collapse of communism

A stunning series of events between 1989 and 1991 that led to the fall of communist regimes in eastern Europe and the Soviet Union. Faced with massive popular opposition and the unwillingness of President Mikhail Gorbachev to send Soviet troops to their rescue, communist governments lost power, first in Poland, where the communists agreed to free elections that swept into power candidates endorsed by Solidarity in June 1989. Demands for reform spread across East Germany in the fall of 1989 and led to the end of the Berlin Wall (see also Berlin Wall) and the unification of East and West Germany. In November 1989 the communist government of Czechoslovakia resigned, and in December a violent revolution led to the overthrow and execution of Romania's communist boss, Nicolae Ceausescu. The Bulgarian parliament revoked the Communist party's monopoly on power in 1990, and in 1991 popular opposition forced the resignation of the communist cabinet in Albania. The failure of a communist-led coup d'état against Mikhail Gorbachev in the Soviet Union in August 1991 ended the party's control of the military and government.

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The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.