The revolutions of 1848 were a truly European event. We’ve seen how the spark from Paris also set Germany ablaze. Part of that Germany was Austria, the German-speaking part of the Habsburg monarchy. Yet the Habsburgs also ruled over vast non-German territories: Their rich holdings in northern Italy provided a third of the total tax income. Hungary had been essential for Habsburg power projections into the Balkans for centuries. Both the Italians and the Hungarians – and also Czechs and Galicians – yearned to shake off Habsburg domination and chart their own national destinies.
Popular protest is a classic tool to bring about political change. Sometimes the protests are successful – like the revolutions against Communist rule in Eastern Europe in 1989. Sometimes they are put down (like the Prague Spring had been in 1968). Sometimes, the result is mixed – the Euromaidan protests in Kiev during the winter of 2013/14 strengthened democracy in the country by removing its autocratic president Viktor Yanukovych, but the Ukrainians paid a steep price for their freedoms as Vladimir Putin took the removal of his vassal Yanukovych unkindly and has been attempting to dismantle Ukraine since then. And sometimes, the success of revolution is still in the air – like in Iran, where large crowds have been protesting for the last months against their fundamentalist government’s meddling in private affairs.
How time flies – it is already the sixth installment of my series on board games about the Cold War (here are parts 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5). Today, we go to the very end of the Cold War – the collapse of Communism in Central and Eastern Europe in 1989: Dawn of Freedom (Ted Torgerson/Jason Matthews, GMT Games). As usual, we’ll look at it in both game and academic terms.
The ancient history professor Alexander Demandt has enumerated 210 theories why the Western Roman Empire had fallen that had been proposed in the 1500 years since the Empire’s collapse. They ranged from the abolition of the gods to vulgarization and everything in between – fighting multi-front wars, excesses, lead poisoning, decline of the “Nordic character” of the Romans, female empowerment, you name it. While the Roman Empire is gone for a bit longer than the Soviet Empire, the number of explanations for the sudden end of the Cold War and the fall of Communism in Eastern Europe are almost as manifold as those for the fall of Rome. That speaks of the surprise that the collapse of Communism was, and never was this process faster or more dramatic than in the year 1989. This article will look at the first group of explanations for the collapse of Communism and how they are represented in the board game 1989 (GMT Games, Ted Torgerson/Jason Matthews), kicking off a series on how history, politics and culture intertwine in 1989.