Dissolution: The Crisis of Communism and the End of East Germany

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9780691078793: Dissolution: The Crisis of Communism and the End of East Germany
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Against the backdrop of one of the great transformations of our century, the sudden and unexpected fall of communism as a ruling system, Charles Maier recounts the history and demise of East Germany. Dissolution is his poignant, analytically provocative account of the decline and fall of the late German Democratic Republic.


This book explains the powerful causes for the disintegration of German communism as it constructs the complex history of the GDR. Maier looks at the turning points in East Germany's forty-year history and at the mix of coercion and consent by which the regime functioned. He analyzes the GDR as it evolved from the purges of the 1950s to the peace movements and emerging youth culture of the 1980s, and then turns his attention to charges of Stasi collaboration that surfaced after 1989. In the context of describing the larger collapse of communism, Maier analyzes German elements that had counterparts throughout the Soviet bloc, including its systemic and eventually terminal economic crisis, corruption and privilege in the SED, the influence of the Stasi and the plight of intellectuals and writers, and the slow loss of confidence on the part of the ruling elite. He then discusses the mass protests and proliferation of dissident groups in 1989, the collapse of the ruling party, and the troubled aftermath of unification.



Dissolution is the first book that spans the communist collapse and the ensuing process of unification, and that draws on newly available archival documents from the last phases of the GDR, including Stasi reports, transcripts of Politburo and Central Committee debates, and papers from the Economic Planning Commission, the Council of Ministers, and the office files of key party officials. This book is further bolstered by Maier's extensive knowledge of European history and the Cold War, his personal observations and conversations with East Germans during the country's dramatic transition, and memoirs and other eyewitness accounts published during the four-decade history of the GDR.

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Review:

Fewer than ten years ago, a great wall divided Eastern and Western Europe. When it came crashing down in Germany in 1989, Charles S. Maier writes, the residents of the East suddenly found the rules that had governed their lives utterly changed. It could not have been otherwise, for the old rules were no good in "a society breaking down, a regime out of touch with its society." Maier pokes into the nooks and crannies of recent history, showing how earthshaking changes can overtake us all unawares, and he traces the course of Communism's fall through a series of complex causes that can ultimately be ascribed to the usual human weaknesses: greed, ambition, corruption. His is an absorbing book that treats history as a sometimes puzzling morality play.

From the Back Cover:


"Charles Maier is an historian whose writing talks both to political scientists and to lay readers no mean feat. Dissolution combines probing historical examination with disciplined and informed political analysis."--Richard H. Ullman, Princeton University


"Undoubtedly the most important survey of the GDR and its demise. Readers will find not only an engaging narrative of events but also coverage on broad topics ranging from an analysis of the 'old guard' to post-unification nostalgia. Throughout every facet of this book, we hear Maier's philosophically sophisticated 'voice' leading us through dilemmas created by values, economic realities, political clashes, and cultural ruptures."--Claudia Koonz, Duke University


"This is a beautifully written and insightful account of the collapse of the East German regime. It poses important general questions about inevitability and agency in history, and is especially good in analyzing the mood of the East German population itself. It is a wonderfully thoughtful book."--Paul M. Kennedy, Yale University


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