Eastern Europe – From 1970 to 1990 From 1970 to 1990, Eastern European nations realized they needed a change in their governments as well as economies. Politically, reformers and dissidents wanted to end party-state dictatorships and move towards a pluralist democracy. Economically, centrally planned economies were unsuccessful due to increased bureaucracy, excessive centralization, and debt obligation. Velvet revolutions in Eastern Europe changed countries towards market-oriented economies and pluralist democracies. Countries of the Eastern European bloc had a similar goal in the 1970s and 1980s: to end party-state dictatorships.
Under party-state dictatorships, one political party dominated the government and citizens had little participation in the government. Reformers and dissidents wanted opposition parties and multiparty elections. Eastern Europes repressive governments suppressed any anti-Communist rebellions and criticisms of the government. In 1985, Soviet Union President Mikhail Gorbachev introduced his reform of glasnost, or openness. This allowed citizens of Eastern Europe to voice their opinions on the party and government. Eastern Europe suffered from many economic problems.
Many countries owed debt to Western nations. Central planned economies were inefficient and slowed economic growth. New industries could not be formed due to lack of capital. Productivity halted under bureaucratic control. Many reformers wanted more competition between industries and incentives for workers. Gorbachev introduced his reform of perestroika, or economic liberalization, in 1985, but reformers still were not happy.
Citizens of Eastern Europe responded to economic and political problems by acting against the Communist dictatorships. In Poland, an independent trade union was formed, named Solidarity. Solidarity and its leader, Lech Walesa, demanded free elections and a role in government. In 1989, Solidarity won in an open election and Communist rule ended in Poland. This peaceful, or velvet, revolution influenced other countries to act against the government.
In Hungary, reform movements such as forming opposition parties turned into revolution. Peaceful demonstrations calling for the Communist dictatorships in East Germany, Czechoslovakia, and Bulgaria led to revolution. Romania was the only country that had a violent revolution. The economic and political unfairness ended in Eastern Europe due to velvet revolutions. Reformers and dissidents responded to problems peacefully and successfully. Party-state dictatorships and centrally planned economies turned into pluralist democracies and market-oriented economies.