Berlin Wall Remembrances Vary

<!-- IMAGE -->

The demise of the Berlin Wall and all it stood for hold different memories for different people. Overt joy was the emotion felt by many in the West, seeing it as a symbol for the end of the tyranny of communist control. For others, there were mixed emotions. In the former Soviet Union, tearing down the Wall became a symbol for the beginning of the end of the Soviet state.
Euphoria among Some Germans

“It was the happiest moment in German history,” said Matthias Rueb, Washington bureau chief of the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. At the same time, however, he described his initial reaction to the events of 9 November 1989 when the Wall fell as overly optimistic. “But this optimism faded quite quickly, and I realized that it takes a generation to overcome not only this outer – but especially inner – division. There is still this wall in the head, die Mauer im Kopf – a lot of quarreling going on between East Germany and West Germany,” Rueb explained.

Whatever the difficulties of political transition in Central and Eastern Europe, 1989 can still be considered as the annus mirabilis, or year of miracles, argues Rueb. “It was a miracle that it happened suddenly and, with the exception of Romania, peacefully.” In that sense, the feeling that something miraculous was happening is not much different than it was 20 years ago, he said.

<!-- IMAGE -->

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, speaking before the U.S. Congress this week, thanked the American people for their support for German reunification. A former citizen of the German Democratic Republic in the East, Chancellor Merkel called on the United States to work with Germany to overcome what she called the “walls of the 21st century” – those areas that continue to divide people in the world, whether on climate change, cooperation in combating terrorism, economic matters, or politics.

Less Enthusiasm among Russians

“Liberation from communism was not regarded as an unambiguously good thing in Russia,” said Russian journalist Masha Lipman of the Carnegie Moscow Center. Communism’s demise in Central and Eastern Europe was followed in 1991 by the collapse of the Soviet Union. “The USSR, which used to be a superpower, lost its sphere of influence, lost part of its territory, and was dramatically weakened,” Lipman explained.

In fact, Russians became embroiled in the same process that was liberating Central and Eastern Europe and led to the fall of the Berlin Wall. “Actually Russia’s last Soviet General-Secretary [Mikhail Gorbachev] and first and last Soviet President was the liberator,” said Lipman. “He was the man who facilitated the liberation of Central and Eastern Europe.

Berlin as a Model for Revolutions Elsewhere

<!-- IMAGE -->

“It may be that what happened in 1989 has established a new model of revolution,” said British historian Timothy Garton Ash, author of The Magic Lantern: The Revolution of ’89 Witnessed in Warsaw, Budapest, Berlin, and Prague.

Ash argues this “new” model of revolution supplanted the French Revolution model, one that was violent, utopian, and class-based. “The 1989 model in contrast was non-violent, anti-utopian, not based on one class, but on attempting to build the broadest possible social coalition,” he told an audience a few weeks ago at the Brookings Institution in Washington. “The symbol of 1789 was the guillotine; the symbol of 1989 is a roundtable where you negotiate.”

“The international media often play a critical role these events today,” Ash said. Certainly, authoritarian regimes in Iran, Russia, Belarus, and China have identified “velvet revolutions” as a “Western subversive plot” and a threat to their power. “The West has not created these events, said Ash. “But in every case – as in Central and Eastern Europe 20 years ago – it is people on the ground who have made these things happen.”

This forum has been closed.
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Russia’s Syria Involvement Raising Concerns in Europei
Luis Ramirez
October 02, 2015 4:45 PM
European nations are joining the United States in demanding that Russia stop targeting opposition groups other than the Islamic State militants as Russian warplanes continue to conduct raids in Syria. The demand came in a statement from Britain, France, Germany, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United States Friday. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Video Russia’s Syria Involvement Raising Concerns in Europe

European nations are joining the United States in demanding that Russia stop targeting opposition groups other than the Islamic State militants as Russian warplanes continue to conduct raids in Syria. The demand came in a statement from Britain, France, Germany, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United States Friday. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Video First Self-Driving Truck Debuts on European Highways

The first automated semi-trailer truck started its maiden voyage Friday, Oct. 2, on a European highway. The Daimler truck called 'Actros' is the first potentially mass-produced truck whose driver will be required only to monitor the situation, similar to the role of an airline captain while the plane is in autopilot mode. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video Nano-tech Filter Cleans Dirty Water

Access to clean water is a problem for hundreds of millions of people around the world. Now, a scientist and chemical engineer in Tanzania (in East Africa) is working to change that by creating an innovative water filter that makes dirty water safe. VOA’s Deborah Block has the story.

Video Demand Rising for Organic Produce in Cambodia

In Cambodia, where rice has long been the main cash crop, farmers are being encouraged to turn to vegetables to satisfy the growing demand for locally produced organic farm products. Daniel de Carteret has more from Phnom Penh.

Video Migrant Influx Costs Europe, But Economy Could Benefit

The influx of hundreds of thousands of refugees and migrants is testing Europe’s ability to respond – especially in the poorer Balkan states. But some analysts argue that Europe will benefit by welcoming the huge numbers of young people – many of them well educated and willing to work. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.

Video Botanists Grow Furniture, with Pruning Shears

For something a bit out of the ordinary to furnish your home, why not consider wooden chairs, crafted by nature, with a little help from some British botanists with an eye for design. VOA’s Jessica Berman reports.

Video New Fabric Helps Fight Dust-Related Allergies

Many people around the world suffer from dust-related allergies, caused mainly by tiny mites that live in bed linen. Polish scientists report they have successfully tested a fabric that is impenetrable to the microscopic creatures. VOA’s George Putic has more.

Video Burkina Faso's Economy Deeply Affected by Political Turmoil

Political turmoil in Burkina Faso over the past year has taken a toll on the economy. The transitional government is reporting nearly $70 million in losses in the ten days that followed a short-lived coup by members of the presidential guard earlier this month. The crisis shut businesses and workers went on strike. With elections on the horizon, Emilie Iob reports on what a return to political stability can do for the country's economic recovery.

Video Fleeing Violence, Some Syrians Find Refuge in Irbil

As Syrians continue to flee their country’s unrest to seek new lives in safer places, VOA Persian Service reporter Shepol Abbassi visited Irbil, where a number Syrians have taken refuge. During the religious holidy of Eid al-Adha, the city largely shut down, as temperatures soared. Amy Katz narrates his report.

Video Nigeria’s Wecyclers Work for Reusable Future in Lagos

The streets and lagoons of Africa's largest city - Lagos, Nigeria - are often clogged with trash, almost none of which gets recycled. One company is trying to change that. Chris Stein reports for VOA from Lagos.

Video Sketch Artist Helps Catch Criminals, Gives a Face to Deceased

Police often face the problem of trying to find a crime suspect based on general descriptions that could fit hundreds of people in the vicinity of the crime. In these cases, an artist can use information from witnesses to sketch a likeness that police can show the public via newspapers and television. But, as VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, such sketches can also help bring back faces of the dead.

Video Thailand Set to Build China-like Internet Firewall

Thai authorities are planning to tighten control over the Internet, creating a single international access point so they can better monitor content. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Bangkok on what is being called Thailand’s own "Great Firewall."

Video Croatian Town’s War History Evokes Empathy for Migrants

As thousands of Afghanistan, Iraqi and Syrian migrants pass through Croatia, locals are reminded of their own experiences with war and refugees in the 1990s. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from the town of Vukovar, where wartime scars still are visible today.

Video Long Drought Affecting California’s Sequoias

California is suffering under a historic four-year drought and scientists say even the state's famed sequoia trees are feeling the pain. The National Park Service has started detailed research to see how it can help the oldest living things on earth survive. VOA’s George Putic reports.

VOA Blogs