What factors led to the disintegration of communist rule in Eastern Europe?

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Tamara K. H. eNotes educator| Certified Educator

One of the greatest contributing factors to the fall of communism in Eastern Europe is the fall of the Berlin Wall on November 9, 1989. Historians assert that the reasons for the wall's fall are many and complex; however, many also assert that the greatest contributing factor was an announcement made by Guenther Schabowski, East German government spokesman.

J. D. Bindenagel, Deputy Chief of Mission of the U.S. Embassy in East Berlin at the time, gives us his account of events leading up to Schabowski's announcement and the consequences. East Germany lawyer and negotiator Wolfgang Vogel informed Bindenagel that the Russian communist leaders had proposed lifting travel restrictions from East to West Germany in response to Germans' demands for more freedom. They had hoped that more freedom to travel would satisfy the demand for more freedom. Soon Guenther Schabowski made the official announcement on television about "travel law reform" (Bindenagel, "The Fall of the Wall: An Accidental Revolution?"). The plan had been to make it easier for East Germans to acquire visas to travel into West Germany. When asked when reforms would go into effect, he replied "immediately" (Bindenagel). No one would have predicted that his word "immediately" would have incited East Germans to storm the wall, leading to a revolution and demolition of the entire Berlin Wall.

Immediately prior to the fall of the wall, in February 1989, "Round Table Talks" in Warsaw, Poland, concerning labor strikes led to "free elections for 35% of the Parliament, free elections for the newly created Senate, a new office of the President, and the recognition of Solidarity [an underground labor union] as a political party" ("Fall of Communism in Eastern Europe, 1989"). Meanwhile in Hungry, a multiparty system with elections was being established. By summer in 1990, all of Eastern Europe's "communist regimes" had been "replaced by democratically elected governments" ("Fall of Communism").