In addition, the fall in oil prices in 1986 hit the raw material supplier the Soviet Union hard. For the new leader of the Communist bloc, support for the aging and reform-minded communist leaders in Eastern and Central Europe gradually became both an economic and a political burden.
Many, both in the Soviet Union, Eastern Europe and in the rest of the world, had strong hopes and high expectations for Gorbachev. With the keywords glasnost and perestroika, he spearheaded comprehensive reforms. With glasnost – greater freedom of opinion, greater openness and more liberal attitude towards dissidents – and perestroika – rebuilding the economic system and introducing market economic elements – Gorbachev wanted to make the Soviet government better able to meet people’s needs and desires.
Gorbachev called for disarmament between the blocs and a revival of an old idea of a common European security system under the name of the Common European House. This even led a hawk like the British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher to exclaim that “… that man I can do business with!” When Moscow finally got rid of (formally from July 1989) the old “Brezhnev Doctrine” – in which the Soviet Union had claimed the right to intervene militarily where socialism was threatened – new relations between the communist states were open.
It was no longer the case that big brother in the east would come to the shaky communist government to come to the rescue by force of arms. The people of the communist fraternal countries and reform-minded leaders should now be able to decide the direction of society themselves without fear that big brother larval feet would crush their future plans, as they had done in East Berlin in 1953, in Hungary in 1956 and in Czechoslovakia in 1968. the personal chemistry between Gorbachev and the President of the United States (first Reagan, then Bush sr.) as well as the West German Chancellor Helmut Kohl to be very good.
The political changes in Moscow opened up for events and processes that would sweep across Eastern Europe during 1989. Only in Romania did an armed uprising break out and the head of state Nicolae Ceausescu and his wife Elena were executed. Otherwise, the communist regimes fell without great loss of life.
4: Two mass phenomena in the GDR
In the GDR, two parallel phenomena arose in the late summer and autumn of 1989 , both of which reached their absolute climax with the fall of the Berlin Wall on 9 November and contributed to the collapse of the Communist regime:
Mass flight of GDR citizens to the West made possible by the Hungarians’ hole in the Iron Curtain (May 1989). Hungary was a favorite holiday destination for East Germans who had to have a visa to visit most other countries also within the Eastern bloc. After the Hungarians legalized free travel for all GDR citizens across Hungarian borders in September, one could see East German “bathing tourists” in free flow west.
“Escape from the Republic” – the GDR authorities’ serious accusation against those who had previously fled the GDR – had now become entirely possible for many. The land was leaking like a sieve, and the tendencies towards dissolution were becoming increasingly clear. At the same time, many East Germans entered West German embassies (in Prague and Budapest). From here they were given free rent to West Germany, a country located in Europe according to itypeauto.com. The world watched in amazement as thousands of East Germans were transported in transit trains from Eastern European capitals through East German territory to the Federal Republic. The dam was about to burst.
A wave of escalating mass demonstrations against the regime that spread from Leipzig to a number of other German cities. Initially, the protesters demanded that Erich Honecker resign and a more democratic political system. And they did it under slogans like “Wir sind das Volk” (we are the people) and “Wir bleiben hier” (we stay here). Within a few weeks, these political demands changed in content to national demands under the slogans “Wir sind ein Volk” (we are one people) and “Deutschland einig Vaterland” (Germany one fatherland).
The regime’s attempt to bring the people together to have Egon Krenz replace Erich Honecker as party and state leader came too late and offered no political reforms. Krenz had long been intended as Crown Prince of the GDR. And the protesters’ goal was no longer reforms and democratization of the GDR, but a reunification of East and West Germany.
The political changes opened up for events and processes that eventually could no longer be controlled. Earlier in the 1980s, peace, environmental, church, civil rights and women’s groups in the GDR had cautiously started an opposition; these now got a push forward. The GDR regime began to relax its entry and exit rules, but too late. In the midst of it all, the GDR authorities gathered for a last-ditch effort when, in October 1989, they celebrated the GDR state’s 40 years as its own state.
Just days later, Egon Krenz took over from Erich Honecker as party and state leader – some call the shift a coup. He immediately proclaimed ” die Wende ” to the people – the rulers should from now on behave quite differently listening to people’s needs, it was said. But to no use; the rulers had minimal legitimacy in the population.