From the beginning, Civic Forum had to balance two objectives: leading popular protests and negotiating with the regime. In its first week, the Forum concentrated on mobilizing public support for the upcoming general strike. November 26 signified a turning point. That morning, Forum representatives appeared at the first formal round of negotiations with only their original four demands; they….
In December 1988, Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev delivered what he called a “watershed” address at the United Nations, announcing that he planned unilaterally to reduce Soviet military forces by 500,000, cut conventional armaments massively, and withdraw substantial numbers of armaments and troops from Eastern European countries. Even with the proposed cutbacks, Soviet conventional forces….
Hungary began dismantling the barbed wire along its border with Austria in May, 1989. Over the summer months, thousands of East Germans risked their lives crossing over the Hungarian-Austrian border before heading north to West Germany. East Germany pressured Hungary to close its border with Austria, but on September 10, 1989 the Hungarian government announced that it was officially opening the….
President George H. W. Bush visited Poland and Hungary in July 1989, following a series of speeches he had made that defined the direction his administration would take in its relations with the Soviet Union. On April 17, at Hamtramck, Michigan, a suburb of Detroit heavily populated by Polish-Americans, Bush had devoted a speech—referred to in the excerpt below—to the future of Eastern….
This report analyzes the peculiar dilemma that Solidarity leaders faced in the aftermath of their landslide election victory in June. Their success had been based on opposition to the communist regime, but the framework that had allowed that success was based on a compromise with that regime. The practical issue that best highlighted the apparent incompatibility of those two commitments was the….
Czechoslovak Defense Minister Milan Vaclavik wrote this report on the "Vltava-89" military training exercise conducted by Warsaw Pact forces in May 1989. The Warsaw Pact was the Eastern Bloc regional security organization founded in 1955 as a challenger to the US-led North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). The NATO-Warsaw Pact rivalry symbolized the heights of aggression between the United….
As President George H. W. Bush took office in January 1989, factions within his administration disagreed concerning the approach to take with regard to US-Soviet relations. In December 1988, Gorbachev had delivered what he called a “watershed” address at the United Nations, announcing that he planned unilaterally to reduce Soviet military forces by 500,000, cut conventional armaments….
On January 5, 1968, Alexander Dubček came to power in Communist Czechoslovakia, and began a series of reforms, later called the "Prague Spring." His new policies centered around the idea that Communism could be more liberal and responsive to the people, and achieved by increasing freedom of the press, emphasizing consumer goods, and the suggesting a multi-party government instead of a….
Once the Soviet Union and its East European Allies formed a military alliance, the Warsaw Pact, in May 1955, the Communist states formed a seemingly impenetrable block of land behind an "Iron Curtain." However, numerous conflicts continued to affect the member states of the Warsaw Pact. Poland and East Germany, for example, continued to engage in border disputes over the reestablished….
Following the final approval of the Paris Peace Treaties that ended World War II, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) planned to incorporate the new state of West Germany into their military alliance in the spring of 1955. From the Soviet perspective, this was another aggressive military maneuver. In response to NATO's German decision, the Soviet Union and its East European allies….
The Warsaw Pact was based around the principle of cooperation and mutual assistance for its member states, including both military agreement and economic cooperation. In reality, the Soviet Union decided both the military and economic policies for all of the Warsaw Pact's member states. Disagreement with Soviet policies had resulted in the invasion of Hungary in 1956 and Czechoslovakia in….
In August 1980, a worker's strike in Poland led to a compromise known as the Gdansk Agreement, in which the Communist government agreed to several compromises with the strikers, including the legal formation of a worker's union -- which became Solidarity. While this initially brought stability in Poland, it set shockwaves through the Warsaw Pact from the emerging danger of "antisocialist….
In August 1980, a worker's strike in Poland led to a compromise known as the Gdansk Agreement, in which the Communist government agreed to allow democratic changes within the government, including the legal formation of a worker's union—which became Solidarity. This agreement may have brought stability inside Poland, but created a strong reaction from the Soviet Union. The following is a….
On November 9, 1989, the Berlin Wall was opened, allowing citizens of both East and West Germany to travel freely between the two countries. This was a clear sign to the Soviet government of the rapid acceleration of change in Eastern Europe, as the Berlin Wall had been both the physical and symbolic divide of West and East Europe. In this frank assessment of Gorbachev's reaction to the rapid….
Romanian security forces' violent assault on demonstrators in Timisoara in mid-December 1989 sparked a wave of speculation as to whether this spelled the end of Nicolae Ceausescu, the region's sole remaining communist dictator. Among the rumors circulating was a possible military intervention by the Soviets and Warsaw Pact countries to overthrow Romania's hardliner government. Adopting an….
Mikhail Gorbachev's reforms followed two paths: perestroika (restructuring) and glasnost' (openness). In order to reform the Soviet economy, Gorbachev believed it was necessary to cut spending on the Soviet military, both inside Soviet borders and throughout Eastern Europe. By the end of 1989, 500,000 men had been decommissioned from the Soviet army, greatly reducing its military presence….
The Warsaw Pact was based around the principle of cooperation and mutual assistance for its member states, though primarily it was a military alliance led by the Soviet Union. Therefore, Mikhail Gorbachev's arms reduction plan affected all of the member states of the Warsaw Pact by reducing all of the men under arms in Eastern Europe. In this meeting from July 1988, the Defense Ministers of the….
The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) in the United States was closely watching the events unfolding in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union in the 1980s, and this secret service document reveals the extent of that interest. As exhibited in this source, under the leadership of Mikhail Gorbachev, the Soviet Union embarked on a program of reform both within the Soviet bloc and in its relationships….
This February 1989 report by the Bogomolov Commission analyzes the current situation in Eastern Europe for Alexander Yakovlev, key foreign policy advisor to Mikhail Gorbachev. The Bogomolov Commission was the largest Soviet think tank conducting research on the East European countries. This document can be compared with the memorandum by the International Department of the CC CPSU (document….
In the following memorandum to Alexander Yakovlev, one of Gorbachev's chief advisors, the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU) analyzes the effects of Gorbachev's reform program in Eastern Europe. The document reflects the complexity of the issues raised by the new Soviet policy. In the excerpt below, the CPSU assesses the current situation and identifies some of….