Mary Baldwin College, Staunton VA 24401
by Prof. Gordon L. Bowen, Ph.D.
International and Nationality Factors Greatly Contributed to the Collapse of the USSR, 1988-91
This Time line enumerates key points in this process.
February: Soviet First Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev announced that all of Soviet armed forces would be withdrawn from Afghanistan before the end of the year.
March: First cease-fire negotiated in war between Nicaraguan Sandinista Government and U.S.-backed "contra" rebels.
September: Gorbachev offered to end the Soviet presence at Kam Rahn Bay, Vietnam, in exchange for a US withdrawal from the Subic Bay US Navy base in the Philippines.
January 16: Czechoslovak pro-democracy demonstration repressed; V. Havel jailed, February-May, for his role in this.
January 29: A subcommittee of the Hungarian ruling communist party published a report on the events of 1956 which reclassified it as a "popular uprising," rather than a "counterrevolution" as it previously had been officially delineated.
February: Czechoslovakian Communist government stopped jamming Radio Free Europe broadcasts.
February 14: Soviet Red Army completed its exit from Afghanistan.
March 29: Hungary permitted exhumation of the unmarked common grave that had held 1956 Revolutionary hero Imre Nagy, his defense minister Pal Maleter, and three other Hungarian patriots. Large anti-Communist crowds attended the Re burial ceremony.
April 9: Georgian independence protest brutally was suppressed by Red Army/KGB force that used sharp shovels, poisoned gas on crowd. Eighteen died; nearly all were women.
May 2: Hungary opened its border by dismantling fence at Austrian frontier. Other East European communist states protested. Hungary stated that it would "discourage" nationals from other nations from leaving via Hungarian-Austrian frontier.
May 15-18: Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev visited Beijing, China; large student demonstrations on behalf of Chinese democracy occurred concurrently; and violently were crushed at Tiananmen Square (June 3-4).
May 16: USSR announced it had ended all arms shipments to Nicaragua.
June 3-15: Rioting in Uzbekistan, USSR left approximately 100 dead.
June 4-18: Polish elections lead to the formation of first non-communist government in Warsaw Pact (August 24).
July 6: Gorbachev tells European Parliament that USSR will not interfere with change in Poland and Hungary. At Warsaw Pact meeting July 7, he again called for "independent solutions of national problems."
July: President Bush visited Eastern Europe, encouraged efforts at independence in Poland (July 10) and Hungary (July 12).
July 10-26: Large strikes occurred in mining industry in USSR.
August: Hundreds of East German tourists obtained sanctuary in West German embassy in Budapest, Hungary, and were provided safe conduct to the West.
September 10: Hungary opened its border with Austria and for the first time began permitting unrestricted emigration by GDR citizens seeking to go to West Germany.
September 26-29, 1989: The last Vietnamese combat troops withdrew from Cambodia.
September 3-October 4: GDR refugees in Prague, Czechoslovakia besieged West German embassy, boarded trains headed for the West.
October 7-9: Large demonstrations for free emigration are held in many East German cities.
October 16: Over 100,000 demonstrated in Leipzig for democratic reform of GDR. Two days later Communist leader Erich Honecker resigned, replaced by Communist Egon Krenz.
October 23: Soviet Foreign Minister Eduard Shevardnadze told the Soviet parliament that the initial 1979 decision to invade Afghanistan was mistaken and "the most serious violation of our own legislation, of party and civic norms, and ethical standards of the time." On this same date, Hungary's communist rulers formally changed the country's name, dropping all reference to socialism.
October 23: Over 300,000 demonstrate in Leipzig for democratic reform of GDR.
November 1: Communist East Germany opened its border with Czechoslovakia.
November 1-7: Numerous resignations, firings occurred in East German Government and Party hierarchy. Mass protest in Berlin, November 4, exceeded 500,000; other huge protests occurred in Leipzig, Dresden, elsewhere. New government was formed, November 7.
November 9: East German government opened all borders: Fall of the Berlin Wall. Spontaneous celebration lasted two days.
November 17: East German government leader Hans Modrow appointed new cabinet: 11 of 27 were non-Communist.
November-December: Czechoslovakian Revolution. November 17: First mass student demonstration in Prague. Police attacked crowd. Crisis built to general strike of November 27. Communist boss Milos Jakes quit (November 24), communist party's "leading role" deleted from Constitution (November 28), border opened (December 4), new government formed (December 10), mass celebrations (December 11), dissident playwright V. Havel elected president by parliament, took office (December 29).
December 2: East German leaders Krenz (party) and Modrow (government) resigned. Multi -Party election set for May 1990, but Communist Party rejected goal of reunification with West Germany.
December 8: Moscow Communist Party newspaper Pravda suggested that USSR Constitution be amended to remove Article 6, the provision of the "leading role of the Communist Party in government and society." December 12: Gorbachev told Congress of Peoples' Deputies that it was "too soon" to discuss removal of Article 6.
December 11: 200,000 plus demonstrated in Leipzig for the reunification of Germany.
December 14: Andrei Sakharov, leader of the democratic opposition in the USSR, died.
December 15-25: Violent revolution led to the overthrow of communist Ceausescu dictatorship in Romania. Gorbachev government applauded this on December 22, 1989. Three days later Ceausescu was executed.
December 20: Gorbachev met with new Czech government, and agreed to begin negotiations aimed at the withdrawal of Red Army from Czechoslovakia. Agreement to withdraw later was signed (February 26, 1990).
January: Emergency in the Trans-Caucasus, USSR. Red Army troops were sent to Georgia, Azerbaijan (where heavy fighting then occurred at Baku).
February 7: CPSU Central Committee approved the deletion of Article 6 from the Soviet Constitution. Congress of People's Deputies so deleted Article 6 on March 13.
February 12: 37 died in ethnic unrest in Tadzhikistan SSR.
February 24: Nationalist candidates of Sajudis movement routed Lithuanian Communists in first free election there.
March 11: Lithuanian legislature unanimously declared independence from the USSR. Gorbachev declared this "invalid." Economic blockade of Lithuania soon was begun.
March 15: Gorbachev elected President of the USSR by the Congress of People's Deputies, 1329 to 495. Over 400 others abstained.
March 18: East German election held: conservative candidates affiliated with the Christian Democrat government of West Germany won a landslide victory.
April: Violeta Chamorro, who defeated pro-Soviet Sandinista Comandante Daniel Ortega in his attempt at reelection in February 1990 (55% to 41%), assumed office as Nicaraguan president.
April 8: Hungarian elections brought to power Jozsef Antall and an anti-Communist coalition government in Hungary's first free election. Antall's Democratic Forum and allied parties won 60 percent, or 229 seats, in the 386 seat Hungarian legislature. Former communists polled only 8.3 percent of the vote.
May 1: Massive anti-Communist demonstration on Red Square in Moscow.
May 29: Boris Yeltsin elected President of Russia, defeating Gorbachev ally Aleksandr Vlasov. Ten days later, Russia declared itself sovereign.
June 8: President Havel's Democratic Forum won parliamentary elections in Czechoslovakia. July 5, Havel was reelected President, 234-50.
July: Merging of two German states into one economic union announced; July 15, Gorbachev accepted that United Germany can remain part of NATO. Timetable for withdrawal of 380,000 Red Army troops from Germany was set: 3 to 4 years.
October 3: The two German states formally were merged, forming United Germany.
November: After Soviet unilateral steps substantially to reduce Red Army forces in Central and Eastern Europe were taken in 1989, a major agreement to reduce conventional forces in Europe was signed.
November 29: Gorbachev government voted with eleven others on the United Nations Security Council to approve U.N. Resolution 678 which authorized use of "all necessary means," including force against Iraq.
December 20: Eduard Shevardnadze resigned as Soviet Foreign Minister due to his inability to "justify the use of force to restore order" in the USSR.
January 11-16: Soviet KGB troops began violent repression in Lithuania. At least 13 died. After public criticism of the repression, Gorbachev asked Congress of Peoples Deputies to suspend laws granting freedom of the press.
January 20: Four killed as Soviet troops raided government buildings in Riga, Latvia.
February 25: At Warsaw Pact meeting in Budapest, Hungary, defense ministers of the USSR and the six East European member states agreed to dissolve the alliance on March 31, 1991.
March-May 1991: Soviet withdrawal from Czechoslovakia. Departure of last tank (March), last soldier (May) marked end of 53 year foreign occupation of Czechoslovakian republic.
June 13: Boris Yeltsin, with 60 percent of the vote, became first popularly elected president of Russia. (Sworn in as president on July 10).
July 4: Former Soviet Foreign Minister Eduard Shevardnadze published a public letter resigning from membership in the Communist Party, charging the Party with carrying out "witch hunts" against dissenters.
August 19-21: Emergency Committee attempted overthrow of Gorbachev government and reinstatement of Communist System. Massive popular counter-demonstrations in Moscow, Leningrad defeated this coup. Russian President Yeltsin, leader of the anti-coup revolutionaries, gained greatly in authority. Gorbachev's power then ebbed.
August 23: Russian Government suspended all Communist Party activities in Russia; other republics did same in following days.
August 24: Soviet President Gorbachev resigned as General Secretary of the Communist Party of the USSR, disbanded Central Committee of Communist Party, ordered Soviet Government to seize Party property, and banned all Party activity. Five days later, by vote of 283 to 29 (52 abstentions) Congress of Peoples Deputies suspended all Communist Party activity in the USSR.
September 6: Russian Parliament renamed Leningrad as St. Petersburg.
September 17: Soviet prosecutor general dismissed 1974 treason charge against Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn.
September 28: KOMSOMOL youth organization formally disbanded in Soviet Union.
October 9: Soviet Government established formal diplomatic relations with Lithuania and Estonia.
October 18: Diplomatic relations between USSR and Israel, interrupted 1967-1991, were restored.
October 23: The civil war in Cambodia formally was ended with the signing of a peace accord in Paris.
November 5: China and Vietnam normalized their diplomatic relations.
December 1: Referendum in Ukraine gave overwhelming support for Ukrainian Government plan for independence.
December 25: Gorbachev, in televised speech, resigned as president of the USSR; red flag immediately was lowered from atop Kremlin.
December 26: Congress of Peoples Deputies acknowledged that the Soviet Union was dissolved. Technically, a Commonwealth of Independent States replaced it; actually, constituent republics (e.g., Russia, Ukraine) became independent states.
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