A World Without Walls:
An International Congress on "Soft Power", Cultural Diplomacy and Interdependence

(Berlin; November 6th - 9th, 2009)

"1989: The Year that Changed the World"

October 7th

Gorbachev visits East Germany

Soviet Leader's visit coincides with protests
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October 7th: Soviet leader Mikhael Gorbachev arrived in East Germany to celebrate the German Democratic Republic's 40th anniversary. But the celebrations come during a tumultuous time for the East.

The past summer has seen thousands of East Germans flee the country, many travelling through Hungary while "on holiday" in order to escape through the opened Hungarian border with Austria.  Others attempt to enter West German embassies in order to ask for asylum. At many train stations, chaos reins as numerous citizens attempt to board trains heading for Hungary.

In the cities of the East, unrest had led to outright protest of the Communist regime, as massive demonstrations erupted in cities like Dresden, Leipzig, and Berlin.

As Gorbachev visits Berlin, however, he was met with rousing applause from East Berliners. To many, Gorbachev's attempts at reforms stood in stark contrast to the hard line policies of GDR Leader Erich Honecker.

Following Gorbachev's visit, a massive protest erupted in East Berlin's city square, Alexanderplatz. The nighttime demonstration was punctuated by thousands of citizens holding candles and chanting slogans, asking for reform and democratic freedoms to come to the East.

However, Honecker's response was immediate and repressive. The demonstration was broken up as hundreds of protesters were beaten and imprisoned by riot police.

As Honecker prepared the East German Army to violently put down the protests erupting around the country, the events of the last few months had convinced East German leadership that Honecker's grip on power has weakened and openly collude against him. Two weeks later, Honecker is forced to step down.