The End of the Cold War
Gerontocracy in USSR
• Gerontocracy – government ruled by old
• Brezhnev did not try to make many reforms
within the USSR. Others had tried and lost
their power as a result. Brezhnev dies in 1982
• Andropov (already in his late 70’s and in poor
health) then takes over. He tries to make
changes, but dies within a year
• Cherenkov takes over after Andropov (again
really old and in poor health) and does not do
anything to rock the boat
• Gorbachev comes into power in 1985 and
needs to concentrate his power. Old
Brehznevites were dying and retiring and
being replaced by new leadership
• Gorbachev stresses discipline, cracks down on
vodka consumption and slacking off
Gorbachev’s Reforms
• 1986 He tries reforms:
– Perestroika – restructuring the economy, freed it
from the rigid state control. “Law of Enterprises”
allowed business to seek their own resources and
pay workers differentially.
– Glasnost – openness to social reforms, broke
down the closed society. 1988 censorship
abolished, debate on Soviet history allowed,
persecution of Orthodox Church ends
Some look at reforms with hope, others feel it is
getting out of control
Ending East-West Confrontation
• Both Gorbachev and Reagan want to decrease
nuclear weapons, even as Reagan increases
military spending. Finding a compromise is hard
• Reykjavik Summit 1986 – Reagan proposes “Zero
Option” eliminating all INF and strategic missiles.
Gorbachev insists the USA gets rid of SDI
initiative. Reagan refuses and no agreements are
reached. It is seen as a failure, but opens them up
for further discussion
• Strategic Defense Initiative (also known as “Star
• It was a defense system that would detect
missiles and destroy them from space. It was very
expensive and never worked, technology did not
support it.
• This went against the ABM Treaty that was signed
previously and if it would have worked, would
have tipped the balance of power in US favor
Nuclear disarmament
• December 1987 USA & USSR agree to INF
Treaty that dismantled medium range missles.
• 1988 Gorbachev announces a reduction in
Soviet armed forces, withdrawing 10,000 from
Eastern Europe
• Gorbachev needed to reduce military
spending to attempt to keep their economy
Letting go…
• December 1988 Gorbachev announced that every
country had the right to choose its own
government and that USSR would no longer
interfere in their affairs. The Brezhnev doctrine
was dead.
(Brezhnev Doctrine – The fate of socialist countries
are intertwined and any internal struggles in one
socialist country will require the intervention of
other socialist countries to keep the system in
The collapse of Eastern Europe
• May 1989 – Communist reformers open
border with Austria (non-Communist)
• Announced 1956 Uprising was not “counterrevolutionary” and rehabilitates Imre Nagy
and publically reburies him
• Announces free elections in October
• Hungarian National Assembly abolished the
leading role of Communist Party in society
• Legalized non-communist parties and drop
“People’s Republic” from its name
• Solidarity Union demands democratic reforms
• June 1988 partially free elections are held
winning 160 seats out of 161, choosing a noncommunist government
• Mazowiecki becomes Prime Minister, went to
Moscow and was treated well
• New government immediately begins
changing to a capitalist economy
East Germany
• Leader, Erich Honecker, ran a hard-line
government, censoring Gorbachev’s speeches
about reforms
• August & September 1989, many E. Germans flee
to Hungary on the pretext of
vacationing…vacationing without ever going back
• October, crowds gather demanding end to
communism. Honecker orders soldiers to fire,
Egon Krenz suppresses the order
• Krenz forces Honecker to retire and promises
reform. He open the border with
Czechoslovakia, many E. Germans cross over
• November 3rd, ministers in charge of the
police resign, public demands the entire
cabinet resign.
• On TV a spokesperson says travel to the West
would be opened…thousands of East Berliners
rush to the checkpoints at the Berlin Wall
• The guards had received no orders to open
the gates, they are unsure what to do…
• Shortly after 11 p.m. the barriers are raised and
people swarm into West Berlin and begin
breaking the wall with hammers
• A week later the State Security Police is
• The Volkskammer (East German Parliament)
denounced the role of Communism in society and
plan for free elections in May 1990
• Dec. 3rd 1988 Krenz government collapses and
elections are pushed up to March
• Honecker is arrested and the communist Party is
sacked by mobs
• By 1988 all independent voices in the gov. had
been purged
• Crowds demonstrate on the anniversary of the
1968 Soviet invasion and crushing of “Prague
Spring” they are attacked by police which set
off strikes & protest around the country
organized by the Civic Forum headed by
Vaclav Havel
• In response to the protests, the cabinet
resigns and communists promise a special
congress to discuss the future. Havel says it is
a trick
• Crowds demand multi-party elections
• Gov. abandons the communist party’s leading
role in society and opens their border with
• Free elections are scheduled for Dec. 28th,
Havel is elected president
• Independence becomes known as “Velvet
• 1984 Communist leader Zhivkov decided to
“Bulgarize” the Turks who lived there. They were
forced to adopt Bulgarian names and practice
Islam, those who resisted were expelled
• 1989 Zhivkov was forced to resign, crowds call for
• The gov. abandons the communist party’s leading
role in society and announced multiparty
elections & ends persecution of Turks
• Ceausescu led a Stalinist-State in the grips of
the Rumanian Secret Police
• Gov. tries to evict a Protestant Pastor and
people form a human chain around the church
he was hiding in
• Soldiers who refused to fire on them were
shot themselves, riots erupted.
• Ceausescu addressed a crowd in Bucharest
and was shouted down and forced to flee
• Ceausescu and his wife are arrested , tried and
executed on December 24th 1989, is televised
and broadcast throughout the country
• The police continue fighting until they are
wiped out or surrender
• A conspiracy of reform communists formed
the National Salvation Front and win
fraudulent elections…they kept many of
Ceausescu’s policies

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