Revolutions of 1989

West and East Germans at the Brandenburg Gate in 1989.jpg
French Revolution
The Revolutions of 1989 formed part of a revolutionary wave in the late 1980s and early 1990s that resulted in the end of communist rule in Central and Eastern Europe and beyond. The period is sometimes called the Autumn of Nations, a play on the term "Spring of Nations" that is sometimes used to describe the Revolutions of 1848.

The events of the full-blown revolution began in Poland in 1989 and continued in Hungary, East Germany, Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia and Romania. One feature common to most of these developments was the extensive use of campaigns of civil resistance, demonstrating popular opposition to the continuation of one-party rule and contributing to the pressure for change. Romania was the only Eastern Bloc country whose people overthrew its Communist regime violently. Protests in Tiananmen Square (April to June 1989) failed to stimulate major political changes in China, but influential images of courageous defiance during that protest helped to precipitate events in other parts of the globe. On 4 June 1989 the trade union Solidarity won an overwhelming victory in a partially free election in Poland, leading to the peaceful fall of Communism in that country in the summer of 1989. Hungary began (June 1989) dismantling its section of the physical Iron Curtain, leading to a exodus of East Germans through Hungary, which destabilised East Germany. This led to mass demonstrations in cities such as Leipzig and subsequently to the fall of the Berlin Wall in November 1989, which served as the symbolic gateway to German reunification in 1990.

The Soviet Union dissolved in December 1991, resulting in 11 new countries (Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Ukraine and Uzbekistan) which had declared their independence from the Soviet Union in the course of the year, while the Baltic states (Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania) regained their independence. The rest of the Soviet Union, which constituted the bulk of the area, became the Russian Federation in December 1991. Albania and Yugoslavia abandoned Communism between 1990 and 1992. By 1992, Yugoslavia had split into five successor states: Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Macedonia, Slovenia and the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, which was later renamed Serbia and Montenegro in 2003 and eventually split into two states, Serbia and Montenegro, in 2006. Serbia was then further split with the breakaway of the partially recognised state of Kosovo in 2008. Czechoslovakia dissolved three years after the end of Communist rule, splitting peacefully into the Czech Republic and Slovakia in 1992. The impact of these events made itself felt in several Socialist countries. Communism was abandoned in countries such as Cambodia (1991), Ethiopia (1990), Mongolia (which in 1990 democratically re-elected a Communist government that ran the country until 1996) and South Yemen (1990).

During the adoption of varying forms of market economy, there was a general decline in living standards, that for many former communist countries continues to this day. Political reforms were varied, but in only four countries were Communist parties able to retain a monopoly on power: China, Cuba, Laos and Vietnam (North Korea went through a constitutional reform in 2009 that made it nominally no longer communist but still de facto organised on Stalinist lines). Many Communist and Socialist organisations in the West turned their guiding principles over to social democracy. Communist parties in Italy and San Marino suffered, and the reformation of the Italian political class took place in the early 1990s. (In South America, however, the Pink tide had begun, starting with Venezuela in 1999 and sweeping though the early 2000s.) The European political landscape changed drastically, with several former Eastern Bloc countries joining NATO and the European Union, resulting in stronger economic and social integration with Western Europe and the United States.

Socialism had been gaining momentum among working class citizens of the world since the 19th century. These culminated in the early 20th century, when several states and colonies formed their own communist parties. Many of the countries involved had hierarchical structures with monarchic governments and aristocratic social structures with an established nobility. Socialism was undesirable within the circles of the ruling classes (which had begun to include industrial business leaders) in the late 19th/early 20th century states; as such, communism was repressed. Its champions suffered persecution while people were discouraged from adopting it. This had been the practice even in states which identified as exercising a multi-party system.

The Russian Revolution of 1917 saw the first communist state in the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR), when the Bolsheviks overthrew the Romanov dynasty.

This page was last edited on 14 March 2018, at 20:52.
Reference: under CC BY-SA license.

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