Changes in Central & Eastern Europe

O'Cain, Sinay, Branham, Wisnosky

Poland and Hungary Reform

Poland and Hungary were one of the first countries in Eastern Europe to embrace the spirit of change. In 1980, Polish workers at a shipyard went on strike, demanding they get government recognition if their union. Millions of Poles soon supported the action, which caused the government to give into the union’s demands. The next year, the Polish government banned Solidarity again and declared martial law. However, In elections, Polish voters voted against Communist and chose Solidarity candidates. They soon elected Lech Walesa president. He soon adopted a strategy of shock therapy to move Poland toward a free-market economy. In the 1995 election they voted Walesa out of office in favor of former communist Aleksander Kwasniewski. Kwasniewski continued to establish a strong et economy in Poland. He pushed for democracy and free markets. In 1998, the liberal party won the most seats in the National Assembly. However, in 2001 there was a general economic downturn in Hungary. This was brought on by weak exports, decline in foreign investment, and excessive spending on state pensions and increased minimum wages.
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Germany Reunifies

East Germany’s, Erich Honecker, said that reforms were unnecessary. In 1989 Hungary allowed vacationing East Germans tourist to cross the border into Austria. Once they crossed the border they could travel to West Germany. This was the new escape route for thousands of East Germans to go to the West. In response to the East Germans escaping the borders were completely closed. They were closed by the Berlin wall. In October 1989 hugh protest broke out in the cities of East Germany. Honecker then lost all authority and resigned on October 18th. Egon Krenz, the leader of East Germany, thought that by allowing people to leave that it would restore stability. So on November 9, 1989 he opened the Berlin wall. Krenz efforts to save communism didn’t work and by the end of 1989 the East German Communist Party ceased to exist. After communism fell in East Germany, Germans began to speak of reunification of East and West Germany. The West German leader, Helmut Kohl, assured world leaders that Germans learned from the past. He said that they wanted to be a democracy and wanted equal human rights. Germany officially reunited on October 3, 1990. Once Germany reunited they faced problems. Eastern Germany was not modernized. East Germany also had a bankrupt economy, to fix this Kohl raised taxes. With the raising of taxes factories began to close which caused a rise in unemployment. In 1998 Kohl was voted out of office and a new chancellor was elected, Gerhard Schroeder. Although Germany had the world’s third largest economy, it was the slowest growing in Europe. They had the highest unemployment rate in Europe and a rising inflation. In 2002, Schroeder was reelected and Germany began to gain their global responsibilities.
Fall of Berlin Wall (1989)

The Breakup of Yugoslavia

After WWI this country had eight major ethnic groups and, under Josip Tito’s rule, they lived peacefully. His rule (1945-1980) held the country together. After Tito died, ethnic resentment boiled over. Serbian leader Slobodan Milosevic asserted his leadership over yugoslavia. Two of the six republics declared independence. In 1991 the serbian led Yugoslav army invaded both of the republics. Both republics won after months of bloody fighting. In 1992 Bosnia joined slovenia and croatia in their independence. Serbian military launched an “ Ethnic Cleansing”. This policy was intended to rid bosnia of its muslim population. By 1995 the serbian military controlled 70 percent of bosnia. In december of that year the leaders of the nations involved in the war signed a UN- and U.S.- brokered peace treaty. in September 1996, Bosnians elected a 3 person presidency. By 2001 and Herzegovinia began to stand on their own. In 1998 the Balkan region descended into violence again. This time Kosovo grew extremely violent. Because of the failure to bring peace- NATO began a bombing campaign nst Yugoslavia in spring of 1999. After 2 months of bombing, Yugoslav leaders pulled their troops out of Kosovo.
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Democracy Spreads in Czechoslovakia

Czechoslovakia was a conservative government led by Milos Jakes who resisted all change and arrested several dissidents including Vaclac Havel-a popular critic of the government. The people began to protest on October 28, 1989 with about 10,000 people who wanted democracy and freedom. Hundreds were arrested but a few weeks later, 25,000 students were inspired by the fall of the Berlin Wall and demanded reform in downtown Prague. On November 25, about 500,000 people protested and within hours, Milos Jakes resigned and a new parliament elected Vaclav Havel the President a month later.

Reformers launched an economic program based on “shock therapy” which caused a sharp rise in unemployment and hurt Slovakia especially. unable to agree on economic policy, Slovakia and the Czech Republic drifted apart. Havel resigned as president because of the people’s support to split the nations. As of January 1, 1993, Czechoslovakia split into two countries. Havel was then elected president of the Czech Republic but later stepped down in 2003 because of health problems. Vaclav Klaus was elected and the Czech Republic slowly improved in the face of some serious problems. They pushed to become a full member of the European Union by 2004.

Slovakia also proceeded on a reformist, pro-Western path. It experienced one of the highest economic growth rates in the region in 2002. It hoped to join both NATO and the EU in the near future.
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Overthrow in Romania

By 1989, only Romania seemed unmoved by the calls for reform. Romania’s ruthless and brutal dictator, Nicolae Ceausescu used his secret police to enforce his orders. The Romanian were aware of the reforms in other countries and began a protest movement of their own.

In December, Ceausescu ordered the army to fire on demonstrators in the city of Timisoara which killed hundreds of people. This massacre ignited a popular uprising against their leader. Within days, the army even went against their leader and joined the people. Shocked by the collapse of his power, Ceausescu and his wife attempted to flee but were captured, then tried and executed on Christmas Day, 1989. Romania held general elections for presidency from there on out.

Throughout the 1990s , Romania struggled with corruption and crime as it tried to salvage its economy. The government continued to make economic reforms to introduce elements of capitalism. The government also began to reduce the layers of bureaucracy in order to encourage foreign investors. Furthermore, in order to achieve membership in the European Union, the Romanian government began to move away from a state-controlled economy.
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Ashley O'Cain, Taylor Sinay, Brenna Branham, Nikolaus Wisnosky