Louis Sell is a retired Foreign Service officer who served twentyseven years with the US Department of State, specializing in Soviet and Balkan affairs. He is the author of
1989: Year of Miracles or Time of Troubles?
This chapter presents in one narrative events in the USSR in 1989 and the collapse of Communist regimes across Eastern Europe, to show how Gorbachev was losing control of events at home and could not have intervened forcefully to block change in eastern Europe even if he had wanted to. The chapter discusses the Congress of Peoples’ Deputies, whose quasifree elections dealt a setback to Communist candidates; the rise of ethnic unrest; miners’ strikes, which challenged the Soviet system; Solidarity’s electoral victory in Poland and Gorbachev’s decision not to block its non-Communist government; the decision of Hungarian reform Communists to open the Western border; the rise of unrest in East Germany and the unexpected fall of the Berlin Wall. It concludes with the reaction of Gorbachev and Western leaders to the Wall’s fall and the US-Soviet Malta summit, where Bush proposed a number of US steps to aid Gorbachev, now clearly on the defensive.