The Collapse of the East German State

Sharon Erickson Nepstad

in Nonviolent Revolutions

Published in print July 2011 | ISBN: 9780199778201
Published online May 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780199897216 | DOI:

Series: Oxford Studies in Culture and Politics

The Collapse of the East German State

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This chapter focuses on the 1989 East German uprising. East Germans found that shifting international dynamics—linked to Gorbachev’s perestroika and glasnost policies and Hungary’s decision to open its border—enabled them to mobilize. As tens of thousands of East Germans emigrated through Hungary, a labor shortage and an economic crisis developed. When state officials stopped emigration, citizens expressed opposition to regime policies through demonstrations, which were initially tied to Protestant churches’ peace prayer services. As demonstrations expanded, regime leaders tried to repress the movement. But troops defied orders and many deserted, since protesters’ nonviolent demeanor made it difficult to justify the use of force. Hence security force defections, combined with the loss of emigrants’ labor skills, paralyzed the regime. Subsequently, the Berlin Wall fell, and the East German state was dismantled.

Keywords: East Germany; German Democratic Republic; Berlin Wall; Protestant churches; peace prayer services; Leipzig confrontation; Socialist Unity Party

Chapter.  7460 words. 

Subjects: Social Movements and Social Change

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