Internal Developments in the East and the Impact of Ostpolitik

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The GDR under Honecker

  • The construction of the Berlin Wall enabled Honecker to enjoy a reasonably stable period until the late 1970s. 
  • Ulbricht's ambitious reform attempts had failed, and with the support of the USSR Honecker was able to engineer Ulbricht's resignation on grounds of 'ill health'.
  • Border protection and Ostpolitik gave the GDR more money and international recognition. This encouraged Honecker to press ahead with welfare reforms and increases in consumer goods such as cars, fridges and televisions.
  • Honecker announced the policy of 'no taboos' with cultural activities.
  • In 1978 Discussions meetings were allowed on Church premises. Honecker felt that this concession would allow those with greivances to air them in a controlled atmosphere.
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Economic Change

  • Honecker introduced 'The Unity of Social and Economic Policy' which aimed to increase production in order to finance a home-building programme and social reform.
  • The remaining independant firms were nationalised in 1972. Honecker also introduced  higher degree of specialisation in both agriculture and industry. The VEB's were replaced by by combines which linked technological research, production and market research to make for more efficent production.
  • 'Cooperation Councils' were established to coordinate the work of individual farms.
  • GDR was dependant on imports of fuel and raw materials. By the 1970s 1/3 of the GDR's trade was with Western Europe. The GDR had effectively become an 'extra' member of the EEC and had loans from the FRG on favourable terms.
  • Economy was successfull in comparison with other Eastern bloc countries, and acheived a high degree of agricultural self-sufficency. Although it still lagged behind the West, there were advances in consumer production. The chemical industry and vehicle manufacture grew, and there were attempts to develop nuclear energy.
  • GDR's dependance on trade made it sensitive to the oil price rise of 1973. The GDR was forced to import oil, coal and gas from the USSR at unfavourable rates and relied on lignite for 70% of its energy. The costs of welfare provision dragged on the economy.
  • By early 1980s the GDR's economy was totally dependant on the FRG, their debt was 38.5 million in Nov 1987.
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Political Stagnation

  • Ostpolitik had brought the GDR international recognition, it no longer needed to regard itself as part of a larger German nation. Constitution of 1974 emphasised 'Abgrenzung' (seperation). This would give the GDR its own national identity.
  • This along with 1978 leniance with the church and no taboos might suggest greater political freedom. However, arists and intellectuals still found themselves subjected to repressive measures.
  • The Berlin Wall continued to stand as proof of the GDR's political failure along with the increase in peoples police and the stasi in the 1970s and 1980s. The state relied heavily on repression.
  • The SED continued to dominate and the mass populace consented. A tiny minority of political activists sought reform in the late 1970s and 1980s began forming organised groups and networks under the church.
  • This bred self-confidence within the SED so when Gorbachev took over leadership of the USSR in 1985 and began spreading ideas of perestrokia and glasnost, the GDR showed no sign of following suit. 
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Niche Society - Against

  • There was relative satisfaction for life in the GDR. The country was economically successful compared to the rest of the Eastern bloc. The GDR's sporting acheivements developed a sense of national pride in the Olympics.
  • Following the Berlin Wall and increasing sense of permanent division, many became determined to work towards improvements within the GDR.
  • In 1988 mass organisations had 1.5 million members, even though membership was not compulsory. These groups fostered a belief in the state.
  • After 1953, there were no major uprisings until 1989. This contrasted with Hungary, Poland and Czechoslovakia where challanges to the government had required Soviet intervention.
  • The initial protests in 1989 were focused on reform within the GDR initially and not on reunification.
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Niche Society - For

  • Most East Germans compared their standard of living with the FRG unfavourably and were frustrated by the lack of consumer goods and restrictions on travel.
  • There were some examples of opposition such as the June 1953 uprising and objections to the building of the Berlin Wall. In 1982 there was an assassination attempt  on Honecker. It was believed that a lack of opposition was due to Stasi surveillance.
  • Many joined the mass organisations to further their education or careers, not out of loyalty to the state. These organisations were used to control how individuals spent their leisure time. Mass parades and participation in marches did not indicate approval and support for the government. 90% of members left 1989-1990.
  • High suicide rate led Ulbricht to put a ban on the publication of the statistics in 1963, which remained in force throughout the existance of the GDR.
  • The 1989 protests did move towards support for German reunification.
  • Support for Western parties in 1990 and amount of exit visas applies for.

Voluntary Coercion (Freiwilliger Zwang)
Having an easier life by being quiet (Bequemes Schweigen)
Modus Vivendi (A state built on manipulation, intervention and control which produces subjects that live a life of pretence and comprimise their outward opinions in order to be happy.)

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Dente, Ostpolitik and Mutual Recognition.

  • 1968 - 1980 was a period of 'dente' and relaxed Cold War tensions following the Cuban Missile crisis of 1962 and the domestic economic issues for both Superpowers.
  • In 1968 the Soviets were forced to invade czechoslovakia ending the 'prague spring'. Along with examples of political instability in the West. 
  • Brandt felt that Europe would benefit from reduced tensions and greater communications between West and East - and so developed 'Ostpolitik'. He wanted to normalise relations and felt that the Hallstein doctrine was outdated. The USSR also felt the need to improve relations; there had never been a formal peace treaty after WWII and wanted the West to accept division.
  • Some argued that negotiation with an illegitimate state only served to perpetuate it and breached the basic law of 1949 to work towards reunification. However Brandt continued and it proved popular with the electorate.
  • In 1963 Brandt secured passages for some West Berliners to visit the East for 18 days in return for refering to East Berlin as the capital of the GDR, and furthered this policy when he became chancellor in 1969. He implied that his government would consider the recognition of the GDR as a seperate state.
  • Brandt met Stoph in 1970 and Brezhnev met Honecker on behalf of Ulbricht.
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Ostpolitik - Treaties

  • Moscow Treaty 1970 - FRG accept Eastern European borders and no longer claims to represent the whole of Germany. It was agreed the GDR should join the UN
  • The Warsaw Treaty 1970 - FRG and Poland recognise Oder-Neisse border. Any remaining ethnic Germans in Poland were allowed to emigrate to the FRG. The FRG promised trade and financial aid.
  • The Prague Treaty 1970-1973 - The Czech Sudetenland was no longer considered an area of Germany and Czechoslovakia's borders were recognised. Any ethnic Germans in Czechoslovakia were allowed to emigrate to the FRG.
  • The Four Power Berlin Agreement 1971 - USSR and the GDR recognise West Berlin's ties with the FRG and West Berliners right to visit the FRG.
  • The Basic Treaty 1973 - The FRG recognises the GDR as an equal and independant (but not foreign) state. GDR citizens were to be regarded as 'German' citizens who were entitled to FRG citizenship if they came to the West. Recognition of 'two German states in one German nation'. West Berliners could stay in East Berlin for a full day.
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Impact of Ostpolitik

  • Brought the two states closer together. Communications were improved and on a personal level caused less suffering.
  • However, on an interntional level, Ostpolitik drove them further apart. The GDR declared itself a seperatist socialist nation in 1974.
  • Honecker did not become more liberal. This gave the SED confidence, and they urged the USSR to crush the Solidarity movement in Poland 1980-1981, ignoring dissent in his own country post 1985. It was widely recognised, joined the UN and received large loans from the FRG.
  • Made the GDR dependant on the loans from the FRG, and laid seeds for its destruction as it allowed the GDR to continue without making reforms.
  • By 1989, the East could no longer survive without the West.
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