During 1945-49, the Soviet Union occupied the eastern zone of Germany, which included the provinces of Saxony-Anhalt, Saxony, Brandenburg, Mecklenburg and Thuringia. On Oct. 7, 1949, the Russian zone was united as the German Democratic Republic. Although East Germany became fully independent in 1954, some 400,000 Soviet troops remained in the country. The East German economy was held back by heavy-handed central planning until the mid-1960s. A relaxation of controls brought rapid industrialization, and by the early 1970s, East Germany was the ninth ranked economic power in the world.
Economic progress stalled during the
1970's, and many young East Germans emigrated to the West. East
Germany's communist regime was always among one of the most repressive
in the Soviet Bloc, and it resisted the Soviet policy of glasnost in the
late 1980s. Popular demonstrations forced the resignation of the
unpopular government of President Erich Honecker in October 1989. Within
a month the new government had opened its borders with Czechoslovakia
and West Germany, and East and West Germany began negotiations for
reunification. On October 3, 1990, formal reunification took place.