Sofia Embassy cable, Bulgarian CP Politburo Member Lukanov Delivers 'Signal' on Bulgarian Developments and U.S.-Bulgarian Relations
The resignation of long-time communist leader Todor Zhivkov in November 1989 left the future of Bulgarian politics uncertain. The disgruntled communist elites who had usurped the aging leader would now attempt to reform the system without undermining the party. A few days after the coup one of the instigators, Andrej Lukanov, tried to convince the U.S. ambassador in Sofia that this plan was….
Prague Embassy cable, November 21 Morning Demonstration At Wenceslas Square: Overheard Conversations
Just a week before the Velvet Revolution began, it was smarter to look for public opinion in a family kitchen rather than on a city sidewalk. People still monitored what they said outside their homes. By November 21, the squares in Prague were becoming open forums. This embassy report described the "word on the streets" overheard by an American official's spouse that day on Wenceslas Square.….
This November 21 U.S. embassy report demonstrates the influence of the independent student strike at the beginning of the Velvet Revolution. The students' power stemmed largely from their ability to organize quickly. On November 18, student leaders in Prague had announced an immediate university strike in addition to the general strike. That Monday, thousands of students refused to attend….
November 17 set in motion a dramatic train of events in Czechoslovakia. But for the first few days their direction remained unclear. This U.S. embassy report on the situation through November 20 highlighted some of the unresolved issues. To begin with, the protests lacked a definite leader. By mid-week Civic Forum would claim that right, but on Monday several candidates were vying for the….
Part of any U.S. ambassador's job involves evaluating the political situation at their post. When Ambassador Shirley Temple Black arrived in Prague in early autumn 1989, most American officials agreed that the conservative Czechoslovak leadership would be in power for a while. Only a few weeks later, Black radically revised this view, presenting her reasons in this November 20 cable. She cited….
Prague Embassy cable, American Woman's Account of November 17 Demonstration and the Death of a Czech Student
The experience of November 17 is difficult to recapture in all its intensity and chaos. But this testimony from an American eyewitness evokes the atmosphere. Although the story comes second-hand through this November 20 U.S. embassy cable, we can still sense the trauma of that night in the description of fleeing demonstrators forced through a police "gauntlet". November 17 was the first….
Prague Embassy cable, Czechoslovak Independents Establish New Organization and List Agenda of Demands
The established opposition reacted slowly to November 17; while students and actors began mobilizing on Saturday, it was Sunday before opposition leaders met to determine their next steps. That afternoon, independent activists created Civic Forum and drew up a list of four initial demands (see document 493). This U.S. embassy cable reported on the press conference announcing Civic Forum's….
In communist state, a newspaper article sometimes told the reader more than just what happened yesterday. Because the party maintained strict control over what could be printed or broadcast, the way the news was reported could signal political changes as well. One such instance appears in this November 20 cable from the American Embassy in Prague, which compared local coverage of the November….
The U.S. Ambassador in Prague cabled regular reports to the State Department during the Velvet Revolution. As historical sources, these cables provide rich day-to-day accounts from an informed outsider's perspective, but with certain biases: the ambassador contextualized events within the "big picture" of U. S. foreign policy and depended on embassy resources for information. Ambassador Shirley….
In this November 20 cable to the State Department, the U.S. Embassy in Prague reported its formal protest of the assault on American journalists during the November 17 demonstration. Western media coverage of independent and anti-state activity had increased during 1989. By autumn, foreign media correspondents were expected at demonstrations. Dozens of international journalists covered the….
This official cable sets forth the reaction of the U.S. Embassy in Czechoslovakia to the events of November 17, 1989. Prague university students obtained official permission to commemorate this anniversary of the 1939 Nazi assault on Czech students, but they were forbidden to enter Wenceslas Square, the traditional site of anti-state protest. On that chilly evening, when peaceful demonstrators….
Sofia Embassy Cable, Bulgarian Reportage of Krenz-Gorbachev Summit Stresses Unanimity, Stability, and Party Supremacy
On November 1, 1989, the new East German leader Egon Krenz traveled to Moscow for a summit meeting with Mikhail Gorbachev to discuss the mounting crisis in the GDR and seek a greater level of cooperation between the two states. The following excerpt is taken from a diplomatic cable sent from the U.S. Embassy in Sophia, Bulgaria and reports on how the summit was depicted in the Bulgarian press.….
As events in Eastern Europe and especially in East Germany continued to pick up the pace, speculation began to grow, both within the two Germanies and internationally, that German reunification was once again a topic for debate. The West European had already speculated that West Germany might abandon its commitment to NATO and the European Community in favor of reunification. West German….
In this excerpt of a diplomatic cable from the U.S. Embassy in Berlin, we see the first official analysis of East Germany's new leader Egon Krenz, who replaced Erich Honecker on October 18, 1989. In the summary remarks, the embassy officials make clear that Krenz is attempting immediate reform, but not yet on a scale that could be compared to Gorbachev's perestroika.
The level of unrest in East Germany had been increasing throughout the summer of 1989 and a major focal point of concern for both the East German security forces and international observers concerned the very prominent visit of Mikhail Gorbachev to attend the GDR's 40th anniversary celebrations. This cable sheds light not only on the events leading up to Gorbachev's visit, but also on the….
On the eve of East Germany fortieth anniversary celebrations, it appeared that the SED was losing control. Several pressure points in society were mounting at the same time. In Prague, East German citizens had jumped over the walls into the West German embassy and the East German regime had negotiated their safe passage to West Germany planned for October 4. The outcome of the crisis in Prague….
In early June 1989, Poland held its first semi-free elections since the inception of Communist Party rule in the post-World War II era. The elections resulted in a solid defeat of Communism and a sound victory for the Solidarity opposition. Following the election, at the advice of Solidarity leader Lech Walesa, president Wojciech Jaruzelski, a Communist Party leader and president of Poland at….
Following the historic semi-free elections in Poland in June 1989, which resulted in a near total defeat of the Communist regime, Polish Communist and Solidarity leaders engaged in ongoing and significant negotiations in the hope of establishing stability in Poland. On August 24, 1989, Tadeusz Mazowiecki, journalist and Solidarity activist, became the first non-Communist prime minister in….
In June 1989, Poland held its first semi-free elections in which the Communist Party was overwhelmingly defeated by opposition leaders. Following the election, U.S. officials were elated about the prospects of democratization in Poland as well as concerned about the potential response from the Soviet Union. Historically, Soviet officials had taken tremendous actions in Eastern Europe, even….
In June 1989, Poland held its first semi-free elections since the inception of communism after World War II, in which the Communist Party was soundly defeated by the opposition. Following this historic election, ongoing negotiations took place between Communist officials and new leaders in an effort to create stability and ensure that the transition was smooth. In this confidential cable from….