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Communism collapsed because there was no popular endorsement for its concept, the ethnic clashes, the revival of nationalist sentiment, and the failure to provide comparable lifestyles to those in Western Europe. There was a series of events between 1989 and 1991 that led to the fall of Communism in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union. The Communist governments lost power when they were faced with imposing opposition and the reluctance of President Mikhail Gorbachev to send Soviet troops to their rescue. It started in Poland, where the Communists agreed to free elections that swept into power candidates endorsed by Solidarity in June 1989. Afterwards, demands for reform spread across East Germany in the fall of 1989, which led to the end of the Berlin Wall and the unification of East and West Germany. In November of 1989, the Communist government of Czechoslovakia resigned, and in December a violent revolution led to the overthrow and execution of Romania’s Communist boss, Nicolae Ceausescu. In 1990, the Bulgarian parliament revoked the Communist party’s monopoly on power, and in 1991 popular opposition forced the resignation of the Communist cabinet in Albania. The failure of a Communist-led coup d’état against Mikhail Gorbachev in the Soviet Union in August 1991 ended the party’s control of the military and government (Office of the Historian).
“While the notion that the ‘West’ was advancing further and further away from the Soviet sphere in the 1980’s was correct, and by default the ‘East’ was going in reverse, it was not the economic conditions alone that would lead to the end of the Soviet Empire in Eastern Europe. A suppressed nationalism, ready to exert its influence, existed just below the official surface of the European Soviet Empire just as economic failure delegitimised the role of the Soviet sponsored governments.” (Crampton, 2003, p. 410) When Gorbachev implemented the Sinatra Doctrine, the policy of allowing neighboring Warsaw Pact states to determine their own internal affairs, it cemented the nationalistic nature of the revolutions. The lack of economic growth was the catalyst for the revolution, but it was shaped from a nationalist attitude, with each country doing it their way (Carroll, 2012).
Students from Prague’s Charles University led a protest movement in Czechoslovakia, against the one-party government of the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia. This mass protest on November 17, 1989, included calls for the resignation of the local Communist leaders, was met with violent suppression attempts. However, “manual and middle-class workers joined subsequent protests for the first time. The protesters began to routinely number in the tens of thousands, and the movement spread from Prague to other Czech cities, including Bratislava where Dubcek publicly demanded the government’s resignation” (Shubert and Goldstein, 2012). The result was the end of 41 years of one-party rule.
The younger generation was more pro-reform and better educated than its predecessors. Their exposure to the Western democratic style of government greatly influenced them, making them supportive of their countries’ move to a multiparty system.
Carroll, Seth. (2012). The case for nationalism in the demise of the soviet union. Retrieved from http://www.e-ir.info/2012/08/28/the-case-for-natio…
Crampton, R.J. (2003), Eastern europe in the twentieth century and after (London: Routledge)
Fall of communism in eastern europe, 1989. Office of the Historian. Retrieved from https://history.state.gov/milestones/1989-1992/fal…
Shubert, A., and Goldstein, R. (2012). Twentieth-century europe. [Electronic version]. Retrieved from https://content.ashford.edu/
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