For many years now Leipzig has maintained a lively tradition of commemorating the momentous "Autumn of 89". The programme highlights centred around 9 October include the traditional Prayers for Peace and the Speech on Democracy.
Since 2007, the element of light has also played a major role – that year and in 2008, Leipzig's Tourism and Marketing Agency initiated a 'Night of Candles'. In 2009 the Peaceful Revolution was commemorated for the first time by Festival of Lights.
Every year a different national focal point forms the core of the celebrations.
Prayers for Peace
As early as 1982 peace activists, environmental campaigners and human rights groups began to organise regular prayers for peace in the Church of St Nicholas, the starting point for the Monday Demonstrations in September 1989. After Monday prayers on 9 October 1989 more than 70,000 people assembled here. To mark this occasion, the traditional Prayers for Peace is held annually on 9 October.
Speech on Democracy
The Speech on Democracy in St Nicholas' is one of the highlights of the "Autumn of 89" celebrations. The speech is given by leading figures who have made a contribution to the cause of democracy in Europe.
Festival of Lights
Since 2009 the Festival of Lights has commemorated the Monday Demonstration on 9 October 1989.
The citizens of Leipzig who marched around the city's inner ring road in 1989 after the traditional prayers for peace at St Nicholas’s - initially numbering hundreds and later hundreds of thousands - were no longer satisfied with cosmetic changes. The decisive day of the Peaceful Revolution was 09.10.1989 in Leipzig, when 70,000 demonstrators toppled the GDR's communist regime chanting "We are the people!" and "No violence!". They made history with their courage, indomitable will and rejection of the use of force and inspiring pictures of the Monday Demonstrations in the autumn of 1989 went right round the world – determined people demanding fundamental democratic rights in a fossilised society.
The Festival of Lights is organised by Leipzig's Tourism and Marketing Agency in close cooperation with the City of Leipzig and the "Day of the Peaceful Revolution – Leipzig 9 October 1989" initiative.
1989 – a year that made history in Europe
The second half of the 20th century in Europe was defined by the division of the continent. The democratic states of Western Europe were confronted by communist regimes under the dominating leadership of the Soviet Union, although in Central and Eastern Europe there was ongoing resistance to this dictatorship.
Memorable examples of this resistance were the popular uprising in East Germany on June 17, 1953, the violently suppressed Hungarian revolution, the 1956 Workers' Uprising in Posen and the failed Prague Spring of 1968 to name just a few. The Solidarność freedom movement, which was launched in Poland in the early 1980s, was the initiator of the developments which finally led to revolutions in the countries of Central and Eastern Europe which were for the most part peaceful.
East Germany's own Peaceful Revolution is therefore a part of greater European history, and the way its people liberated themselves from the communist regime in 1989/90 was a European phenomenon.
In Poland, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Romania and the Baltic States - people took to the streets to stand up for freedom and democracy. Just as the people's protest in the GDR led to major changes - including democracy and reunification - which changed the face of Germany, the mainly peaceful revolutions in all of Europe reshaped the continent and has become an important part of the European identity.
Accordingly, until the 25th anniversary of the Peaceful Revolution the focus in Leipzig will be on the developments in Germany's neighbouring countries of Central and Eastern Europe and the contribution made to European reunification by their peaceful self-liberation from communist dictatorship.