Browse Primary Sources
Primary sources from world and global history, including images, objects, texts, and digitally-born materials – annotations by scholars contextualize sources.

Czechoslovak Secret Police Memorandum, "Information on the Security Situation . . "

This Secret Police (StB) memorandum from 21 August details the plans of independent and opposition groups to commemorate the politically-sensitive anniversary of the 1968 Warsaw Pact invasion, and the police's "extraordinary security measures" to prevent the commemorations from taking place.

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U.S. Reaction to a New Prime Minister in Poland

In early June 1989, Poland held its first semi-free elections since the inception of Communist Party rule in the post-World War II era. The elections resulted in a solid defeat of Communism and a sound victory for the Solidarity opposition.

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Transcript of the SED Politburo Session held on 5 September 1989 East Germany

Hungary began dismantling the barbed wire along its border with Austria in May, 1989. Over the summer months, thousands of East Germans risked their lives crossing over the Hungarian-Austrian border before heading north to West Germany.

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Letter from GDR Ambassador to Hungary, Gerd Vehres, to Foreign Minister Osker Fischer

Hungary began dismantling the barbed wire along its border with Austria in May, 1989. Over the summer months, thousands of East Germans risked their lives crossing over the Hungarian-Austrian border before heading north to West Germany.

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National Security Directive 23: United States Relations with the Soviet Union

As President George H. W. Bush took office in January 1989, factions within his administration disagreed concerning the approach to take with regard to US-Soviet relations.

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National Intelligence Council Memorandum, Status of Soviet Unilateral Withdrawals

In December 1988, Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev delivered what he called a “watershed” address at the United Nations, announcing that he planned unilaterally to reduce Soviet military forces by 500,000, cut conventional armaments massively, and withdraw substantial numbers of armaments and troops from Eastern European countries.

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Berlin Embassy Cable, The GDR Political Crisis: Still Deepening. October 4, 1989

On the eve of East Germany fortieth anniversary celebrations, it appeared that the SED was losing control. Several pressure points in society were mounting at the same time. In Prague, East German citizens had jumped over the walls into the West German embassy and the East German regime had negotiated their safe passage to West Germany planned for October 4.

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Excerpt From the Diary of Anatoly Chernyaev

Anatoly Chernyaev was Mikhail Gorbachev's chief foreign policy advisor during the dramatic events of 1989. In this excerpt from his personal diary, Chernyaev speaks about preparing Gorbachev for his official state visit to East Germany on the occasion of the GDR's 40th anniversary in October 1989.

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Berlin Embassy Cable, GDR Political Crisis: Still Deepening. October 6, 1989

The level of unrest in East Germany had been increasing throughout the summer of 1989 and a major focal point of concern for both the East German security forces and international observers concerned the very prominent visit of Mikhail Gorbachev to attend the GDR's 40th anniversary celebrations.

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Record of Main Content of Conversation Between Mikhail Gorbachev and Members of the Politburo of the Central Committee of the Socialist United Party of Germany

During Mikhail Gorbachev's historic visit to East Germany on the occasion of the GDR's 40th anniversary, he met with the SED politburo. In his remarks, Gorbachev urged reform and uttered what would become one of the most famous phrases of the period: "Life itself will punish us if we are late."

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