Northern Eurasia 1989: Glasnost
By the late 1980s, the Soviet Union was surrounded by hostile states, while having to cope with economic woes, discontent in Poland, and a high tech arms race with the United States. Mikhail Gorbachev, the new Soviet leader, responded with huge political and economic reforms. In 1989, he allowed elections and revolutions to overthrow the communist regimes in eastern Europe.
15 May 1988–15 Feb 1989 Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan▲
Soon after Gorbachev became General Secretary of the Soviet Union, he gained the support of the Politburo in seeking a withdrawal from the war in Afghanistan. In the 1988 Geneva Accords, the Soviets agreed to withdraw immediately, removing their last troops out in February 1989, but continuing political support of the moribund People’s Republic of Afghanistan.
26 Mar–25 May 1989 Soviet legislative election▲
First democratic elections held in the Soviet Union to elect the Congress of People’s Deputies
24 Aug 1989 Tadeusz Mazowiecki of Solidarity appointed Prime Minister of Poland▲
Tadeusz Mazowiecki of Solidarity appointed Prime Minister of Poland
10 Sep 1989 Removal of Hungary’s border fence▲
Hungarian government opens borders with Austria, permitting East Germans to travel to the West
9–10 Nov 1989 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.
24 Nov 1989 Velvet Revolution▲
On 17 November 1989, a violent state crackdown on student protests sparked mass demonstrations in Prague. After seven days, the entire top leadership of the Czechoslovak Communist Party resigned. By December 29, single-party rule was abolished, with Prague Spring leader Alexander Dubček appointed Prime Minister and playwright/dissident Václav Havel appointed President.
22 Dec 1989 Romanian Revolution▲
On 16 December 1989, demonstrations by ethnic Hungarians erupted in the city of Timișoara, followed by a violent crackdown by the Romanian military. On 21 December, President Nicolae Ceaușescu attempted to address the public in Bucharest, only for the crowd to erupt in protest. The following day, the Armed Forces defected to the side of the protesters, arrested Ceaușescu, and proclaimed dissident Ion Iliescu President. Ceaușescu and his wife Elena were tried and convicted on 24 December and executed on December 25.