July 20, 2024
It fell 30 years ago; freedom has yet to win the twilight battle.
A man hammers a section of the Berlin Wall near the Brandenburg Gate, November 9, 1989.
A man hammers a section of the Berlin Wall near the Brandenburg Gate, November 9, 1989.

This year has seen many important anniversaries — the 75th of D-Day, the 70th of the establishment of NATO, the 50th of the first landing of men on the moon, and the 20th of the Senate trial of the impeached President Bill Clinton. Nine days into November will mark the 30th anniversary of the opening of the Berlin Wall, an event that confirmed the collapse of Communism in Eastern Europe and heralded the eventual end of the Cold War.

By the time the Wall came down, the Communists had already lost their grip on Poland and Hungary. Before 1989 was out, Soviet-style regimes would surrender power in East Germany, Czechoslovakia, Romania, and Bulgaria. Within the next couple of years, Yugoslavia and the Soviet Union itself would throw over their Communist leaders and break up along the lines of nationality, yielding more than a dozen new sovereign states in eastern and southern Europe, the trans-Caucasus, and Central Asia.

For those who had lived much of their lives since the Second World War in a bipolar global configuration, and under the constant threat of “mutually assured destruction” in a nuclear holocaust, the fall of the Wall was an event they never expected to see. Both sides had long made clear their intention to give no ground along it, after all, and their armed forces glared at each other in high states of readiness day in, day out, around the clock, across its crude divide.

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