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Geschiedenis the collapse of communism reunification Presentation Transcript

  • 1. HI136 The History of Germany Lecture 18 The Collapse of Communism and Reunification
  • 2. The Collapse of Communism
    • May 1989: Hungary opens its border with Austria – hundreds of Germans on holiday in Hungary take the opportunity to flee to the West.
    • Mass exodus of East Germans begins, with frustrated escapees taking refuge in West German embassies in Prague & Warsaw.
    • 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.
    • October 1989: Gorbachev visits East Berlin – scuffles between police & protesters.
    • 9 October 1989: 70,000 protesters demonstrate in Leipzig.
    • 19 October: Honecker removed for ‘health reasons’ and replaced by Egon Krenz.
    • Planned staged opening of border crossings mishandled – 9-10 November 1989: thousands of Berliners flocked to the Wall & border guards let them through.
  • 3. Protests in Leipzig, 9 October 1989 East Germans scale the Berlin Wall, 9-10 November 1989
  • 4. Reasons for Collapse
    • Domestic Factors
      • Economic problems
      • Growing dissatisfaction with regime
      • Pressure for reform
    • International Factors
      • Reform within the Soviet Union
      • Liberalisation elsewhere in Eastern Bloc
      • Pressure from West Germany
  • 5. Economic Stagnation
    • The GDR heavily dependent on loans from West Germany: by 1981 it owed 10,000 million dollars.
    • Growth fell from 5.5% in 1984 to 2.1% in 1989.
    • 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.
    • Choice poor, quality low and prices high.
    • Pollution from the East German industry also having a destructive effect on the environment.
  • 6. Political Dissent
    • Growing dissatisfaction throughout the 1980s.
    • While other Communist states (eg. Poland & Hungary) embraced Gorbachev’s reforms, the Honecker regime resisted any liberalisation.
    • May 1989: Local election results expose the fraudulent nature of the system & the extent of popular dissatisfaction.
    • Estimated that at least 20% of people voted against the SED’s Party List.
    • Opening of Hungarian border a catalyst for eruption of existing discontent.
    • Existing opposition groups organise & come out in the open in the summer of 1989.
    • Indecision at the top of the SED & the lack of support from abroad (USSR) prevent a crack down.
  • 7. Reform in the USSR
    • 1985: Mikhail Gorbachev become General Secretary of the Russian Communist Party.
    • Perestroika (‘restructuring’): relaxed production quotas and introduced some free enterprise.
    • Glasnost (‘openness’): greater freedom of the press & transparency in government agencies.
    • 1988: Withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan & 50% reduction of military presence in Eastern Europe.
    • July 1989: End to the ‘Brezhnev Doctrine’.
  • 8. Reform in Eastern Europe
    • Poland:
      • 1980: Solidarity formed in Lenin shipyard in Gdansk.
      • 1988: Nation-wide strikes force regime into negotiations with the opposition.
      • March 1989: Sweeping constitutional reforms agreed.
      • June 1989: Communists rejected in first free election since 1939.
    • Hungary:
      • 1980s: Reformers within the Communist Party introduce limited economic liberalisation.
      • 1988: Elderly Janos Kadar removed from office & reformers seize the upper hand in the Politburo.
      • January 1989: Extensive political reforms agreed, including opening borders with the West.
  • 9. Reunification
    • The international situation favourable towards reunification.
    • Economic & political collapse meant that a separate East German state was no longer viable.
    • Helmut Kohl pushed for a plan by which the 5 East German L änder would be absorbed into the Federal Republic.
    • 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.
    • July 1990: Currency reform saw the Deutschmark being adopted in the East.
    • ‘ 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.
    • 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%.
  • 10. Source: Mary Fulbrook (ed.), Germany since 1800
  • 11. Germany since 1990
    • Political unification was completed relatively quickly & smoothly, but had lasting economic, social & cultural consequences.
    • Since reunification Germany has faced the same problems as other western societies: unemployment, an aging population, immigration etc.
    • But they have also had to deal with the consequences of their recent history.
    • 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.
    • Problems of forging a new ‘German’ identity – what is it to be German? How do the 2 Cold War states fit into this?
    • 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.
  • 12. Germany since 1990
    • These problems a result of or exacerbated by economic difficulties.
    • 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.
    • Germans from the former GDR wanted to be treated as equals, but were constantly reminded of the economic gap between East & West.
    • Few in the West had realised the true state of the East German economy & some resented having to pay higher taxes to help reconstruction.
    • 2005: unemployment at over 12% (the highest rate since the 1930s), with nearly 20% of the East German population out of work.
  • 13. Conclusion
    • Difficult to draw conclusions about the collapse of Communism and reunification due to their close proximity in time.
    • Why did the GDR collapse?
      • Pace of change in Eastern Europe
      • Gorbachev’s abandonment of the Honecker regime
      • Brought frustration of the regime into the open
      • Pressure from the West
      • Structural weaknesses in the GDR
    • End results of reunification remain to be seen, but it is clear that the process did not go as smoothly as some had anticipated.