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December 21, 2007


The KGB was the USSR's most prominent security agency and existed from 1954 to 1991. KGB is the Russian abbreviation for Committee for State Security. Oft-noted fall guy Lavrentiy Beria ran the KGB's precursor. Upon his death the security forces were split into the statewide police and the new KGB, which ran all internal and external security and intelligence functions. The dissolution of the KGB occurred after its head used agency resources to aid the August 1991 coup attempt to overthrow the government of Mikhail Gorbachev.

Partially due to the monolithic nature of this agency, there were fewer checks and balances than the United State's multidepartmental system. The organization was considered notorious within Soviet culture, and to western observers and the general western public as well. In 1967, Yuri Andropov was made head of the organization and immediately ruled that all dissenters, including those with religious motivation, were a threat to the state. This lead to a hardening of the Gulag system, as chronicaed in Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn's seminal book The Gulag Archipelago. Although the organization is now gone, its methods of opperation and constituents have had lasting impact. As noted previously, Leonid Brezhnev's successor Yuri Andropov was a former head of the KGB. Current Russian President Vladimir Putin also came from KGB ranks, which may partially explain his hard-line approach to government.

Alex Anderson (alex)
Dustin Auman (auma0004)
Molly Hintzen (hint0078)
Elizabeth Peterson (pete5565)

December 20, 2007


Glasnost (along with its counterpart Perestroika) was one of the reform efforts of the Soviet Union. It meant "openess" in Russian and was meant to be a loosing of the restrictions on freedom of speach in the USSR. Coined by Soviet General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev around 1986, it was significant in that it was one precedent of the ultimate collapse of the Soviet Union. Depending on one's stance it could be argued to have played a major role it this collapse or a minor one, and all shades of grey in between. Nevertheless it remains an important part.
As noted in Wilkinson (552) this reform actually worked to hinder its counterpart "perestoika" (restructuring). As the administration opened itself to criticism, it is noted that this hindered a restructuring.

Mike Epsky
Dave Holly
Kurt Holman

December 16, 2007

European Monetary Union-EMU

In June of 1998 the European Council initiated efforts to establish a uniificial monetary unit to develop a common econmy across membar states of the European Union (the EU). These efforts lead to the MaastrichtTreaty, setting out a time table and critiria to achieve the EMU and establish a single eruopean currency, to become named the Euro. This was done in three stages. The first stage was to lift all restrictions on the movement of capital among the member states. This was established July 1st 1990. Increased cooperation was also initiated between the central banks, improving convergence of economies of member states. Stage two started in Januaray 1994 with the establishment of the european monetary institute. A ban was then established on central bank credit to the public sector, Increased coordination of monetary policies and there by strengthening the economic convergence. Proceadrues were implimented that lead to independence of the national central banks with the ultimate establishment of the european system of central banks. Stage three began January 1st 1999, the EMU commenced with the irrevokable fixing of exchange rates between member states, putting conduct of a single monetary policy under the European central bank (ECB). This allowed for the introduction of the new currency called the Euro. This new currency was now to be used by all member nations as their only currency. These actions established a single market with a common currency.

Sources Refferenced
Wikkipedia, and Tiscadea Encyclopedia Search

Kurt Homan
Mike Epsy
David Holly

December 10, 2007

Putin backs Medvedev as successor

Ladies and gentlemen, Putin is not going to be an autocratic dictator! He will be succeeded (in Russian fashion), by a likeminded protege.

I feel it's really important to be watching the development into, the results of, and the ensuing months following this particular election. Medvedev is a shoe-in for the canidacy, and as he's the leader of Gazprom (the Russian oil conglomerate), Russian interest in oil procurement is going to literally explode. I feel this will have far-reaching effects in the former Soviet republics surrounding the Caspian (Azerbaijan, Armenia, Georgia, and eastern Ukraine).... and as Gazprom has already gone ahead with encroaching on a few of these states' oil rights (millions of US dollar's worth of oil has been routed from Ukraine via Georgia alone), it'll be interesting to see what will happen in this area once Medvedev is elected- because it's most likely to happen.



December 9, 2007

David Hasselhoff and the Berlin Wall

This video of David Hasselhoff singing on the Berlin Wall on New Year's Eve 1989, roughly two months after Berliners started tearing down the wall, is amazing. The Hoff's jacket is also amazing, as is his piano key scarf. I think the title of the song he's singing is "Looking for Freedom" or something like that. This goes a long way in explaining why the Germans love the Hoff.

Also, this BBC article is titled "Did David Hasselhoff really help end the Cold War?"

Also, pretty much any video of David Hasselhoff singing on YouTube is amazing, but the Berlin Wall one is especially amazing.

December 6, 2007

Helmut Kohl

Helmut Kohl (1930 - Present)

Helmut Kohl was born Ludwigshafen am Rhein, Germany on April 3, 1930. Growing up, he lived in a conservative Roman Catholic family, which largely influenced his decision to become active in the right-leaning Christian Democratic Union, beginning in 1947. After earning his doctorate in political science University of Heidelberg in 1958, Kohl's role in the party began to grow, first as a state legislator and then later on a national level. He became the CDU's national deputy chairman in 1969 and was elected chairman of the party in 1973.
Under Kohl's leadership, the CDU's role in German politics gradually expanded throughout the 1970s and 1980s, culminating with his coalition government taking a majority in the March 1983 elections and Kohl ascending to the role of Chancellor of West Germany. Kohl would hold the position until 1998, making him one of Germany's longest standing chancellors, second only to Otto Von Bismarck.
In policy, Kohl and the CDU kept Germany on much the same track set by his predecessors, largely pursuing centrist policies both domestically and abroad. By supporting decreasing overall government spending and supporting West Germany's place within NATO, Kohl's aim was mostly to maintain the status quo so as not to derail the strong German economy, which had been gaining steam since the 1970s and remained one of the most, if not only, productive economies in the EEC.
Despite falling under scrutiny for several high-profile corruption scandals, including taking bribes in exchange for passing favorable corporate tax laws and another for illegal campaign contributions (which Kohl himself was accused of), Kohl’s government was able to stay in power long enough to accomplish one of the most important feats in modern German political life – the reunification of West and East Germany. From the get-go, Kohl himself was a staunch supporter of a reunified German state and pushed hard for reconciliation during the late 1980s without much thought to how the move might be perceived by allied governments.
In fact, largely due to the strength of the German economy, many NATO allies were initially wary of the prospects of a single Germany, worried that a combined state could create be too strong and would lead to re-emergence of old German tendencies (e.g. aggressive expansionism), which were still very closely associated with the causes of both world wars. This trepidation could have easily side-tracked the path to a reunited Germany, but upon realizing these fears Kohl acted swiftly and adeptly addressed these concerns of his neighbors. His actions paved the way for reunification, which became official in October of 1990. As a result, Kohl’s popularity soared, and he was able to maintain power for the better part of the 1990s.
His fortunes ultimately changed, though, in the years after the absorption of East Germany, which proved far more difficult than anticipated. For years the East German economy had lagged far behind its western counterpart, and incorporating the eastern population into the economy proved very expensive, necessitating tax increases while simultaneously boosting unemployment. As a result, the German economic machine finally slowed, and Kohl’s popularity gradually waned until his ouster in 1998.

Mike Enright

Hughes, H. Stuart and James Wilkinson. Contemporary Europe: A History. Pearson Education, Inc., Upper Saddle River: 2004.




Solidarity was formed in August 1980 in the Lenin Shipyard of Gdansk, Poland. Sick of a failing economy and corrupt leaders, anti-communist workers, including many Catholics, formed Solidarity under Lech Walesa, a young worker. An important aspect of this group was that it showed the strength of Catholicism in Poland as well as the unrest of many Poles. It was a big change from the government-led changes during the Prague Spring. During the strike and formation of Solidarity, the unpopular leader Gierek, was pushed from power. The government also gave Poles the right to organize, legalizing the group. Other Warsaw Pact countries were not pleased with this change and, in December 1981, moved in and forced Solidarity members underground. The Polish economy continued to fail and, after many workers strikes, the government was forced to legalize Solidarity in 1988. The group gained seats in the Polish parliament in 1989. In 1990, the Lech Walesa (who was given a Nobel Peace Prize for his role in creating Solidarity) was elected president of Poland. Solidarity was very important in organizing Poles and gave them the ability to do more than resign to the Communist leadership. The party is still important in Polish politics today.

Ben Winter
Meagan Smith
Bryce Benda
Elle Soderberg


1980: Gdansk, Poland. Workers at the Lenin Shipyards are outraged by the recent decree by the Polish government that meat prices will increase. Led by electrician Lech Walesa, the workers began to strike on August 14. Against all attempts by the Polish government, the message of the strike soon spread to other strike committees leading to the creation of the Interfactory Strike Committee. The committee proposed 21 demands ranging from reformed rights for the Church to improved national health system; but foremost in these demands was the right to strike and form trade unions independent of the Communist Party.

With the whole country shocked by factory shutdowns, on August 31, the Gdansk Agreement was signed between the government and the strikers. The agreement spelled out the rights to strike and form free labor unions--which would allow workers' concerns to receive proper representation in the political system--at the cost that the striking movement would never act as a political party. On September 17, representatives in coalition with Walesa formed the first independent labor union in the Soviet Bloc, Solidarity.

The union quickly grew in numbers, eventually rising to 80% of the general population--roughly nine to ten million members. The union quickly disregarded its claims in the Gdansk Agreement and called for "an active Solidarity role in reforming Poland's political and economic systems." Strikes and other forms of protest became the new norms for influencing policy by the movement. On March 19, 1981, 27 Solidarity members were beaten by state police during a National Council meeting. A national strike--the largest in the Eastern bloc at approximately half a million--forced the Polish government to release the story to the international press and investigate the beatings.

Intimidated by Solidarity's influence, General Wojciech Jaruzelski declared martial law in Poland on December 13, 1981. Hundreds to thousands of members, including Walesa, were imprisoned were strikes around the country were crushed by riot police. Solidarity was declared illegalized by October 1982. By November, Walesa was finally released from prison. The movement moved underground, were some of its mass support began to falter. The radicals of the union created the Fighting Solidarity, a more militant arm of the movement, but Walesa continued to lead his more moderate approach. July 22, 1983, martial law was finally revoked; however, many of the liberties forfeited were not returned. For his efforts, Walesa was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize; however, he sends his wife to Oslo to fetch the award for fears that he would not be readmitted to his country.

In 1988, with Poland in the worst economic state yet--imposed from foreign sanctions and the rigid anti-reformist policies--the government discussed negotiations with Solidarity. As a result of these talks, on April 7, 1989 Solidarity was legalized once more and allowed to offer political candidates in the upcoming elections. Shockingly, Solidarity won every contest seat, of the 35% available--in the Sejm (legislative body) along with 99 out of 100 Senatorial seats. The communist Jaruzelski, as promised, was elected president but the Sejm elects Solidarity-based Tadeusz Mazowiecki to the premiership as the first non-communist prime minister in Poland since 1945. Soon only Jaruzelski remained of the old Communist rule. Walesa announced he was running for president in the upcoming 1990 elections and won. He became the first Polish president ever elected by a popular vote.

Solidarity proved an example of nonviolent reform. The movement's success proved the weakness at the time of the Polish communist control and contributed humiliation to the communist system as the working class--the foundation of who the Communists were trying to help--was disgruntled to the point of removing the current regime. Solidarity maintained a strong popular foundation through close ties to newly elected Polish Pope John Paul II and through its appeal to students, workers, and the intelligentsia. The non-violent attempt provided a model for other Eastern European reforms at the time while also leading to a sense of legitimacy to the Polish people.

Eric DeVoe
Lauren Huus
Molly Burke

Lech Walesa

Lech Walesa was born in 1943, and was the president of Poland from 1990 to 1995.

In his early life, Walesa was somewhat rebellious. Working as a technician in the Gdansk shipyard in 1970, Walesa organized a worker strike. This strike was of course illegal, and the Polish government took military action which eventually killed 80 workers. Walesa was thrown in jail as a result of organizing the strike, but this did not put an end to his "anti-state" activities. After serving his jail sentence, he again led a strike in the same shipyard in 1980. This time the strike was more successful, resulting in negotiations with the communist government.

Walesa made one of his largest contributions to Poland in 1989 by forming the Solidarity Trade Union. This propelled Walesa into being a sort of politician, where he was constantly negotiating with communist party officials. At the end of 1989 Walesa was able to form a non-communist government, which led Poland down the road of market based economy.

Walesa's popularity with workers and his ability to negotiate with the Polish congress allowed him to run and win the presidency in 1990. During his tenure in 1990-1995 Walesa attempted to change the Polish government into a western style system. He slowly lost favor during his presidency and was defeated in his bid for reelection in 1995 by a slim margin. Though his has retired from his political carreer, Walesa's contributions to the westernization of Poland are unmistakable. He currently teaches as a guest professor in universities around Poland.

Joe Masrud

Mikhail Sergeyovich Gorbachev

Mikhail Gorbachev (born March 2, 1931), is known to most as having been both the last General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, and the first (and only ) President of the Soviet Union. His liberal policy-making during the 1980s is credited for precipating the end of the Cold War. He currently serves as the leader of the ‘Union of Social Democrats’, a Russian political party founded after the official dissolution of the Soviet Democratic Party of Russia in 2007.
Mikhail Sergeyevich Gorbachev was born in Stavropol, an agriculture village in Southern Russia. Occupied during World War II by the Soviet troops, the young Gorbachev slaved away along with his father on the family farm, and helped out on other farms in the surrounding area. He felt a grave empathy for fellow peasants, of who’s oppression Gorbachev experienced firsthand. He eventually took a great interest in peasant labor rights, as well as agriculture, and along with his inherent intellect, took to Moscow State University in 1950 to study law. From his academic beginnings, he was bent on working within the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, and upon his graduation in 1955, returned home to Stavropol with his new wife, Raisa Tintarenko. It was here that he started his foray into politics.
First working with the Communist Union of Youth as an organiser, he would continue to work in his home area until 1961. His attendance at the 22nd Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU) Party Congress would prove entirely important to his political career. Here, Khrushchev announced his plan to move the communist society forward and progressively so, with hopes to surprass the U.S. in per capita production. With his extensive knowledge, Gorbachev was promoted to Head of the Department of Party Organs in the Stavropol Agricultural Kraikom. He would continue climbing up the political ladder throughout the 1960s, as an agronomist-economist. In his position he reorganized collective farming plots and helped to improve the peasant working conditions and the expectations for them. Eventually he would be appointed the First Party Secretary for Stavropol, becoming the youngest provincial party chief in the USSR.
His swift climb up the ladder would eventually lead him to become the Secretariat for Agriculture in 1978, and then finally to the Politburo in 1979. Working alongside his mentors Mikhail Suslov and Yuri Andropov (the head of the KGB), the three banded together to re-work the idea of “socialism with a human face? (Dubcek ideology). They would replace ministers of the ‘old school’ way of thinking with younger, progressive faces. With his new position, Gorbachev had an opportunity to do much more traveling and representation, and his benevolent, liberal stance began to make the USSR seem approachable. He would be elected the General Secretary of the Communist Party in 1985, upon Konstantin Chernenko’s death. He immediately began discussing his ideas for reform of the Communist party and Soviet ideology.
Perestroika ( restructuring) and glastnost (openness; liberalization) are the hallmark of Gorbachev’s approach to the change he sought in the Soviet system. His general plan for reform called on more openness with trade and imports, more rights for the workers, a plan to fight the widespread alcoholism plaguing the workforce; and politically, open, free elections, appointment of non-Party members to government positions, and the rehabilitation of the opponents of Stalin. During Gorbachev’s time, important agreements between Regan and Gorbachev regarding nuclear stockpiling were also reached, leading to disarmament and agreements on ditching their respective stockpiles.
However, probably the most important reform of Gorbachev’s time would be Glastnost, which opened up the media and the freedom of speech and of the people. This would lead to the accessibility of critique on the Soviet situation. Certain events occuring in the republics were leading to nationalist sentiments. One by one, aided by the transparency in media Glastnost allowed, the republics of the USSR were calling for independence of some sort. Gorbachev, with his desire to create an elastic Soviet Union, did what would be the unraveling of the Soviet Union at its core: revoked the Brezhnev Doctrine, which bound the Soviet satellite republics together. One by one each republic fell out of USSR, and with all of the economic and political unrest coming from all sides—bloody revolution in Lithuania, civil unrest in the Nagoro-Karabakh region of Azerbaijan between the Armenians and Azeris, the downfall of the Soviet leader in Kazahkstan, and complicated desires of the Baltic states…. It was time to allow for all of the republics to be allowed to go their own way. In late 1991, Gorbachev would meet with the leaders of Ukraine, Russia, and Belarus in the Belovezh Forest in Brest, Belarus, where they’d hash out the ideas for the founding of the Commonwealth of Independent States- declaring an end of the Soviet Union in the Belavezah Accords. By December 27, 1991, the Soviet Union was officially dissolved.
Although it’s argued that much of the USSR lived in oppressive economic conditions during much of Gorbachev’s tenure—this was due to strict rationing, and complications regarding the privatization of collective agricultural land—and some corruption amongst some in his ranks (most notably, how Conservatives that he’d managed to get on his side during the revolution crises of 1989-1990 managed to turn on him in a very public manner), Gorbachev’s tenure in office was what would finally lead the USSR to democratic reform, breaking the Communist system, and ending the Cold War. Because it was Russia’s doing, and not any sort of Western influence, that led Gorbachev to implementing certain policy, it’s hard to say whether there was a ‘loser’ in the Cold War. Gorbachev’s solution to the Cold War problem was the most benevolent solution, comparatively, and that approach is a ‘win’ in and of itself.
For his efforts, Gorbachev received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1990. Outed from his post in December 1991 (mainly for allowing the dissolve of the Soviet Union) Boris Yeltsin would replace him, leading to years of minimal reform and blatant corruption within the new ‘democratic’ framework. He would go on to remain a ‘Communist’ leader, and would run for President again in 1996 (receiving 1.5% of the vote). At the age of 76 he still remains a political agent, who’s outwardly critized both current American and Russian regimes for their unprogressive, totalitarian stances on certain issues.

December 5, 2007

Deutsche Wiedervereinigung: The German Reunification

The fall of the Berlin Wall and the reunification of Germany was “a third transformation [that] occurred that was not imposed by force, but was instead largely achieved through peaceful means. (Wilkinson, page 549)

Germany was split in 1949. West Germany was territory monitored by the United States, France, and Britain after WW2. The Soviet territory became East Germany. Berlin was split in half. West Germany was a reflection of the West while the East was more representative of the Soviet Union. Thus, in the 1950’s, many thousands of highly educated East Germans fled to the West daily. To resolve this loss of manpower, Erich Honecker came up with a plan. In a matter of a few days, the East Berlin Wall was built. Both West and East Germans were stunned. No one was allowed to cross the Wall without proper permission. The Berlin Wall became a physical symbol the Cold War.

As the Cold War started to thaw with Soviet Mikhail Gorbachev, discussions with the West began. The Soviet Union was struggling to advance (or at least catch up with the West) in various areas (technology, medical, and education). Gorbachev’s reforms, known as perestroika, set the stage for the reunification of Germany among other changes. Gorbachev reduced military commitments, undertook new arms control agreements with the United States, and withdrew troops from Afghanistan. In 1989, most of the Soviet satellites declared independence from Communist rule. The Cold War was indeed thawing. Helping the thaw was Hungary; borders were opened to Austria and thousands applied for visas. Many traveled to Hungary and left the East via Austria. Hungary made is a point of not asking questions.

At this time, both West and East Germany began working together. Speculation was made that their strength, economically, was becoming Western Europe’s lead. Chancellor Kohl saw an opportunity for reunification. Unlike Konrad Adenaur, he did not view East Germany as a separate entity. In 1989, the Berlin Wall came down. With the physical destruction of the Wall, the end of the Cold War became a reality. Berlin, again, became the capital of the Federated Republic of Germany. October 3, 1990, all five federal states of East Germany joined West Germany. In the next month, the German government signed a treaty with Poland. This treaty finalized borders and denounced any claim to areas that were previously East Prussia.

While Germany is unified, many former East Germans continue to migrate to Western Germany. Unemployment in the East is extremely high. Many industries that were supported by the former East German government were dissolved or dismantled.

An interesting video from ABC News can be watched on www.youtube.com/watch?v=wnYXbJ_bcLc

Julia Thieschafer (thie0048)
Julie Koch (koch0190)
Meghan Anderson (ande3607)

Wilkinson, James and H. Stuart Hughes. Contemporary Europe: A History.

December 2, 2007

The 1960"s "Golden Age" In the Eyes of the Soviets

The 1960’s were considered the “Golden Age? of European societies. While facing the criticism of many, soviets saw a marked change in the way they lived their lives. It was a time when Western influence was both a curse and a blessing. Many were now able to enjoy a level of freedom not known during the Stalin period of dominance. They were now able to live for themselves, and enjoy personal freedoms not seen before in the Soviet Union. They enjoyed better standards of living, and happiness, then they ever could have imagined. They now lived under a government that showed a more human side. While they still lived a somewhat modest life compared to that seen in the west, the soviets lived in a world that was much calmer then previous decades.
This time allowed for soviets to now move into less crowded, and better quality apartments. In addition to being able to posses luxury items, such as televisions, stoves, cars and clothes. These were modern convinces that were brought to them from the west. These new living arrangements allowed for the betterment of private lives. They allowed the possession of western luxury unknown to the Soviet Union in any other period in soviet history. These luxuries became a symbol of status and wealth.
The 1960’s not only caused a change in Soviet appearance but also a shift in totalitarian government. The new generations of soviets saw themselves as individuals with a vested interest in the soviet past and future. They displayed their newfound freedom in open discussion of what should be emphasized in the new government structure. Previously such discussion would have been a possible death sentence to any soviet citizen.
This marked a faith in upward mobility in soviet society, and a hope for a better future. However, the soviet government was not on the same page as the citizens. They saw this new lifting of censorship as one that would cause the fall of the government in the Soviet Union. And this decade that seemed so grandiose still encountered the oppressive nature of past governments. In 1962 within the Soviet Union at Norbercherkassk, a riot took place. The result of this riot was the execution of many citizens, and the rise of other domestic problems.
Those who were in favor of the 60’s enlightenment were strong believers in a socialist government. Their hope was to inspire a society that was beneficial to the masses. One that showed concern for their individuality, and one that contained justice, as well as peace. However, their ideas, and the reality of the government they lived under were on two different spheres.
Gretta Schmalle, Cody Smiglewski, Joe Masrue, Rachel packer, Mike Kompa
"Raising the Banner: The Art of Geli Korzhev" Geli Mikhalovich Korchv-Chuvelev, Museum of Russian Art 2007