Fall of the Berlin Wall

The Cold War

Europe 1989.111

Fall of the Berlin Wall

The Cold War in Europe (10 November 1989)

Historical Map of Europe & the Mediterranean

By the 1980s, the Eastern Bloc had begun to fall dangerously behind the West both economically and technologically. To address these issues, Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev introduced economic reforms and opened up Soviet politics. He also sought better relations with the West by declaring an end to Soviet meddling in Eastern Europe. The result was the peaceful dismantling of Communism in Poland and Hungary. East Germany followed suit a few months later, with demonstrators tearing down the hated Berlin Wall.

Main Events

1982 Lebanon War

In response to PLO activity on its northern border, Israel agreed to support Lebanon's Maronite Phalange in exchange for a peace treaty with Lebanon. Israel invaded in June 1982, successfully expelling the PLO from the country by September of that year. However, the assassination of Phalangist President-Elect Bachir Gemayel impeded progress toward a peace treaty, and the continued Israeli presence inflamed public sentiment against the Phalange. In 1985, Israeli forces retreated to a buffer zone in the south of the country, withdrawing fully in 2000.

Mikhail Gorbachev becomes General Secretary of the Communist Party and effective leader of the Soviet Union

Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan

First democratic elections held in the Soviet Union to elect the Congress of People's Deputies

Tadeusz Mazowiecki of Solidarity appointed Prime Minister of Poland

Hungarian government opens borders with Austria, permitting East Germans to travel to the West

Fall of the Berlin Wall

After Hungary and Czechoslovakia opened their borders to Austria, allowing tens of thousands of East Germans to escape to the West, the government of East Germany partially opened its border with West Germany. In the confusion over the new regulations, masses of East Germans gathered at the Berlin Wall, overwhelming the guards and demanding to cross to the West. At 10:45 pm on 9 November, the guards relented. The Wall was swamped by celebrating East and West Germans, then torn down over the ensuing days.

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