Now and Then: 20 Years After the Soviet Collapse |

Now and Then: 20 Years After the Soviet Collapse |

The Making of 1989:

Few people remember Günter Schabowski. Schabowski, the spokesman for the East German Communist Party Politburo, played a vital role in the toppling of the East German Communist government in the fall of 1989. During a press conference on November 9, 1989, a reporter asked him about new travel regulations issued by the government that seemed to indicate the possibility of easier travel into West Berlin through the Berlin Wall. Schabowski had only recently received a copy of the new regulations and had not yet read them carefully. The reporter asked when, exactly, East German citizens could begin to take advantage of these new travel rules. Schabowski shrugged and responded, “from now.” See video clip Here

That evening Reuters reported (incorrectly) that East German citizens could cross into West Germany by any border crossing and West German television news programs reported that the Berlin Wall was opening. Within minutes, thousands, then tens of thousands, then hundreds of thousands of Berliners, both East and West, began converging on the Berlin Wall. Without orders for how to handle the surging crowds, the East German border guards simply opened the gates. Crowds poured through in both directions and within minutes began tearing down the wall that had for so long symbolized the division of Europe into a Communist East and a non-Communist West.

The night that the Berlin Wall collapsed was certainly one of the most dramatic moments in the cascading events of 1989, events that brought the era of Communist rule in Eastern Europe to a close. Textbooks often describe the events of that year as the inevitable collapse of a repressive system in favor of a freer democratic form of government. But the reality is much more complex. Many forces, both internal and external, conspired to bring down the Communist regimes, and not every government that replaced them could be described as fully democratic.

Divorce in haste, repent at leisure

Divorce in haste, repent at leisure

19 March 2011

Twenty years today the USSR held a referendum on whether to support the proposed New Union Treaty. The new setup would have given much more power to the republics; the word used to describe it then was “confederation”.

This infographic displays data on how people voted during this referendum (click for full size)

(This graphic could be misleading, as it takes numbers not from the whole population of potential voters but from those who actually did vote; in several areas not voting was voting “no”). The three Baltic SSRs, the Moldavian, Georgian and Armenian SSRs did not hold votes, on the grounds that they had not legally been incorporated into the USSR in the first place. But the Abkhaz ASSR voted by a small margin to stay in. The Chechen-Ingush ASSR voted to get out as did the Nakhichevan ASSR

Three quotations are instructive: “The recent dramatic events [ie the coup attempt] showed that our republic is absolutely unprotected… ” (Kravchuk 1991); “if Ukraine really will not be in the Union, I cannot imagine such a Union” (Yeltsin 1991); “I believed that Ukraine is so rich that it provided for the entire [Soviet] Union” (Kuchma 1993).

Divorce in haste, repent at leisure: a recent poll from Ukraine says half the population now regrets the breakup. (See article More than half of Ukrainians regret Soviet breakup [Ria Novosti])

(Via Business Special Report [BSR] Russia)

%d bloggers like this: