Geschiedenis the collapse of communism reunification


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Geschiedenis the collapse of communism reunification

  1. 1. HI136 The History of Germany Lecture 18 The Collapse of Communism and Reunification
  2. 2. The Collapse of Communism <ul><li>May 1989: Hungary opens its border with Austria – hundreds of Germans on holiday in Hungary take the opportunity to flee to the West. </li></ul><ul><li>Mass exodus of East Germans begins, with frustrated escapees taking refuge in West German embassies in Prague & Warsaw. </li></ul><ul><li>Opposition groups begin to organise – new East German Social Democratic Party founded in July, calls for an end to the single party state in August, New Forum formed in September, Democratic Beginning in October. </li></ul><ul><li>October 1989: Gorbachev visits East Berlin – scuffles between police & protesters. </li></ul><ul><li>9 October 1989: 70,000 protesters demonstrate in Leipzig. </li></ul><ul><li>19 October: Honecker removed for ‘health reasons’ and replaced by Egon Krenz. </li></ul><ul><li>Planned staged opening of border crossings mishandled – 9-10 November 1989: thousands of Berliners flocked to the Wall & border guards let them through. </li></ul>
  3. 3. Protests in Leipzig, 9 October 1989 East Germans scale the Berlin Wall, 9-10 November 1989
  4. 4. Reasons for Collapse <ul><li>Domestic Factors </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Economic problems </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Growing dissatisfaction with regime </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Pressure for reform </li></ul></ul><ul><li>International Factors </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Reform within the Soviet Union </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Liberalisation elsewhere in Eastern Bloc </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Pressure from West Germany </li></ul></ul>
  5. 5. Economic Stagnation <ul><li>The GDR heavily dependent on loans from West Germany: by 1981 it owed 10,000 million dollars. </li></ul><ul><li>Growth fell from 5.5% in 1984 to 2.1% in 1989. </li></ul><ul><li>The East German economy one of the strongest in the Soviet Bloc, but still unable to provide the standard of living enjoyed in the West. </li></ul><ul><li>Choice poor, quality low and prices high. </li></ul><ul><li>Pollution from the East German industry also having a destructive effect on the environment. </li></ul>
  6. 6. Political Dissent <ul><li>Growing dissatisfaction throughout the 1980s. </li></ul><ul><li>While other Communist states (eg. Poland & Hungary) embraced Gorbachev’s reforms, the Honecker regime resisted any liberalisation. </li></ul><ul><li>May 1989: Local election results expose the fraudulent nature of the system & the extent of popular dissatisfaction. </li></ul><ul><li>Estimated that at least 20% of people voted against the SED’s Party List. </li></ul><ul><li>Opening of Hungarian border a catalyst for eruption of existing discontent. </li></ul><ul><li>Existing opposition groups organise & come out in the open in the summer of 1989. </li></ul><ul><li>Indecision at the top of the SED & the lack of support from abroad (USSR) prevent a crack down. </li></ul>
  7. 7. Reform in the USSR <ul><li>1985: Mikhail Gorbachev become General Secretary of the Russian Communist Party. </li></ul><ul><li>Perestroika (‘restructuring’): relaxed production quotas and introduced some free enterprise. </li></ul><ul><li>Glasnost (‘openness’): greater freedom of the press & transparency in government agencies. </li></ul><ul><li>1988: Withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan & 50% reduction of military presence in Eastern Europe. </li></ul><ul><li>July 1989: End to the ‘Brezhnev Doctrine’. </li></ul>
  8. 8. Reform in Eastern Europe <ul><li>Poland: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>1980: Solidarity formed in Lenin shipyard in Gdansk. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>1988: Nation-wide strikes force regime into negotiations with the opposition. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>March 1989: Sweeping constitutional reforms agreed. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>June 1989: Communists rejected in first free election since 1939. </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Hungary: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>1980s: Reformers within the Communist Party introduce limited economic liberalisation. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>1988: Elderly Janos Kadar removed from office & reformers seize the upper hand in the Politburo. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>January 1989: Extensive political reforms agreed, including opening borders with the West. </li></ul></ul>
  9. 9. Reunification <ul><li>The international situation favourable towards reunification. </li></ul><ul><li>Economic & political collapse meant that a separate East German state was no longer viable. </li></ul><ul><li>Helmut Kohl pushed for a plan by which the 5 East German L änder would be absorbed into the Federal Republic. </li></ul><ul><li>March 1990: Elections in the GDR – the CDU dominated Alliance for Germany won the most seats & formed a Grand Coalition with the Social Democrats & Liberals. </li></ul><ul><li>July 1990: Currency reform saw the Deutschmark being adopted in the East. </li></ul><ul><li>‘ Two plus Four’ negotiations between the former wartime allies & the German states led to the USA, USSR, Britain & France renouncing their rights over Germany at midnight on 1-2 October 1990. </li></ul><ul><li>2 December 1990: First all-German elections since 1933 took place – the CDU won 43.8% of the vote, the SPD 33.5% & the FDP 11%. </li></ul>
  10. 10. Source: Mary Fulbrook (ed.), Germany since 1800
  11. 11. Germany since 1990 <ul><li>Political unification was completed relatively quickly & smoothly, but had lasting economic, social & cultural consequences. </li></ul><ul><li>Since reunification Germany has faced the same problems as other western societies: unemployment, an aging population, immigration etc. </li></ul><ul><li>But they have also had to deal with the consequences of their recent history. </li></ul><ul><li>1992: Former East German border guards tried for manslaughter, former East German leaders charged with various crimes & the Stasi’s files were opened to the public. </li></ul><ul><li>Problems of forging a new ‘German’ identity – what is it to be German? How do the 2 Cold War states fit into this? </li></ul><ul><li>Attacks on foreign workers & asylum seekers, together with the success of extreme right-wing parties in local elections in the 1990s caused some excitement in the international media, but no evidence that these reflect a widespread resurgence of nationalism – rather a result of the slow pace of economic change in the East. </li></ul>
  12. 12. Germany since 1990 <ul><li>These problems a result of or exacerbated by economic difficulties. </li></ul><ul><li>East Germans were ill equipped to survive in the competitive atmosphere of West German capitalism – poorly trained, lacking an entrepreneurial middle class & insulated from unemployment etc. for 60 years they struggled to cope with changing circumstances. </li></ul><ul><li>Germans from the former GDR wanted to be treated as equals, but were constantly reminded of the economic gap between East & West. </li></ul><ul><li>Few in the West had realised the true state of the East German economy & some resented having to pay higher taxes to help reconstruction. </li></ul><ul><li>2005: unemployment at over 12% (the highest rate since the 1930s), with nearly 20% of the East German population out of work. </li></ul>
  13. 13. Conclusion <ul><li>Difficult to draw conclusions about the collapse of Communism and reunification due to their close proximity in time. </li></ul><ul><li>Why did the GDR collapse? </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Pace of change in Eastern Europe </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Gorbachev’s abandonment of the Honecker regime </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Brought frustration of the regime into the open </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Pressure from the West </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Structural weaknesses in the GDR </li></ul></ul><ul><li>End results of reunification remain to be seen, but it is clear that the process did not go as smoothly as some had anticipated. </li></ul>