- What moment stands out for you in the events of 1989?
- What do you think led to the unrest in East Germany?
- What is the larger context within which you interpret the events of 1989?
- Why didn’t authoritarian states succeed?
- How did East Europeans react to the arrival of pluralism?
- Why did the revolutions of 1989 happen so fast?
- What images of 1989 stick in your mind?
- Why did things go so badly in Yugoslavia?
What do you think led to the unrest in East Germany?
Looking back on it, despite the feeling among at least a few specialists that there was a new pluralism emerging in Eastern Europe, I think there was an enormous amount of skepticism in official circles that Gorbachev was the real deal, that change could take place, because for so long it had been stuck in concrete, so to speak, and very difficult to imagine. Now, who could imagine in 1985 that Slovakia would be an independent country and member of the European Union, which of course didn’t even exist in 1985? But nevertheless, who could imagine that? No, it was extremely difficult to imagine, so that those events in Poland were discounted, I think. Maybe they were discounted in Hungary too, but certainly the East Germans didn’t discount them, because it meant that something was threatening the existence of that regime. And, there was a great reaction among East Europeans—East Germans, I should say, piling into the embassy in Prague and other places, and sneaking out through—or not sneaking out—actually going out through Hungary. That was very important in leading the unrest in East Germany, of course, too.
How to Cite
Gale Stokes, interview, "What do you think led to the unrest in East Germany?" Making the History of 1989, Item #705, http://chnm.gmu.edu/1989/items/show/705 (accessed March 23 2017, 4:12 am).