A timeline of key dates in the 1989-90 collapse of communism across Eastern Europe

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Key dates in collapse of communism across Europe

For four decades, the communist regimes of Eastern Europe seemed unshakeable. Yet when the end came, it unfolded with stunning speed:


June 4 - Communists overwhelmingly defeated in Poland’s first partially free elections in four decades.

August - Tens of thousands of East Germans swamp West German diplomatic missions in East Berlin, Czechoslovakia and Hungary seeking asylum.

Aug. 24 - Poland’s Tadeusz Mazowiecki becomes Soviet bloc’s first non-communist prime minister.

Sept. 11 - Hungary opens border with West; exodus of East German refugees begins.

Oct. 7 - Visiting East Berlin, Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev indirectly urges reform; first demonstrations against the East German regime.

Nov. 4: 1 million East Germans rally in protest.

Nov. 7-8 - East Germany’s ruling Politburo resigns.

Nov. 9 - Berlin Wall and East German borders open.

Nov. 10 - Bulgaria’s long-time communist dictator, Todor Zhivkov, removed by Politburo colleagues.

Nov. 17 - Students clash with police, starting Czechoslovakia’s “Velvet Revolution.”

Nov. 25 - Referendum weakens communists’ hold on power in Hungary.

Dec. 17 - Romanian police fire at protesters; dictator Nicolae Ceausescu and wife try to flee uprising five days later.

Dec. 25 - Ceausescus executed by firing squad.

Dec. 29 - Communist rule ends in Czechoslovakia after 41 years, with election of dissident playwright Vaclav Havel as president.


March 18 - Alliance for Germany, which seeks quick reunification, wins East Germany’s first free election.

March 25-April 8 - Hungary has first multiparty elections since communist rule began.

June - Bulgaria holds free elections.

July - Thousands of Albanians rush foreign embassies in Tirana.

Oct. 3 - East and West Germany reunited as one country.

Dec. 9 - Lech Walesa, former shipyard worker and Nobel Peace Prize laureate, wins Poland’s first popular presidential election.

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