During the years 1989–90, the countries of Eastern Europe were transformed at a speed and in a manner unprecedented in peacetime. Free elections were held in countries that had suffered under communist regimes for half a century. Poland’s Solidarity movement, once illegal, became the legitimate elected government. A dissident playwright, Václav Havel, became president of Czechoslovakia just a few months after his release from prison. The spontaneous mass flight of East Germans propelled the unification of Germany, dramatically symbolized by the fall of the Berlin Wall.
The Hoover Institution’s mission to document political change provides the resources for scholarly analyses of these extraordinary political forces. Since its founding in 1919 by Herbert Hoover, the Institution’s curators have focused on collecting the unique and special documents that are produced during times of significant change and conflict. This exhibition includes a sampling of those materials—dissident literature, political platforms, campaign ephemera, photographs, and posters—that are critical to understanding the dynamic circumstances under which they were created.