For many Europeans 1989 was “the biggest year in world history since 1945” (Timothy Garton Ash). With waves of strikes in Poland, the so-called “democracy package” in Hungary, the fall of the Berlin Wall and the Velvet Revolution in Czechoslovakia, 1989 was the year when millions of people protesting against Soviet rule decided to seize their freedom.
However, 1989 is not only about Europe. On the same day when the Poles voted in their first partially free elections, the Chinese People’s Army violently crushed the Tiananmen Square demonstrations. What is more, commemorating 1989 is not only about reflecting on the past. Thirty years after two million people joined their hands forming an anti-Soviet ‘Baltic Way’ across Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, protesters in Hong Kong recreated this symbolic human chain to demonstrate their unity and yearning for freedom. In this seminar, we commemorate the revolutions of 1989, celebrate European fundamental values of freedom and democracy, and reflect on why it is that many observers believe that some of the achievements of 1989 remain under threat.
9.45-11.00 Session 1
1. Prof Richard Rigby, Introduction
2. Prof Paul Dibb, The Collapse of the Soviet Union: Lessons Learned
3. A/Prof Stephen Fortescue, The Authoritarian Moment: From Leipzig 1989 to Moscow 2019 and beyond
11.00-11.15 Morning tea
11.15-12.45 Session 2
4. Mr John Burgess, The Solidarity Challenge
5. Dr Kasia Williams, Remembering and Forgetting in Poland Today
6. Dr John Besemeres, The Fall of Communism in the Warsaw Bloc Countries
7. Mr Kyle Wilson, The Fall of the Soviet Union with the Charm of Hindsight
8. Ms Dinara Pisareva, Response in Central Asia
12.45-13.00 Closing remarks
9. Prof Richard Rigby, Brief Remarks on How it Looked from China, Then and Now