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The Walls Came Tumbling Down: The Collapse of Communism in Eastern Europeby Gale Stokes
Synopses & Reviews
The revolutions of 1989 were as pivotal a moment in European history as 1917, 1848, or 1789--yet almost no one saw them coming until nearly the last moment: not Washington, Moscow, the Communist regimes, nor even the victorious rebels themselves. But as Gale Stokes shows in this powerful new history--the most comprehensive, analytical, and readable of its kind--momentum for change had been building since 1968, momentum which soon drove past Gorbachev-inspired reforms to outright revolution.
In The Walls Came Tumbling Down, Stokes provides a compelling account of the Eastern European struggle for democracy, from the invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968 through the most recent elections. Stokes vividly describes the thinkers, leaders, and events in each country, showing how the crushing of the Prague Spring had sparked the final disillusioment in Eastern Europe that culminated in the revolts of 1989. In Poland, workers struck again and again to force the government to negotiate, culminating in the creation of Solidarity. Solidarity, he writes, was skillfully led by Lech Walesa, who helped create a "self-limiting" revolution with largely apolitical demands. Under General Jeruzelski's martial law, it fostered a "parallel society" which proved so successful that Warsaw was forced to recognize the union. In Czechoslovakia, intellectuals turned to "anti-politics," forming Charter 77 to demand that the government abide by its own laws and agreements on civil rights. Stokes also explores the actions of rulers and governments, from Ceausescu's self-glorification to Hungary's official turn toward a more market-based economy. The author interweaves the fast-paced narrative with analytical insight, tracing the path of developments after Gorbachev lifted the lid on reform (showing, for instance, how East German reform crystalized after thousands fled across Hungary's newly-opened border to the West). Stokes provides deft biographical sketches of the key figures, from Polish Communist leader Gierek to Vaclav Havel, and smoothly explains the tangled web of economic theories and reforms. He brings the story right up to the present day, examining the climactic events of 1989, the new democratic, pluralist governments, and the forces at work in the region today.
Stokes's highly readable account provides truly comprehensive coverage, including a special chapter on the break-up and war in Yugoslavia. For anyone who wants a clear picture of the new Europe and the events behind it, The Walls Came Tumbling Down offers an authoritative, seamless history filled with keen analysis and human drama.
Gale Stokes' The Walls Came Tumbling Down has been one of the standard interpretations of the East European revolutions of 1989 for many years. It offers a sweeping yet vivid narrative of the two decades of developments that led from the Prague Spring of 1968 to the collapse of communism in 1989. Highlights of that narrative include, among other things, discussions of Solidarity and civil society in Poland, Charter 77 and the Velvet Revolution in Czechoslovakia, and the bizarre regime of Romania's Nikolae Ceausescu and his violent downfall. In this second edition, now appropriately subtitled Collapse and Rebirth in Eastern Europe, Stokes not only has revised these portions of the book in the light of recent scholarship, but has added three new chapters covering the post-communist period, including analyses of the unification of Germany and the collapse of the Soviet Union, narratives of the admission of many of the countries of the region to the European Union, and discussion of the unfortunate outcomes of the Wars of Yugoslav Succession in the Western Balkans.
This gripping narrative is the most comprehensive, up-to-date history available on the strggle for Eastern European democracy, from the invasion of Czechoslavakia in 1968 to the most recent elections. Stokes' swiftly moving account and keen analysis includes a special chapter on the destruction of Yugoslavia.
About the Author
Gale Stokes is past Dean of Humanities, Chair of the History Department, and a three-time winner of the George R. Brown Award for Superior Teaching at Rice University. He is the author of several books, including From Stalinism to Pluralism: A Documentary History of Eastern Europe Since 1945, Second Edition, (OUP, 1996) and Three Eras of Political Change in Eastern Europe (OUP, 1996).
Table of Contents
1. The New Opposition: Antipolitics and Solidarity
2. The Gang of Four and Their Nemesis
3. The Momentum of Change in Hungary
4. Solidarity and the Return of the Repressed in Poland
5. The Glorious Revolutions in 1989
6. The Devil's Finger: The Disintegration of Yugoslavia
7. The New European Order
8. Central Europe on the Move
9. Southeastern Europe: A Glass Half Empty
Epilogue: Pluralism, The New Reality
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