- Vladimir Tismaneanu: Is there a moment that stands out most about 1989?
- Vladimir Tismaneanu: What forces led to change in Eastern Europe?
- Padraic Kenney: Is there one moment that stands out for you personally?
- Padraic Kenney: One crucial moment of 1989?
- Maria Bucur: Is there one moment that stands out in your experience?
- Maria Bucur: What are the crucial moments of 1989?
- Maria Bucur: How did Romanians respond in the days that followed?
- Padraic Kenney: What led to the Round Table Talks?
- Gale Stokes: What do you think led to the unrest in East Germany?
- Gale Stokes: What moment stands out for you in the events of 1989?
- Gale Stokes: Why didn’t authoritarian states succeed?
- Gale Stokes: How did East Europeans react to the arrival of pluralism?
- Gale Stokes: What images of 1989 stick in your mind?
- Gale Stokes: Why did things go so badly in Yugoslavia?
Vladimir Tismaneanu: What forces led to change in Eastern Europe?
Basically the spring of 1989 and the pact between the enlightened part of the party apparatus, clearly stimulated, encouraged, prompted, you name it, by Gorbachev’s reforms. Clearly prompted by a Soviet foreign minister’s trip to Warsaw. Edvard Shevardnadze visited Warsaw and actually talked to some of the critical intellectuals, that something new has to be tested. On the one hand therefore let’s say the reform-oriented group who’s in the party bureaucracy, the Party Nomenklatura as we call it. On the other hand the moderate forces within the opposition.
So I think that the decision to engage in the Roundtable negotiations between Solidarity and the people around Solidarity, lay Catholic intellectuals like the person who became the prime minister of Poland, Tadeusz Mazowiecki, and a group of people headed by the then party leader Meicczyslaw Rakowski on the side of the reformers within the communist party led to the agreement to have free and fair elections.
I think the communists totally miscalculated. They did not expect to suffer the catastrophic defeat they suffered. Nobody expected that Solidarity was going to get basically, I don’t remember exactly, 98 out of 100 seats in the Polish Senate. A huge, overwhelming presence. And therefore the first non-communist and basically anti-communist government in the Soviet Bloc was created in the spring of 1989.
At the beginning it was Nikita Khrushchev with his secret speech in which he denounced Stalin in February 1956. But better said for Eastern Europe at the beginning was Poland.