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Title: “A very orderly retreat”: Democratic transition in East Germany, 1989-90
Authors: Dale, G
Issue Date: 2006
Publisher: Taylor and Francis
Citation: Debatte: Journal of Contemporary Central and Eastern Europe. 14(1): 7-35
Abstract: East Germany's 1989-90 democratisation is among the best known of East European transitions, but does not lend itself to comparative analysis, due to the singular way in which political reform and democratic consolidation were subsumed by Germany's unification process. Yet aspects of East Germany's democratisation have proved amenable to comparative approaches. This article reviews the comparative literature that refers to East Germany, and finds a schism between those who designate East Germany's transition “regime collapse” and others who contend that it exemplifies “transition through extrication”. It inquires into the merits of each position and finds in favour of the latter. Drawing on primary and secondary literature, as well as archival and interview sources, it portrays a communist elite that was, to a large extent, prepared to adapt to changing circumstances and capable of learning from “reference states” such as Poland. Although East Germany was the Soviet state in which the positions of existing elites were most threatened by democratic transition, here too a surprising number succeeded in maintaining their position while filing across the bridge to market society. A concluding section outlines the alchemy through which their bureaucratic power was transmuted into property and influence in the “new Germany”.
ISSN: 0965-156X
Appears in Collections:Politics and International Relations
Dept of Politics, History and Law Research Papers

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