East Germany

The German Democratic Republic (GDR; German: Deutsche Demokratische Republik [?dt demo?k?a?t? ?epu?bli?k] or DDR), informally known in English as East Germany, was a socialist state established by the Soviet Union in 1949 out of the Soviet zone of occupied Germany, including East Berlin of the Allied-occupied capital city. The GDR had an area of 107,771 km2 (41,610 mi2), bordering Czechoslovakia to the south, West Germany to the south and west, Poland to the east, and the Baltic Sea to the north. East Germany ceased to exist when its federal states were re-established and acceded to the Federal Republic of Germany on 3 October 1990 (see German reunification). East Germany has often been described as one of several satellite states of the Soviet Union.[2] Some East Germans saw the state as illegitimate, artificial, a Stalinist puppet regime, and they opposed the dominance of the Socialist Unity Party while viewing West Germany as more socially and politically 'attractive'.[3][4] Some East Germans regularly referred to the Socialist Unity Party as "the Russian party".[5][6][7] The combination of the state's perceived illegitimacy by East Germans and economic problems resulted in 2.7 million East Germans violating the DDR ban on leaving the country by going to West Germany in the 1950s.[8] Frontier barriers were constructed to prevent further depopulation caused by emigration to West Germany. These barriers held no military value beyond migration control as they were too weak to withstand a potential NATO invasion.[9] The most prominent frontier barrier was the Berlin Wall, constructed in 1961, which finally closed the loop hole in the East German border between East Berlin and West Berlin. Those who did attempt to flee across the border risked their lives as East German Border Guards were authorised to use lethal force against escapees,[10] resulting in over 100 deaths. In 1989 a non-violent revolution called for the end of the East German communist government. The Soviet Union, under the reformist leadership of Mikhail Gorbachev, refused to intervene on the basis of his policy to de-escalate the Cold War and let East Germany resolve its own crisis. The revolution toppled the communist government and the country soon reunited with West Germany, bringing to an end over 40 years of division and reunifying the nation into a single Germany. The Soviet Occupation Zone (German: Sowjetische Besatzungszone (SBZ) or Ostzone; Russian: , Sovetskaya ok upatsionnaya zona Germanii, "Soviet Occupation Zone of Germany") was the area of central Germany occupied by the Soviet Union from 1945 on, at the end of World War II. On 7 October 1949 the German Democratic Republic, which became commonly referred to as East Germany, was established in the Soviet Occupation Zone. The SBZ was one of the four Allied occupation zones of Germany created at the end of World War II. According to the Potsdam Agreement, the Soviet Military Administration in Germany (German initials: SMAD) was assigned responsibility for the (present-day) eastern portion of Germany. By the time forces of the United States and Britain began to meet Soviet forces, forming a Line of contact, significant areas of what would become the Soviet zone of Germany were outside of Soviet control. After several months of occupation these gains by the British and Americans were ceded to the Soviets, by July 1945, according to the previously agreed upon occupation zone boundaries.[citation needed] The SMAD allowed four political parties to develop, though they were all required to work together under an alliance known as the "Democratic Bloc" (later the National Front). In April 1946, the Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD) and the Communist Party of Germany (KPD) merged to form the Socialist Unity Party (which later became the governing party of East Germany). Joseph Stalin wanted to bring all of Germany under Soviet influence, but when the West resisted this idea, he sought to create a united Germany which would be non-aligned (the "Stalin Note"). When the West resisted these efforts, Stalin decided to focus his efforts on the Soviet occupation zone.[citation needed] The SMAD set up ten "special camps" for the detention of Germans, making use of some former Nazi concentration camps. In 1945, the Soviet occupation zone consisted primarily of the central portions of Prussia. After Prussia was dissolved by the Allied powers in 1947, the area was divided between the German states (Lander) of Brandenburg, Mecklenburg, Saxony, Saxony-Anhalt und Thuringia. On 7 October 1949, the Soviet zone became the German Democratic Republic, usually referred to in English as East Germany. In 1952, the Lander were dissolved and realigned into 14 districts (Bezirke), plus the district of East Berlin. "Soviet zone" and derivatives (or also, "the so-called GDR") remained official and common names for East Germany in West Germany, which refused to acknowledge the existence of a state in East Germany.