George H.W. Bush Calls for “A New World of Freedom” 1989
Speaking of America: Volume II Since 1865 by Laura A. Belmonte
Upon becoming Soviet premier in 1985, Mikhail Gorbachev rapidly transformed the USSR. His glasnost policy abolished many of the totalitarian elements of Soviet society. With perestroika (reform), he introduced elements of capitalism, such as private ownership and competition, in an attempt to revive the decrepit Soviet economy. His nation’s serious economic problems prompted Gorbachev to curtail Soviet involvement in Eastern Europe. When several East Bloc nations began exerting independence, he did not intervene. By 1990, every Communist regime in Eastern Europe had been transformed into more democratic forms of government.
In May 1989, these remarkable events inspired students in Beijing to hold massive pro-democracy rallies. But, in early June, the Chinese government crushed the protests, killing a still-undisclosed number of people in Tiananmen Square. China retained its Communist political system while westernizing its economy, but it was an exception to a worldwide movement toward democratization in the early 1990’s.
On November 9, 1989, millions of people rejoiced when the East German government opened the country’s borders. Thousands of East and West Germans gathered at the Berlin Wall, a global symbol of Cold War divisions. Erected in August 1961 to stop East Germans from fleeing to the West (2.5 million had done so between 1949 and 1961), the wall evolved from barbed wire to concrete walls guarded by armed soldiers and land mines. Although about 5, 000 East Germans managed to escape in subsequent years, 5,000 others were captured and 191 were killed. In 1990, East and West Germany reunited. Most of the wall has been destroyed. In late 1991, after Gorbachev’s reforms weakened the Communist Party, the Soviet Union broke into 15 newly independent nations.
In this Thanksgiving message to the America people, President George H.W. Bush assesses the implications of the Cold War’s end.
Document with Reading Questions: George HW Bush Call for New World of Freedom