United and Divided: Germany since 1990

United and Divided: Germany since 1990

United and Divided: Germany since 1990

United and Divided: Germany since 1990


The system transformation after German unification in 1990 constituted an experiment on an unprecedented scale. At no point in history had one state attempted to redesign another without conquest, bloodshed or coercion but by treaties, public policy and bureaucratic processes. Unification was achieved by erasing the eastern political and economic model. However, in the meantime it has become clear that the same cannot be said about social transformation. On the contrary, social and cultural attitudes and differentiation have continued and resulted in deep divisions between West and East Germany. After unification, the injustices of politics seemed to have been replaced, in the eyes of most former GDR citizens, by unexpected injustices in the personal spheres of ordinary people who lost their jobs and faced unknown realities of deprivation and social exclusion.

These are the main concerns of the contributors to this volume. Incorporating new research findings and published data, they focus on key aspects of economic, political, and social transformation in eastern Germany and compare, through case studies, each area with developments in the west.


Unification after Division

The German Democratic Republic (GDR) existed as a separate state between 17 October 1949 and 3 October 1990 when it opted to join the Federal Republic of Germany (FRG) and subscribe to its constitutional order, the Basic Law. The formal act of unification put an end to a postwar history of political division that commenced in 1945 with the occupation of Germany by the victorious Allies after the Second World War. Since then, the Cold War and its competition for political control and military dominance between East and West, placed Germany at the hub of these rivalries, not as a major actor but as a testing ground and showcase. The creation of the two German states in 1949 – the FRG in May, the GDR five months later – was closely linked to the policy aims of the rival blocs and their determination to document their strength inside Germany. The West German and the East German states, therefore, became outposts for conflicting systems, each of them aiming at reinventing its part of Germany in its own way. Although Cold War rivalries had largely subsided at the time of German unification, the political, economic and social divides between the two Germanies were slower to fade, or refused to do so altogether.

In reinventing their part of occupied Germany, each of the Western Allies initially sought to recast the political order in their respective zone of influence in accordance with the democratic processes and institutions of their own country. As zones were merged from 1947 onwards, national differences were superseded by a concept of democracy which owed more to the Weimar Republic and the experiences gained there by the German political leaders of the first hour than to American, British or French assumptions as to how democracy should operate. As the Basic Law took shape, it defined the Federal Republic of Germany as a democratic polity and society, stipulating institutional parameters that proved, over time, successful in facilitating the emergence of a stable parliamentary government and a democratic political culture . . .

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