Monday, November 09, 2009


With the anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall (metaphorical fall, the Germans are quite good at engineering), the commemorations are portraying it as the trigger for the fall of communism. However the event occurred about two weeks after the Hungarian government authorised multiparty elections, so I wonder whether undue significance has been placed on the Berlin Wall because of it's obvious symbolism.

I remember at the end of 1989 the news seemed to be coming from a different Eastern European capital each week as one by one the old regimes fell like dominos. The Romanian revolution was probably the most dramatic although not as I remember for the events which seem most significant in hindsight- the Ceaucescus on the balcony and their later execution- but for the brief civil war that occurred between the army and the secret police. The Western reporters would be on the streets filming the Army when shots would be fired from a tower by secret police snipers and everyone would react but the snipers would have disappeared by the time the army got there.


Mark Wadsworth said...

Correct. The fall of the Soviet Empire started in Poland many years before that, and the 'fall' of the Berlin Wall is remembered best because of the symbolism.

Edwin Greenwood said...

Nice title.

Blognor Regis said...

I wonder whether undue significance has been placed on the Berlin Wall because of its obvious symbolism.

Of course. But what a symbol. A bloody great wall right through the middle of a great* city. Capitalism and Socialism toe-to-toe. The blood of Peter Fechter and over a hundred others running down the concrete. Dig runs. Automatic machines guns. The Stasi. The evil brutality of socialism writ large. Kennedy, Reagan or David Bowie wouldn't have been so potent stood in a Saxon field with a wire backdrop.

*Great in an imperial sense if not a population and industrial might one.

Matthew said...

The shooting of Ceaucescus was Christmas day, wasn't it? I can remember where I was Kennedy style as it was after lunch.

I stayed in the intercontinental in Bucharest this year, which being skyscraper was apparently the place to watch the unfolding drama. Lovely city, has the most comically decrepit 'old' centre and lots of communist architecture but the outskirts look much like anywhere else.

Blognor Regis said...

Heady days though.

Like Ross says, it seemed like a rolling wave of freedom. One week Budapest was the centre of the action, with the "holidaymakers" driving their Trabis into Austria of taking refuge in the West German Embassy; the human chain through the Baltic states; then Leipzig; then Berlin; then candlelit vigils in Wenceslas Square in Prague; Vaclav Havel' rumours coming into Belgrade from Timisoara of discontent in Romania before the final, triumphant, eruption of the Caucescues being heckled in front of the palace in Bucharest followed by the Christmas Day battles.

Then followed bit of consolidation for the re-unification of Germany before the Baltics rose, Yelstin faced the Soviet tanks outside of the White House and then the Evil Empire collapsed.

Wonderful times.

Blognor Regis said...

Great that Lech Walesa is pushing over the first domino tonight, BTW.

(My dad's peeked over the great man's hedge!)

Ross said...

Matthew- did you see the massive ugly and unfinished palace of the Ceaucescus while you were there?

The execution was on Christmas day which just shows the lengths some people will go to in order to avoid buying a present.

Mark-something which made all the mass protests all the more impressive was that it had only been a few months earlier that the Tianamenn Square massacre had occurred- so as far as they knew they really were putting their lives on the line by signalling their desire for freedom.

Blognor Regis said...

That had slipped my mind.

Did you watch this the other night?

Excellent programme.

The protest organiser from Leipzig when he asked to be asked about his Christian conscience cited Tianamen Square as being a major concern.

Ross said...

I haven't seen it, but now you've pointed it out I will watch sometime this week.

Mr Grumpy said...

It didn't take much physical toppling, actually. The DDR wasn't much good at engineering or anything else, hence of course the need for the wall.

Ross said...

"The DDR wasn't much good at engineering or anything else"

True emough, although East Germany was probably the most industrially advanced of the Warsaw Pact countries.