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.

Defections violating emigration restrictions of the Eastern Bloc countries
Defector Profession/
Country Year Notes
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
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