In the mid-1980s, the Communist countries dominated by the Soviet Union began agitating for change. They wanted more freedom and independence from Soviet control.
Shipyard workers in Poland led by Lech Walesa (below) began the protests with a series of work stoppages and demands for reforms. Many of their leaders were sent to jail, but the drive for change only increased.
When Mikhail Gorbachev became president of the Soviet Union in 1985, the push for reform sped up. Gorbachev proclaimed glasnost — a more open system of government with more freedom of speech for Russia and the other countries in the Soviet Union.
In 1989, Poland held the first non-Communist election in a Soviet country since 1948. Soon after, East Germans rallied for a greater voice in their government.
The Berlin Wall that had once divided the city was taken down, ending Communist rule in East Germany. One by one, other Soviet-led countries followed with reforms and democratization. Communism collapsed all over Europe with little bloodshed.
Communist governments were no longer in control of countries in eastern Europe or the Soviet Union.
The Soviet Union was officially dissolved in late December 1991, and the countries that had once been part of it became independent. Communist parties still have a voice in eastern Europe, but they are not the only voice.