Originally published 01/15/2014
There never was a dull moment in 1989 for fans of democracy and popular protest, twenty-five years ago.
Originally published 08/07/2013
In the spring of 2008 I attended a talk at the German Historical Institute given by Bärbel Bohley, one of the leaders of the democratic opposition in East Germany (DDR) in the late 1980s. Her talk was part of a series of reflections on the end of the Communist regime in the DDR in 1989 and the reunification of Germany that took place the following year. Many in the audience, me included, were surprised at Bohley’s bitterness over the results of Germany’s reunification after more than six decades of division.Instead of telling us why it had been a good thing that the fall of the old regime had led to reunification, Bohley argued that reunification had destroyed a nascent and in her view, authentically democratic political culture that was in the first stages of development in the DDR in the months that led up to the fall of the Berlin Wall. As one of the founders of the Neues Forum, the main opposition group in the DDR in 1989, Bohley played a key role both in bringing down the old regime and in trying to shepard that nascent political culture from an inchohate protest to a way of living and governing.
Originally published 06/21/2013
Gyula Horn, a former leader of Hungary who in 1989 literally ripped a hole in the Iron Curtain, helping to set off months of tumultuous change in which Communist governments in Eastern Europe fell one after the other, died Wednesday in Budapest. He was 80.The Hungarian government announced the death. He had been hospitalized since 2007 with what was reported to be a brain malfunction.Mr. Horn’s life encompassed much of the history of 20th-century Hungary. His father, a Communist, was executed by the Nazis occupying Hungary in 1944. Gyula (pronounced JOO-la) also became a hard-line Communist, serving in militia units that hunted down government opponents during their revolt in 1956. The rebels lynched his brother, also a Communist.As foreign minister, as Moscow’s grip on Eastern Europe slipped, Mr. Horn proved nimble as a newly minted, nonideological, pragmatic reformer in helping to lead Hungary away from Communism. Elected prime minister as a Socialist in 1994, he angered Hungarians by cutting social programs to stanch raging inflation....
Originally published 01/18/2013
BEIJING — Gen. Yang Baibing, a military strongman who carried out the violent suppression of student-led protests in Tiananmen Square in 1989 and was later purged because of fears that he was accruing too much power, died here on Tuesday. He was 93.His death was reported by the official Xinhua news agency. A statement issued by the party’s Central Committee provided the sort of terse homage typically reserved for a disgraced political figure, saying, “He was a seasoned loyal Communist fighter and a proletarian revolutionist.”
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