1989 was deemed important because of:

  • the break-up of the Soviet Union
  • the Velvet Revolution in Central Europe
  • the start of civil war in Yugoslovia
  • the Kosovo crisis
  • the Gulf War and shifting relations between the European powers and the Islamic countries of the Middle East

Budapest Conference, 2004

The third conference, on the events of 1989 in Central and Eastern Europe, was held at the European Youth Centre in Budapest from 28 April to 1 May 2004 and was attended by 90 participants.

The aims of the conference were to:

  • provide a European overview of the roots, causes, consequences and significance of events and developments during 1989-1990;
  • compare national and regional historical perspectives, drawing on the latest research;
  • provide developers of school resources with the opportunity of having access to specialist historians from different countries and to work with them to develop materials.

The presentations and the working group discussions highlighted the importance of ensuring that the material produced for the project would help young people to:

  • put the events of 1989 into a longer time perspective;
  • understand the global changes and developments, particularly the economic and geopolitical factors which helped to bring about the events of 1989;
  • understand that what happened in 1989 was not just the result of vast, global, impersonal forces and factors shaping events. The human factor also needs to be taken into account and this, as usual, introduced uncertainties and unpredictabilities into the equation;
  • understand the dynamics behind these events; i.e. the pace of change, the interactions between the different leaders and political elites, the build-up of pressure for change, the impact of decisions that were taken or, indeed, not taken;
  • develop a comparative and multiperspectival approach to what was happening across Central and Eastern Europe at that time;
  • understand the important role which the mass media played in providing the public with information about events and shaping their perceptions and interpretation of what was happening.

Presentations made during the Budapest conference

The keynote lecture, "1989: Causes and consequences of the Revolution", was given by the Finnish academic, Professor Jussi Hanhimäki, who is currently based at the Graduate Institute of International Studies, Geneva, Switzerland.

Other presentations included:

  • 1989: the end of the Cold War and the Ensuing Break-Up of the Soviet Union” by Academician Professor Aleksey Filitov, Institute of Universal History, Moscow, Russian Federation.
  • Heroes, participants, people - Hungary 1989” by Dr János Rainer, Director of the Institute 1956, Budapest, Hungary.
  • 1989 in Romania: an event of social memory” by Professor Lavinia Betea, University of Bucharest, Romania.
  • The US response to the events of 1989” by Professor Wolfgang Krieger, University of Marburg, Germany.
  • The emergence of national differences”, by Professor Jan Rychlik, Prague, Czech Republic.

In addition, there was a session on how the events of 1989 were covered and subsequently represented in the mass media. These presentations included:

  • 1989 seen by the Black Box” by Ms Márta Elbert, Foundation Black Box, Budapest.
  • Political parties and the media” by Dr Zsolt Enyadi, Central European University, Budapest.
  • Don’t let you harden in these time’ - Television production in 1989 and contemporary representation of 1989 for older and younger viewers” by Mr Peter Gottschalk, ARTE, Strasbourg, France.