The German Democratic Republic (GDR), also called East Germany, was established in 1949 by East German communists who established the Socialist Unity Party (ESD). Like most other communist-controlled countries in the region, the GDR quickly became a satelite of the Soviet Union. This new state consited of territory of the defeated Germany accupied by the Soviet Union toward the end of World War II. It included Berlin, the historic capital of Germany, and had a population of about 16.5 million people, or roughly 20 percent of th total pre-World War II German population.
The Kremlin kept a close eye on political developments in East Germany because of this country's strategic importance to Soviet territorial security and the security of neighboring socialist countries, notably Poland and Czechoslovakia. The East German communist system was especially vulnerable to Western influence because of its geographical proximity to the democracy and free enterprise of the Federal Republic of Germany (FRG). In particular, the conspicuous affluence of West Berlin contrasted sharply with the poverty and dowdiness of neighboring East Berlin, so much so that in 1961 the East German communist leadership saw fit to construct a concrete wall to halt a vast hemorrhage of East Germans to the West. By 1989, the wall had a ferocious appearance, consisting of a double row of eight-foot-high concrete walls with watchtowers, electronic sensors, and a no-man's land in between.
To deter criticism and dissent in East German society, successive Soviet leaders from Stalin to Gorbachev insisted on the GDR's strict conformity with