Most people know that the storming of the Bastille triggered the French Revolution, the assassination of Austria’s Archduke Ferdinand in Sarajevo triggered World War I, and the fall of the Berlin Wall on Nov. 9, 1989, exactly 30 years ago, triggered the collapse of communism in Europe, ending the Cold War division of the continent and the world. But to understand any of those events requires a knowledge of what came before and what came after, and in the case of the Wall, an event of the past that continues to influence the present, that context is essential. The collapse of the Soviet-imposed communist system in half of Europe cannot be reduced to a singular event on a single day, however spectacular it was. The iconic images of East and West Germans climbing up on the Berlin Wall and hammering away at the hated structure are so powerful that they have overshadowed the other dramas of 1989 that made that moment possible. They also fail to account for where this event fits into the larger narrative of the convulsions of that era. The destruction of the Soviet empire in Eastern Europe began earlier that year in Poland and Hungary, and… Read full this story
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