Die Wende (German pronunciation: [diː ˈvɛndə], "The Turn" or "The Turnaround") is a German term that has come to signify the complete process of change from the rule of the Socialist Unity Party of Germany and a centrally planned economy to the revival of parliamentary democracy and market economy in the German Democratic Republic (GDR) around 1989 and 1990. It encompasses several processes and events which later have become synonymous with the overall process. These processes and events are:
- the Peaceful Revolution during the presidency of President of the Soviet Union Mikhail Gorbachev, a time of massive protest and demonstrations (Montagsdemonstrationen – "Monday demonstrations" and Alexanderplatz demonstration) against the political system of the GDR and for civil and human rights in late 1989.
- the fall of the Berlin Wall on 9 November 1989 following a press conference held by the Politbüro during which Günter Schabowski announced the introduction of unconditional travelling permissions, which was very unusual after four decades of severe travelling restrictions and intended to tone down the protesters but instead because of Schabowski's unclear and ambiguous wording led to an onrush of people willing to leave the country and the accidental opening of the border checkpoints at the same night.
- the transition to democracy in East Germany following the Peaceful Revolution, leading to the only truly democratic elections to the Volkskammer in the GDR on 18 March 1990.
- the process of German reunification leading to the Einigungsvertrag (Treaty of Unification) on 31 August 1990, the Treaty on the Final Settlement with Respect to Germany on 12 September 1990 and finally the joining of the five re-established East German Länder to the Federal Republic of Germany.
In hindsight, the German word Wende (meaning "The Turn") then took on a new meaning; the phrase seit der Wende, literally "since the change", means "since reunification" or "since the Wall fell". This period is marked by West German aid to East Germany, a total reaching an estimated $775 billion over 10 years. To some extent, Germany is still in the midst of the Nachwendezeit (post-Wende period): differences between East and West still exist, and a process of "inner reunification" is not yet finished.
This fundamental change has marked the reunification of Germany. The term was first used publicly in East Germany on 18 October 1989 in a speech by interim GDR leader Egon Krenz (the term having been used on the cover of influential West German news magazine Der Spiegel two days previously). Whilst it initially referred to the end of the old East German government, die Wende has become synonymous with the fall of the Wall and of the East German state, and indeed of the entire Iron Curtain and Eastern Bloc state socialism.
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