News

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.
Comments
     
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.
Booming London Property a ‘Haven for Dirty Money’i
X
July 29, 2015 9:34 PM
Billions of dollars of so-called ‘dirty money’ from the proceeds of crime - especially from Russia - are being laundered through the London property market, according to anti-corruption activists. As Henry Ridgwell reports from the British capital, the government has pledged to crack down on the practice.
Video

Video Booming London Property a ‘Haven for Dirty Money’

Billions of dollars of so-called ‘dirty money’ from the proceeds of crime - especially from Russia - are being laundered through the London property market, according to anti-corruption activists. As Henry Ridgwell reports from the British capital, the government has pledged to crack down on the practice.
Video

Video Hometown of Boy Scouts of America Founder Reacts to Gay Leader Decision

Ottawa, Illinois, is the hometown of W.D. Boyce, who founded the Boy Scouts of America in 1910. In Ottawa, where Scouting remains an important part of the legacy of the community, the end of the organization's ban on openly gay adult leaders was seen as inevitable. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.
Video

Video 'Metal Muscles' Flex a New Bionic Hand

Artificial limbs, including the most complex of them – the human hand – are getting more life-like and useful due to constant advances in tiny hydraulic, pneumatic and electric motors called actuators. But now, as VOA’s George Putic reports, scientists in Germany say the future of the prosthetic hand may lie not in motors but in wires that can ‘remember’ their shape.
Video

Video Russia Accused of Abusing Interpol to Pursue Opponents

A British pro-democracy group has accused Russia of abusing the global law enforcement agency Interpol by requesting the arrest and extradition of political opponents. A new report by the group notes such requests can mean the accused are unable to travel and are often unable to open bank accounts. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video 'Positive Atmosphere' Points Toward TPP Trade Deal in Hawaii

Talks on a major new trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations are said to be nearing completion in Hawaii. Some trade experts say the "positive atmosphere" at the discussions could mean a deal is within reach, but there is still hard bargaining to be done over many issues and products, including U.S. drugs and Japanese rice. VOA's Jim Randle reports.
Video

Video Genome Initiative Urgently Moves to Freeze DNA Before Species Go Extinct

Earth is in the midst of its sixth mass extinction. The last such event was caused by an asteroid 66 million years ago. It killed off the dinosaurs and practically everything else. So scientists are in a race against time to classify the estimated 11 million species alive today. So far only 2 million are described by science, and researchers are worried many will disappear before they even have a name. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Scientists: One-Dose Malaria Cure is Possible

Scientists have long been trying to develop an effective protection and cure for malaria - one of the deadliest diseases that affects people in tropical areas, especially children. As the World Health Organization announces plans to begin clinical trials of a promising new vaccine, scientists in South Africa report that they too are at an important threshold. George Putic reports, they are testing a compound that could be a single-dose cure for malaria.
Video

Video 'New York' Magazine Features 35 Cosby Accusers

The latest issue of 'New York' magazine features 35 women who say they were drugged and raped by film and television celebrity Bill Cosby. The women are aged from 44 to 80 and come from different walks of life and races. The magazine interviewed each of them separately, but Zlatica Hoke reports their stories are similar.
Video

Video US Calls Fight Against Human Trafficking a Must Win

The United States is promising not to give up its fight against what Secretary of State John Kerry calls the “scourge” of modern slavery. Officials released the country’s annual human trafficking report Monday – a report that’s being met with some criticism. VOA’s National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more from the State Department.
Video

Video Washington DC Underground Streetcar Station to Become Arts Venue

Abandoned more than 50 years ago, the underground streetcar station in Washington D.C.’s historic DuPont Circle district is about to be reborn. The plan calls for turning the spacious underground platforms - once meant to be a transportation hub, - into a unique space for art exhibitions, presentations, concerts and even a film set. Roman Mamonov has more from beneath the streets of the U.S. capital. Joy Wagner narrates his report.
Video

Video Europe’s Twin Crises Collide in Greece as Migrant Numbers Soar

Greece has replaced Italy as the main gateway for migrants into Europe, with more than 100,000 arrivals in the first six months of 2015. Many want to move further into Europe and escape Greece’s economic crisis, but they face widespread dangers on the journey overland through the Balkans. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Stink Intensifies as Lebanon’s Trash Crisis Continues

After the closure of a major rubbish dump a week ago, the streets of Beirut are filling up with trash. Having failed to draw up a plan B, politicians are struggling to deal with the problem. John Owens has more for VOA from Beirut.
Video

Video Paris Rolls Out Blueprint to Fight Climate Change

A U.N. climate conference in December aims to produce an ambitious agreement to fight heat-trapping greenhouse gases. But many local governments are not waiting, and have drafted their own climate action plans. That’s the case with Paris — which is getting special attention, since it’s hosting the climate summit. Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at the transformation of the French capital into an eco-city.
Video

Video Racially Diverse Spider-Man Takes Center Stage

Whether it’s in a comic book or on the big screen, fans have always known the man behind the Spider-Man mask as Peter Parker. But that is changing, at least in the comic book world. Marvel Comics announced that a character called Miles Morales will replace Peter Parker as Spider-Man in a new comic book series. He is half Latino, half African American, and he is quite popular among comic book fans. Correspondent Elizabeth Lee reports from Los Angeles.
Video

Video Historic Symbol Is Theme of Vibrant New Show

A new exhibit in Washington is paying tribute to the American flag with a wide and eclectic selection of artwork that uses the historic symbol as its central theme. VOA’s Julie Taboh was at the DC Chamber of Commerce for the show’s opening.

VOA Blogs