Central and Eastern Europe Change

Reforming the Government

Poland and Hungary Reform

  • Communist rulers of Europe resisted reform

  • As powerful forces for democracy were building in their countries, Mikhail Gorbachev said that the Soviet Union would not oppose reform

  • Poland and Hungary were among the first countries in Eastern Europe to embrace the spirit of change and in 1980, when millions of Poles supported the action of workers on strike, the government gave in to the union’s demands (lead by Lech Walesa)

  • Solidarity - mutual support within a group

Solidarity Defeats Communists

  • the Polish government soon banned Solidarity again and declared martial law but the Communist Party discovered that military rule could not revive Poland’s failing economy

  • In the 1980s, industrial production declined while foreign debt rose to more than $40 billion, leading to an increase in public discontent

  • Many workers walked off their jobs and demanded raises as well as the legalization of Solidarity, causing the military leader to agree to hold talks with Solidarity leaders

  • In April of 1989, General Jaruzelski legalized Solidarity and agreed to hold Poland’s first free election since the Communists took over

  • During the elections, voters strayed from Communists and chose Solidarity candidates, eventually election Lech Walesa as President

Poland Votes Out Walesa

  • After becoming president, Walesa tried to revive Poland’s bankrupt economy by adopting a strategy of shock therapy, hoping to move them to a free-market economy

  • By the mid-1990s, the economy was improving but the Poles were still upset with the pace of economic progress

  • In the 1995 elections, they turned Walesa out office in favor of former communist, Aleksander Kwasniewski

  • President Kwasniewski led Poland to become a member of NATO where they provided strong support in the war against terrorism after 9/11

  • He pushed for democracy and free markets,continuing the efforts of previous leaders

Hungarian Communists Disband

  • Inspired by Poland’s changes, reformers encouraged private enterprise and allowed a small stock market to operate while a new constitution permitted a multiparty system with free elections

  • In October 1989, radical reformers took over a Communist Party congress, deposing the leaders and dissolving the party. This was the first time a European Communist Party voted itself out of existence

  • In 1994, a socialist party won a majority of seats in Hungary’s parliament and formed an alliance with a democratic party to rule

  • In 1999, Hungary joined the NATO as a full member

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Germany Reunifies

The Fall of the Berlin Wall

  • In 1989, Hungary allowed vacationing East German tourists to cross the Berlin Wall into Austria, where they could then travel to the West of Germany.

  • Thousands of East Germans found this as a way to escape.

  • In response, the East German government closed its borders.

  • Protesters then demanded the right to travel freely and later added the demand for free elections.

  • Honecker, leader of the communists, lost his authority and resigned on October 18, 1989.

  • On November 9, 1989, the new East German Leader, Egon Krenz, opened the Berlin Wall, where people erupted in joyus celebration.

  • By the end of 1989, the East German Communist Party ceased to exist.


  • Many people began to talk of reunification, or the merging of the two Germanys.

  • However, the thought of a united Germany worried many people.

  • German chancellor, Helmut Kohl, reassured world leaders that Germany was now committed to democracy and human rights.

  • European nations then accepted the German reunification and Germany was officially reunited on October 3, 1990.

Germany’s Challenges

  • The newly reunified Germany faced many challenges.

  • Germany had not been modernized since World War 2 and their railroads, highways, and telephone lines were not up to date with the rest of the world.

  • German industries produced goods that could not compete in global markets.

  • Chancellor Helmut Kohl tried to raise taxes to rebuild Germany’s bankrupt economy.

  • However, millions of workers in eastern Germany faced unemployment due to the closing of inefficient factories.

A New Chancellor

  • In 1998, Voters kicked Kohl out of office and elected new chancellor, Gerhard Schroeder, of the Socialist Democratic Party.

  • Germany had the world’s third largest economy, but it was the slowest growing economy, it had the highest unemployment rate in Europe, and had rising inflation.

  • Reunification forced Germany to rethink its role in international affairs. They gained global responsibilities and took active role in European affairs.
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Democracy Spreads in Czechoslovakia

Czechoslovakia Reforms

  • While much of Eastern Germany was demanding democracy, Czechoslovakia remained quiet.

  • Their conservative government, led by Milos Jakes resisted all changes.

  • On October 28, 1989, about 10,000 people gathered in Wenceslas Square in the center of the Prague, and demanded democracy and freedom.

  • Three weeks later, 25,000 students were inspired by the fall of Berlin Wall, gathered in the Prague and demanded a reform.

  • The police brutally attacked the demonstrators and injured hundreds.

  • On November 25, about 500,000 protesters and forced Milos Jakes and his entire Politburo to resign.

  • One month later, a new parliament elected Vaclav Havel as president.

Czechoslovakia Breaks Up

  • Reformers launched an economic program based on “Shock Therapy”.

  • The program caused a spike in unemployment.

  • Unable to agree on economic policy, the country’s two parts, Slovakia and Czech Republic- drifted apart.

  • Havel resigned due to the split and losing support.

  • Czechoslovakia divided on January 1, 1993.

  • Havel was elected president of the Czech Republic.

  • Won reelection in 1998, and stepped down in 2003 due to illness.
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Overthrow in Romania

  • Romania was the only one unmoved by the demands for reform.

  • Nicolae Ceausescu was their ruthless leader.

  • Ceausescu had a firm grip on power.

  • His secret police brutally enforced his power.

A Popular Uprising

  • The army killed and wounded and injured hundreds of people in Timisoara.

  • This massacre caused an uprising.

  • Within days of the uprising, the army allied the people.

  • Ceausescu and his wife fled and were captured and executed on Christmas Day, 1989
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The Breakup of Yugoslavia

  • Yugoslavia was formed after World War 1

  • Made up of eight major ethnic groups, the Serbs, Croats, Muslims, Slovenes, Macedonians, Albanians, Hungarians, and Montenegrins, all whom distrusted one another due to ethnic and religious differences.

  • After World War 2, the country became a federation of six republics with mixed populations.

A Bloody Breakup

  • After the death of Josip Tito, the Serbian leader Slobodan Milosevic asserted his leadership over Yugoslavia; many Serbs opposed him and his policies, fleeing the country in turn

  • The two republics, Slovenia and Croatia, declared independence from Yugoslavia

  • In June of 1991, the Serbian-led Yugoslav army invaded the two republics; after a few months of bloody battles, the two republics were able to gain their independence.

  • Early 1992, Bosnia-Herzegovina then declared independence

  • Serbia and Montenegro formed a new Yugoslavia

  • Bosnia’s Muslims and Croats backed the independence of the country, but Bosnian Serbs opposed the independence of Bosnia and launched a war supported by Serbia in march of 1993

  • The Serbian military began a policy called ethnic cleansing, aiming to drive out the Muslim population

  • In December 1995, the three groups signed a brokered peace treaty from the US and UN and elected a three-person presidency

Rebellion in Kosovo

  • In 1998, an independence movement began to grow in Kosovo

  • Serbia sent military force to fight against the people of the movement

  • NATO began a bombing campaign against Yugoslavia until the Yugoslav leaders withdrew their troops

The Region Faces Its Problems

  • In the 21st century, Slobodan Milosevic was extradited to stand trial for war crimes, some of the country’s debt was erased and elections in November 2001 went without violence
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Molli, Kyle, Walker, and Emma