Gorbachev's Influence

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  • Gorbachev's Influence
    • The Popularity of Gorbachev
      • Many members of the GDR supported Gorbachev’s reforms and a black market opened for his literature.
      • Students supported his reforms; in 1988 83% said they supported him.
      • He offered hope and now the growing protest movement had found a leader.
    • Opposition Groups
      • 1970s – 1980s saw the development of opposition groups from ‘Ulbrichts children’, 20-45 year olds – they wanted reform in particular areas not necessarily change.
      • They didn’t think the GDR would collapse it was something they had to put up with, but this became less likely with the increased repression in the 1970s. It is important to note that this groups predated Gorbachev.
      • The role of Protestant opposition = churches became linked to opposition groups as it was the only place groups of 6 or more people were allowed to meet legally.
      • Church leaders were meant to control protest and dissent but rarely did.
      • Church leaders could not control individual pastors who were trying to encourage more young people to join Christianity by holding and vibrant and exciting services – this was always against the state but were seen as threatening by the Stasi.
      • Fullbrook identifies three stages between the church, state and opposition;
        • 1. 1978-mid 80s – after the Concordat the state hoped the churches would try and channel dissent into safe avenues.
        • 2. Mid 80s- 1987 – protest groups grew tired with church caution, and groups grew more diverse and the church’s less relevant.
        • 3. 1987-1989 – state became more repressive and opposition groups more organised. The GDR became more politically polarized and unstable.
    • Peace Groups
      • First began after the initial introduction of compulsory military training in schools.
      • Grew after the introduction of the annual Dresden Peace Forum in the late 1970s.
      • The 1982 forum attracted 5000 even though the SED banned travel to the event. It organised ‘peace weeks’ which demanded ‘Community Peace Service’ rather than military training.
      • 1982 Berlin Appeal produced by political dissident Havermann and church pastor Eppelmann proposed: national debate in peace, opposed sale of military toys, introduction of ‘peace’ lessons in school and promoted the withdrawal of foreign troops from the FRG and GDR.
      • A Women for peace group was formed to protest against nuclear weapons.They wrote an open letter to state that women should not have to be conscripted as it was incompatible with being a female.
    • Green
      • Ecological groups were active from the late 1970s when pollution levels were visibly rising.
      • A library dedicated to ecological research was opened in Berlin but raided by the Stasi in 1987 and much of the literature was destroyed and members arrested.
    • The Declining Authority of the SED
      • The growing influence of Gorbachev and relaxation of control from the USSR weakened the grip of the SED.
      • They rejected any reform which made the protest groups shout louder.
      • The SED party was losing confidence and looked for a leader who did not appear.
    • Stasi Infiltration and Repression
      • The Stasi infiltrated most groups. One leading dissident found out not only was her husband a IM reporting on her subversive activates but that he was also reporting on their private life as well.
      • Through the 1970’s the Stasi began to lose power. For example, four hundred people met in a Berlin church to protest electoral fraud, the Stasi laid on buses tocarry out mass arrests which took place.
      • A 17 year old girl was interrogated all night and fined 300 Ostmarks, she did not pay the fine and there was no consequence.
      • The electoral scrutiny took place. More and more people were challenging authority, either they were no longer fearful of the Stasi or they no longer cared.
      • Any loss of confidence on the part of the security forces would inevitably weaken a government relying on them to maintain order.
    • Human Rights Groups
      • The Initiative for Peace and Human rights played a key role in calling for more democracy and freedom to travel, making links with other groups in Czechoslovakia.
      • It was not tied to the church and had no organised structure anyone who turned up to any event was a member. This made it very difficult for the SED it shut it down.
      • More protest groups were looking more determined;
        • Olaf Plame Peace March – march to promote world peace, technically supported by the SED though unofficial banners were seen next to official peace groups
        • Rosa Luxemberg-Karl Liebknecht Parade, Jan 1988 – parade to celebrate the lives of the two founders of German Communism murdered at the end of WW1. Protesters joined the parade and used the slogans of freedom against the SED. The authorities reacted with arrests and brutality which made more people join the protests they saw change was needed.
        • May 1989 elections – citizen groups were formed to monitor the elections which took place. Despite Stasi intimidation these groups conducted their scrutiny and in many cases reported fraud. The problem was when the votes were taken to district electoral offices ran by the SED for checking, here discrepancies occurred. The government dismissed the complaints as agitators from the West but the damage had already been done.


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