregory Koszegi|
|V. M. Kukharenko||actor||Ukraine||1958||Defected to West Germany via Poland and Czechoslovakia|
|Bács Völgyi||actor||Hungary||1959||Defected to United States; later moved to Canada|
|Amalie Pfaffner||author||Bulgaria||1960||Defected to West Germany after a ban on her works which was claimed to have a connection to the Novostran Anti-Communist Uprising that occured the previous year; later settled in Othostria in 1975|
|Kiều Mẫn Hoàng||North Vietnamese Army||North Vietnam||1967||Defected to Australia via Thailand|
|Vespasian Duță||painter||Romania||1968||Defected to West Germany|
|Zu Qiangsheng||People's Liberation Army Ground Force||China||1969||Defected to Japan; served in French Foreign Legion after defecting|
|Eva Carol Raupach||actress||East Germany||1969||Defected to West Germany|
|Avtonom Derevyanko||ballet||Russia||1969||Defected on tour in Australia. Co-founder of New Australian Ballet.|
|Lőrinc Szatmári||athlete||Hungary||1959||Defected while training for the 1960 Winter Olympics.|
|Zoya Rodionova||ballet||Russia||1970||Defected on tour in Ireland; settled in Canada|
|Marek Rüütel||Soviet Navy||Estonia||1970||Abandoned a Soviet frigate in international waters; settled in New Zealand|
|Mieczysław Fiedorowicz and Jadwiga Fiedorowicz||painter / photographer||Poland||1971||Fled to Canada after ban on Mieczysław's work. Parents of Jacek Fiedorowicz.|
|Liana Dümmler||ballet||East Germany||1972||Fled to Austria after criticizing the government; settled in West Germany|
|Kolë Thaçi||UN representative||Albania||1974||Defected to Italy; claimed to have been involved in the engineering of Eastern Bloc influence in the United Nations, also claimed to behind the Albanian-led group that helped pass U.N. General Assembly Resolution 2758|
|Ülar Väljas||actor||Estonia||1977||Defected while performing at the Stratford Festival in Stratford, Ontario, Canada. Settled in Toronto; father of Veronica Valjas|
|Ehren Ohlendorf||translator||East Germany||1977||Defected to West Germany|
|Joosep Lõhmus||illustrator||Estonia||1979||Defected to Finland; settled in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada|
|Adriano Juan Renteria||singer||Nicaragua||1985||Defected during a singing competition in Barcelona; settled in Uruguay|