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World Leaders

1945

Toward the end of World War II, allies Britain, France, Russia, and the US divide Germany into four sectors, each under the control of one ally. The US, British, French sectors combine to form the Federal Republic of Germany, or West Germany. The Soviet sector becomes a Communist state, the German Democratic Republic, or East Germany. Berlin, deep inside the Soviet sector, is also divided into four sectors.

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1961

On Aug. 13, Communist authorities build the Berlin Wall to prevent East Germans from fleeing to West Berlin.

1980

The clandestine labor union, Solidarity is formed by Poland's Lech Walesa amid terrible food and housing shortages.

1985

Mikhail Gorbachev comes to power in the USSR, ushering in an era of economic and political reforms.

1987

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President Ronald Reagan and Gorbachev sign the Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces Treaty in Washington, mandating the removal of more than 260 nuclear missiles from Europe.

1989

Mikhail Gorbachev renounces the Brezhnev Doctrine, which pledged to use force to protect Soviet interests in Eastern Europe. On Sept. 10, Hungary opens its border with Austria, allowing East Germans to flee to the West. After massive public demonstrations in East Germany and Eastern Europe, the Berlin Wall falls on Nov. 9.

Hungary's Communist Party votes to disband, and the country opens its borders to Austria.

Poland's Solidarity is legalized, and Mr. Walesa becomes president in June, instigating reforms toward a market economy.

December - Following the resignation of Czechoslovakia's Communist Party, playwright and former dissident Vaclav Hvel assumes presidency.

1990

Sept. 12 - The US, Soviet Union, Britain, France, and two Germanys agree to end Allied occupation rights in Germany. On Oct. 3, East and West Germany become the Federal Republic of Germany.

Free elections in Hungary held under multiparty system. Freedom of press and the right to own businesses are among the reforms.

1991

June - The "Velvet Revolution" is completed with free parliamentary elections in Czechoslovakia.

Aug. 19 - Gorbachev is ousted in a coup by Communist hard-liners. The coup soon falters as citizens support Russian President Boris Yeltsin, who denounces the coup. Military units abandon communist hard-liners; Gorbachev is released from house arrest.

Gorbachev officially resigns on Dec. 25, as the Soviet Union is dissolved.

(c) Copyright 1999. The Christian Science Publishing Society