On the Avenue for the Victory of Socialism, Bucharest, December, 1985.
1989: the most important dates
6 February. WARSAW: Communist government agrees to talk with Solidarity, the banned trade union.
2 May. SOPRON: Hungarian and Austrian police begin dismantling border and it is reported on television and radio, which means German Democratic Republic citizens are watching on West German TV.
4 June. BEIJING: Chinese Army enters Tiananmen Square and begins massacring unarmed civilians.
4 June. POLAND: Solidarity wins 92 out of 100 seats in the country’s senate.
16 June. BUDAPEST: Imre Nagy, the Prime Minister who led Hungary out of the Warsaw Pact in 1956 and was hung, is reburied in a state funeral.
27 June. SOPRON: Foreign ministers of Austria and Hungary cut the barbed wire. More TV and newspaper reports. More GDR citizens see it.
19 August. SOPRON: Pan-European picnic is held on the Austrian-Hungarian border and 600 GDR citizens flee through the half-open gate before it is closed.
22 August. SOPRON: A GDR citizen is shot dead while escaping from Hungary to Austria and Hungary seals the border again. Tens of thousands of GDR citizens continue to stream into Hungary. Budapest’s parks and churches are filled with families camping out, refusing to go home and wanting to go West.
23 August. BALTICS: Hundreds of thousands of citizens of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania join hands to commemorate the loss of their independence to the Soviets in 1944.
24 August. WARSAW: Solidarity activist Tadeusz Mazowiecki is elected first non-Communist Prime Minister.
25 August. BONN: Hungarian Prime Minister Miklos Nemeth and Foreign Minister Gyula Horn meet secretly with West German Chancellor Helmut Kohl and Foreign Minister Hans Dietrich Genscher and inform them they will soon let all GDR citizens through to Austria and on to West Germany.
10 September. BUDAPEST: At 7:00 PM, Gyula Horn announces on television to GDR citizens sheltered in Hungary that they are free to leave for the West.
14 September. EAST BERLIN: GDR regime begins restriction for GDR citizens to travel to Hungary through Czechoslovakia, which means thousands of GDR citizens flood into the West German embassies of Prague and Warsaw and refuse to leave.
30 September. PRAGUE: West German Foreign Minister Hans Dietrich Genscher travels to Prague and tells GDR citizens they will be free to come to West Germany.
3 October. EAST BERLIN: GDR seals its border to Czechoslovakia, thereby sealing off the country in time to celebrate its 40th anniversary.
6 and 7 October. EAST BERLIN: 40th anniversary of the GDR. Mikhail Gorbachev attends and hears cheers from East Germans who call out, “Gorbi, help us!”
9 October. LEIPZIG: 70,000 citizens march in Leipzig.
23 October. BUDAPEST: Hungary announces it will become a multi-party democracy.
25 October. HELSINKI: Reporters ask Soviet Foreign Ministry spokesman Gennadi Gerasimov about the Soviet satellite states making their own decisions about multi-party democracies. Gerasimov replies, "We now have the Frank Sinatra doctrine. He has a song, I Did It My Way. So every country decides on its own which road to take.”
9 November. EAST BERLIN: At a press conference, Günter Schabowski states that GDR citizens are free to travel. When asked, “When?” he replies, while looking through his notes, “Sofort…” (immediately). Berliners rush to the Wall. The entire GDR has less than 11 months to live, although no one knows it that night.
10 November. SOFIA: After more than 30 years in power, Todor Zhivkov is forced out by Foreign Minister Petar Mladenov.
17 November. PRAGUE: Students are given permission to march to commemorate a Czech student killed by the Germans in World War II. They are told not to march toward the center. They do. They are beaten. The next night their parents join them. Then more students, families, pensioners march. The Communist Party will not make it to the end of the year.
16 and 17 December. TIMISOARA: Protests turn to riots against the Ceausescu regime.
21 and 22 December. BUCHAREST: Ceausescu speaks from a balcony of the Communist Party headquarters and the crowd shouts him down. He and his wife appear briefly the following day but flee from the roof by helicopter.
25 December. TARGOVISTE: Ceausescu and his wife are tried by a military tribunal and shot.
29 December. PRAGUE: Vaclav Havel sworn in as President.