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date: 30 June 2022

Abstract and Keywords

The essay argues that the story of 1989 can be told either as a narrow or a wide story. The narrow story focuses on the end of communism, the unification of Germany, and the subsequent integration of former communist states into the European Union. It works especially well for Central and Eastern Europe, although it also has implications for regimes in Africa that relied on Soviet support. However, it also requires considerable qualification, given the survival of communist regimes in China, Vietnam, Cuba, and elsewhere. In the second, wide version of the story, 1989 brings to visibility processes that had been at work for several decades, undermining the power blocs of the Cold War era and the territorially defined polities on which the system of international relations rested. In this story 1989 is of as much relevance to the West as to the former Eastern Bloc. The essay looks at both stories in relation to Gorbachev and perestroika, the US role in the end of the Cold War, German unification, the singing revolution in the Baltic, and 1989 in China and Cuba.

Keywords: end of communism, German unification, survival of communism, 1989, China, Cuba, Cold War, Baltic singing revolution, territoriality

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