1989 saw a sudden and drastic shift in Eastern Europe. For nearly 50 years since the end of World War I, communism and the Soviet Union had presided over the Eastern bloc, and the quality of life for average citizens of those countries were still not catching up to those in the West. Basic necessities such as feminine hygiene products and toilet paper were scarce or outright unavailable, and more expensive goods like cars and household appliances meant being on a waiting list for years. In Goodbye Lenin!, the mother is surprised that they were able to get a car after waiting “only three years” (even though the car came after the fall of the GDR). The West, by comparison, seemed like a consumer’s paradise to the Eastern Europeans who were able to travel there. Money was the key to having the hallmarks of modern living, like washing machines and cars. In the communist countries, quality of life was largely determined by party affiliation, and even party members often lived in smaller apartments with more people than those in the West. Though there were many that believed in the ideals of communism, the general populace had decided that enough was enough. When the Soviet Union revealed that they no longer had the means nor the desire to maintain strict control of the Eastern Bloc, communism fell swiftly. However, as the changes swept through the region, each country had a very distinct answer to the call.
The first country to change was Poland. The seeds in Poland had been planted nearly ten years before with the creation of the Solidarity trade union, the first non-communist party controlled union in the Eastern bloc. Solidarity was essentially a pre-cursor to an opposition party, as wa...
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...the problems of the 1980s and 1990s still plague Europe today, a clear economic example being the collectivist mentality that led to the creation of the Euro, and the inherent risk of economic underachievers dragging the entire continent into recession. This, in turn, is stirring discussion of dissolution of the EU, especially in Germany which has been the workhorse that has mitigated many of the economic hardships of countries such as Greece and Spain. Ethnic tensions are flaring in Crimea as Russia attempts to reinstate the institution of Soviet expansionism. Angela Merkel has publicly said that a multi-cultural society can never truly function, eery words coming from the mouth of a German leader. Though the revolutions of 1989 seemed to take note of the history behind them, the current problems of the European continent are unsettlingly reminiscent of the past.
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