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The Curtain Rises: Eastern Europe, 1989 : East Bloc Leaders: The Revolving Door

December 17, 1989

POLAND: Gen. Wojciech Jaruzelski, 66, gave up Communist Party leadership during summer . . . still holds revamped position of president but has seen power base sharply eroded this year . . . currently faces Parliament loaded with supporters of Solidarity movement . . . imposed martial law and suppressed Solidarity early in decade . . . resisted many Soviet-suggested reforms. Tadeusz Mazowiecki, 62, was named prime minister in late August after Communists' humiliating defeat in open elections . . . longtime Solidarity activist, editor of movement's newspaper, adviser to founder Lech Walesa . . . heads 23-member Solidarity-dominated coalition that includes only four Communists . . . throughout career, has been closely allied with Roman Catholic Church in Poland . . . has launched program to combat inflation and develop free markets.

HUNGARY: Karoly Grosz, 59, lost job as Communist Party general secretary in October, when party abolished position, abandoned hard-line Marxist dogma and changed name to Hungarian Socialist Party . . . headed party for just a year and a half . . . centrist reformer . . . powers had been sharply depleted in June when a four-member collective party presidency was established. Rezso Nyers, 66, assumed presidency of renamed party with mandate to steer nation on pro-democracy path until free elections next summer . . . faced challenge at October party congress from progressives who demanded clean break from communism . . . started political career in Social Democratic Party . . . joined Communists in 1948 when party faction merged with them.

BULGARIA: Todor Zhivkov, 78, was forced out Nov. 10 after standing as unchallenged leader of Communist Party and country for 35 years . . . longest-serving leader in Warsaw Pact . . . firmly suppressed human rights . . . government known for corruption . . . gave lengthy speeches on virtues of economic reform but made only meaningless shifts in ministries and departments . . . political maneuver to gain favor by ousting ethnic Turks backfired, leaving shortages of workers. Petar Mladenov, 53, former foreign minister who helped bring down Zhivkov, replaced him as Communist Party leader . . . Politburo member since 1977 . . . Moscow-educated reformer . . has moved to have Communists relinquish their constitutional right to sole power and proposed that free elections be held.

EAST GERMANY: Erich Honecker, 77, was ousted as president in October . . . had been unchallenged leader of Communist Party for 18 years and one of last holdouts against reform sweeping East Bloc . . . ousted in wake of massive migration of East Germans to West and unprecedented pro-democracy demonstrations . . . later stripped of his party membership and placed under house arrest, accused of corruption and abuse of power . . . has been ailing for some time. Gregor Gysi, 41, pro-democracy lawyer, was elected this month to lead scandalized Communist Party . . . a wry Berliner, he was lone candidate in vote by special party congress . . . has pledged to lead party on a course of "democratic socialism" but admits that tasks it faces are "insanely complicated" . . . his party has begged forgiveness for leading nation into crisis.

CZECHOSLOVAKIA: Milos Jakes, 67, was forced to step down earlier this month as Communist Party leader . . cautious apparatchik who had overseen economic policy . . . in 1987 had succeeded Gustav Husak, who retained post of president until resignation this month . . . had been expected to be moderating force in hard-line leadership but never moved to emulate Soviet President Mikhail S. Gorbachev's reforms . . . Marian Calfa, 43, was named prime minister this month to head coalition government dominated by non-Communists . . . Communist who worked for 15 years in party's legal department before becoming its deputy head and then Cabinet minister without portfolio in 1987 . . . has pledged to act independently from the party and start "radical" economic reforms.

ROMANIA: President Nicolae Ceausescu, 71, has ruled Communist Romania for 24 years and is last holdout against reform in East Bloc . . . initially was viewed with some admiration, especially in West, as maverick in Communist world . . . refused in 1968 to let Romanian troops join Warsaw Pact invasion that ended "Prague Spring" reform movement in Czechoslovakia . . . maintained relations with China and Israel . . . United States favored his nation with trade concessions in 1970s . . . domestically, has brought repression and hard times to his own people . . . his crash program to pay back industrial loans, begun in 1980, has required severe austerity measures, including export of meat supplies and other food products. . . has forcibly moved hundreds of thousands of Romanians to new homes under "agricultural modernization program" . . . surrounded by cult of personality reminiscent of late Soviet dictator Josef Stalin . . . was reelected to five-year term by Communist Party in November.

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