The year 1990, its significance and presence in our memory

The year 1990 was a turning point in overcoming the communist legacy and shaping democracy in the countries of Central and Eastern Europe. In most of them, it brought the first completely free parliamentary, presidential and local government elections.

The year 1990 also marked the reunification of both German states. For the Baltic states, such as Lithuania - the first country in the region to declare its independence after 50 years of dependence on Soviet power - it was the beginning of a new era.

The Europe that we know nowadays was being born in 1990.

A little over 30 years have passed since the historic breakthrough, when democratic and free-market changes began with the fall of communism. Still, as a society, we know far too little about these events. From a historian's perspective, this is too short a time span to begin serious research, whilst political scientists are more inclined to say that this is way too distant a past and should therefore be the domain of... historians. The layout of the history curriculum in secondary schools also turns out to be unfavourable for the promotion of knowledge about that period. The events of the last decade of the 20th century are placed at the very end of the history education cycle. As a result of this, more often than not, teachers do not manage to cover this material before the end of the final year.

As a consequence of all these circumstances (and because they are different phenomena which are independent of each other) another generation of people is now entering adult life without having - and because of their age could never have had - any personal, biographical experience of the time of the breakthrough, nor did they even acquire school textbook knowledge on the subject.

It is important to ensure that the remembrance - as well as the knowledge - of this important period is restored.

Project objectives

The aim of the “1990 / Year One” project is to:

  • to understand and raise awareness of the changes that have taken place in (and since) 1990 in three neighbouring countries (forming a specific border region): Poland, Germany and Czechoslovakia, and Lithuania as pars pro toto of the Baltic countries,
  • to raise awareness of the political, social and economic changes that were the result of overcoming the communist past, and how the historical conflicts and new disputes that erupted in the context of national minorities (who were denied their rights by the communist authorities) were dealt with,
  • to make this knowledge available to all those interested, especially young people, with an indication of the lessons we modern Europeans can learn from this history.

Participants and people involved in project preparation

Participants in the project included school youth, teachers, historians, experts in public history, historical and civic education and witnesses of the time from Poland, Czech Republic, Germany and Lithuania.

Project partners

The project “1990 / Year One. The democratic transformation in former Eastern Bloc countries” is an international educational project carried out in Poland, Czech Republic, Germany and Lithuania by five independent civil society organisations with a daily interest in promoting knowledge about the past and in historical and civic education:

  • Krzyżowa Foundation for Mutual Understanding in Europe (Poland), 
  • Paweł Włodkowic Institute (Poland), 

  • Post Bellum (Czech Republic), 

  • Stiftung Adam von Trott, Imshausen e.V. (Germany),

  • Anykščių švietimo pagalbos tarnyba (Lithuania).

Time and place of the project

The project “1990 / Year One. The democratic transformation in former Eastern Bloc countries” was implemented from 2/11/2020 to 31/12/2022 in Poland, Czech Republic, Germany and Lithuania within the framework of the Europe for Citizens Programme - Strand 1. European Remembrance programme and is co-financed by the European Commission.

Five events were implemented as part of the project

Educational products developed within the project

The project produced a number of educational tools that were used by the project partners to conduct workshops with school youth and teachers. Those that have been made publicly available are:

* Full-scale Russian aggression against Ukraine and its impact on the project

Due to the ongoing full-scale Russian military invasion of Ukraine, certain emphases of history undertaken in the project had to change. So far, the emphasis has been on showing that the 1990 transition led to the undoubted success of the (ongoing) integration of the so-called people's democracy countries into Western Europe and its structures (above all the European Union). After 24 February 2022, however, the events which led to the fall of the Eastern Bloc must be shown with a reminder that pro-European aspirations and the sovereign decisions of nations are contested by those who favour thinking in terms of spheres of influence and imperialism straight out of the 19th century.

This influenced the topics taken up during the workshop. This can also be seen in the title of the debate held in Wrocław as a summary to the project – “The long-term consequences of the collapse of the Soviet Union”, to which experts from Ukraine and Lithuania were invited. This is an important factor to mention in the context of this project.


The project “1990/Year One. The democratic transformation in former Eastern Bloc countries” was implemented within the framework of the Europe for Citizens Programme - Strand 1. European Remembrance programme and is co-financed by the European Commission.


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