The Democratic Transition of Czechoslovakia, the German Democratic Republic and their Successor States, with Particular Focus on the Geopolitical Framework after 1989

Master's Thesis, 2014

123 Pages, Grade: 2,0


List of Content

List of Figures

List of Abbreviations

1. Introduction
1.1 Object of Research
1.2 Problem Statement
1.3 State of Research
1.4 Structure
1.5 Methodology

2. Definitions
2.1 Regionalism
2.2 Region
2.3 Transition

3. The Transition of the German Democratic Republic
3.1 The End of the Autocratic System
3.1.1 Notice of Electoral Fraud
3.1.2 ‘Exit’ from Prague, Budapest and Warsaw: Mass Departures, Escapes – and the Externalisation of the Transition
3.1.3 ‘Voice’: The ‘Peaceful Revolution’ of October/November 1989
3.1.4 Economic Crisis
3.1.5 Changes in the International Political Framework
3.1.6 Loss of International Financial Aid Scheme
3.2 The Democratisation Process
3.2.1 The Beginning of Democratisation
3.2.2 Further Process of Democratisation
3.2.3 The End of the Democratisation Process
3.2.4 External Elements of the Democratisation Process and Germany’s Reunification
3.3 The Consolidation of Democracy
3.3.1 The Socio-Economic Consolidation
3.3.2 The Political Consolidation

4. The Transition of Czechoslovakia
4.1 The End of the Autocratic System
4.1.1 ‘Voice’ instead of ‘Exit’: the ‘Velvet Revolution’
4.1.2 Opposition Movements
4.2 The Democratisation Process
4.2.1 The Beginning of Democratisation
4.2.2 Further Process of Democratisation
4.2.3 The End of the Democratisation Process
4.3 The Consolidation of Democracy
4.3.1 The Socio-Economic Consolidation
4.3.2 The Political Consolidation

5. Comparison

6. Conclusion



Bibliographical Note

HOLTSCHKE, Eric. The Democratic Transition of Czechoslovakia, the German Democratic Republic and their Successor States, with Particular Focus on the Geopolitical Framework after 1989. 120 pages. Master thesis. Charles University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Institute of Political Studies. Supervisor Mgr. Martin Riegl, PhD.


In 1989-1990 the communist rule in Central and Eastern Europe collapsed, opening up the road to democracy, came about by means of mass demonstrations, the first of which took place in Plauen (GDR) on 7 October 1989. Only a few months later, no-one could be sure how the world would develop. The so-called ‘voice’ was followed by ‘exit’ in the German Democratic Republic – and the Czechoslovakians were close to the events taking place in the embassy of the Federal Republic of Germany in Prague. The end of the autocratic system was followed by the process of democratisation, characterised by upheavals and the restructuring of political conditions. Free and independent elections marked the end of democratisation in both the German Democratic Republic and Czechoslovakia. The consolidation period was determined by the dissolution of both of the aforementioned countries. The author’s focus was on economic consolidation, as well as on political consolidation with regard to regional integration by means of the countries’ membership of international organisations and regional and sub-regional bodies. Finally, a comparison has been made of the German Democratic Republic, Czechoslovakia and their successor states.

Key words

Federal Republic of Germany, German Democratic Republic, Czechoslovakia, Czech Republic, Slovak Republic, regionalism, NATO, European Union, international organisations, transition

Range of thesis: 304,941 symbols, 44,327 words, 134 pages

List of Figures

Figure 1: Relocations from the German Democratic Republic to the Federal Republic of Germany 1981-1990

Figure 2: Alphabetical List of Mass Demonstrations with Large Attendance on the Territory of the GDR in 1989/1990

Figure 3: Key Figures of Economic Development in the GDR 1987-1989

Figure 4: Development of Unemployment Rate in West Germany (excluding Berlin) and East Germany (including Berlin), as well as Germany as a whole, based on Dependent Civil Labour Force 1990-2013 in percentages

Figure 5: Development of Unemployment Rate in East Germany and Berlin based on Dependent Civil Labour Force 1990-2013 in percentages

Figure 6: Comparison of Net Migration Development in East Germany 1990/2008

Figure 7: Development of Gross Domestic Product compared to the previous year in West Germany (excluding Berlin), East Germany (including Berlin) and Germany as a whole 1992-2013 (in real terms and concatenated) in percentages

Figure 8: Development of Gross Domestic Product (in real terms and concatenated) compared to the previous year in the new federal states of East Germany (excluding Berlin) in percentages

Figure 9: Development of Inflation Rate compared to the previous year in West Germany (including West Berlin), East Germany (including East Berlin) and Germany as a whole 1992-1999 in percentages

Figure 10: Development of Inflation Rate compared to the previous year in Germany as a whole 2000-2013 in percentages

Figure 11: Membership of the Federal Republic of Germany and the German Democratic Republic of the most important International Organisations

Figure 12: Development of Inflation (compared to the previous year), General Unemployment Rate and Gross Domestic Product (compared to the previous year) in the Czech part of Czechoslovakia and then the Czech Republic 1989-2013 in percentages

Figure 13: Graphs showing the Development of Inflation (compared to the previous year), General Unemployment Rate and Gross Domestic Product (compared to the previous year) in the Czech territory of Czechoslovakia, and then the Czech Republic, between 1989-2013 in percentages according to the figures in ‘Figure 12’

Figure 14: Development of Inflation (compared to the previous year), General Unemployment Rate and Gross Domestic Product (compared to the previous year) in the Slovak territory of Czechoslovakia and then the Slovak Republic 1989-2013 in percentages

Figure 15: Graph showing the Development of Inflation (compared to the previous year), General Unemployment Rate and Gross Domestic Product (compared to the previous year) in the Slovak territory of Czechoslovakia, and the Slovak Republic 1989-2013 in percentages according to the figures in ‘Figure 14’

Figure 16: Membership of Czechoslovakia and the Czech and Slovak Republics of the most important International Organisations

List of Abbreviations

illustration not visible in this excerpt

1. Introduction

1.1 Object of Research

When the people across the Eastern bloc of Central and Eastern Europe went out on the street demonstrating and uprising en masse against the Communist regime, firstly in October 1989 on the territory of East Germany and then in November 1989 in Prague, Bratislava and other large cities of Czechoslovakia, the aftermath of the ongoing revolution was not predictable for either the scholars or for those directly involved. On 9 October 1989 more than 70,000 people demonstrated in Leipzig; a week later this number had grown to 120,000, and almost one month later half of a million in East Berlin: “On 4 November 1989 East Berlin experienced the biggest demonstration not to be organised by the SED in post-war history.”1 At the same time, demonstrations were also taking place in Czechoslovakia: on 24 and 25 November 1989, between 700,000 and 800,0002 people demonstrated in Prague, the biggest mass demonstration the country has ever experienced. The progress of the ‘Velvet Revolution’ at the time in Czechoslovakia is deeply connected with, and most comparable to, the development of the ‘Peaceful Revolution’ in the GDR.3 The citizens of the Warsaw Pact countries did not, and could not, know that they would find themselves in the middle of a new chapter of their daily lives and the life of the global community. In fact, they were in the middle of a new chapter of historiography. The end of the Cold War and thus the collapse of the Eastern Bloc was, in the words of Mary Farrell, “one of the late twentieth century’s defining moments”4. Sharon Wolchik and Jane Curry described the situation in their book Central and East European Politics – From Communism to Democracy as follows: “In 1989, the unthinkable happened: communist rule collapsed, virtually like a house of cards, all over what had been the former Soviet bloc.”5 The former Communist bloc saw a gradual transition to democracy. The revolutions, upheavals and watershed events that ended the world’s bipolarity, with NATO on the one side and the Warsaw Pact on the other, took place at breathtaking speed. The political, social, societal and economic changes soon led to a new geopolitical order: former state unions were dissolved and new states emerged, old borders were abolished and new borders were drawn, old treaties expired and new treaties were signed. “As Germany came together, Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia, and the Soviet Union came apart, creating, from what had been eight states, twenty-nine states, nineteen of which are geographically in Europe.”6 However, the most important geopolitical act of the former Warsaw Pact states was, and still is, their return to Europe by joining the European Communities (EC), NATO, European Union (EU), later the Schengen Agreement and finally the Euro Currency Zone among others – the last-mentioned of these applying to at least a few of them. The accession of the former Soviet satellite states to the EU can be judged as a logical consequence of the upheavals, but “it has complicated the EU’s politics and economics”7. Regionalism, as a result of the transition to democratic states, became an important topic from the mid-1980s and beginning of the 1990s, particularly in the former Communist states, which were considerable affected by both fragmentation and integration: “The early years of the twenty-first century have witnessed an intensification in regionalism across the globe.”8 Furthermore, it is said that “renewed interest in regionalism has seen even reluctant actors move towards deeper cooperative arrangements and enhanced integration with neighbouring countries through either formal or informal institutional frameworks”9. In addition, inter-regionalism and sub-regionalism, as well as regionalisation – which will be defined later on – also played a major role in the transition process.

While the German Democratic Republic, and later the Neue Länder10 in the reunited Federal Republic of Germany had the advantage of a rapidly progressing transition in almost all regards, the Slovak Republic fell into a brief period of political dictatorship. The Czech Republic performed inconspicuously, even though the rapid economic changes following the split from Slovakia led to a large number of people suffering from reduced social circumstances. Nevertheless, in the GDR as well as in the Czech Republic and Slovakia the changes represented an opportunity to establish a democracy and its necessary institutional framework due to their “early and decisive break with the past”11. In the words of Vaclav Havel: “You may ask what kind of republic I dream of. Let me reply: I dream of a republic independent, free, and democratic, of a republic economically prosperous and yet socially just; in short, of a humane republic that serves the individual and that therefore holds the hope that the individual will serve it in turn. Of a republic of well-rounded people, because without such people it is impossible to solve any of our problems – human, economic, ecological, social, or political.”12

1.2 Problem Statement

The transition as a topic in scientific research is generally well analysed. Especially the democratic transition in Central and Eastern Europe in particular has been, and still is, at the centre of studies since the radical changes began in 1989/1990. There is a significant lack of scientific study concerning the transition of the German Democratic Republic following reunification with (West) Germany; nevertheless, significant distinctions between the West and the East of Germany with regard to society, economy and politics continue to be more than visible – these shall be mentioned addressed in the thesis. This thesis aims to help close the gap in transitional research concerning the GDR. With regard to the lack of research and literature, the transition of the GDR will be examined in relation to the transition in Czechoslovakia and its successor states, the Czech and Slovak Republics. This will have three main advantages, which will positively influence the used methodology: firstly, it is easier to compare the transition process in an international context; secondly, the comparison of the GDR with the Czech Republic and Slovakia will both form part of the methodology. While comparative studies are a rarely used approach in the field of transition, they will be highly suitable for this type of investigation; and thirdly, one considerable advantage of the comparative approach is its high level of transparency.

The purpose of this thesis is to give an overview of the development and provide a comparison of the transition and consolidation processes in both former communist states, Czechoslovakia and the German Democratic Republic, and their three successor states. With regard to Czechoslovakia, the Czech Republic and Slovakia, the thesis shall examine the geopolitical framework and its consequences with regard to regionalism and membership of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), European Union and the Eurozone, amongst others. This thesis intends to take detailed look at past events and identify the factors that will determine the transitional process into the future. Overall, the transformation of the GDR and Czechoslovakia will be examined on four core layers: a) research, b) analysis, c) evaluation and d) classification of the developments and the backgrounds of the transformational process. The key questions are: how can the development of the transition process of Czechoslovakia and the German Democratic Republic and their successor states be outlined? What are the similarities between the afore mentioned countries and what are the differences regarding the level of transition and where do these countries stand today, and how can the geopolitical impact of the transition be analysed and evaluated (with regard to the membership of the aforementioned states of international organisations)?

1.3 State of Research

Transformational research is a relatively new discipline. The first articles on the subject were published during the third wave of democratisation13 at the beginning of the 1970s14. Even though the tradition of this field of research is not a long one, transformational studies are an elementary and indispensible department of research within the field of political systems and institutions of (geo)political science. Initially, macro-sociological and structuralist theories of social sciences formed the dominant approach of scholars such as Talcott Parson (1951, 1969), Seymour Martin Lipset (1959) and Samuel Huntigton (1969). During the 1980s , these early approaches shifted to a consideration of a micro-sociological and player-theoretical approaches. The most important representatives of the second wave of transitional studies were: Adam Przeworski (1986, 1991, 1992), Guiseppe Di Palmas (1990), Samuel Huntigton (1991), Sharon L. Wolchik (1991). Juan J. Linz and Alfred Stepan (1996) focused particularly on the process of consolidation within a transition. Their core publication is called “Problems of Democratic Transition and Consolidation – Southern Europe, South America, and Post Communist Europe”15.

The theoretically-led discussion of transition in Germany, which fundamentally focuses on a conceptual approach, is mainly founded on the achievements of Wolfgang Merkel16. Other pioneering personalities included Klaus von Beyme17, Manfred G. Schmidt18 and Eckhard Jesse19. Beyme classified the changes in Central and Eastern Europe in a new fourth wave, while Schmidt was especially focused on the term ‘democracy’ and Jesse retrospectively analysed and classified all four German transitions. Unfortunately, the change of political system in East Germany in 1989/1990 has never been the main focus of scientific research in the reunited Germany. One key reason for this may be the rapid adoption of the West German political, societal, social and economic system in the newly-established federal states on the former territory of the GDR. However, this change of political structures did not, and still has not, led to a common political culture. That is: while the GDR was certainly converted to the West German system, the transition – or rather rapid change – did not lead per se to a democratic consolidation of the newly acquired democracy. Nevertheless, the adoption of West German structures significantly supported the process of consolidation in the east of the country. A further reason for this is described by Wolchik/Curry: “This volume does not deal with East Germany, for former German Democratic Republic, which went through many of the same processes in its shift to democracy but in the context of reunification with West Germany rather than a separate state.”20 This shall be a reason why it is high time for the GDR to be included in transitional research.

The chief representatives of transitional research on Czechoslovakia and its successor states are Vít Hloušek (together with Lubomír Kopeček)21 and Sharon L. Wolchik22. Vít Hloušek significantly combined the interaction of a theoretical approach and practice in the study of the transition in Czechoslovakia and later in the Czech Republic and Slovakia. On the other hand, he concentrated on an analysis of political parties and their transition in Europe, while Wolchik mainly analysed the upheavals in Central and Eastern Europe as a whole.

Regionalism as a scientific subject and object emerged during Second World War, even though regionalism itself is “as old as history”23. According to Louise Fawcett24 three waves of regionalism can be defined: the first wave occurred between 1945 and 1965 with the emergence of the European Coal and Steel Community, the European Community, the United Nations and NATO; the second, mainly during the 1970s, saw the emergence of the European Monetary Union, ASEAN and other organisations that emerged in Asia and Africa, such as ECOWAS; the third wave, which began in the mid-1980s and continues into the present day, has been characterised by the agglomeration of European Union and the foundation of new free trade areas (such as NAFTA or MERCUSOR). The most important representatives of the first wave of regionalism were Ernst Haas, Leon Lindberg and David Mitrany.25 The main scholars of modern regionalism, including Louise Fawcett, Mary Farrell and Björn Hettne26, see themselves as followers of a so called ‘new regionalism’. According to Rodrigo27, the three waves of regionalism can be distinguished by: 1) agency, 2) vectors/motivation, 3) direction and 4) coverage. Other representatives are Edward D. Mansfield/Helen V. Milner28 and Andrew Hurrell29, all of whom consider regionalism to be a global phenomenon. Barbara Lippert is considered a leading scholar in English and German scientific literature describing and analysing the path of post-Communist states towards European integration.30

1.4 Structure

The thesis will start with a typical introduction to the topic of the thesis, including the object of research, the problem statement and the state of research, as well as a description of the methodology used. The first chapter is followed by three important and necessary definitions of regionalism, regions and transition, which are necessary for an in-depth understanding of the subject-matter. The third chapter will focus on the transition of the German Democratic Republic, particularly the end of the autocratic system and the democratisation and consolidation process. The six main features of the end of East Germany’s autocratic system are introduced: 1) notice of electoral fraud, 2) ‘exit’ (the departure of GDR citizens to West Germany), 3) ‘voice’ (mass demonstrations), 4) economic crisis, 5) changes in the international political framework and 6) loss of international financial benefits. Three stages of the democratisation process will be distinguished: 1) beginning, 2) further progress and 3) the end of the process, culminating in external elements of East Germany’s democratisation process, such as the role played by the Federal Republic of Germany and the international dimension of Germany’s reunification. The upheavals in the political sphere will be mainly considered by means of an explanation and description of the process of changing the political elite in 1989 and 1990. The last aspect considered will be that of the consolidation of East Germany, which will form the main part of the thesis. The author shall focus mainly on socio-economic consolidation such as unemployment rates (a comparison shall be made between West and East Germany), migration to the West, the development of GDP as well as inflation. The author shall thus cover the main economic indicators in the period between 1991/1992 and 2013. Research will further focus on economic, monetary and social union through currency change and the establishment of the Treuhandanstalt (Trust Agency) as important milestones in the consolidation of East Germany. The second part of the consolidation of East Germany shall be presented in chapter 3.3.2 (‘Political Consolidation’). There, the core issue of the thesis shall be addressed through the use of regionalism as a key approach. The GDR’s shift towards the European Community/European Union and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization shall be the focus of attention due to its symbolism with regard to regionalism. Furthermore, GDR’s path towards NATO and the EU can be evaluated as the most substantial one following the reunification of Germany. Generally, the international framework played a major role in the reunification of the two German states. Additionally, the thesis addresses two more aspects of the political consolidation: the Two Plus Four Negotiations, which officially permitted the reunification, as well as coming to terms with the Stasi past. Both aspects are integral to the transfer of political, social and economical institutions and structures from the West to the East.

The rapid change of the political system in Czechoslovakia and its division into two successor states, the Czech and Slovak Republics, and the end of the autocratic system, will be only briefly described, while presenting two key aspects leading to the democratisation of Czechoslovakia: ‘voice’ (mass demonstrations) and the emergence of opposition movements. A distinction is made between three phases of the democratisation process: the beginning, progress and the end of the process; the same structure as previously used to describe the situation in the GDR. The author shall initially focus on the political upheavals in November and December 1989, followed by the establishment of democratic structures and institutions, as well as some elements of a market economy later on, concluding with an analysis of the first free and democratic elections, with a focus on their results and outcomes. The chapter on consolidation initially deals with socio-economic consolidation from 1990 to the present. First of all, substantial rules and laws introduced under the newly elected government, which significantly changed the economic structures of Czechoslovakia and its successor states, the Czech and Slovak Republics, with regard to the market economy, will be described, while also focusing on the social impact of the change of economic system. The author will thus concentrate on the development of three key economic indicators: 1) inflation, 2) unemployment rate and 3) growth in GDP in both the Czech and Slovak Republics, illustrated using different graphs. The process of privatisation, as well as Václav Klaus’s concept of neoliberalism, which led Czechoslovakia and, subsequently, the Czech Republic through a painful economic transition are also described, concluding with a personal view of Klaus, supplemented with further background information from the political and socio-economic spheres. In addition to this, the chapter on consolidation shall consist not only of an analysis, but also an evaluation, of the socio-economic path taken. In the second part, concerning the political consolidation, the author shall start with an overview of the progress of and reasons for the dissolution of Czechoslovakia, which has to be the focus when studying its transition. Attention is then focused on the Czech and Slovak Republic’s ‘return to Europe’, followed by their path towards accession to international organisations such as NATO, the EU/EC, CEFTA, CEI and V4 due to the fact that they are key geopolitical players. Accordingly, these international and sub-regional organisations are more than suitable for providing a description of the geopolitical framework of Czechoslovakia’s (and the GDR’s) transition.

The thesis will conclude with a brief comparison of the most substantial distinctions between the course of the transitions of East Germany and Czechoslovakia and its successor states. The conclusion will include a summary which will form the final chapter of the thesis, followed by bibliography of primary and secondary literature used, as well as Internet sources, newspapers and magazines.

1.5 Methodology

The core assignment of the thesis’ methodology utilises three different methods. The first method shall consist of the classification of the transitional process of the German Democratic Republic (including its federal successor states) and Czechoslovakia, including its successor states, the Czech and Slovak Republics, into the theoretical framework of transition studies according to Wolfgang Merkel. The point of departure is marked by the beginning of the end of the autocratic system, followed by process of democratisation and, finally, consolidation. The historical steps will thus be classified, first chronologically and second, associatively, although it will be impossible to completely avoid chronological overlaps. The democratisation process has a describing function, while consolidation consists of a wide range of figures and statistics with regard to contrasting the economic development of all involved states as the second key method; this will be analysed, and thus evaluated, with regard to socio-economic impacts. The consolidation of democracy in East Germany, Czechoslovakia and their successor states concluded with political consolidation, which mainly consisted of the accession and integration of the aforementioned countries into international organisations and sub-regional bodies. With regard to the co-operation and integration of the reunited Germany, the Czech and Slovak Republics into international organisation, particular focus will be placed on the geopolitical framework, which will be presented through an explanation and analysis of the development of regionalism within these countries. Research was thus conducted through the explanation of the preconditions of their participation, followed by analysis, and then evaluation, of accession. The third methodology which will be used in the thesis is the method of comparison, which will be addressed in a separate chapter, in which the key distinctions between the transitions of East Germany and Czechoslovakia and its successor states will be presented, compared and evaluated.

Two further theoretical approaches of the thesis’ methodology can be found: 1) two-level game theory and 2) domestic-level theory. Both theoretical methods are used to categorise regionalism and describe the regional development of the reunited Germany and the Czech and Slovak Republics in the chapters concerning political consolidation. Both theories are de facto used as expedients to analyse regional entrenchment. While the two-level game theory provides information about the dependency of negotiations (negotiations are a major issue when joining international organisations) on both domestic (i.e. negotiations between the two Germanies) and an international aspects (i.e. negotiations between the two Germanies with other countries), the domestic-level theory discusses “the role of shared domestic attributes or characteristics”31. There are three strands of domestic-level theory, these being: 1) regionalism and state coherence, 2) regime type and democratisation and 3) convergence theories. The first of these sees regionalism “as an alternative to the state or as a means of going ‘beyond the nation state’”, in which the possibilities of regional co-operation and integration “are likely to depend very heavily on the coherence and viability of the states and state structures within a given region”. The second strand must be considered the most valuable for the present thesis due to “the commitment to multiparty democracy [which] was an explicit feature of the Treaty of Rome”. It further focused on the re-evaluation of domestic aspects and the “impact of democracy and democratisation”. The second strand emerged in response to neoliberalism in economics, being based on the assumption that “democracies do not go to war with each other”, concerned with “general propositions about the behaviour of liberal states”. Thus, the “relationship between regionalism and democracy is complex”. The third strand “understands the dynamics of regional co-operation and especially regional economic integration in terms of converging domestic policy preferences among regional states” whilst taking into account that “domestic policy convergence has undoubtedly been an important factor in the resurgence of regionalism […]”.

The thesis attempts to achieve at least a seamless introduction of the process of transition as a whole, with a focus on the period from 1989-1990, which must be considered the most important in the countries’ transition process. The particular focus on regionalism as part of the thesis can be justified by the considerable importance of regional involvement for states engaged in a democratic transition. Considering the scope of the thesis, the author concentrated on using a descriptive, analytical and comparative approach. Description was used as a method particularly in the chapters on the end of the autocratic system and beginning of democratisation. Unfortunately the present thesis cannot provide a comprehensive overview of the transition process as a whole; nor was this the intention, as can be seen in the chapters on consolidation. The author focused only on key aspects which can be justified by an almost unlimited range of content. Based to the thesis’ scope and the available timeframe, the concentration on socio-economic and political developments during the consolidation process can be considered adequate.

2. Definitions

2.1 Regionalism

The term ‘regionalism’ indicates a general endeavour of a region or entity for greater autonomy and personal responsibility against a unitary/central power or hegemon.32 It can be seen as a political process characterised by cooperation and coordination among countries. Furthermore, ‘regionalism in international relations’ describes political activity that wishes to achieve union or cooperation to settle or resolve specific issues of at least two or more states within a particular region at the regional level.33 A region or an entity can be distinguished from others by geographical, ethnic, historical or administrative boundaries. According to Mansfield/Milner, regionalism is defined as “an economic process whereby economic flows grow more rapidly among a given group of states (in the same region) than between these states and those located elsewhere”34. Mary Farrell defined ‘regionalism’ as follows: “[Regionalism] is a response to globalisation a reaction to the diverse aspects of global processes in their entirety.”35 Expressed in her words, regionalism is connected to the “many-faced phenomenon” of globalisation, with both positive and negative impacts on countries; for countries suffering from negative impacts, regionalism can be seen as a means to “respond through regionalism as both a defensive and offensive strategy”36. According to Mary Farrell, the development of regionalism is based on a region’s internal structures and dynamics, as well as on the regional actors’ strategy and motivation. Regionalism is a multi-modelled, global approach without a dominating feature that might encompass all countries. Hence many different approaches to the understanding of the processes and concepts of regionalism can be found in literature. Cooperation is further a main goal, a result of and, at the same time, de facto an inherent reason for and a goal of regionalism. This interplay can be regarded as evidence that regionalism and cooperation are deeply connected to a transition to democracy, stressed by domestic-level theories especially in European regionalism with regard to NATO and the EU, because: “Substantial cooperation has emerged among democratic countries, partly out of necessity and partly driven by the political strategies of the countries involved.”37 In other words: the higher the democratic consolidation of a country (or rather of a country’s democratic standards), the greater the international cooperation between global regions.

Regionalism can be divided into a number of sub-categories, e.g. military/security regionalism and economic regionalism. ‘Economic regionalism’ contributes to regionalism via “reproducing global governance at the regional level” and as a “form of resistance to globalisation”38. Economic regionalism may solely focus on cooperation in economic issues, and be therefore one-dimensional rather than multi-dimensional, while an economically-based regionalism can be regarded as the goal of regionalism itself: “[Regionalism] is a political process characterized by economic policy cooperation and coordination among countries.”39 Examples of economic regionalism are the European Economic Community (EEC), EC, EU, European Free Trade Association (EFTA), North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and the Council for Mutual Economic Assistance (CMEA). Implications to welfare are usually at the centre of economic regionalism approaches. Scholarly opinion on and approaches to the differences between ‘regionalism’ and ‘regionalisation’ vary. While Hettne/Katzenstein40 recognise regionalisation as a process of interaction on a regional level and regionalism as a set of different principles and ideas, Fishlow/Haggard41 regarded regionalisation as a concentration of economic flows within a certain region. Fishlow and Haggard define regionalism as a political process characterised by coordination and cooperation among countries and among economic policies. Taking a different tack Gamble/Payne42 regard regionalism as a project led by states and regionalisation as primarily a societal construction. Based to the suffix ‘-ism’ regionalism, in my view, denotes more a theory or ideology than a process, which is rather related to the suffix ‘-sation’.

Thus, military regionalism – also known as security regionalism – is an aspect of regionalism that focuses on cooperation and exchange in the field of armies and armaments. It is described as the “earliest account of regional constructions reflect military dominions or strategic territorial possessions brought together by violence”43. The North Atlantic Treaty Organization is the best-known current military organisation representing regionalism. Other organisations in the past included e.g. the Warsaw Pact (1955-1991) and the Partnership for Peace (PfP), founded in 1994.

2.2 Region

After defining the term regionalism, it is a necessity to also define ‘region’. The word derives from the Latin ‘regio’ which can be translated as ‘direction’. It is also rooted in the Latin verb ‘rego’ which means ‘to rule’. The concept of a region “has frequently been used to denote ‘border’ or a delimited space, often a ‘province’”44. ‘Region’ is deeply connected to territories, functions and rules. A further definition can be found in one online dictionary, which distinguishes between five different general types of region. A region is thus 1) “an extensive, continuous part of a surface, space, or body”, 2) “[…] the vast or indefinite entirety of a space or area, or something compared to one”, 3) “a part of the earth’s surface (land or sea) of considerable and usually indefinite extent”, 4) “a district without respect to boundaries or extent” and 5) “a part or division of the universe, as the heavens”.45

A region have different dimensions: a physiographical-geographical dimension, an historico-cultural dimension and socially as well as geologically, ecologically, economically and politically defined types of region.

2.3 Transition

According to Wolfgang Merkel46 a transition can generally be defined as a process of the dissolution of an old dominant structure to a new one in terms of politics, policy, economy and society. O’Donnell and Schmitter defined transition as follows: “The ‘transition’ is the interval between one political regime and another […] Transitions are delimited, on the one side, by the launching of the process of dissolution of an authoritarian regime and, on the other, by the installation of some form of democracy, the return of some form of authoritarian rule, or the emergence of a revolutionary alternative.”47 Ideally, a transition can be split into three distinct phases. The progress of these phases may overlap, with no clear boundary between the different phases. All three phases often operate in interplay with one another. The three phases are: 1) end of an autocratic system due to internal (‘voice’/‘exit’) and external reasons, 2) democratisation and 3) consolidation. A transition can occur from a non-democratic political system to a democracy, as well as vice versa; however, the change from an autocratic to an democratic political system will be described in these terms.

1) Further examples of internal reasons for a transition might be the loss of legitimacy of an autocratic system and/or economic developments leading to an internal modernisation of societal structures. External triggers for the beginning of a transition can be defeat in a military conflict or loss of the protection and/or support of another (outside) party. The end of an autocratic system can take four different continuous forms: (a) controlled change of a political system (initiated and directed by an elite), (b) forced change of a political system from the bottom up (e.g. through uprisings and demonstrations of an opposition, usually leading to a rapid succession of autocratic authorities), (c) negotiated change of a political system (usually due to a stalemate between opposition and regime/government) and (d) a collapse of the autocratic system (with a total loss of legitimacy of old authorities due to external factors).

2) The next step is the process of democratisation, which can be divided into two phases. Democratisation itself can be described as a crossover of political reign of a person or a group of persons on a set of institutionalised rules. Democracy must be recognised as the goal of the transitional process by a clear majority of people in the changing political system in order to achieve a successful transition. (a) The first phase, the start of the democratisation process, can be recognised through a loss of political control by the old political, illiberal elites while the opposition responds directly via democratic processes. The outcome of these procedures cannot be determined a priori. (b) The second phase is the ending of the democratisation process when a democratic constitution is established and – as a consequence – political competition and political decisions are formally binding. A further direct result of the ending of the democratisation process is the establishment of all features of democratic institutions as well as the replacement of the rules and norms of the previous regime. The new political actors thus have a considerable scope for action due to the non-existence of rules and laws in the newly formed political system. A well-balanced consideration of the interest of several political actors and of the general public interest is necessary in order to achieve successful democratisation.

3) The final step in a transition is known as consolidation. The consolidation of democracy is the basis for the stabilisation of the newly established democratic institutions, and can start even before the establishment of democratic institutions. Consolidation usually take place on four different levels: (a) constitutional/structural consolidation, (b) representational consolidation, (c) behavioural consolidation of the conduct of informal political actors and (d) attitudinal consolidation of civic society. (a) Constitutional/structural consolidation involves the generation of a consensus on the constitution by all central constitutional institutions and serves to construct and maintain a stable and legitimate constitution. (b) Representational consolidation is used to develop stable, long-lasting intermediary structures of political parties and interest groups to mediate between the state and society. This level of consolidation leads to a securing of freedom, autonomy and pluralism in a democracy. The (c) behavioural consolidation of the conduct of informal political actors targets potential societal and political veto-holding powers such as the armed forces, large landowners, entrepreneurs and financial capital, as well as radical groups and movements. This level of consolidation can be preferred in the event of the deep consolidation of the two previous layers due to the loss of the intervention potential of non-formal political actors. These political actors thus accept democracy and become compliant to democratic structures. The final level, the (d) attitudinal consolidation of civic society, is an important socio-cultural substructure and the foundation of the legitimacy of a functioning democracy. This is a long-term process, which can last decades and can have a protective effect on the previous three layers of consolidation. The primary function of the consolidation of civic society is to develop support for a democratic system independent of the performance of the economy and politics.

3. The Transition of the German Democratic Republic

3.1 The End of the Autocratic System

The end of the autocratic system of the German Democratic Republic occurred for a number of different internal and external political, military and economic reasons. Four key reasons for the internal end of the autocratic system can be found: 1) recognition of electoral fraud, 2) escapes and departures (‘exit’; German: Ausreise), 3) the emergence of mass demonstrations (‘voice’) and 4) economic crash (e.g. fast-growing national debt, underdeveloped economic structures and lack of competitive ability). Two key external factors were also present: 1) the political changes in the Soviet Union and other Warsaw Pact countries leading to discontinuation of backing following the perestroika and glasnost reforms of Mikhail Gorbachev, as well as 2) loss of aid from the Federal Republic of Germany, for example transfer benefits and other financial assistance.

The aforementioned internal and external reasons are interrelated; all were mutually dependent and influenced one other. The dividing line between the internal and external factors is not always clear. The GDR started to collapse following an increase of internal pressure due to a forced change of political system from the bottom up through uprisings and demonstrations of the opposition and civil rights activists, leading to a rapid change of autocratic authorities by the elite itself. It might therefore be possible to add a partly controlled change of political system (initiated and directed by the elite) as a second cause of the end of the dictatorship due to an exchange of the elite and by the elite itself, leading to a weakening of internal structures and support. This resulted in the wide modern acceptance of the political party Die Linke48, the successor party of the SED, in the societies of both the east and the west of Germany. A third form of change can be added to the above: a negotiated change of the political system. Negotiations took place primarily between Germany and the Soviet Union and further with the victorious Western powers of Great Britain, the USA and France, as well as with the German Democratic Republic. Helmut Kohl, the Federal Chancellor in Bonn, played a leading role in these negotiations. A further fourth cause of the end of the autocratic system might be found in the total collapse of the regime, although the loss of legitimacy by the authorities was a gradual process that started with a latent crisis of legitimacy and ended in an acute, all-encompassing crisis of legitimacy. However, there were two key causes of the end of the autocratic system in East Germany: change of the political system from the bottom up and negotiated change of the political system. Two more potential causes can be perceived or evaluated: controlled change of the political system (initiated and directed by the elite) and a collapse of the autocratic system.

3.1.1 Notice of Electoral Fraud

On 7 May 1989 civil rights activists and other opposition representatives declared the de facto49 simulated regional elections to be an electoral fraud, and the political elite lost its last remaining shred of legitimacy in the eyes of its citizens. Even though the SED was alerted towards the negative atmosphere in the bulk of the population, the party did not backtrack on its clear decision to directly manipulate the GDR regional elections. According to official figures, the election turnout in Leipzig-Mitte was 98.54%, while exactly 96% of voters elected for the so-called ‘list of unity’. As a result of the fraudulent elections a small number of demonstrations broke out, particularly in Dresden and Leipzig.

3.1.2 ‘Exit’ from Prague, Budapest and Warsaw: Mass Departures, Escapes – and the Externalisation of the Transition

A further internal reason for the end of the autocratic system even occurred a short period before mass demonstrations broke out in the GDR: the departures (‘exits’) and escape of thousands of East German citizens to West Germany and Western Europe (e.g. to Austria via Hungary). Departures and escapes to West Germany unequivocally led to later waves of demonstrations, even encouraging mass demonstrations and thus the collapse of the GDR. ‘Exit’ and ‘voice’ are, here interrelated: ‘exit’ primary led to ‘voice’ and ‘voice’ subsequently amplified ‘exit’. Ever since the GDR’s signing of the Helsinki Accords in 1975, the government had faced continuous request for departure, primarily to West Germany. Between 1977 and 1989 316,000 GDR citizens (not including pensioners) officially applied to leave the country for the first time; only 176,200 applicants (including ransoms by Bonn) actually received permission.50 More than 100,000 GDR citizens left the country in 1989 (up till September)51, and the West German embassies in Prague, Budapest and Warsaw became meccas for tens of thousands of refugees from the GDR.

Sporadic occupations of the US and Danish embassies by GDR citizens had been occurring in East Berlin since as far back the early 1980s.52 These events were usually resolved through official silence. By the end of July and beginning of August increasing numbers of citizens were going to the West German embassy in Budapest to apply for departure to West Germany. A majority stated that they would leave the embassy only when they were allowed to depart for the Federal Republic of Germany. On 7 August the West German53 ‘embassy’ in East Berlin was occupied by people who wanted to leave the GDR, at which point the state authority decided to close the Federal Republic of Germany’s Permanent Representation in the GDR. Following the Hungarian decision to open its borders with Austria on the night of 10-11 of September 1989, the GDR transition took on an international dimension. By the end of September more than 25,000 GDR citizens54 had taken the opportunity to escape into West Germany via Hungary and Austria, leading to a significant deterioration in relation between East Germany and Hungary. In the second half of September 1989 attention turned towards the West Germany embassies in Prague and Warsaw. About 5,000 people55 sought temporary refuge in the embassy in Lobkowicz Palace in Prague, nearly leading to a humanitarian disaster due to lack of hygiene and food, while about 800 people56 awaited departure in Warsaw. Erich Honecker, the General Secretary of the Socialist Unity Party, personally came to the decision to accept the departure requests of thousands of GDR citizens in Prague and Warsaw. Hans-Dietrich Genscher, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Federal Republic of Germany, announced an agreement on passage to West Germany on the balcony of Lobkowicz Palace in the evening of 30 September 1989; this was probably one of the most positive, impressive moments in German history. The East German refugees were subsequently conveyed by chartered train through the territory of the GDR57 (via Dresden and Plauen) to Bavaria on 3-4 October 1989; brutal clashes broke out between police and demonstrators in Dresden58 while the train passed through. As a consequence, the GDR authorities decided to close the borders with Czechoslovakia in order to stem the flow of refugees. This decision increased the internal pressure in the already tense, heated atmosphere of East Germany.

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Figure 1: Relocations from the German Democratic Republic to the Federal Republic of Germany 1981-199059

* estimated indication

3.1.3 ‘Voice’: The ‘Peaceful Revolution’ of October/November 1989

The foundation of the GDR on 7 October 1949 as a separate, formally independent state was a direct result of the aftermath of World War Two in the eastern part of Germany. Forty years later, when the political leadership was celebrating the country’s fortieth anniversary, the GDR and its autocratic structures were hit by the biggest, most substantial crisis the country had ever experienced. The country was severely weakened internally by mass protests, a high concentration of which had begun only days before. The so-called ‘Monday Demonstrations’, mainly organised by and taking place in Christian churches, had already been taking place for a number of weeks. The first mass demonstration on the territory of the GDR, involving approximately 15,000 people, took place in Plauen on 7 October 1989, while the political leadership was celebrating the anniversary in East Berlin. One article about the event in the well-known German political periodical Der Spiegel read: “The unnoticed heroes”60, and went on to say: “In Saxon Vogtland a city is fighting for its place in history books, because the state power was defeated first in Plauen – and not in Leipzig.” Today, a memorial plaque is located near the municipal theatre and describes the historic event in the best terms possible: “At this place the first mass demonstration on the territory of the former German Democratic Republic began on 7 October 1989. It was the beginning of the change of our world.” Of course, while a few thousand demonstrators could not change the nature of the world, they were a part of the change and they were at least one of the reasons for the continuing protests all over the territory of the GDR in the subsequent weeks and months. Two days later, on 9 October 1989, around 70,00061 people took to the streets to protest and demonstrate in Leipzig. That day would later be called the ‘Day of Decision’; there was no violent intervention by police units. That day went down in history as the day on which the revolution became known as the ‘Peaceful Revolution’. Further mass demonstrations took place over the next few days after in Leipzig, Berlin, Dresden, Karl-Marx-Stadt, Halle, Magdeburg, Potsdam, Jena, Arnstadt and Plauen. The wave of protests culminated in Berlin on 4 November 1989 in62 and two days later in Leipzig. At both demonstrations more than half of a million protested against the political dictatorship, striving for a renewed GDR with democracy, freedom of speech and free elections – and not, primarily, for a reunited Germany. The initial guiding principal was ‘We are the nation!’ which later changed ‘We are one nation!’. Further waves of protest consistently broke out all over the GDR. While the demonstrations on GDR territory lasted until the end of March and beginning of April 1990, the content of the protests changed.

The historian John Connelly said the following about the ‘Peaceful Revolution’: “The first demonstrations [in Plauen on 7 October 1989], concluded two days later in Leipzig, were the decisive moment in the East German revolution. They showed that the SED had in its own terms lost the right to rule, for it had ceded part of its power to ‘class enemies’ […] The demonstrations appeared suddenly like a few brilliant flashes of light on an otherwise darkened East German map. Excepting Berlin, all of these flashpoints emanated from the south, and most strongly from the industrial town of Plauen, located less than 20 miles from the West German border. Up to a quarter of its 80,000 citizens defied heavily armed state power that gloomy Saturday. Plauen was the first East German community to express a united will for change; it was the only city where the East German upheaval was from its inception a mass affair.”63

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Figure 2: Alphabetical List of Mass Demonstrations with Large Attendance on the Territory of the GDR in 1989/199064

* Number of demonstrators is approximate.

3.1.4 Economic Crisis

The natural underdevelopment of a centrally planned economy connected with a lack of competitive ability and – in the East German case – the loss of financial support and transfer benefits as an aid scheme by the Federal Republic of Germany led to a severe financial crisis in the GDR, deeply affecting its political system and its legitimacy, even though the GDR economy was not on the verge of bankruptcy65. Finally, the crisis called the continued existence of the GDR into question. Economic mismanagement, public debts, a non-functioning, or at least only partly functioning economy, based on the supply of raw materials and manufactured goods rather than on the law of supply and demand shall be mentioned as reasons for the decline of the economy of the GDR. There is also the fact that the GDR leadership was not willing to introduce the necessary, important economic reforms. A consideration of the economic crisis in the GDR leads automatically to the fact that both internal and external reasons can be found as a cause for the end of the autocratic system with regard to economic reasons. The GDR did not collapse due to the desolate condition of its economy, but due to the country living beyond its means.66 When considering the extent of this thesis, the economic crisis of the GDR shall not be at the centre of attention; just a few important pieces of information shall be provided to aid better understanding.

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Figure 3: Key Figures of Economic Development in the GDR 1987-198967

The economic policy of the post-1971 GDR consisted of three non-combinable goals68: 1) improvement of living standards, 2) debt repayment towards foreign creditors and 3) capital investments in the country’s own economic structures. The first two goals were off higher priority due to the potential for destabilisation of the populace. Instead of accepting destabilisation, the government focused on the meeting of basic needs through increased spending in the national budget. On the other hand, international financial transactions were seen as highly important for the GDR’s national independence. By saving on costs in energy and infrastructure, the government wanted to reduce budgetary spending, however, this led to negative impacts in labour productivity. A further example for mismanagement can be found in the emergence of the GDR’s delayed, and never competitive, microelectronics industry, which subsidised with billions of Marks.

3.1.5 Changes in the International Political Framework

The end of the autocratic system in East Germany is deeply connected with developments in international politics and policy, particularly in the Soviet Union. The announcement of Gorbachev in March 1985 as the General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union and his perestroika and glasnost reforms, followed by his annulment of the Brezhnev Doctrine on 7 July 1989, must be mentioned here. The idea of perestroika, denoting the introduction of slight elements of market economy reforms, the restructuring of politics and society in the Soviet Union and the review of the central control system, and the idea of glasnost (the transparency and openness of leadership towards its citizens in order to achieve the increased acceptance of reforms) hit the GDR at its foundation, leading to a sudden change in foreign policy conditions, deeply affecting events both within and outside the GDR.

Development within the Soviet Union cannot be separated from progress towards democracy in other Warsaw Pact countries, e.g. Poland and Hungary. Helmut Kohl tried to lead events both the aforementioned states in order to influence the aftermath in the GDR: “In this situation it is very important for Helmut Kohl to promote the reform process in Hungary and Poland.”69 The West German government believed in aiding the transitional process in East Germany by promoting the events. Support mainly took the form of new credit70 from West Germany. Furthermore, the Poles voted for the first non-communist Prime Minister on the territory of Warsaw Pact in the partially free elections held in June 1989. These events were of prime importance in accelerating the pace of events in the GDR.

3.1.6 Loss of International Financial Aid Scheme

Even though Kohl’s government was not interested in worsening political and economic conditions in East Germany, it certainly focused on its destabilisation71 ; however, this process of destabilisation would be controlled and led by Bonn. While the GDR repeatedly requested an amount of 15 billion DM as financial support from the West, Bonn was not willing to invest in a system that required fundamental renewal: “It will not solve the problems, it will just prolong them.”72 The financial support provided by the Soviet Union had cancelled at the beginning of the 1980s73. Following the Second Oil Crisis in 1979, the GDR profited from the differences in oil prices between the open, global market and the limited market in the East to obtain foreign currency through the export of oil-based products. The Soviet Union subsequently restricted the export of oil and pegged its export prices to global market prices.

The Bonn government then started to realise that the country had been presented with a unique historical opportunity: the reunification of the two Germanies after being separated for over forty years while results of World War Two might be changeable to a certain extent, particularly, but not exclusively, in the case of Germany. The uniqueness of the moment can be described as follows: “The GDR is in the middle of crisis in which the country is to the greatest possible extent isolated for the first time.”74 Internally, East Germany was isolated in respect of its population; the needless retention of power seemed utopian. Externally the GDR was isolated in respect of its foreign policy. The loss of the support in Moscow was followed by the loss of support in Bonn; finally, even East Berlin’s last remaining allies – Prague, Warsaw and Budapest – were entirely influenced by Bonn.

3.2 The Democratisation Process

3.2.1 The Beginning of Democratisation

There is no clear dividing line between the start of the democratisation process and the end of the autocratic system; overlapping elements can be found in both processes. The prerequisite for a successful democratisation process is the acceptance of democratic elements by a majority of people living within a political entity. The first stage of democratisation began long before mass demonstrations and departures from the GDR, even though the initial phase of democratisation must be described as weak and far from being accepted by a clear majority of citizens. At the beginning of 1980s, people who were dissatisfied with the regime had started gathering and forming only small opposition groups of varying nature. Opposition groups primarily grew out of Christian and intellectual structures rooted in Protestantism. Churches took a leading role later on, especially in the ‘Peaceful Revolution’ which mainly emerged through the so-called ‘Monday Demonstrations’ that were held in churches. Churches offered an apparently safe and protected place, free from the influence of the Ministry for State Security (German: Ministerium für Staatssicherheit, Stasi, MfS). The leading role of churches developed and due to two factors: At first the churches experienced a process of inherent development, based on their inner structure. Secondly, the progress gained momentum from the people and for the people. Churches started to offer opportunities to think about the bigger picture; and the people demanded more. Hence, churches were a means to an end. Pastors in particular became important representatives of a slightly changing democratic society in the GDR. One of them, pastor Rainer Eppelmann, published the so-called ‘Berlin Appeal’ on 25 January 198275. The appeal was entitled: ‘Make peace without weapons’ (German: Frieden schaffen ohne Waffen). This was the very first time that a pastor had expressed a view in public in this way; and he was permitted to do so by the authorities.

It took a couple of years until this wave of Christian protest put down deeper roots in East German society. Thus the first non-Christian movement, the ‘Peace and Human Rights Initiative’ (German: Initiative Frieden und Menschenrechte)76, the first non-church based opposition, was developed and founded in East Berlin in early 1986. In any case, it was still too early to call the situation a democratisation process. A spillover of the early stage of democratisation into other parts of society can be found in 1988. Following a demonstration in commemoration of Rosa Luxemburg on 17 January 1988, about 100 protestors calling for ‘freedom for dissidents’ were arrested.77 This day marked the start of the expulsion of dissidents such as authors, musicians, actors, human rights activists and other public figures, as well as ordinary people, by the political elite. The beginning of the popular democratisation movement in the GDR can be dated to 7 May 1989, when demands for more democracy reached a large section of the populace. As mentioned above, electoral fraud was, at the same time, both a reason for the end of the autocratic system and of the beginning of the democratisation process. Dozens of citizens’ movements were subsequently founded all over the country in the summer and autumn of 1989. The most significant of these were: 1) the ‘New Forum’ (German: Neues Forum), a political platform for the whole country, founded on 9 September 1989; 2) ‘Democracy Now’ (German: Demokratie jetzt), founded on 12 September 1989; 3) ‘Democratic Awakening’ (German: Demokratischer Aufbruch), founded on 2 October 1989; and 4) the Social Democratic Party of the GDR (German: Sozialdemokratische Partei der DDR), founded on 7 October 1989.78 The foundation of several opposition movements and political parties was compelling evidence that the leadership of the GDR was losing power and control over the country, at first slowly, then rapidly. The beginning of the democratisation process was thus a two-dimensional one: the loss of political control by the old, illiberal political elites and the opposition’s direct response through democratic processes. The results of these processes, and the future path of the GDR, could not be and were not clear. While some parts of the society demanded a renewed society being based on more democratic features within the GDR, other sections of society saw a chance for a total overthrow of existing structures. Later, a new, so-called ‘third way’ emerged during the round-table talks. The ‘third way’ was based on the idea of a continuity of the GDR between capitalist and socialist political, economic and societal structures.

3.2.2 Further Process of Democratisation

The further course of the democratisation process was marked by rapid, radical upheavals of the status quo. People and politicians, mass media and publicity, foreign countries and scholars on both sides of the border were impressed by the speed of change. The loss of political power and authority by the ruling elite was more than obvious for a large section of society in mid-October 1989: The SED Politburo dismissed Erich Honecker on 18 October 1989. Honecker had been in power for more than eighteen years. He was replaced by Egon Krenz, who became the new General Secretary of the Central Committee of the SED.79 He promised a democratic renewal of Socialism in the GDR.80 Following the countrywide mass demonstrations in October and November 1989, the Prime Minister Willi Stoph resigned from office on 7 November 1989 after thirteen years in office, followed by the resignation of the whole Politburo one day later.81 On 6 November 1989 Erich Mielke, chairmen of the Ministry for State Security, declared the destruction of all records of the ministry.82 On the 10th meeting of the Central Committee between 8-10 November 1989 the Socialist Unity Party of the GDR enacted the implementation of free and independent political elections, as well as the admission of opposition groups, freedom of press, assembly and speech and also economic reforms; these processes were embedded in intraparty reforms, although Marxism and Leninism remained the Party’s weltanschauung.83 In the evening of 9 November 1989 the unexpected happened: Günter Schabowski, Secretary for Information of the Central Committee, announced the immediate abolition of the Berlin Wall during a press conference, which was a sensational event.84 A few days later, on 13 November 1989, Hans Modrow was announced as the new Prime Minister.85 “With the election of Hans Modrow political power was shifted from the political party towards the GDR government which corresponded with Modrow’s self-understanding.”86

3.2.3 The End of the Democratisation Process

Events followed in quick succession in December 1989. On 1 December 1989 the Socialist Unity Party repealed Article 1 of the GDR constitution87, which declared the leading role of the SED in the country, the leading role of labouring class and its Marxist-Leninist party. This decision was followed by a series of personnel changes. On 3 December 1989 the entire Politburo of the Socialist Unity Party, including Egon Krenz, resigned from office. Egon Krenz, the chairmen of the Privy Council, officially resigned on 6 December 1989. Manfred Gerlach was announced as his successor until 5 April 1990.88 Gerlach was the first member of the GDR government who was not a member of the SED, but of the LDPD (German: Landwirtschaftlich-Demokratische Partei Deutschlands), the Democratic Agricultural Party of Germany.

Gregor Gysi became the new chairmen of the SED in December 1989.89 Gysi, still a highly influential personality in the modern, reunited Germany and current parliamentary party leader of the political successor party Die Linke in the German Bundestag, started to transform the socialist political party into an apparently democratic or rather partly-democratic political party. Political science in Germany judges the Die Linke party to be a (partly) extremist party on the left side of the political spectrum90 ; its representatives and policies are subject to observation by the German Office for the Protection of the Constitution. At least part of the party does have connections with the militant section of the left-wing movement. One of these is known as the Communist Platform of the Left Party (German: Kommunistische Plattform der Partei Die Linke, KPF), and stands for Marxism-Leninism, advocating a transition into socialism and the overcoming of capitalism.91 Other significant observed organisations and movements on the lefts are: Socialist Left (German: Sozialistische Linke, SL), Association Cuba Si (German: Arbeitsgemeinschaft Cuba Si) and the Marxist Forum (German: Marxistisches Forum, MF). Gysi’s efforts cumulated in a change of designation of the party in mid-December 1989: the name SED was extended to include the abbreviation PDS (German: Partei des Demokratischen Sozialismus) – Party of Democratic Socialism. The newly renamed SED/PDS lost more than one and a half million former party members in the following months.92

At the same time, on 7 December 1989, the so-called round-table talks based on the Polish model were institutionally established in the GDR.93 The Central Round Table in particular, constituted in Berlin, addressed the whole of East Germany. Opposition groups and civil right movements, as well as representatives of SED-PDS, the Free German Trade Union Federation (German: Freier Deutscher Gewerkschaftsbund, FDGB) and other parties joined the round table, which was organised by Demokratie jetzt. The Central Round Table was a decisive element that strongly influenced the policy of Hans Modrow’s government. The main achievements of the round table were94 the implementation of free and democratic elections and the dissolution of the Ministry for State Security and its successor, the Office for National Security (German: Amt für Nationale Sicherheit, ANS). The dissolution of the security apparatus was approved by a national committee established on 8 February 1990.95 Shortly before this, the headquarters of the Office for National Security had been stormed by a mob on 15 January 1990.96 On 8 March 1990 all unofficial employees (approx. 100,000)97 of the National Security were dismissed. The Round Table was a representative of the aforementioned, so-called ‘third way’ of a renewed GDR encompassing democracy, capitalism and socialism: democratic socialism. The activities of the Round Table Talks culminated in the first, and only, democratic elections held in the GDR on 18 March 1990.

But back to December 1989. Four important dates must also be mentioned regarding the transitional process in the GDR. First, on 8 December 1989, a case was opened by the GDR’s state prosecution service against leading functionaries of the previous regime, accusing them of corruption and abuse of authority.98 Secondly, political prisoners were released four days later following an amnesty.99 Thirdly, the foreign ministers of NATO declared their will regarding to a feasible German reunification on 14 December 1989.100 From the beginning of January 1990 the physical borders separating West and East Germany began to be removed. The Brandenburg Gate was opened for the unrestricted movement of people on 22 December 1989 by Hans Modrow and Helmut Kohl.101 The Brandenburg Gate had been the symbol for the division of Germany since 13 August 1961, remaining closed for twenty-eight years.

Later, on 4 February 1990, the SED/PDS was again renamed. The political authority removed SED from the name and the PDS was established as the direct successor to the SED. This was the beginning of the institutionalised transition of the political party system in the GDR towards the West German system. Agendas, contents and policies were changed, political leaders were substituted and the political parties in the West and in the East became increasingly closer. The symbolic demolition of the Berlin Wall, which had divided Germany, began on 13 June 1990, first over a length of forty-seven kilometres in Berlin, where the history of the divided Germany had once began and, almost forty years later, abruptly ceased.

The final stage in the democratisation process were the first, and only, free and independent elections held in the GDR, on 18 March 1990102. This saw the beginning of the first democratic government under the leadership of Lothar de Maizière’s Christian Democratic Union (German: Christlich-Demokratische Union, CDU). This election appeared to be democratic success: turnout was 93.4% and the result was judged to be a sensation. Contrary to expectations, only 21.9% of voters voted for the Social Democratic Party of Germany (German: Sozialdemokratische Partei Deutschlands, SPD); the great winner of the election was the so called Alliance for Germany (German: Allianz für Deutschland), a coalition of three political democratic parties/movements consisting of CDU, DSU (German: Deutsche Soziale Union, DSU) and Democratic Awakening. The Alliance gained 48.1% of the vote. The aftermath of the election saw the establishment of a Grand Coalition between the Alliance for Germany, the Social Democrats and the Union of Free Democrats (German: Bund freier Demokraten, BFD). According to the policies of the political parties forming the new government the result of the election can be interpreted as a clear vote for a German reunification: approx. 75% of all voters elected a political party advocating reunification.

3.2.4 External Elements of the Democratisation Process and Germany’s Reunification The Role of the Federal Republic of Germany

The Federal Republic of Germany played a major role in the early stages of the end of the autocratic system and subsequently the democratisation process. Helmut Kohl, the German Christian Democratic chancellor, was at the epicentre of the subversions in the East of the country. Helmut Kohl and his West German government made a causal contribution to the reunification of Germany, the results of which would probably not have occurred without him and his negotiating skills. Kohl saw his chance and floated, both at home and abroad, the prospect of a possible German reunification, and eventually went down in the history of the reunited Germany as the ‘Reunification Chancellor’, as he was known to the people.

Besides Hans-Dietrich Genscher’s declaration about passage to West Germany from the balcony of the Lobkowicz Palace in the evening of 30 September 1989, Helmut Kohl introduced a ‘Ten-Point Programme’ (German: Zehn-Punkte-Programm) aiming at overcoming the division of Germany. The programme was presented as part of a government declaration on 28 November 1989103 and was connected to Hans Modrow’s idea of a contract union between the two German states; obviously Kohl wanted more than merely a contract union. Kohl’s ‘Ten-Point Programme’ was developed due to a non-existent concept for the case of Germany’s reunification: “Surprisingly, 40 years after foundation of both German states, the day of open borders has come and the Federal Government did not have a practical concept for what to do. In particular, there are no current preparations, no schedules and no crisis scenarios at all for imminent reunification that could be used by the Chancellor’s Office.”104 The ‘Ten-Point Programme’ aimed to achieve the following105: 1) immediate action (economic and humanitarian aid for the healthcare system together with the facilitation of right of entry to the GDR), 2) extension of co-operation between both German states in traffic and transportation as well as environmental protection, 3) extensive economic aid in the event of domestic democratisation, 4) contract union (common commissions for culture, the environment, economy and traffic/transportation, 5) creation of confederal structures (a democratically elected government in East Berlin is required), 6) embedding of Germany within the European architecture, 7) co-operative openness of the European Community to the reforming states in Central, Eastern and Southeastern Europe, 8) strengthening of negotiations with the Conference on Security and Co-Operation in Europe, 9) disarmament and arms control according to political developments, 10) a free, reunited Germany in a free and reunited Europe. “The reunification, id est recovery of national unity, remain the aim of the CDU”, is written in the last and obviously most important point. Helmut Kohl clearly stated that German reunification remained the chief goal: “Nobody knows what a reunited Germany will finally look like. But I am sure that unity will come, if that is what the people of Germany want.”

In summary, it can be stated that Kohl and his government connected the implementation of the ‘Ten-Point Programme’ to a democratic transition within the GDR. Kohl deliberately went through these processes without a fixed schedule. The ‘Ten-Point Programme’ can be judged a catalyst for the realisation of a discussed idea (Germany’s imagined reunification) towards a goal of political practice. Helmut Kohl’s speech on 28 November 1989 was seen as one of the most highly significant and consequential statements in German history.106 It is worth mentioning that Kohl informed neither his parliamentary party in the German Bundestag nor his Liberal coalition partner, the FDP (German: Freie Demokratische Partei), nor West Germany’s allies in NATO.107 Helmut Kohl’s visit in Dresden on 19 December 1989 seemed to be a plebiscitary confirmation of his efforts to achieve a reunited Germany: crowds of people cheered him due to his commitment to this goal. The International Dimension of Germany’s Reunification

The international framework was of substantial importance to Germany’s reunification. Events thus proceeded due to an interplay of Bonn’s negotiations and East and Central European reforms embedded into negotiations, talks, encounters and conferences. The international scene cannot be described in its entirety; only few important aspects shall be presented, with a focus on the victorious powers of World War Two.

USA: the United States of America adopted a positive attitude towards any future German reunification. “They [the USA] want to bear down upon reunification within a slowly and carefully evolutionary process embedded in European unification.”108 Both the American President Bush and Mitchell, majority leader of Democrats in the Senate, spoke out in favour of German reunification.


1 Fraude, Andreas: Die friedliche Revolution in der DDR im Herbst 1989, p. 20 f.

2 Comp. Juchler, Jakob: Osteuropa im Umbruch. Politische, wirtschaftliche und gesellschaftliche Entwicklungen 1989-1993. Gesamtüberbick und Fallstudien, Zürich 1994, p. 325.

3 Comp. Ib., p. 322-324.

4 Farrell, Mary: The Global Politics of Regionalism. An Introduction, in: Farell, Mary/Hettne, Björn and others (editors): Global Politics of Regionalism. Theory and Practice, 2005, p. 1.

5 Wolchik, Sharon L./Curry, Jane L. (editors): Central & East European Politics. From Communism to Democracy, 2nd edition, 2011, p. 3.

6 Ib.

7 Ib., p. 4.

8 Farrell, Mary: Ib., in: Ib. p. 1.

9 Ib.

10 Neue Länder is the German term for the so-called New Federal States which were a part of German Democratic Republic and became independent federal states following German reunification. Five new federal states emerged out of the GDR: Sachsen (Saxony), Thüringen (Thuringia), Brandenburg, Mecklenburg-Vorpommern (Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania) and Sachsen-Anhalt (Saxony-Anhalt).

11 Wolchik, Sharon L./Curry, Jane L. (editors): Ib., p. 4.

12 Havel, Vaclav: Angst vor der Freiheit. Reden des Staatspräsidenten, Reinbek/Hamburg 1991, p. 17.

13 Transformational examined the military coup d’état in Portugal and the upheavals in Greece and Spain in the early to mid of 1970s before research moved on to the revolutions in Latin America in the early 1980s and in mid of 1980s to the changes in East Asia finally getting to the dissolution of the Socialist and Communist states in Central and Eastern Europe.

14 Comp. Thomaß, Barbara/Tzankoff, Michaela: Medien und Transformation in Osteuropa, 1st edition, Wiesbaden 2001, p. 11.

15 Comp. Linz, Juan J./Stepan, Alfred: Problems of Democratic Transition and Consolidation. Southern Europe, South America, and Post Communist Europe, Baltimore 1996.

16 See the five volumes of „Systemwechsel“, edited and published by Wolfgang Merkel.

17 See Beyme, Klaus: Systemwechsel in Osteuropa, Frankfurt am Main 1994.

18 See Schmidt, Manfred G.: Der Januskopf der Transformationsperiode. Kontinuität und Wandel der Demokratietheorie, in: Politische Vierteljahresschrift, Sonderheft 26 (1995), p. 182-210.

19 See Jesse, Eckhard: Systemwechsel in Deutschland: 1918/19 – 1933 – 1945/49 – 1989/90, 2nd edition, Köln and others 2011.

20 Wolchik, Sharon L./Curry, Jane L. (editors): Ib., p. 5.

21 See Kopeček, Lubomír/Hloušek, Vít and others: Democratic Institution Building Process. The Czech Republic’s Transition to Democracy, viewed on, retrieved on 23 February 2014.

22 See Wolchik, Sharon L.: Czechoslovakia in Transition. Politics, Economics and Society, London 1991 and Wolchik, Sharon L./Curry, Jane L. (editors): Central & East European Politics. From Communism to Democracy, 2nd edition, 2011.

23 Tavares, Rodrigo: The State of the Art of Regionalism. The Past, Present and Future of a Discipline, in: UNI-CRIS e-Working Papers, No. 10 (2004), viewed on, p. 7, retrieved on 7 March 2014.

24 Comp. Fawcett, Louise: Regionalism in World Politics. Past and Present.

25 Comp. Farrell, Mary: Ib., in: Ib., p. 7.

26 See Farell, Mary/Hettne, Björn and others (editors): Global Politics of Regionalism. Theory and Practice, 2005.

27 Comp. Tavares, Rodrigo: Ib., p. 10.

28 See Mansfield, Edward D./Milner, Helen V.: The New Wave of Regionalism, in: International Organizations, Vol. 53, No. 3 (1999), p. 589-627.

29 See Fawcett, Louise/Hurrell, Andrew (editors): Regionalism in World Politics. Regional Organization and International Order, New York 2000.

30 See Lippert, Barbara/Umbach, Gaby: The Pressure of Europeanisation. From Post-Communist State Administrations to Normal Players in the EU System, 1st edition, Baden-Baden 2005.

31 Here and following: Hurrell, Andrew (editor): Regionalism in Theoretical Perspective, in: Fawcett, Louise/Hurrell, Andrew (editors): Ib., p. 66 f.

32 Comp. Bundeszentrale für Politische Bildung: Regionalismus, viewed on, retrieved on 25 February 2014.

33 Comp. Ib.

34 Mansfield, Edward D./Milner, Helen V.: Ib., p. 591.

35 Farrell, Mary: Ib., in: Farell, Mary/Hettne, Björn and others (editors): Ib., p. 2.

36 Ib.

37 Ib., in: Ib., p. 4.

38 Nesadurai, Helen E.S.: The Global Politics of Regionalism. Asia and the Asia-Pacific, in: Ib., p. 158.

39 Mansfield, Edward D./Milner, Helen V.: Ib., p. 591.

40 Comp. Tavares, Rodrigo: Ib., p. 6, retrieved on 11 March 2014.

41 Comp. Ib.

42 Comp. Ib.

43 Ib., p. 7, retrieved on 7 March 2014.

44 Söderbaum, Frederik: Exploring the Links between Micro-Regionalism and Macro-Regionalism, in: Farell, Mary/Hettne, Björn and others (editors): Ib., p. 90.

45 Dictionary: Region, viewed on, retrieved on 1 March 2014.

46 Comp. Merkel, Wolfgang/Sandschneider, Eberhard and others: Einleitung. Die Institutionalisierung der Demokratie, p. 13, in: Merkel, Wolfgang/Sandschneider, Eberhard (editors): Systemwechsel, Opladen 1996.

47 Mainwaring, Scott: Transition to Democracy and Democratic Consolidation. Working Paper, No. 130 (November 1989), viewed on, p. 4, retrieved on 2 March 2014.

48 Comp. Jesse, Eckhard: Zäsuren und Neuanfänge in der deutschen Geschichte des 20. Jahrhunderts im Vergleich, in: Gallus, Alexander (editor): Systemwechsel in der deutschen Geschichte, Köln and others 2006, p. 291-327.

49 Comp. Richter, Michael: Die friedliche Revolution. Aufbruch zur Demokratie in Sachsen 1989/90, 1st edition, Göttingen 2009, p. 103-118.

50 Comp. Henke, Klaus Dietmar and others (editors): Anatomie der Staatssicherheit. Geschichte, Struktur und Methoden. MfS-Handbuch. Teil 3: Wichtige Diensteiheiten. Teil 17: Die zentrale Koordinierungsgruppe Bekämpfung von Flucht und Übersiedlung, Berlin 1995, p. 50.

51 Comp. Eisenfeld, Bernd: Flucht und Ausreise, Macht und Ohnmacht, in: Kuhrt, Eberhard (editor): Opposition in der DDR von den 70er Jahren bis zum Zusammenbruch der SED-Herrschaft, Opladen 1999, p. 399.

52 Comp. Here and following: Küsters, Hanns Jürgen: Das Ringen um die Deutsche Einheit. Die Regierung Helmut Kohl im Brennpunkt der Entscheidungen 1989/90, 1st edition, Freiburg 2009, p. 52.

53 The Federal Republic of Germany never maintained an embassy in the GDR; only a so called ‘Permanent Representative’ with limited rights and power.

54 Comp. Fraude, Andreas: Die friedliche Revolution in der DDR im Herbst 1989, p. 7.

55 Comp. Küsters, Hanns Jürgen: Ib., p. 61.

56 Comp. Küsters, Hanns Jürgen: Ib., p. 63.

57 MDR: Die Botschaft von Prag, viewed on, retrieved on 10 March 2014.

58 Comp. Richter, Michael: Die friedliche Revolution. Aufbruch zur Demokratie in Sachsen 1989/90, p. 258.

59 Comp. Mayer, Wolfgang: Flucht und Ausreise, 2002, p. 113 f. in: Statista: Übersiedlungen zwischen der DDR und der Bundesrepublik Deutschland 1949 bis 1990, viewed on, retrieved on 12 March 2014.

60 Berg, Stefan: Gedenken. Die unbemerkten Helden, in: Der Spiegel: No. 30 (2009), p. 44.

61 Comp. Das Wunder von Leipzig. Friedliche Revolution, viewed on, retrieved on 8 March 2014.

62 Comp. Probst, R: 20 Jahre Mauerfall. Die größte Demo der DDR, in: Süddeutsche Zeitung (17 May 2010), viewed on, retrieved on 10 March 2014.

63 Connelly, John: Moment of Revolution. Plauen (Vogtland), October 7, 1989, in: German Politics and Society, No. 20 (1990), p. 71.

64 With information from: Kermas, Sören: Die Demonstrationsbewegung in der DDR 1989/90, viewed on;jsessionid=F1455A7B82DAF78C347B027E6B2D8B69?hosts, p. 13, retrieved on 10 March 2014; Die Zeit: Wendezeit 1989. Das Anfang vom Ende der DDR, viewed on, retrieved on 10 March 2014; Archiv Bürgerbewegung Leipzig: Demonstrationen vom 13. August 1989 bis 30. April 1990 in der DDR, viewed on, retrieved on 11 March 2014.

65 Comp. Martens, Bernd: Die Wirtschaft der DDR, viewed on, retrieved on 12 March 2014.

66 Comp. Ib.

67 With information from: Ritschl, Albrecht: Aufstieg und Niedergang der Wirtschaft der DDR. Ein Zahlenbild 1945-1989, Jahrbuch für Wirtschaftsgeschichte, No. 2 (1995), p. 37; Statistisches Amt der DDR, in: Statista: Bruttoinlandsprodukt (BIP) der Deutschen Demokratischen Republik (DDR) von 1980 bis 1989 (in Milliarden Mark der DDR), viewed on, retrieved on 12 March 2014; Heske, Gerhard: Volkswirtschaftliche Gesamtrechnung DDR/Ostdeutschland, in: Historical Social Research, Vol. 30, No. 2 (2005), p. 282.

68 Comp. Here and following: Martens, Bernd: Ib., retrieved on 14 March 2014.

69 Küsters, Hanns Jürgen: Ib., p. 64.

70 Comp. Ib.

71 Comp. Ib., p. 66.

72 Ib., p. 182.

73 Comp. Martens, Bernd: Ib., retrieved on 14 March 2014.

74 Küsters, Hanns Jürgen: Ib., p. 60.

75 Comp. Fraude, Andreas: Ib., p. 49.

76 Comp. Ib.

77 Comp. Ib., p. 50.

78 Comp. Ib., p. 59.

79 Comp. Ib., p. 60.

80 Comp. Küsters, Hanns Jürgen: Ib., p. 76.

81 Comp. Stiftung Haus der Geschichte der Bundesrepublik Deutschland: Ereignischronik. Zerfall der DDR, viewed on, retrieved on 30 March 2014.

82 Comp. Der Bundesbeauftragte für die Unterlagen des Staatssicherheitsdienstes der ehemaligen Deutschen Demokratischen Republik: 6. November 1989. Weisung des Ministers zur Aktenreduzierung in den Kreis- und Objektdienststellen, viewed on, retrieved on 30 March 2014.

83 Comp. Fraude, Andreas: Ib., p. 25.

84 Comp. Ib., p. 60.

85 Comp. Ib.

86 Ib., p. 28 f.

87 Comp. Ib., p. 61.

88 Comp. Ib.

89 Comp. Ib.

90 Comp. Bundesministerium des Inneren: Verfassungsschutzbericht 2012, viewed on, retrieved on 31 March 2014.

91 Comp. Ib.

92 Comp. Fraude, Andreas: Ib., p. 45 f.

93 Comp. Ib., p. 61.

94 Comp. Ib., p. 33.

95 Comp. Ib., p. 62.

96 Comp. Ib., p. 41.

97 Comp. Der Bundesbeauftragte für die Unterlagen des Staatssicherheitsdienstes der ehemaligen Deutschen Demokratischen Republik: 8. März 1990. “Regierung entpflichtet einstige MfS-Informanten”, viewed on, retrieved 31 March 2014.

98 Comp. Fraude, Andreas: Ib., p. 35.

99 Comp. Ib., p. 36.

100 Comp. Bundesstiftung Aufarbeitung: Historischer Kalender, viewed on, retrieved on 29 March 2014.

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102 Comp. Here and following: Fraude, Andreas: Ib., p. 46.

103 Comp. Kohl, Helmut: Zehn-Punkte-Programm zur Deutschlandpolitik 1989, viewed on, retrieved on 22 March 2014.

104 Küsters, Hanns Jürgen: Ib., p. 85.

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107 Comp. Ib.

108 Küsters, Hanns Jürgen: Ib., p. 86.

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The Democratic Transition of Czechoslovakia, the German Democratic Republic and their Successor States, with Particular Focus on the Geopolitical Framework after 1989
Charles University in Prague
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Federal Republic of Germany, German Democratic Republic, Czechoslovakia, Czech Republic, Slovak Republic, regionalism, NATO, European Union, international organisations, transition
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B.A. Eric Holtschke (Author), 2014, The Democratic Transition of Czechoslovakia, the German Democratic Republic and their Successor States, with Particular Focus on the Geopolitical Framework after 1989, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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