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

Guenter Schabowski's Press Conference in the GDR International Press Center

Günther 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.

... Read More »

Verbal Message from Mikhail Gorbachev to Helmut Kohl

With the opening of the border between East and West Germany on November 9, 1989, jubilant crowds took to the streets in Berlin to celebrate this historic event. West German Chancellor Helmut Kohl was traveling in Poland when word reached him about the events in East Germany and he quickly rearranged his schedule so that he could make a public appearance the following day, on November 10.

... Read More »

The Russian Revolution: The Problem of Dictatorship

In January 1988, dissidents in East Germany mounted a counter-demonstration during the annual parade honoring the lives of Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Liebknecht. Luxemburg and Liebknecht were both killed by right-wing Freikorps vigilantes during the 1919 January revolution.

... Read More »

Excerpt from Freye Klier's Diary

Freya Klier was a leading theatrical director in East Germany. She and her husband, Stephan Krawczyk, were outspoken critics of the East German regime and were among the leading organizers of the counter-demonstration during the annual Liebknecht-Luxemburg parade in January 1988. This is an excerpt from Klier's diary in which she records the events of that day.

... Read More »

Remembering the Dead

Professor Dr. Heinz Kamnitzer was the head of the East German writers group, PEN. In response to the counter-demonstration at the 1988 Liebknecht-Luxemburg parade, Kamnitzer wrote this op-ed essay, entitled “Remembering the Dead” as a way of distancing the East German Communist Party (SED) from the actions of the demonstrators.

... Read More »

President George H.W. Bush and Solidarity Leader Lech Walesa in Question-and-Answer Session With Reporters Following a Luncheon in Gdansk, 11 July 1989

The transition to a Solidarity-led government in Poland was closely associated with the introduction of market-oriented economic reforms. Many Poles hoped that this might lead to a dramatic improvement in the country’s economy, not only through the stimulation of domestic growth but also through the attraction of investment and outright financial aid from the West.

... Read More »

Minutes No. 64 from an Expanded Meeting of the PZPR CC [Central Committee of the Communist Party] Secretariat, June 5, 1989

The following are excerpts from a meeting of the leadership of Poland’s communist party held the day after the June 4, 1989 elections, when the magnitude of the party’s electoral defeat was just becoming clear. Particularly embarrassing was the fate of the 35 candidates on the so-called “national list,” well-known dignitaries who were running unopposed.

... Read More »

Letter from Andrzej Slowik to "Roundtable" Chair Wladyslaw Findeisen

Between February and April 1989 in Poland, Communist Party leaders and Solidarity activists engaged in negotiations during the historic roundtable talks. Several days after these talks commenced, Andrzej Slowik, a Solidarity activist in the city of Łódż who was not asked to participate in the talks, wrote this letter to Wladyslaw Findeisen, the roundtable chair for Solidarity.

... Read More »

Prague Embassy cable, Brutal Suppression of Czech Students' Demonstration

This official cable sets forth the reaction of the U.S. Embassy in Czechoslovakia to the events of November 17, 1989. Prague university students obtained official permission to commemorate this anniversary of the 1939 Nazi assault on Czech students, but they were forbidden to enter Wenceslas Square, the traditional site of anti-state protest.

... Read More »
View document icon

Teleprint from CC CPCz to First Secretary CC CPS and Secretaries of Regional and District Committees

The Velvet Revolution was named for the remarkably non-violent end to communism in Czechoslovakia. Yet as Milos Jakes and his conservative government scrambled to respond to the aftermath of November 17, they were considering all options.

... Read More »