Peter Grieder
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‘When your neighbour changes his wallpaper’
The ‘Gorbachev factor’ and the collapse of the German Democratic Republic
in The 1989 Revolutions in Central and Eastern Europe
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This chapter assesses the part Mikhail Sergeyevich Gorbachev played in the downfall of the German Democratic Republic (GDR), also known as East Germany. Shortly after Gorbachev's accession to power, Erich Mielke, the Minister for State Security of the GDR, issued directive No. 2/85 on 'prevention, disclosure and combating of underground political activity'. Without Gorbachev, the 1989 revolutions could not have happened. Gorbachev's refusal to overrule Hungary's decision to start dismantling the Iron Curtain along its frontier with Austria on 2 May plunged the GDR into its deepest refugee crisis since the building of the Berlin Wall in 1961. Until the late 1980s, the Kremlin regarded the GDR as the pillar of the USSR's influence in Europe, paid for with the blood of Soviet soldiers during the Second World War.

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