Hole in Flag

"Dear comrades and friends, citizens of the capital of Socialist Romania! First, I wish to extend to you, participants of this great popular meeting, and all residents of the Bucharest municipality, warm revolutionary greetings, and wish you success in all your endeavors. I wish also to thank the instigators and organizers of this great popular demonstration in Bucharest, and I consider it an...what? Wait, no! What? Comrades! Comrades, stay quiet! Comrades?..."
Nicolae Ceaușescu's final speech

The "Hole In Flag" revolutions - or the "Revolutions of 1989" or the "Autumn of Nations", or most commonly the "Fall of Communism" - were a wave of revolutions that swept Europe in 1989-91 and signalled the end of the Cold War. The Trope Maker is arguably Hungary, cutting the communist emblem out of the centre of their flags during the 1956 revolution.

For a fuller discussion of what led to the sudden and completely unexpected fall of Soviet Communism, you are directed to the page on the History Of The Cold War.

Suffice to say, President Mikhail Gorbachev attempted to reform the USSR, promising Glasnost (openness) and Perestroika (reconstruction), but was unprepared for the tide of emotion he unleashed in the Soviets' satellite states and the USSR itself. Poles, Czechoslovakians, Hungarians and many more all thought that Gorbachev would tell their own repressive leaders to extend the same policies. "Gorby save us" was the common cry.

One by one, beginning in Poland, the Communist governments were presented with peaceful demonstrations of their citizens on an unprecedented scale and for once decided to grant their demands instead of crushing them with tanks. Elections were held (except in Romania, where there was a coup instead) and the Communists were universally kicked out of power (except in Bulgaria, where they changed their name into "socialists", won the first election and remained in power for a few more years, and Romania, where the second tier of the former Communist Party gained power through the aforementioned coup as the "National Salvation Front", won hastily-organised elections and stayed in office until 1996).

In November 1989, the most visible and memorable event marking the end of communism occurred in Germany. After Hungary opened its borders with Austria, allowing East German tourists a quick means to leave for the West, Erich Honecker attempted to clamp down on the new exodus. However, rising protests eventually forced him to resign. In November, the Politburo of East Germany decided to calm things down by opening the border with West Germany. At a press conference on November 9, GŁnter Schabowski was given a note indicating that the border was to be opened, but no further instructions on how to handle the information (the opening was to occur the following day, giving the Border Guards time to prepare). He was pressed for an answer when asked when the border was to be opened, and assuming the wording meant the same day, he declared that the Berlin Wall was open effective immediately. With nearly the entire country hearing the announcement live, millions of Germans flooded to both sides of the Wall, demanding to be let through. With no one willing to authorize deadly force, the Border Guards allowed them to pass through. Thousands of families were reunited for the first time in decades amidst vast parties across the country. Germany commenced a massive recycling project, ripping down the Berlin Wall (the most published photos being of Germans with sledgehammers) and the entire Inner German Border. Within a year, after the borders became meaningless, East Germany was added into the Federal Republic of Germany, bringing an end to the last visible reminder of World War II.

The USSR held on for two more years before finally imploding in 1991 as its constituent republics (including Russia itself) all declared independence, leaving Gorbachev president of exactly squat. Yugoslavia also held on until 1991, when social and ethnic tensions exploded into The Yugoslav Wars - any pretense of communism was quickly forgotten and aggressive nationalism became the order of the day.

One feature of the demonstrations that became a potent symbol of the revolutions of 1989 was the flag with a ragged hole where the communist emblem had been. In Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, Albania and East Germany, pre-war national flags had been adorned with red stars or the communist state coat of arms, and these were torn or cut from the flags by demonstrators. The page image is the Romanian flag (not to be confused with the Chadian flag . . . . or a defaced Andorran flag).

Of course, all this dramatically changed fiction in the west. No longer living in a world where the main bad guy was red, held big parades and was easily identifiable, writers had to adapt to a new situation fairly quickly. For America, the fall of the Communist states paved its way as an undisputed superpower for a time of relative peace in The '90s. As for the actual people living in these ex Communist nations, whether the fall of the socialist system was purely a good thing in the long run is far more complicated than an outsider thinks.