This week will mark the 30th anniversary of a summit between American and Soviet leaders in Malta. Dubbed the “seasick summit” due to a storm that resulted in the talks being delayed (as well as a few individuals becoming seasick), it would usher in the Cold War’s final stages. Although no agreements were signed, the summit would improve relations between the East and the West.
Several issues that both sides agreed on include the following: economic agreements, Latin America, and Europe (including the withdrawal of Soviet troops from Eastern Europe- something that had already been taking place- as well as letting the communist nations of Eastern Europe be self-determinant).
Thus, the summit in December 1989 was a symbolic end to the Cold War, although the official end would not take place for another two years.
Meanwhile, the Iron Curtain was collapsing throughout Eastern Europe. Earlier that year, Hungary ousted its communist regime. Poland (in part because of Solidarity) had followed suit. In East Germany, the Berlin Wall had come down, thus uniting East Berlin and West Berlin. East Germany’s communist government was done away with, and a year later Germany was reunified.
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In Czechoslovakia, the communist leaders stepped down, and free elections were held soon afterward. It became known as the Velvet Revolution, because there was no was bloodshed.
Romania would be the only communist nation to experience bloodshed in 1989. Its leader Nicolae Ceausescu had ruled with an iron fist since 1965. After the summit at Malta, Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev met with Ceausescu- a meeting that resulted in a falling out. Later that month, the Securitate (Romania’s secret police) opened fire on protesters in an attempt to quell an anti-communist rebellion. But the violent repression backfired, as did a speech Ceausescu gave to show he still had the support of the Romanian people. He abdicated, and a new government was quickly established (which in turn had the loyalty of the military). There was sporadic fighting between the army and remnants of the Securitate, with the army prevailing. Meanwhile, Ceausescu and his wife were captured and tried for crimes against their own people. Sentenced to death on Christmas Eve, they were executed the following day.
In 1990, Bulgaria did away with it communist government. Within a year, Albania and Yugoslavia (which had remained communist nations despite breaking away from Soviet influence) would follow suit.
Finally, on Christmas Day 1991 (after calls for independence from several Soviet Republics), Gorbachev resigned, and the Soviet Union ceased to exist.
Thus, 1989 was a year to remember.