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Nonviolent RevolutionsCivil Resistance in the Late 20th Century$
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Sharon Erickson Nepstad

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780199778201

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2012

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199778201.001.0001

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The Collapse of the East German State

The Collapse of the East German State

(p.38) Chapter 3 The Collapse of the East German State
Nonviolent Revolutions

Sharon Erickson Nepstad

Oxford University Press

This chapter focuses on the 1989 East German uprising. East Germans found that shifting international dynamics—linked to Gorbachev’s perestroika and glasnost policies and Hungary’s decision to open its border—enabled them to mobilize. As tens of thousands of East Germans emigrated through Hungary, a labor shortage and an economic crisis developed. When state officials stopped emigration, citizens expressed opposition to regime policies through demonstrations, which were initially tied to Protestant churches’ peace prayer services. As demonstrations expanded, regime leaders tried to repress the movement. But troops defied orders and many deserted, since protesters’ nonviolent demeanor made it difficult to justify the use of force. Hence security force defections, combined with the loss of emigrants’ labor skills, paralyzed the regime. Subsequently, the Berlin Wall fell, and the East German state was dismantled.

Keywords:   East Germany, German Democratic Republic, Berlin Wall, Protestant churches, peace prayer services, Leipzig confrontation, Socialist Unity Party

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