East Germany, formally the German Democratic Republic (GDR), German Deutsche Demokratische Republik (DDR), was a Communist satellite state of the former Soviet Union which, together with West Germany, existed from 1949 to 1990 in Germany.

Deutsche Demokratische Republik
(In Detail) (Full size)
National motto: none''
Official language German
Capital East Berlin
Area 108,333 km²
 - Total (1989)
 - Density
Constitution October 7, 1949
Currency 1 Mark (Ostmark) =
100 Pfennig
Time zone UTC +1
National anthem Auferstanden aus Ruinen
(Risen from ruins)
Calling Code+37
ISO 3166-1DD (Deprecated)
ISO 3166-3DDDE

Table of contents
1 History
2 Politics
3 Subdivisions
4 Economy
5 Demographics
6 Culture
7 Miscellaneous topics
8 External links


Main articles: History of East Germany, History of Germany

During World War II, at the Potsdam Conference in 1945, the victorious countries France, the United Kingdom, the United States and the Soviet Union decided to divide Germany into four parts. Each country controlled a part of former Germany.

East Germany was situated in the center of territory that once belonged to Germany, the place was known historically as "Mitteldeutschland" (Middle Germany). In the face of the German defeat, the victors decided at the Yalta Conference that post-war borders of Poland will be moved westwards to the Oder-Neisse line, just as Soviet borders were also moved westward into former Polish territory. Middle Germany thus became the new East Germany or the GDR (DDR in German).

When in 1949 the three sectors controlled by the United States, the United Kingdom and France united and formed the Federal Republic of Germany ("West Germany") the Soviet part was made its own country, the German Democratic Republic, or "East Germany". East Germany was heavily under the influence of the Soviet Union, becoming a Stalinist-style socialist country, and part of the Warsaw Pact. The first leader of the new state was Walter Ulbricht. The East German Constitution defined the country as "a Republic of Workers and Peasants".

On June 17, 1953, following a decree by the state that all production quotas were to be raised by 10%, German workers demonstrated in East Berlin and other industrial centers demanding free elections. Later that day, Soviet troops and tanks suppressed the demonstrations with the loss of a few hundred lives. [1] See Straße des 17. Juni and Workers Uprising of 1953 in East Germany

Just as Germany was divided after the war, Berlin, the former capital, of Germany was divided into four sectors. Since Berlin was entirely enclosed in the Soviet part of Germany, the areas of Berlin being held under the control of the three western countries soon became known as West Berlin. Conflict over the status of West Berlin led to the Berlin Airlift.

The increasing prosperity of West Germany and growing political oppression in the East led large numbers of East Germans to flee to the West. The increasing depopulation in the GDR caused the political leadership to order the borders closed, with fences, turrets, dogs and most of all huge walls which included the Berlin Wall, in 1961. The Stasi spied extensively on the citizens to suppress dissenters.

Competition with the West was carried also on the sport level. East German athletes were sure winners in several Olympic disciplines. Of special interest was the only football match ever between West and East Germany: In the world championship of 1974, which took place in West Germany, East beat West 1-0. West Germany, though, won the tournament.

When East Germany closed the western borders, it also literally enclosed West Berlin within a huge wall, the Berlin Wall. Travel was greatly restricted into, and particularly out of, East Germany. Many who had come to East Germany as anti-fascistss who were opposed to the quick reinstatement of Nazi functionaries and industry in the west found themselves captives of a dogmatic and economically weak state which, alone, was forced to pay reparations to the Soviet Union. In 1971, Erich Honecker overthrew Ulbricht in a technical coup. Despite the inefficiencies of Communism, East Germany was generally regarded as the most economically advanced of the Warsaw Pact.

Before the 1970s, the official position of West Germany was that of the Hallstein Doctrine which involved non-recognition of East Germany. In the early 1970s, Ostpolitik led by Willy Brandt led to mutual recognition between East and West Germany.

In August 1989 Hungary removed its border restrictions and many people fled East Germany by crossing the "green" border into Hungary and then on to Austria and West Germany. Many others peacefully demonstrated against the ruling party. These demonstrations eventually forced the resignation of Honecker; in October he was replaced, albeit briefly, by Egon Krenz.

On November 9th, 1989 the Berlin Wall fell and with it the whole socialist system of East Germany. Although there were some small attempts to create a non-socialist East Germany, these were soon overwhelmed by calls for reunification with West Germany. After some negotiations (2+4 Talks, involving the two Germanies and the victory powers United States, France, Britain, and the Soviet Union), conditions for German reunification were agreed on. Thus, on October 3rd 1990 the East German population was the first from the Eastern Bloc to join the European Union as a part of the reunified Federal Republic of Germany.

To this day, there remain many differences between the formerly "eastern" and "western" parts of Germany (e.g. in lifestyle, wealth, political beliefs and such) and thus it is still common to speak of eastern and western Germany distinctly; one would hesitate however to contend it is greater than say that between a southern Bavarian and a Hamburg resident. In this new Germany the economic chasm is greater than in the former West Germany, and much greater than in the former East Germany. Unemployment and long term poverty have led sometimes to an uncomfortable reawakening of nationalist and neofascist sentiments.

The costs of German reunification have greatly slowed the German economy.


Main article: Politics of East Germany

The equivalent of the Communist Party in the GDR was the Sozialistische Einheitspartei Deutschlands (Socialist Unity Party of Germany, SED), which along with other parties, was part of the National Front of Democratic Germany. It was created in 1946 through the merger of the Communist Party of Germany (KPD) and the Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD) in the Soviet controlled zone, although the SPD remained a separate party in East Berlin. Following reunification, the SED was renamed the Party of Democratic Socialism (PDS).

The other political parties ran under the joint slate of the National Front, controlled by the SED, for elections to the Volkskammer, the East German Parliament.

  1. Christlich-Demokratische Union Deutschlands (Christian Democratic Union of Germany, CDU), merged with the West-German CDU after reunification
  2. Liberal-Demokratische Partei Deutschlands (Liberal Democratic Party of Germany, LDPD), merged with the West-German FDP after reunification
  3. Nationaldemokratische Partei Deutschlands (National Democratic Party of Germany, NDPD)
  4. Demokratische Bauernpartei Deutschlands (Democratic Farmers' Party of Germany, DBD)

The Volkskammer also included representatives from the mass organisations like the Free German Youth (Freie Deutsche Jugend or FDJ), or the Free German Trade Union Federation.

Politicians of note in the GDR included:


Main article:
Subdivisions of East Germany

In 1952, the Länder of East Germany were abolished, and the GDR was divided into Bezirke (districts), each named after the largest city: Rostock; Schwerin; Neubrandenburg; Magdeburg; Potsdam; Berlin; Frankfurt (Oder); Cottbus; Halle; Erfurt; Leipzig; Dresden; Karl-Marx-Stadt (now Chemnitz); Gera; Suhl


Main article: Economy of East Germany


Main article: Demographics of East Germany


Main article: Culture of East Germany

DateEnglish NameLocal NameRemarks
January 1New Year's DayNeujahr 
Moveable feastGood FridayKarfreitagEaster
Moveable feastWhitmonday 51 days after Easter
May 1May DayTag der Arbeit 
October 7Republic DayTag der RepublikNational holiday
December 25Christmas Day  
December 26Boxing Day  

Miscellaneous topics

External links

Countries of the world  |  Europe