1 January: The GDR extends its territorial waters from three to twelve nautical miles, citing a US maritime convention.
10 January: The West German cabaret performers Dieter Hildebrandt and Werner Schneyder are allowed to give guest performances in Leipzig.
9-12 January: The Prime Minister of the West German state of North Rhine-Westphalia, Johannes Rau, visits the GDR, among other things meeting with Erich Honecker.
15 January: The last six "embassy squatters" leave the West German embassy in Prague to return to the GDR, after they have been promised immunity and that their applications to migrate will be processed.
22 January: The nave of the Church of Reconciliation (Versöhnungskirche), which has stood, inaccessible, in the "death strip" on Bernauer Strasse since August 1961, is blown up; the church tower is blown up on 28 January.
13 February: After long and expensive restoration efforts, the Semperoper in Dresden, which was badly damaged during the war, is reopened in the presence of SED leader Erich Honecker and former West German Chancellor Helmut Schmidt. Restoring the opera house is one of the vanity projects undertaken in the Honecker era.
10 March: The Soviet party and state leader Konstantin Chernenko dies after only one year in office – the third CPSU General Secretary to be buried within three years. His successor is the former Central Committee secretary of agriculture, Mikhail S. Gorbachev, just 54 years old. The Soviet economy is in a situation marked by stagnation and falling growth rates; the economic crisis is the greatest threat to the world power’s political capability both domestically and internationally. "Uskoreniye" – acceleration of socio-economic development – is therefore the magic word at the start of the process of reform in 1985, not "glasnost" or "perestroika". It is the lack of success of the "uskoreniye" policy that leads to a gradual extension of reform policies, with the terms "glasnost" and "perestroika" drawing international attention.
12 March: The USA and the Soviet Union start talks on the limitation of atomic weapons in Geneva.
13 March: A resolution by the Council of Ministers on "Basic principles in travel between the GDR and non-socialist states and West Berlin" and a "Central Order" (a kind of "Führer Order") issued by Erich Honecker in December 1985 considerably enlarge the number of those eligible to apply to travel abroad, as well the list of possible reasons for travel. Trips on urgent family business can now be applied for if there are so-called "special humanitarian concerns", without any concrete information about the degree of relationship and reasons having to be provided. As this order is interpreted "generously", the number of trips to the West rapidly climbs from 139,000 in 1985 to 573,000 in 1986. In 1987 there are 1,297,399 trips, with 300,000 further applications being either rejected or not accepted in the first place.
18 March: For the 40th anniversary of the end of the war, the Federation of Evangelical Churches in the GDR (BEK) and the Evangelical Church in Germany (EKD) publish a joint "Word of Peace".
24 March: Major Arthur D. Nicholson Jr., a staff member of the US military mission in Potsdam, is killed during an inspection in the GDR. The incident casts a shadow on Soviet-American relations, which have been becoming friendlier.
16 April: The office of the West German news magazine "Der Spiegel" in East Berlin is allowed to reopen after nine years of closure.
23/24 April: SED General Secretary Erich Honecker visits Italy, where he meets with Pope John Paul II. It is his first state visit to a NATO country.
1 May: State visit by US President Ronald Reagan in West Germany.
8 May: In a well-regarded speech on the 40th anniversary of the end of the Second World War, West German President Richard von Weizsäcker describes the 8th of May 1945 as a "day of liberation": "It freed us all from the inhumane tyranny of the National Socialist regime."
10 June: In a memo on a conversation with the Bavarian Prime Minister Franz Josef Strauss, SED foreign currency procurer Alexander Schalck-Golodkowski records Strauss as saying that Helmut Kohl had a "bad team" and was showing "serious leadership faults as Chancellor." Schalck goes on to say that Strauss was convinced "that neither he nor his children and grandchildren will live to see a change in the current political borders in Europe. That also goes for the existence of the GDR and the FRG. A reunification is imaginable only if a new situation emerges throughout Europe." He says Strauss was "pleased that Erich Honecker is leading the destinies of the GDR as chairman of the State Council and General Secretary."
10/11 June: The French Prime Minister Laurent Fabius becomes the first government leader from the three Western Powers to go on a state visit to the GDR.
11 June: In the biggest spy exchange of the Cold War, 25 Western agents are swapped for four Eastern agents on the Glienicke Bridge between Potsdam and West Berlin.
2 July: Eduard Shevardnadze succeeds Andrei Gromyko as Foreign Minister of the Soviet Union; Gromyko becomes chairman of the Supreme Soviet.
5 July: Agreement to raise the interest-free overdraft facility for the GDR ("Swing") from 600 million to 800 million DM.
31 July: The removal of mines on the inner-German border is completed. The mines are replaced by enhanced electronic border security measures: the "Grenz- und Signalzaun II" ("Border and Signal Fence II") or the "Grenzzaun I/83" ("Border Fence I/83").
In contrast with the former "Grenzsignalzaun 74" ("Border Signal Fence 74"), which was designed primarily to warn of escapes, the "Grenz- und Signalzaun II" combines a secure border fence with signal fencing. The fence is made of expanded steel mesh panels connected to one another at the concrete posts. On top there are Y-shaped mountings with four signal wires on each prong that are meant to give the alert if the fence is climbed over. There are also 16 signal wires attached on the GDR side (not on the Western side!); this shows clearly against whom the system is directed. As with the older signal fences, the destruction of a wire or simultaneous contact with two signal wires triggers an alarm.
However, as opposed to earlier systems, the alarm cannot be heard at the location where it is triggered; it only comes up on a display in the command post of the GDR border troops. The acoustic alarm gave the escapee, theoretically at least, the chance to withdraw and elude the search by border troops and People’s Police. The new system allows the border soldiers to seal off the relevant section without the escapee even noticing that an alarm has been set off.
16 August: The Soviet Union proposes an international agreement on the demilitarisation of space and, at the same time, greater cooperation in space research.
22 August: The West German domestic intelligence agency, the "Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution" ("Bundesamt für Verfassungsschutz"), announces that Hansjoachim Tiedge, the man in charge of counter-espionage against the GDR, has disappeared. The following day, the East German state-run news agency ADN reports that Tiedge has defected to the GDR.
1 September: SED General Secretary Erich Honecker and the Bavarian Prime Minister Franz-Josef Strauss meet on the sidelines of the Leipzig autumn trade fair.
13 September/2 October: Correspondence between SED General Secretary Erich Honecker and West German Chancellor Helmut Kohl in which both leaders speak out in favour of the abolition of chemical weapons.
18-20 September: The SPD chairman Willy Brandt visits East Germany at the invitation of Erich Honecker.
4 November: The Soviet newspaper "Izvestia" publishes an interview with US President Ronald Reagan. A Soviet newspaper has not interviewed a US president since 1961.
19-21 November: First summit between US President Ronald Reagan and the new General Secretary of the CPSU, Mikhail Gorbachev, in Geneva. Both leaders state that a nuclear war must "never" be waged and affirm their commitment to an equal military balance. The two sides also announce their interest in keeping up contact and arrange state visits in Washington and Moscow.