Revolutions in 1989

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As revolutions of 1989 , revolutions, peaceful revolutions, revolutions autumn, fall of nations or fall of communism the changes in Central and Eastern Europe are called, which from 1989 to the abolition of the local communist led systems.

One of the triggers, along with glasnost and perestroika in the USSR , was the so-called Sinatra Doctrine by Mikhail Gorbachev , which for the first time allowed the other Eastern Bloc countries to go their own way. After a change of government in the People's Republic of Poland , the People's Republic of Hungary dismantled the border fences with Austria from May 2, 1989 , GDR citizens occupied the Prague embassy in the summer and the Berlin Wall fell on November 9, the following followed, among others Velvet Revolution in Czechoslovakia. In the period that followed, the collapse of the Soviet Union accelerated, and many states achieved independence.

The process is often compared to the European Spring of Nations , the revolutions of 1848 that followed the French February revolution of 1848 .

Peaceful revolutions

Bratislava monument candle manifestation

The revolutions of 1989 are also known as the "Peaceful Revolution (s)". There were only a few acts of violence (e.g. the shooting of the Romanian dictator and his wife after a brief trial).

In the Eastern Bloc of the 1970s small, irregular had since the middle of civil rights movements formed with courage and awareness of democracy against the totalitarian occurred orientation of companies. Shortly after taking office as general secretary of the CPSU and thus becoming the first man in the state, Gorbachev relaxed the framework conditions: he called (according to his own account) at the funeral ceremonies for his predecessor Chernenko in March 1985, and made it clear to them that he was leaving immediately each country was responsible for its own path (and the resulting consequences). This new doctrine came to be known as the " Sinatra Doctrine "; this ended the so-called Brezhnev Doctrine , which Brezhnev had promulgated in 1968 after the crackdown on the Prague Spring to justify this invasion. Since February 1986 Gorbachev practiced glasnost and perestroika . Up until 1989 there were tendencies in some member states to break away from the Eastern bloc; on the other hand, the government of the GDR tried unsuccessfully to hold him together.

In 1988/1989 civil movements developed which aggressively demanded civil and human rights. Their means were often civil disobedience or small short-term symbolic actions. The Candle Manifestation held on March 25, 1988 in Bratislava can be seen as a starting point .

From autumn and winter 1989 the communist leaderships in all Eastern Bloc countries lost their monopoly of power. The main factors for the collapse of the Eastern Bloc are the economic problems caused by the state economy , the internal problems caused by the party dictatorship and external economic problems caused by the policy of isolation.

On May 2, 1989, Hungary was the first country to start dismantling border installations along the Iron Curtain . The symbolic opening of a border fence on June 27, 1989 by Foreign Ministers Alois Mock and Gyula Horn near Sopron is considered the first “official” opening of the Iron Curtain. In spite of the symbolic dismantling of the fence, the Hungarians wanted to prevent the formation of a green border by intensifying the guarding of the border or to solve the technical problem of securing their western border in a different way.

The opening of a border gate between Austria and Hungary at the Pan-European Picnic on August 19, 1989 set off a chain reaction, at the end of which the Eastern Bloc collapsed. Around 700 East Germans crossed the border from Hungary to Austria. It was the largest movement of refugees from East Germany since the Berlin Wall was built . The patrons of the picnic were Otto von Habsburg and the Hungarian Minister of State Imre Pozsgay . They saw the planned picnic as an opportunity to test Gorbachev's reaction to the opening of the border at the Iron Curtain. In particular, it was tested whether Moscow would order the Soviet troops stationed in Hungary to intervene. Erich Honecker dictated to the Daily Mirror on August 19, 1989, “Habsburg distributed leaflets far into Poland, on which East German vacationers were invited to a picnic. When they came to the picnic, they were given presents, food and German marks, and then they were persuaded to come to the West. "

With the mass exodus at the Pan-European Picnic, the hesitant behavior of the SED leadership and the failure of the Soviet Union to intervene, the dams then broke. Now tens of thousands of East Germans set out for Hungary, which was no longer ready to keep its borders completely sealed. The leadership of the GDR in East Berlin did not dare to completely lock the borders of their own country.

The increasing pressure from GDR citizens willing to flee resulted in the Hungarian authorities not carrying out any controls on the western border with Austria on the night of September 10th to 11th, 1989, resulting in a mass exodus of GDR citizens who lived near the Border remained in camps, allowed to Austria. Increasingly, refugees then tried to get to the West via embassies of the Federal Republic in Budapest, Prague and Warsaw. By the time the Berlin Wall fell, around 50,000 people left the GDR for the Federal Republic of Germany.

In Poland, the Sejm elected Tadeusz Mazowiecki as Prime Minister on August 24, 1989 . Hungary's head of state, Mátyás Szűrös , proclaimed the Republic of Hungary as a democratic and parliamentary republic on October 23, 1989 - the anniversary of the Hungarian people's uprising .

The opening of the Berlin Wall on November 9, 1989 and the inner-German border in the days that followed was an important milestone in the fall of the Iron Curtain; the former is also a symbol of the end of the Cold War .

The communist head of state of Bulgaria, Todor Zhivkov , was overthrown on November 10, 1989 .

The President of Czechoslovakia (ČSSR) Gustáv Husák came under pressure from the Velvet Revolution from mid-November 1989; on December 10, 1989, he appointed a new government under Marián Čalfa , in which the Communist Party no longer had a majority, and resigned. The ČSSR dismantled its border fortifications in December 1989.

The revolution in Romania in December 1989 and the upheavals in the Baltic States , where three independent states Estonia , Latvia and Lithuania emerged from the Soviet Union, did not go entirely without bloodshed.

In all of these countries, the socialist state system was abolished and changed according to the pattern of Western democracy and market economy in a transformation of society as a whole . Eleven months after the fall of the Berlin Wall, the GDR joined the Federal Republic ( reunification on October 3, 1990).

The political upheavals in the eight states mentioned had an impact on the Soviet Union; this disintegrated between March 1990 and December 1991.


  • People's Republic of Poland : Round table from February 6th to April 5th 1989, April 17th admission of “ Solidarność ”, June 4th semi-free summer elections (65% of the seats reserved for the Polish United Workers' Party (PVAP) and the other pro-communist parties ), August 24th new government under the Catholic publicist Tadeusz Mazowiecki . These events in Poland, supported by Gorbachev, were a preliminary stage to the fall of the Berlin Wall in Germany and contributed to the decline of socialism in Eastern Europe.
Overturned Lenin monument in Romania


Web links

Individual evidence

  1. Cf. u. a. Sven Felix Kellerhoff : The real causes for the fall of the Soviet Union , in: Die Welt from May 16, 2016.
  2. ^ Summer of departure The "Iron Curtain" falls., photo A cut that changed the world.
  3. Cf. Miklós Németh in an interview with Peter Bognar Border opening in 1989: “There was no protest from Moscow” in Die Presse on August 18, 2014.
  4. Cf. u. a. Dieter Szorger, Pia Bayer (Red.), Evelyn Fertl (Red.): Burgenland and the fall of the Iron Curtain. Accompanying volume for the exhibition . Scientific papers from Burgenland, Volume 132, ZDB -ID 975252-3 . Office of the Burgenland Provincial Government - Department 7 - State Museum, Eisenstadt 2009, ISBN 978-3-85405-175-6 . - Full text online (PDF; 3.9 MB) ; Bettina Hartmann 25 Years of the Pan-European Picnic: Once in Hungary - and never back in the Stuttgarter Nachrichten on August 19, 2014.
  5. ^ Manfred Görtemaker : History of the Federal Republic of Germany. From the foundation to the present . CH Beck, Munich 1999, p. 725.
  6. See Otmar Lahodynsky: Pan-European Picnic: The Dress Rehearsal for the Fall of the Wall in Profile from August 9, 2014.
  7. See Thomas Roser: GDR mass flight: A picnic turns the world off its hinges in Die Presse on August 16, 2018.
  8. Cf. “August 19, 1989 was a test by Gorbachev” in FAZ from August 19, 2009.
  9. See Michael Frank "Pan-European Picnic - With the Picnic Basket into Freedom" in SZ from May 17, 2010.
  10. See / Stefan Locke September 30, 2014: Naked fear and excessive hope .
  11. When the border opened in September 1989, accessed by Andreas Oplatka on September 8, 2010.