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

Solidarity Election Poster, “High Noon, 4 June 1989”

This is probably the most famous image circulated by Solidarity in the run-up to the June 4 elections. Gary Cooper, the actor who starred in the film “High Noon,” is shown with a Solidarity insignia on his badge and a ballot in hand.

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The Power of the Powerless

Vaclav Havel wrote this work in 1979. The essay begins the intellectual attacks that Havel, the future President of a democratic Czechoslovakia, made against the Communist regime controlling his country. Rather than rely solely on political arguments, Havel argues here that, in fact, cultivating an individual "sphere of truth" will ultimately destroy the totalitarian communist government.

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Gunter Schabowski Press Conference

Schabowski, the spokesman for the East German Communist Party Politburo, played a vital role in the toppling of the East German Communist government in the fall of 1989. During a press conference on November 9, 1989, a reporter asked him about new travel regulations issued by the government that seemed to indicate the possibility of easier travel into West Berlin through the Berlin Wall.

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Thälmann Pioneer's Shirt

This shirt is an example of the uniforms worn by children aged 6-14 who were members of the Young Pioneers in East Germany. Founded in 1948, the Young Pioneer movement was similar to the Boy and Girl Scout movements that originated in the United Kingdom at the turn of the century and spread around the world.

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Vending Machine

In the United States coin-operated drink machines - generically called "coke machines" - are ubiquitous consumer objects regularly punctuating our everyday landscapes. We feed them our money and out roll individually packaged liquid refreshments. During the last years of the Cold War designers in the East Bloc developed their own regional version of the "coke machine".

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Oh Richard, Oh, My King!

This aria from the Gretry opera, Richard the Lion–Hearted, was adopted by royalists during the early years of the Revolution. The song’s accusation that the king had been abandoned by all but his most devoted followers made it a suitable counter–revolutionary anthem.

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It’ll Be Okay

Popular during the early years of the Revolution, this song’s lively tune and repetitive chorus expressed revolutionaries’ hopefulness about the future. Singers manipulated its malleable lyrics to address a broad range of topical issues.

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Hymn of 9 Thermidor

This hymn commemorates the overthrow of Robespierre and the Committee of Public Safety by the men of the National Convention. It had its debut performance on the first anniversary of that event (27 July 1795).

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Hymn of 21 January

With lyrics drawn from a Republican Ode composed by the revolutionary poet Lebrun in 1793, this hymn commemorates the execution of Louis XVI.

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