Title: German reunification: Causes and consequences.
By: Laurence O'Neill
In November 1989 the citizens of East and West Germany began tearing down the most significant testament to imposed division of the modern age: the Berlin Wall. The wall was a mechanism of soviet control erected by the GDR to both confirm communist presence in Germany and prevent the lures of Western Capitalism. However, changes in attitudes and global politics, rendered it merely a physical obstacle standing in the way of a reunification longed for by so many Germans both East and West. This essay will explore the significance of these changes as well as describing some of the major consequences of German reunification.
It could be said that the first, and arguably most important, cause of Germany's reunification was that the German people were never really in favour of a division in the first place . After the war they became pawns in a bigger game; one played by two opposing forces, the Western Allies on the one side and the Russians on the other. As time progressed the East Germans became more and more disenchanted with the State in which they lived. Their personal freedom was severely restricted both by physical blockades and state mechanisms such as the notorious Stasi.
For years the communist regime had ruled with an Iron fist using the Red Army to crush any unrequited calls for political or social upheaval. It was probably this historical fact, and also the events of 1953 in East Berlin, that prevented East Germans from taking a more proactive stance in trying to 'liberate' East Germany. However, several poignant events gave the East German people the motivation and hope that they needed to stand up against their almost tyrannical government. Gorbachev's refusal to use the Red army to crush the unionist uprising at Gdansk was one such event. This indicated to the German people that the Soviet Union would not necessarily crush any call for change with an "iron fist". Also Hungary, who's government required Western support for their economic reforms, refused to honour the 'mutual assistance treaty.' This led to thousands of East Germans fleeing to neighbouring countries with the eventual aim of returning to West Germany. Many of those who fled were young with good jobs in the GDR . This fact alone speaks volumes for the kind of distend that was held by EG people towards the GDR. Not everyone fled, indeed many began to gather on the streets in 1989 calling for reunification with the chant "Wir sind ein Volk"
Perhaps it was these calls from the population of East Germany that led to the soviets eventual surrender of East Germany. Other writers however, have suggested that when reunification took place in 1991 it occurred as a result of the collapse of communism, not because of popular nationalistic pressure .
This leads to the second most important factor in the reunification process. At the time of Gorbachev's rule in Russia, communism began making grounds towards a slightly more capitalist outlook. The Soviet Union realised that it was essential to nurture ties with the West in order to further her own economic development . Gorbachev's reform movement legitimised this feeling in 1989 whilst also weakening the ethos of state-imposed communism/socialism.
One thing that had to change if Germany was to ever be reunited was the feeling of distrust and animosity between the two powers (America and Russia) that was omnipresent during the cold war years. Since it was agreed that reunification would not take place through means of war, the initiative to reunite Germany had to come from the Eastern Block . Such an initiative presented itself at the Reykjavik summit in Dec.1989 where Bush and Gorbachev agreed that the superpower competition was no longer feasible. President Bush insisted that he would give economic assistance to Russia and refrain from any political movements that might...