Scholar Interviews

Vladimir Tismaneanu: What forces led to change in Eastern Europe?


Basically the spring of 1989 and the pact between the enlightened part of the party apparatus, clearly stimulated, encouraged, prompted, you name it, by Gorbachev’s reforms. Clearly prompted by a Soviet foreign minister’s trip to Warsaw. Edvard Shevardnadze visited Warsaw and actually talked to some of the critical intellectuals, that something new has to be tested. On the one hand therefore let’s say the reform-oriented group who’s in the party bureaucracy, the Party Nomenklatura as we call it. On the other hand the moderate forces within the opposition.

So I think that the decision to engage in the Roundtable negotiations between Solidarity and the people around Solidarity, lay Catholic intellectuals like the person who became the prime minister of Poland, Tadeusz Mazowiecki, and a group of people headed by the then party leader Meicczyslaw Rakowski on the side of the reformers within the communist party led to the agreement to have free and fair elections.

I think the communists totally miscalculated. They did not expect to suffer the catastrophic defeat they suffered. Nobody expected that Solidarity was going to get basically, I don’t remember exactly, 98 out of 100 seats in the Polish Senate. A huge, overwhelming presence. And therefore the first non-communist and basically anti-communist government in the Soviet Bloc was created in the spring of 1989.

At the beginning it was Nikita Khrushchev with his secret speech in which he denounced Stalin in February 1956. But better said for Eastern Europe at the beginning was Poland.

How to Cite

Vladimir Tismaneanu, interview, "What forces led to change in Eastern Europe?." Making the History of 1989, Item #613 (accessed May 28 2021, 3:26 pm)