In 2000, 11 years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, Rice University installed a section of the former wall as a permanent part of the Baker Institute. Speaking at the opening ceremony for this monument, Rice University President Malcolm Gillis noted that the remnants of the Berlin Wall serve to remind us that no structure is capable of confining "the human mind and the human spirit in its….
A medieval historian by training, Bronisław Geremek had emerged by the 1980s as one of the Solidarity movement’s leading strategists. At the Round Table talks between Solidarity and the Communist leadership and in the critical months that followed, he was arguably Lech Wałęsa’s most influential advisor. In this interview, published in 1990, a young Solidarity-affiliated journalist asks….
The Czechoslovak Communist Party faced some unpleasant realities on November 28. The previous day's general strike had seriously weakened its hand. That day's negotiations with opposition leader Civic Forum forced it to accept several devastating conditions, including the removal of its constitutionally-guaranteed domination of state and society. Party members had not yet resigned themselves to….
Several of the previous documents (for example doc. 492, 508 and 510) have dealt with the Czechoslovak Communist Party's attempts to control public opinion in the early days of the Velvet Revolution. The party's strategy for the first week or so consisted of isolating the opposition and using ideological arguments to convince the general public of the harmful consequences of the protesters'….
Teleprint from Jozef Lenart, Secretary of CC CPCz, to Regional Committees and Municipal Commitees in Prague and Bratislava
The battle for public opinion occupied both government and opposition at the beginning of the Velvet Revolution. In this November 23 communique, Central Committee member Jozef Lenart reported on the party's measures to sway the public against the opposition. His argument echoed the conservative leadership's refusal to compromise with the protesters, maintaining instead that local communists….
Teleprint from the Presidium of the CC CPCz to the Secretaries of Regional Committees of the CPCz and CPS and the Party Municipal Committees in Prague and Bratislava
Czechoslovak communist leaders reacted to the first protests after November 17 with the same uncompromising attitude towards opposition they had held for twenty years. This November 21 Central Committee directive, calling on local communists to create a uniform front against the protests, illustrates some of the leadership's initial arguments and strategies. Denying that the public outcry….
Letter from the Civic Forum to US President George Bush and USSR General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev
On November 21, Civic Forum representatives addressed the throngs of demonstrators on Wenceslas Square for the first time; this public "meeting" would soon became a daily ritual. Afterwards, Forum members wrote this letter to the U.S. and Soviet leaders, speaking as the legitimate representatives of those "hundreds of thousands" on the Square. The letter concerns one of the touchiest subjects….
Teleprint from CC CPCz to First Secretary CC CPS and Secretaries of Regional and District Committees
The Velvet Revolution was named for the remarkably non-violent end to communism in Czechoslovakia. Yet as Milos Jakes and his conservative government scrambled to respond to the aftermath of November 17, they were considering all options. In this November 19 directive to local party committee leaders, Jakes demonstrated his belief that the communists could maintain power with force if….
Minutes No. 64 from an Expanded Meeting of the PZPR CC [Central Committee of the Communist Party] Secretariat, June 5, 1989
The following are excerpts from a meeting of the leadership of Poland’s communist party held the day after the June 4, 1989 elections, when the magnitude of the party’s electoral defeat was just becoming clear. Particularly embarrassing was the fate of the 35 candidates on the so-called “national list,” well-known dignitaries who were running unopposed. Almost all were simply crossed….
Professor Dr. Heinz Kamnitzer was the head of the East German writers group, PEN. In response to the counter-demonstration at the 1988 Liebknecht-Luxemburg parade, Kamnitzer wrote this op-ed essay, entitled “Remembering the Dead” as a way of distancing the East German Communist Party (SED) from the actions of the demonstrators. In this newspaper article, Kamnitzer accuses the demonstrators….
In January 1988, dissidents in East Germany mounted a counter-demonstration during the annual parade honoring the lives of Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Liebknecht. Luxemburg and Liebknecht were both killed by right-wing Freikorps vigilantes during the 1919 January revolution. The words that the protesters chose to display came from this 1918 essay written by Rosa Luxemburg critiquing Lenin….
Following the first congress of Solidarity held in September 1981 in which Solidarity leaders adopted "An Appeal to the Peoples of Eastern Europe," Leonid Brezhnev (first party secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union [CPSU]) secretly called Stanislaw Kania (first party secretary of the Communist Party in Poland [PZPR]) to discuss the ramifications of both the congress and the….
Adam Michnik is among the most influential figures in Poland. Part of the Communist Party in Poland in the 1960s, he was persecuted for his Jewish origins in 1968, and subsequently became part of the dissident movement for political change. In 1976, he was among the founding members of the Committee for the Defense of Workers (Komitet Obrony Robotników), which focused on providing….
In the summer of 1980, strikes erupted among workers in Poland, making Communist leaders throughout the Soviet bloc uneasy. The Central Committee of the Communist Party in the Soviet Union met in October 1980 to discuss and endorse a report compiled by some of its members about a forthcoming visit of two Polish officials, Stanislaw Kania and Josef Pinkowski. In their discussions, they agreed….
In September 1988, Lech Walesa, leader of Poland's Solidarity Movement and later president of Poland following the collapse of communism (1990-1995), wrote this document a few months prior to the historic Roundtable Talks between party and state officials and the opposition that eventually took place in February to April 1989. Walesa presented what the opposition viewed as the most important….
In the summer of 1989, Slovak dissidents decided to commemorate the anniversary of the Warsaw Pact invasion by publicly laying flowers at various locations in Slovakia where citizens had been killed in 1968. They announced their plans in a letter to the Slovak government dated August 4, 1989. Copies of the letter were produced in samizdat (clandestine press) and secretly distributed throughout….
This text was written by Cardinal Stefan Wyszyński in 1956 and used that year for a ceremony at the Marian shrine of Jasna Góra in the town of Częstochowa. Promoted heavily by the Polish Episcopate, the pledge became a mainstay of organized pilgrimages and remains popular to this day. Częstochowa was the site of a famous battle in 1655, when an invading Swedish (Protestant) army besieged….
President George H. W. Bush visited Poland and Hungary in July 1989 after June elections in which Solidarity candidates won 160 of the 161 seats in the Sejm that were available to them and 92 of the 100 seats of the Polish Senate. In addition, many leaders of the Communist Party failed to secure enough votes to be elected to the parliament they had controlled for four decades. In the….