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1989: Timeline of revolution

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Issue 2176


  • A strike movement sweeps Poland in response to an increase in food prices in July. The Solidarity trade union is formed as a result. It wins massive support and challenges the regime. Though it is suppressed through the 1980s it becomes the main opposition to the regime, which is fatally damaged by the growth of Solidarity.


  • 4 June – Years of crisis and opposition forces the Polish regime to call elections. Solidarity, which now backs the free market, wins them.
  • August – Tens of thousands of East Germans go to West German diplomatic missions in East Berlin, Czechoslovakia and Hungary seeking asylum.
  • 24 August – Poland’s Tadeusz Mazowiecki becomes Soviet bloc’s first non-Communist prime minister.
  • 11 September – Hungary opens border with the West. The exodus of East German refugees begins.
  • 7 October – While visiting East Berlin, Russian leader Mikhail Gorbachev indirectly urges reform. The first demonstrations against the East German regime take place.
  • 4 November – One million East Germans protest for democracy in East Berlin’s main square.
  • 7-8 November – East Germany’s government resigns.
  • 9 November – Thousands of East German protesters go to border crossings demanding they be let through. The wall is breached and people begin to pull it down in celebration.
  • 10 November – Bulgaria’s regime removes long-time dictator Todor Zhivkov from power.
  • 17 November – A Czechoslovakian student protest leads to clashes with police, beginning the country’s “Velvet Revolution”. Half a million people protest in Prague on 20 November.
  • 27 November – A two-hour general strike takes place in Czechoslovakia.
  • 16 December – Protests erupt in Romania, spreading across the country. Dictator Nicolae Ceausescu sends in the army and the police. Workers’ strikes and huge protests lead to Ceausescu’s fall.
  • 25 December – A firing squad executes Ceausescu and his wife.
  • 29 December – Communist rule ends in Czechoslovakia after 41 years.


  • 3 October – East and West Germany reunited as one country.
  • 9 December – Lech Walesa, former shipyard worker and leader of Solidarity, wins Poland’s first presidential election.


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