4: Developments in the GDR under Erich Honecker 1971-1989

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  • Developments in the GDR under Erich Honecker 1971-1989
    • GDR/FRG relations in 70s + 80s
      • Honecker rejected idea of reuniting Germany
        • Emphasised 'demarcation'
        • Stressed differences between East + West
        • Worked to develop national identity for GDR
      • 1974 new constitution branded GDR 'Republic of workers and peasants'
        • SED promoted itself as natural successor to creators of communism
      • GDR portrayed FRG as too Americanised
        • Claimed GDR had no responsibility for Nazi war crimes
      • East German TV renamed GDR Television
      • Ostpolitik increased co-operation between FRG + GDR
        • 1972 Basic treaty
          • Recognised each other as independent
      • East Germans who left before 1972 allowed to visit with no prosecution
        • From 1973 Eastern citizens could watch TV from West + listen to radio without fear of arrest
          • Access to West's newspapers still strictly controlled
      • 1970s-80s postal + telephone services improved between GDR+FRG
      • 1972 SED's official policy on travel between GDR+FRG baed on idea that with time connections would die out
        • Travel from GDR to West Berlin tightly restricted still
          • If people got travel visas they had to go alone (no family/friends)
            • If they didn't go back stasi made their family's lives difficult
    • Relations with Western world
      • Ostpolitik + 4 power agreement led to increasing recognition of GDR
        • 1973 GDR+FRG joined UN
      • Established strong reputation in international sport
        • 1974 they defeated FRG in only football game played between them
        • Athletics were a major success for them
          • But now well known East Germans used steroids
      • Signing of Helsinki Accords proved they had international recognition as an independent state
      • Honecker never invited to visit USA or UK
    • Relations with USSR + Eastern Bloc
      • Many East Germans had negative attitude towards USSR
        • Partly due to Nazi anti-communist propaganda + Soviet brutality during occupation
      • GDR's government made effort to develop sense of friendship + gratitude towards USSR
        • However, most in East saw them as oppressive forces
      • Compulsory study of Communist theory in schools
        • Made people dislike USSR even more
      • Signed GDR-Soviet Friendship treaty in Oct 1975
        • Supposed to develop closer links
      • Shaky relations with Eastern Bloc countries due to WW2
    • Honecker's domestic policies 1970s
      • Negatives
        • Standard of living high by Eastern European standards
          • Still lagged behind FRG
        • Women poorly represented in politics + other positions of power
          • Large number of women worked in low skilled jobs
        • Great deal of economic inequality
          • Prince of goods too high for the average East German
        • Lots of flaws in economy
          • Became dependent on FRG for loans + trade
        • 1980s - debt levels + rising prices + falling incomes = mixture of economic problems
          • High levels of debt
          • Cuts in public spending
      • Positives
        • Economic growth led to labour shortages
          • Solved by bringing in workers from other communist states
        • Trade increased within COMECON
        • 'Economic miracle'
          • Achieved with no outside help
        • Agriculture became more efficient
          • Almost self-sufficient in 1970s
        • Living standards rose
          • Government kept cost of essentials low
          • By mid 1980s nearly 50% households had a car
        • Relationship with church improved
          • Church helped run hospitals + homes for the elderly
        • Benefits of tax free trade with FRG
          • Also received large loans from FRG
        • Prioritised employment of women
          • Generous maternity benefits
          • Nursery care + after school activities
          • Late 1980s over 90% working age East German women were in paid employment
    • Foreign relations 1980s
      • Cold war intensified 1970s/80s
        • Threat of nuclear war very strong
      • Gorbachev as leader of USSR (from March 1985) = major impact on GDR
        • He realised USSR had to evolve in order to survive
        • Persuaded policies of Glasnost (Openness, freedom of speech) + Perestroika (Restructuring of economy + government
        • Reached out to the West
        • Reduced number of Soviet troops in GDR
          • USSR would no longer intervene in internal affairs of GDR
        • Signed treaties with NATO
        • Pursued better relations with FRG
          • Showed SED that USSR wasn't going to favour GDR anymore
      • GDR didn't like Gorbachev's policies
        • Led those in Eastern Bloc to fight for more freedom

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