Dissatisfied with lack of democracy and the Soviet Union’s influence on their country, Ukrainian university students in L'viv established the Student Brotherhood in March of 1989. In December students in the capital city of Kiev formed the Ukrainian Students Union.
In the late 1980’s, Poland was nearing the end of almost 40 years of postwar communism as part of the Soviet Eastern Bloc. Out of labor organizing earlier in the decade emerged Solidarność (Solidarity), the first non-communist party-controlled trade union federation in a Warsaw Pact country (see Polish workers general strike for economic rights, 1980). Shortly after the rise of Solidarity, the organization expanded into a larger social movement, appealing for economic reforms, free elections, and increased political participation of trade unions.
Estonians have long held a tradition of singing. Beginning in 1869, Estonians have held a song festival every five years called the Laulupidu during which thousands of Estonians gather to sing together.
By the end of World War II, the Soviet Union had invaded and taken over much of Czechoslovakia. The Communist Party officially came to power in February 1948, and under its rule dissidents faced persecution by secret police, censorship was enforced, Marxist-Leninist ideology was proclaimed mandatory in schools, and all schools, media, and businesses became the possessions of the state.
“The pulling down of the Berlin Wall began in Sopron,” stated Lothar de Maiziere, East Germany’s last prime minister.
On the outskirts of Sopron, a small town on the border between Communist Hungary and democratic Austria, they had a picnic – a most unusual picnic. The organizers wanted to “act out the future in the present.”
The Baltic republics of Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania achieved their independence from the Soviet Union by conducting movements based on nonviolence. Tactics included: nonviolent protests, noncooperation, and defiance to combat Soviet military intervention and political intrusion. The problems for Latvia in particular were born after the Soviet occupation following World War II. From that point forward the Soviet leaders employed a program to eradicate the previous Latvian society and to force the “Sovietization” of Latvian society.
Russia first occupied Lithuania and introduced a program of “Russification,” an attempt to eliminate Lithuanian language and culture in favor of Russian culture, in the mid-19th century. After 22 years of independence from Russia, the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact in 1939 reintroduced the Soviet Union’s dominance over Lithuania—as well as the other Baltic states: Estonia and Latvia. The Soviet Union publicly stated that Lithuania had joined the USSR willingly, although secret protocols of the pact disputed this. Following World War II, the Soviet Union reoccupied Lithuania.
In 1921 the Mongolian People’s Revolutionary Party (MPRP) came to power and soon aligned the country with the USSR. Until this democracy campaign in 1989, the MPRP ruled Mongolia through a constitutionally-sanctioned single-party government. By the mid-1980’s, pro-reform sentiments and movements were spreading in Eastern Europe, especially at the universities. However, Mongolians remained isolated from all of this except for the few students who could afford to study abroad in Eastern Europe.