The “carnival of revolutions” (Padraic Kenney) in late 1989 produced peaceful change in Moscow’s Eastern European satellites. After Polish and Hungarian round tables and the collapse of the iron curtain along the Austro-Hungarian border and the breaching of the Berlin Wall, the demand for change spilled over into the rest of the Soviet bloc.
Massive demonstrations in the streets of Prague toppled the communist regime in Czechoslovakia and brought the former dissident leader Vaclav Havel to power. He was elected president in late December. This completed the peaceful “velvet revolution” in Czechoslovakia.
A few days later the Communist regimes of Romania and Bulgaria collapsed as well. Nicola Ceausescu in Romania was the only dictator who tried to stop the “counterrevolution” with his army and security police in Romania. After considerable bloodshed in the capital Bucharest and the province of Transylvania, the newly formed “Front for National Salvation” apprehended Ceausescu and his wife, executed them after a brief trial on December 25, 1989, and proclaimed itself as the new government.
In these events Gorbachev was a mere bystander and allowed these revolutions to unfold. On the heels of the collapse of the political power of the communist regimes, the ignominious end of the once mighty military alliance, the Warsaw Pact, followed on July 1, 1991.
The protesters on Wenceslav Square faced a potentially violence backlash from the Communist authorities but remained undeterred and kept coming back for protests.
PHOTO CREDITS: CLOCKWISE FROM TOP Courtesy of NÖ Landesausstellung, Schallaburg Kulturbetriebsges.m.b.H; Courtesy of Vojenský ústrední archive, Prague; Courtesy of Austrian Ministry of European and International Affairs; Courtesy of Vojenský ústrední archive, Prague.