East Germany

East Germany, officially the German Democratic Republic (GDR; German: Deutsche Demokratische Republik, pronounced [ˈdɔʏtʃə demoˈkʁaːtɪʃə ʁepuˈbliːk] (listen), DDR, pronounced [ˌdeːdeːˈʔɛʁ] (listen)), was a country that existed from 1949 to 1990 in present-day eastern Germany as part of the Eastern Bloc in the Cold War. Commonly described as a communist state, it described itself as a socialist "workers' and peasants' state".[7] Its territory was administered and occupied by Soviet forces following the end of World War II—the Soviet occupation zone of the Potsdam Agreement, bounded on the east by the Oder–Neisse line. The Soviet zone surrounded West Berlin but did not include it and West Berlin remained outside the jurisdiction of the GDR.

German Democratic Republic
Deutsche Demokratische Republik
1949–1990
Flag
(1959–1990)
Emblem
(1955–1990)
Motto: "Proletarier aller Länder, vereinigt Euch!"
("Workers of the world, unite!")
Anthem: "Auferstanden aus Ruinen"
("Risen from Ruins")
The territory of the German Democratic Republic (East Germany) from its creation on 7 October 1949 until its dissolution on 3 October 1990
StatusMember of Comecon (1950–1990)[1]
Member of the Warsaw Pact (1955–1989)[2]
Capital
and largest city
East Berlin[lower-alpha 1] (de facto)
Official languagesGerman
Sorbian (in parts of Bezirk Dresden and Bezirk Cottbus)
Religion
See Religion in East Germany
Demonym(s)
GovernmentFederal Marxist–Leninist one-party socialist republic
(1949–1952)
Unitary Marxist–Leninist one-party socialist republic
(1952–1989)
Unitary parliamentary republic
(1989–1990)
General Secretary 
 1946–1950[lower-alpha 2]
Wilhelm Pieck and Otto Grotewohl[lower-alpha 3]
 1950–1971
Walter Ulbricht
 1971–1989
Erich Honecker
 1989[lower-alpha 4]
Egon Krenz
Head of State 
 1949–1960 (first)
Wilhelm Pieck
 1990 (last)
Sabine Bergmann-Pohl
Head of Government 
 1949–1964 (first)
Otto Grotewohl
 1990 (last)
Lothar de Maizière
LegislatureVolkskammer
Länderkammer[lower-alpha 5]
Historical eraCold War
7 October 1949
16 June 1953
14 May 1955
4 June 1961
 Basic Treaty with FRG
21 December 1972
 Admitted to the UN
18 September 1973
13 October 1989
9 November 1989
12 September 1990
3 October 1990
Area
 Total
108,333 km2 (41,828 sq mi)
Population
 1950
18,388,000[lower-alpha 6][3]
 1970
17,068,000
 1990
16,111,000
 Density
149/km2 (385.9/sq mi)
GDP (PPP)1989 estimate
 Total
$525.29 billion[4]
 Per capita
$42,004[4]
HDI (1989)0.953[5]
very high
Currency
  • East German mark (1949–1990), officially named:
    • Deutsche Mark (1949–1964)
    • Mark der Deutschen Notenbank (1964–1967)
    • Mark der DDR (1967–1990)
  • Deutsche Mark (from 1 July 1990)
Time zone(UTC+1)
Driving sideright
Calling code+37
Internet TLD.dd[lower-alpha 7][6]
Preceded by
Succeeded by
Soviet occupation zone of Germany
Federal Republic of Germany (reunified Germany)
Today part ofGermany
The initial flag of East Germany adopted in 1949 was identical to that of West Germany. In 1959, the East German government issued a new version of the flag bearing the national emblem, serving to distinguish East from West.

The GDR was established in the Soviet zone, while the Federal Republic of Germany, commonly referred to as West Germany, was established in the three western zones. A satellite state of the Soviet Union,[8] Soviet occupation authorities began transferring administrative responsibility to German communist leaders in 1948 and the GDR began to function as a state on 7 October 1949, although Soviet forces remained in the country throughout the Cold War. Until 1989, the GDR was governed by the Socialist Unity Party of Germany (SED), although other parties nominally participated in its alliance organization, the National Front of the German Democratic Republic.[9] The SED made the teaching of Marxism–Leninism and the Russian language compulsory in schools.[10]

The economy was centrally planned and state-owned.[11] Prices of housing, basic goods and services were heavily subsidized and set by central government planners rather than rising and falling through supply and demand. Although the GDR had to pay substantial war reparations to the Soviets, it became the most successful economy in the Eastern Bloc. Emigration to the West was a significant problem as many of the emigrants were well-educated young people; such emigration weakened the state economically. The government fortified its inner German border and built the Berlin Wall in 1961.[12] Many people attempting to flee[13][14][15] were killed by border guards or booby traps such as landmines.[16] Those captured spent long periods of time imprisoned for attempting to escape.[17][18] In 1951, a referendum in East Germany regarding the remilitarization of Germany was held, with 95% of the population voting in favour.[19]

In 1989, numerous social, economic and political forces in the GDR and abroad, one of the most notable being peaceful protests starting in the city of Leipzig, led to the fall of the Berlin Wall and the establishment of a government committed to liberalization. The following year, a free and fair election was held[20] and international negotiations led to the signing of the Final Settlement treaty on the status and borders of Germany. The GDR ceased to exist when its states ("Länder") joined the Federal Republic of Germany under Article 23 of the Basic Law on 3 October 1990. Several of the GDR's leaders, notably its last communist leader Egon Krenz, were later prosecuted for offenses committed during the GDR times.[21][22]

Geographically, the GDR bordered the Baltic Sea to the north, Poland to the east, Czechoslovakia to the southeast and West Germany to the southwest and west. Internally, the GDR also bordered the Soviet sector of Allied-occupied Berlin, known as East Berlin, which was also administered as the state's de facto capital. It also bordered the three sectors occupied by the United States, United Kingdom and France known collectively as West Berlin. The three sectors occupied by the Western nations were sealed off from the GDR by the Berlin Wall from its construction in 1961 until it was brought down in 1989.


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