For forty years Germany was divided into the Federal Republic of Germany in the West and the German Democratic Republic in the East. The division ended on Oct. 3, 1990, when the two sides were reunified.
Germany was a divided country from 1949 to 1990. After its defeat in World War II, the Federal Republic of Germany (FRG) was created in the West, in the regions controlled by the US, French and British forces. The geographically smaller German Democratic Republic (GDR) — commonly known as East Germany — was established on the other side. Despite its name, the GDR was a communist dictatorship that limited its citizens' political freedom and regularly punished dissidents. A 1,400-kilometer (870-mile) heavily fortified border separated the two countries from the Baltic Sea in the north to the region between Saxony and Bavaria in the south. Movement and communication between the two countries was virtually impossible. This demarcation zone is often referred to as the Iron Curtain. During the forty years of division, West Germany grew to become a strong democracy and a member of NATO, whereas East Germany remained a staunch supporter of the Soviet Union. This period of time is known as the Cold War. On October 3, 1990, the division of Germany ended when the two sides were officially reunified. The re-unification process was preceded by protests in East Germany and the fall of the Berlin Wall nearly a year previously, on November 9, 1989. Each year, October 3rd is celebrated as German Unity Day.