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Understanding the mechanisms of 1989: A Simulation for Use in Youth and Adult Education

The simulation is set in “Allonia,” a fictitious communist country, member of the likewise fictitious Marxist Union, an international coalition of Communist Nations. There is a general climate of discontent and economic depression. Due to recent food shortages demonstrations have started and are quickly getting more powerful.

If the status quo is maintained, the demonstrations threaten to become so massive that revolution will occur. Therefore the simulation participants (7 parties / interest groups / other important stakeholders; all in all 14-30 participants) have to take action. The actors are representatives of:

  • Democratic Workers Party – Hardliners
  • Democratic Workers Party – Softliners
  • Secret Intelligence Service
  • Opposition Movement / Peace & Religion Movements
  • Labour Movement
  • Intellectuals

The goal of the game is to find a solution that is acceptable for all the parties to the negotiations—a common statement accepted unanimously is to be reached. The participants should try to identify themselves with their roles, and should be creative when implementing it—whatever fits their character, but is not included in the scenario—is acceptable.

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About this simulation

This simulation was developed and tested by Humanity in Action Deutschland e.V. during a seminar on the 1989 regime changes with 15 international students and educators in spring 2009. It is a collaborative work in progress. The support of Simon Raiser and Björn Warkalla of Planpolitik and the guidance and financial support of the German Bundesstiftung zur Aufarbeitung der SED-Diktatur helped to create a pilot of the simulation, allowing dissemination and further use in adult education.

The simulation proved to be an excellent educational tool for understanding the political and social dynamics of the 1989 regime changes in Europe:

  • Through active role play, participants have to immerse into the positions of all relevant groups.
  • In the negotiation phase participants experience liberties as well as boundaries of action. 
  • A simulation focuses on solutions and compromises – like in real-life politics.
  • The inclusion of all important stakeholder groups and a minimum duration of 4 hours allows to raise awareness for complexity and uniqueness of the 1989 revolutions

In cooperation with Democracy and Human Rights Education in Adult Learning (DARE) and Fundacja Humanity in Action Polska, this simulation was publicly presented at the Geschichtsforum09 / History forum09 (May 2009 in Berlin) and tested with an audience of 30 European educators.

In 2011-2013, the simulation was played and updated during workshops on "European Transitions from Dictatorship to Democracy in the late 1980s". The workshops were funded by the EU Lifelong Learning Program (Grundtvig).

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HIA Program:

Germany Germany 2009

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