(© picture-alliance/dpa)

  1989

  6 Debates

First it was hundreds, then thousands and finally tens of thousands of GDR citizens who took to the streets in 1989. This culminated on 9 October in a demonstration in Leipzig of at least 70,000 people. Contrary to what was feared, the security forces did not intervene. Europe's press commemorates the peaceful revolution, which a month later culminated in the fall of the Berlin Wall, and takes a critical look at the world today.

On the evening of August 23, 1989, roughly two million Estonians, Latvians and Lithuanians formed a human chain more than 600 kilometres long that stretched from Tallinn across Riga to Vilnius. Fifty years after the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact people in the three states stood side by side in pursuit of freedom and independence in one of the biggest non-violent protests the world has ever seen: the Baltic Way.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel will visit the Hungarian city of Sopron today to commemorate the Pan-European Picnic together with Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán. On 19 August 1989 GDR citizens used this event to flee to the West across the Austrian-Hungarian border. Commentators find it notable that of all politicians these two are coming together to celebrate the first cracks in the Iron Curtain.

On June 4, 1989, Poland held its first partially free elections - a novelty in the communist East Bloc. From Poland's perspective the results were of similar significance to the fall of the Berlin Wall. Commentators look back on the historic vote and the three decades that followed.

After the death of the comparatively liberal Communist Party leader Hu Yaobang in mid-April 1989 hundreds of thousands demonstrated on Tiananmen Square for political reforms. The peaceful protest ended at the start of June in a massacre carried out by the army that left hundreds dead. In China all discussion of the events is still taboo.

The remains of Imre Nagy, former head of government and Hungarian national hero since his execution in 1956, were reburied 30 years ago. At the public ceremony marking Nagy's rehabilitation on June 16, 1989, Viktor Orbán, the incumbent prime minister, called for Soviet troops to withdraw from Hungary. Commentators take stock 30 years on.