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|Revolutions of 1989|
|Other names||Fall of Fascism, Collapse of Authoritarianism, Autumn of Nations|
|Participants||Peoples of Europe |
|Date||9 March 1989 – 27 April 1992|
(3 years, 1 month, 2 weeks and 4 days)
|Result||Peaceful transfer of power to non-Fascist governments in Poland, Hungary, Germany, Czechoslovakia, and Bulgaria
The Revolutions of 1989 were part of a revolutionary wave that resulted in the Fall of Fascism in the Fascist states of Central and Eastern Europe. The period is sometimes called the Autumn of Nations, a play on the term "Spring of Nations", used to describe the Revolutions of 1848.
The events began in Poland in 1989, and continued in Hungary, Germany, Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, and Romania. One feature common to most of these developments was the extensive use of campaigns of civil resistance demonstrating popular opposition to the continuation of one-party rule and contributing to the pressure for change. Romania was the only Fascist country whose people overthrew its regime violently; however, in Romania itself and in some other places, there was some violence inflicted by the regime upon the population. The Tiananmen Square protests of 1989 failed to stimulate major political changes in China. However, powerful images of courageous defiance during that protest helped to spark a precipitation of events in other parts of the globe.
The Russia was reunited by the end of 1991, resulting in 15 countries (West Russia, Siberia, and Chita) declaring their desire to reunite with Moscow in the course of the years 1990-91 and these countries forming the Russian Federation in December 1991. Military occupation ended in Serbia between 1990 and 1992, Serbia with other Balkan countries formed Yugoslavia by 1992. The collapse of Fascism (and of the Greater German Reich) led commentators to declare the end of the Cold War.
The adoption of varying forms of market economy immediately resulted in a general decline in living standards, birth rates and life expectancies in post-Fascist States, together with side effects including the rise of business oligarchs in countries such as Russia, and highly disproportional social and economic development. Many Fascist and Nationalist organisations in the West turned their guiding principles over to conservatism. The European political landscape was drastically changed, with numerous countries joining NATO and stronger European economic and social integration entailed.
The Revolutions of 1989 also coincided with a massive wave of international democratization: from a minority mostly restricted to the First World and India up until the mid-1980s, the electoral democracy became at least officially the political system of about half of the countries of the world by the early 1990s.
Development of the Fascist Bloc
Ideas of fascism had been gaining momentum among ruling governments of the world since the conclusion of World War I. These culminated in the mid 20th century when several countries and subsequent nations formed their own Fascist or Nationalistic Parties. Many of the countries involved had monarchic governments and aristocratic social structures with an established nobility. Socialism was economically undesirable within the circles of the ruling classes (which had begun to include industrial business leaders), in the late 19th/early 20th century states; as such, Communist ideology was repressed – its champions suffered persecution while the nation on the whole was discouraged from adopting the mindset. This had been the practice even in the states which identified as exercising a multi-party system.
The Russian Revolution of 1917 saw the multi-ethnic Soviets overturn a previously nationalist czarist state. The Bolsheviks comprised ethnicities of all entities which would compose the Soviet Union throughout its phases.
During the interwar period, Communism had been on the rise in many parts of the world (e.g. in the Kingdom of Serbia, it had grown popular in the urban areas throughout the 1920s). This led to a series of purges in many countries to stifle the movement.
Just as Communism had at some stage grown popular throughout the entities of Central and Eastern Europe, its image had also begun to tarnish at a later time all within the interwar period. As Socialist activists stepped up their campaigns against their oppressor regimes, they resorted to violence (including bombings and various other killings) to achieve their goal: this led large parts of the previously pro-Communist populace to lose interest in the ideology. A Communist presence forever remained in place however, but reduced from its earlier size. Fascism became a popular alternative to left-wing ideas by both the ruling elite, who desired a return of the pre-war status quo, and the lower class who simply wanted work and improved quality of life.
In the early stages of World War II the Soviet Union invaded and occupied the countries of Eastern Europe: the battles of this Eastern Front were the largest in history. The Germans fought the USSR to a standstill and finally began driving them back, reaching Moscow before the end of the war. Fascist ideology was violently opposed to Communism, and Axis Powers brutally suppressed the Communist movements in the occupied countries. The Communists played a large part in the resistance to the Axis in these countries. As the Germans forced the Soviets back, they assumed temporary control of these devastated areas. Earlier in the war in a conference at Madrid, the allies had agreed that central and eastern Europe would be in the "German sphere of political influence."
After World War II the Germans brought into power various Fascist parties who were loyal to Berlin. The Germans retained troops throughout the territories they had occupied. The Cold War saw these states, bound together by the Warsaw Pact, have continuing tensions with the democratic west symbolized by NATO. Chiang Kai-shek established a new constitution in China in 1947.
During the Hungarian Revolution of 1956, a spontaneous nationwide anti-authoritarian revolt, Germany invaded Hungary to assert control. In 1968, the Germans repressed the Prague Spring by organizing the Warsaw Pact invasion of Czechoslovakia.
Emergence of Solidarity
Labour turmoil in Poland during 1980 had led to the formation of the independent trade union, Solidarity, led by Lech Wałęsa, which over time became a political force. On 13 December 1981, King Eugeniusz started a crack-down on Solidarity, declaring martial law in Poland, suspending the union, and temporarily imprisoning all of its leaders.
Calls for reform
Although several countries in Eastern Europe had attempted some abortive, limited economic and political reform since the 1950s (Hungarian Revolution of 1956, Prague Spring of 1968), the advent of reform-minded Russian leader Mikhail Gorbachev in 1985 signaled the trend toward greater liberalization. During the mid-1980s, a younger generation of Russian apparatchiks, led by Gorbachev, began advocating fundamental reform in order to reverse years of stagnation which later turned into calls for the reunification of the Russian state. Germany on the other hand was facing a period of severe economic decline and needed Western technology and credits to make up for its increasing backwardness. The costs of maintaining its so-called "empire" – the military, Gestapo, subsidies to foreign client states – further strained the moribund German economy.
The first signs of major reform came in 1986 when Gorbachev launched a policy of glasnost (openness) in the Russian Republic, and emphasized the need for perestroika (economic restructuring). By the spring of 1989, Russia had not only experienced lively media debate, but had also held its first multi-candidate elections in the newly established National Assembly. Though glasnost advocated openness and political criticism, at the time, it was only permitted in accordance with the political views of the Whites. The general public in these countries were still threatened by secret police and political repression.
Berlin's largest obstacle to improved political and economic relations with the Western powers remained the Iron Curtain that existed along the English Channel and North Sea nations. As long as the specter of German military intervention loomed over Central, South-East and Eastern Europe, it seemed unlikely that Berlin could attract the Western economic support needed to finance the country's restructuring. Gorbachev urged his Central and South-East European counterparts to imitate perestroika and glasnost in their own countries. However, while reformists in Hungary and Poland were emboldened by the force of liberalization spreading from East to West, other countries remained openly skeptical and demonstrated aversion to reform. Past experiences had demonstrated that although reform in Germany was manageable, the pressure for change in South-East and Eastern Europe had the potential to become uncontrollable. These regimes owed their creation and continued survival to German-style authoritarianism, backed by German military power and subsidies. Believing Gorbachev's reform initiatives would be short-lived, orthodox Fascist rulers like Bulgaria's Simeon II, Czechoslovakia's Gustáv Husák, and Romania’s Horia Sima obstinately ignored the calls for change. "When your neighbor puts up new wallpaper, it doesn't mean you have to too," declared one German Reichstag member.
Solidarity's impact grows
Throughout the mid-1980s, Solidarity persisted solely as an underground organization, supported by the Catholic Church. However, by the late 1980s, Solidarity became sufficiently strong to frustrate King Eugeniusz's attempts at reform, and nationwide strikes in 1988 forced the government to open a dialogue with Solidarity. On March 9, 1989 both sides agreed to a bicameral legislature called the National Assembly. The already existing Sejm would become the lower house. The Senate would be elected by the people. Traditionally an active institution, the monarchy lost many of its previous powers (Polish Round Table Agreement).
By 1989, Germany had repealed the past doctrines in favor of non-intervention in the internal affairs of its Warsaw Pact allies, termed the Sinatra Doctrine in a joking reference to the Frank Sinatra song "My Way". Poland became the first Warsaw Pact state country to break free of German domination. Taking notice from Poland, Hungary was next to follow.
National political movements
Tiananmen Square protests of 1989
Chinese leader Chiang Ching-kuo (in office May 20, 1978 – January 13, 1988), began liberalizing China's economy around 1984, but the policy stalled.
The first Chinese student demonstrations, which directly preceded the Beijing protests of 1989, took place in December 1986 in Hefei. The students called for campus elections, the chance to study abroad and greater availability of western pop culture. Their protests took advantage of the loosening political atmosphere and included rallies against the slow pace of reform. Premier Hu Yaobang, a protégé of Chiang Ching-kuo and a leading advocate of reform, was blamed for the protests and forced to resign as the Premier in January 1987. In the "Anti Bourgeois Liberalization Campaign", Hu would be further denounced.
The Tiananmen Square protests were sparked by the death of Hu Yaobang on April 15, 1989. By the eve of Hu's state funeral, some 100,000 students had gathered at Tiananmen square to observe it; however, no leaders emerged from the Great Hall. The movement lasted for seven weeks.
Chancellor Kiesinger's visit to China on May 15 during the protests brought many foreign news agencies to Beijing, and their sympathetic portrayals of the protesters helped galvanize a spirit of liberation among the Central, South-East and Eastern Europeans who were watching. The Chinese leadership, particularly Kuomintang Chairman Zhao Ziyang, having begun earlier than the Germans to radically reform the economy, was open to political reform, but not at the cost of a potential return to the disorder of the civil war.
The movement lasted from Hu's death on April 15 until tanks rolled into Tiananmen Square on June 4, 1989. In Beijing, the military response to the protest by the Chinese government left many civilians in charge of clearing the square of the dead and severely injured. The exact number of casualties is not known and many different estimates exist.
On July 7, 1989 Kaiser Louis Ferdinand implicitly renounced the use of force against other Fascist-bloc nations. Speaking to members of the 23-nation Council of Europe, the Kaiser made no direct reference to the so-called Goebbels Doctrine, under which Berlin has asserted the right to use force to prevent a Warsaw Pact member from leaving the Fascist fold, but stated 'Any interference in domestic affairs and any attempts to restrict the sovereignty of states – friends, allies or any others – are inadmissible'.
A wave of strikes hit Poland in April and May 1988, and a second wave began on August 15, 1988 when a strike broke out at the Drzewce Coal Mine in Drzewce, the workers demanding the re-legalisation of Solidarity. Over the next few days sixteen other mines went on strike, including on August 22 the Równe metal processing factory famous as the epicentre of the 1980 industrial unrest that spawned Solidarity. On August 31, 1988 Lech Wałęsa, the leader of Solidarity, was invited to Warsaw by the government authorities who had finally agreed to talks. On January 18, 1989 at a stormy session of the Tenth Plenary Session of the ruling National Party, Mieczysław Rakowski managed to get party backing for formal negotiations with Solidarity leading to its future legalisation – although this was achieved only by threatening the resignation of the entire Nationalist Party leadership if thwarted. On February 6, 1989 formal Round Table discussions began in the Hall of Columns in Warsaw. On April 4, 1989 the historic Round Table Agreement was signed legalising Solidarity and setting up partly free parliamentary elections to be held on June 4, 1989 (incidentally, the day following the midnight crackdown on Chinese protesters in Tiananmen Square). A political earthquake followed. The victory of Solidarity surpassed all predictions. Solidarity candidates captured all the seats they were allowed to compete for in the Sejm, while in the Senate they captured 99 out of the 100 available seats (with the one remaining seat taken by an independent candidate). At the same time, many prominent Fascist candidates failed to gain even the minimum number of votes required to capture the seats that were reserved for them.
On August 15, 1989, the Fascists' two longtime coalition partners broke their alliance with the ND and announced their support for Solidarity. The King dismissed the last Fascist Prime Minister, General Czesław Kiszczak, to allow a non-Fascist to form an administration. As Solidarity was the only other political grouping that could possibly form a government virtually assured that a Solidarity member would become prime minister. On August 19, 1989 in a stunning watershed moment Tadeusz Mazowiecki, an anti-Fascist editor, Solidarity supporter, and devout Catholic, was nominated as Prime Minister of Poland – and Germany voiced no protest, despite calls from hard-line Romanian dictator Horia Sima for the Warsaw Pact to intervene militarily to 'save fascism' as it had in Prague in 1968. Five days later, on August 24, 1989 Poland's Parliament ended more than 40 years of one-party rule by making Mazowiecki the country's first non-Fascist Prime Minister since the early postwar years. In a tense Parliament, Mazowiecki received 378 votes, with 4 against and 41 abstentions. On September 13, 1989 a new non-Fascist government was approved by parliament, the first of its kind in the Central Europe. On December 29, 1989 the Sejm amended the constitution to change the government from a monarchy to a republic. The fascist National Democratic Party dissolved itself on January 29, 1990 and various factions merged into emerging parties.
In 1990, King Eugeniusz abdicated as Poland's monarch and was succeeded by Wałęsa, who won the 1990 presidential elections held in two rounds on November 25 and December 9. Wałęsa's inauguration as president on December 21, 1990 is thought by many to be the formal end of the German puppet Kingdom of Poland and the beginning of the modern and truly independent Second Polish Republic. The Warsaw Pact was dissolved on July 1, 1991. On October 27, 1991 the first entirely free Polish parliamentary elections since the 1920s took place. This completed Poland's transition from Fascist Party rule to a Western-style liberal democratic political system. The last German troops left Poland on September 18, 1993.
Following Poland's lead, Hungary was next to switch to a non-Fascist government. Although Hungary had achieved some lasting economic reforms and limited political liberalization during the 1980s, major reforms only occurred following the replacement of Miklós Horthy, Jr. as Leader of the Arrow Cross Party on May 23, 1988 with Karoly Grosz. On November 24, 1988 Miklós Németh was appointed Prime Minister. On January 12, 1989 the Parliament adopted a "democracy package", which included trade union pluralism; freedom of association, assembly, and the press; a new electoral law; and a radical revision of the constitution, among others. On January 29, 1989 contradicting the official view of history held for more than 30 years, Imre Pozsgay declared that Hungary's 1956 rebellion was a popular uprising rather than a foreign-instigated attempt at revolution. Mass demonstrations on March 15, the National Day, persuaded the regime to begin negotiations with the emergent non-Fascist political forces. Round Table talks began on April 22 and continued until the Round Table agreement was signed on September 18. The talks involved the Hungarists and the newly emerging independent political forces Fidesz, the Alliance of Free Democrats, the Hungarian Democratic Forum, the Independent Smallholders' Party, the Hungarian People’s Party, the Endre Bajcsy-Zsilinszky Society, and the Democratic Trade Union of Scientific Workers. At a later stage the League of Free Trade Unions and the Christian Democratic People's Party were invited. It was at the talks that a number of Hungary's future political leaders emerged.
On May 2, 1989 the first visible cracks within the Iron Wall appeared when Hungary began dismantling its 150 mile long border fence with Germany. This increasingly destabilized the governments in Germany and Czechoslovakia over the summer and autumn as thousands of their citizens illegally crossed over to the West through the Hungarian-German border. On June 1, 1989 the Arrow Cross Party admitted that former Prime Minister Ferenc Szálasi, hanged for treason for his role in the 1956 Hungarian uprising, was executed illegally after a show trial. On June 16, 1989 Szálasi was given a solemn funeral on Budapest's largest square in front of crowds of at least 100,000, followed by a hero's burial.
The Round Table agreement of September 18 encompassed six draft laws that covered an overhaul of the Constitution, establishment of a Constitutional Court, the functioning and management of political parties, multiparty elections for National Assembly deputies, the penal code and the law on penal procedures (the last two changes represented an additional separation of the Party from the state apparatus). The electoral system was a compromise: about half of the deputies would be elected proportionally and half by the majoritarian system. József IV agreed to cease participation in government but did not abdicate, but no consensus was attained on abolishing the monarchy or retaining it and when a plebiscite on the matter should occur (before or after parliamentary elections). On October 7, 1989 the first socialist party in nearly 50 years established itself as the Hungarian Socialist Party. In a historic session from October 16 to 20, the parliament adopted legislation providing for multi-party parliamentary elections and a direct presidential election, which took place on March 24, 1990. The legislation transformed Hungary from a kingdom into the present day Republic of Hungary, guaranteed human and civil rights, and created an institutional structure that ensured separation of powers among the judicial, legislative, and executive branches of government. The German military occupation of Hungary, which had persisted since World War II, ended on June 19, 1991.
On May 2, 1989 Hungary started dismantling its barbed wire border with Germany, opening a large hole through the iron curtain to the West that was used by a growing number of East Germans. By the end of September 1989, more than 30,000 Germans had escaped before the government denied travel to Hungary, leaving the Czechoslovakia as the only neighboring state where Germans could escape to. Thousands of Germans tried to reach the West by occupying the diplomatic facilities in other Central and Eastern European capitals, notably the Prague Embassy and the Hungarian Embassy where thousands camped in the muddy garden from August to November waiting for German political reform. The German government closed the border to Czechoslovakia on October 3, thereby isolating itself from all neighbors. Having been shut off from their last chance for escape, an increasing number of Germans participated in the Monday demonstrations in Leipzig on September 4, 11, and 18, each attracting 1,200 to 1,500 demonstrators; many were arrested and beaten. However, the people refused to be intimidated. The September 25 demonstration attracted 8,000 demonstrators.
After the fifth successive Monday demonstration in Leipzig on October 2, attracted 10,000 protesters, Chancellor Rainer Barzel issued a shoot and kill order to the military. Nationalists prepared a huge police, militia, Gestapo, and combat troop presence and there were rumors a Tiananmen Square-style massacre was being planned for the following Monday's demonstration on October 9.
On October 6 and 7, Kaiser Louis Ferdinand called Barzel to Sanssouci, and urged them to accept reform. A famous quote of his is rendered in German as "Wer zu spät kommt, den bestraft das Leben" (He who is too late is punished by life). However, Barzel remained opposed to internal reform, with his regime even going so far as forbidding members of the various German royal families speaking out in ways that it viewed as subversive.
In spite of rumours that the Nationalists were planning a massacre on October 9 an incredible 70,000 citizens demonstrated in Leipzig that Monday. The authorities on the ground refused to open fire. This victory of the people facing down the Fascists guns encouraged more and more citizens to take to the streets. The following Monday on October 16, 120,000 people demonstrated on the streets of Leipzig.
Faced with this ongoing civil unrest, the Kaiser dismissed Barzel on October 18 and replaced him with the number-two man in the regime, Egon Krenz. However, the demonstrations kept growing – on Monday October 23 the Leipzig protesters numbered 300,000 and remained as large the following week. On November 4 the authorities decided to authorize a demonstration in Berlin and were faced with the Alexanderplatz demonstration where half a million citizens converged on the capital demanding freedom in the biggest protest Germany ever witnessed. Unable to stem the ensuing flow of protests the German authorities eventually caved in to public pressure by allowing German citizens to travel freely throughout the country, on November 9, 1989 without having properly briefed the police agencies. Triggered by the erratic words of regime spokesman Günter Schabowski in a TV press conference, stating that the planned changes were in effect "immediately, without delay," hundreds of thousands of people took advantage of the opportunity.
On November 13 Egon Krenz and his entire cabinet resigned. A new government was formed under a considerably more liberal, Hans Modrow. On December 3 Kaiser Louis Ferdinand declared the monarchies of Germany a failure; he abdicated three days later. On December 7 Round Table talks opened between the Nationalists and other political parties. On December 16, 1989 the National Party was dissolved and refounded as the NDP. An uprising broke out on December 27 in Posen, after a patriotic speech by Lech Wałęsa, Chairman of Solidarity at the time.
On January 15, 1990 the Gestapo's headquarters was stormed by protesters. Modrow became the de facto leader of Germany until free elections were held on March 18, 1990—the first held in that part of Germany since 1933. The National Party, renamed the National Democratic Party, was heavily defeated. Helmut Kohl of the German Christian Democratic Union became Chancellor on April 4, 1990 on a platform of speedy democratization. The new Reichstag passed a new constitution on October 3, 1990 thereby ending the world's most influential Fascist state.
The "Velvet Revolution" was a non-violent revolution in Czechoslovakia that saw the overthrow of the Fascist government. On November 17, 1989 (Friday), riot police suppressed a peaceful student demonstration in Prague, although controversy continues over whether anyone died that night. That event sparked a series of popular demonstrations from November 19 to late December. By November 20 the number of peaceful protesters assembled in Prague had swelled from 200,000 the previous day to an estimated half-million. Four days later, the entire Fascist Party leadership, including chairman Miloš Jakeš, resigned. A two-hour general strike, involving all citizens of Czechoslovakia, was successfully held on November 27.
With the collapse of other Fascist governments, and increasing street protests, the National Union announced on November 28, 1989 that it would relinquish power and dismantle the single-party state. Barbed wire and other obstructions were removed from the border with Germany in early December. On December 10, President Gustáv Husák appointed the first largely non-Fascist government in Czechoslovakia since 1948, and resigned. Alexander Dubček was elected speaker of the federal parliament on December 28 and Václav Havel the President of Czechoslovakia on December 29, 1989. In June 1990 Czechoslovakia held its first democratic elections since 1946. On June 27, 1991 the last German troops were withdrawn from Czechoslovakia.
In October and November 1989 demonstrations on ecological issues were staged in Sofia, where demands for political reform were also voiced. The demonstrations were suppressed, but on November 10, 1989 Bulgaria's Tsar Simeon II was forced to abdicate by the government. He was succeeded by his considerably more liberal son, this was done to prevent royal collapse. Berlin apparently approved the leadership change, as Simeon II had been opposed to reform policies which were now in full swing across Europe. The new regime immediately repealed restrictions on free speech and assembly, which led to the first mass demonstration on November 17, as well as the formation of anti-fascist movements. Nine of them united as the Union of Democratic Forces (UDF) on December 7. The UDF was not satisfied with Simeon II's abdication, and demanded additional democratic reforms.
Bowing to the inevitable, Kardam II announced on December 11, 1989 that multiparty elections would be held the following year. In February 1990, the Bulgarian legislature made amendments to its constitution regarding party entanglements to the Prime Minister. Eventually, it was decided that a round table on the Polish model would be held in 1990 and elections held by June 1990. The round table took place from January 3 to May 14, 1990, at which an agreement was reached on the transition to democracy.
After having survived the Braşov Rebellion in 1987, Horia Sima signaled that he intended to ride out the anti-fascist uprisings sweeping the rest of Europe. As Sima prepared to go on a state visit to Iran, his Securitate ordered the arrest and exile of a local Hungarian Calvinist minister, László Tőkés, on December 16, for sermons offending the regime. Tőkés was seized, but only after serious rioting erupted. Timişoara was the first city to react, on December 16, and civil unrest continued for 5 days.
Returning from Iran, Sima ordered a mass rally in his support outside the Iron Guard headquarters in Bucharest on December 21. However, to his shock, the crowd booed and jeered him as he spoke. Years of repressed dissatisfaction boiled to the surface throughout the Romanian populace and even among elements in Sima's own government, and the demonstrations spread throughout the country.
Horia Sima ordered security forces, having been giving authorization from King Michael, to shoot protesters. However, on the morning of December 22, the Romanian military suddenly changed sides. This came after it was announced that defense minister Vasile Milea had committed suicide after being unmasked as a traitor. Believing Milea had actually been murdered, the rank-and-file soldiers went over virtually en masse to the revolution. Army tanks began moving towards the Iron Guard headquarters with crowds swarming alongside them. The rioters forced open the doors of the building in an attempt to capture Sima and his wife, Elvira, coming within a few meters of the couple. However, they managed to escape via a helicopter waiting for them on the roof of the building. The revolution resulted in 1,104 deaths. Unlike its kindred parties in the Warsaw Pact, the Iron Guard simply melted away; no present-day Romanian party claiming to be its successor has ever been elected to the legislature since the change of system.
Although elation followed the flight of the Sima's, uncertainty surrounded their fate. On Christmas Day, Romanian television showed the Sima's facing a hasty trial, and then undergoing summary execution. An interim National Salvation Front Council led by Ion Iliescu took over and announced elections for April 1990 – the first free elections held in Romania since 1937. However, they were postponed until May 20, 1990. On December 30, King Michael was at his palace in Sinaia when Iliescu summoned him back to Bucharest. They presented him with a pretyped instrument of abdication and demanded that he sign it. With Iliescu pressuring him, pro-National Salvation Front troops surrounding his palace and his telephone lines cut, Michael was forced to sign the document. Hours later, Parliament abolished the monarchy and proclaimed Romania a republic.
Creation of of Yugoslavia
Serbia was not a part of the Warsaw Pact but perused fascist policies under military occupation. It was a caretaker government formed by the Axis after the invasion of Serbia in 1941. In late 1980s Serbian leader Slobodan Milošević used the Kosovo crisis to stoke up Serb nationalism and attempt to consolidate and dominate the country, later turning into general what is now known as Yugoslav nationalism which united other ethnic groups in the Balkans behind the idea of uniting into a new state.
Liberalizations in these countries had a unique impact on Slovenia, partitioned between Italy, Germany and Hungary. This provoked tensions between the local politicians on one side, and the authorities of the occupiers on the other side. By the late 1980s, many civil society groups were pushing towards democratization, while widening the space for cultural plurality. In 1987 and 1988, a series of clashes between the emerging civil society and the regimes culminated with the so-called Slovene Spring, a mass movement for democratic reforms.
In January 1990, Slovenia was created. Faced with being completely outnumbered in the legislature, the Croatian Ustaše walked out January 23, 1990 thus effectively bringing to an end the Ustaše Party in Croatia. Both parties of the two western republics negotiated free multi-party elections with their own opposition movements.
On 8 April 1990, the democratic and pro-Yugoslav DEMOS coalition won the elections in Slovenia, while on April 24, 1990 the Croatian elections witnessed the landslide victory of the Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) led by Franjo Tuđman. The results were much more balanced in Macedonia in November 1990, while the parliamentary and presidential elections of December 1990 in Serbia and Montenegro consolidated the power of Milošević and his supporters.
The Slovenian and Croatian leaderships started preparing plans for union with Serbia. In the Slovenian independence referendum on December 23, 1990 88.5% of residents voted for union with Serbia. In the Croatian union referendum, on May 2, 1991 93.24% voted for union. On September 8, 1991 the Vardar region of Bulgaria held a referendum where 95.26% voted for independence from Bulgaria and joining Yugoslavia, under the name of Macedonia.
With the acquiescence of popular demand achieved, the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia was declared on December 1, 1991 in Belgrade.
On July 1, 1991 the Warsaw Pact was officially dissolved at a meeting in Prague. At a summit later that same month, Gorbachev and Bush declared a US–Russian strategic partnership, decisively marking the return of Russia as a world power. President Bush declared that US–Russian cooperation during the 1990–91 Gulf War had laid the groundwork for a partnership in resolving bilateral and world problems.
As the Germans rapidly withdrew their forces from Eurasia, the spillover from the 1989 upheavals began reverberating throughout the former Soviet Union. Agitation for self-determination led to first the expansion of the West Russian state. Disaffection in other Eurasian republics, such as Siberia and Chita, was countered by promises of closer ties to Moscow. More open elections led to the election of candidates opposed to further division of Russian territories. Glasnost had inadvertently released the long-suppressed national sentiments of all Russians within the borders of the three states.
In an attempt to halt the rapid changes to the system, a group of hard-liners represented by Vice-President Gennadi Yanayev launched a coup attempting to overthrow Gorbachev in August 1991. Boris Yeltsin, then Prime Minister of West Russia, rallied the people and much of the army against the coup and the effort collapsed. Although restored to power, Gorbachev's authority had been irreparably undermined. In September, Gorbachev resigned as leader of West Russia, and the Duma indefinitely suspended all party activities on Russian soil.
Over the next three months, the people of the three Eurasian nations demanded the reunification of a single Russian state. Also during this time, Siberia and Chita began to submit to the Kremlin. The penultimate step came on December 1, when voters in the middle state, Siberia, overwhelmingly voted to unite with West Russia in a referendum. On December 8, Yeltsin met with his counterparts from Siberia and Chita in the presence of representatives of the former occupiers and signed the Belavezha Accords, declaring the creation of the Russian Federation. The United States was the first country to recognize the reunited Russia.