at the Brandenburg Gate in the western part of Berlin on June 12, 1987, US
President Ronald Reagan made a historic statement: "Behind me stands a wall
that encircles the free sectors of this city, part of a vast system of barriers
that divides the entire continent of Europe … Standing before the Brandenburg
Gate, every man is a German, separated from his fellow men. … As long as this
gate is closed, as long as this scar of a wall is permitted to stand, it is not
the German question alone that remains open, but the question of freedom for
all mankind …
Secretary Gorbachev, if you seek peace, if you seek prosperity for the Soviet
Union and Eastern Europe, if you seek liberalisation, come here to this
gate. Mr Gorbachev, open this gate! Mr Gorbachev, tear down this
years after President Reagan's passionate speech, the Berlin Wall collapsed. On
November 9, 1989, thousands of people from East Berlin forced the East German
security forces to let them cross the wall, leading to the ultimate collapse of
the Warsaw Pact.
OF THE WALL
the end of World War II, the defeated Germany was split into four "Allied
Occupation Zones" through the Allied peace conferences at Yalta and Potsdam.
The eastern part of the country came under the control of the Soviet Union,
while the western part went to the US, Great Britain and France. Even though
Berlin was located entirely within the Soviet part of the country (about 100
miles from the border between the eastern and western occupation zones), the
Yalta and Potsdam agreements split the city into similar sectors.
Berlin Wall was erected in August 1961 by the German Democratic Republic (GDR) - the pro-Soviet East German government - to prevent the escape of East
Berliners to West Berlin, though the official purpose of the wall was to keep
Western "fascists" from entering East Germany and undermining the socialist
state. Earlier, the wall only covered the divided city of Berlin, but later it
was extended to a dividing line between East and West Germany. It covered a
length of 155 kilometres in the form of a concrete wall and fence.
longest segment of the Berlin Wall still standing is now an open-air series of
murals called 'East Side Gallery'
this symbol of tyranny, oppression and division of East and West Germany by
force, failed to deter those who wanted to cross it and escape to the western
part of Berlin. Between 1961 and 1989, around 150 people who tried to cross the
wall were killed by the East German security forces. Tunnels were also dug from
East Berlin to help people attempting to escape communist rule.
years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, we can analyse how the world changed
as a result of this singular event that resulted in the reunification of
Germany, the collapse of the Warsaw Pact, the Soviet disintegration and an end
to the Cold War. A process of change was set in motion in Europe and throughout
the fall of the Berlin Wall failed to have any meaningful impact on some
countries where walls have been built, or are being built, to prevent
cross-border movement in the name of national security. India constructed a
wall/fence along its border with Pakistan all the way from the Rann of Kutch to
the Line of Control (LoC) in Kashmir, while Pakistan built a wall on its border
with Afghanistan. US President Donald Trump is determined to construct a wall
along the US borders with Mexico in order to prevent illegal migrants. Israel
has built a wall in the occupied West Bank in order to separate Jewish
settlements from the Palestinian population. The need for protecting borders
from terrorists, smugglers, the illegal influx of people and national security
have led to policies which focus on dividing instead of uniting people across
would not be wrong to say that walls reflect an insecure mindset, based on
mistrust, suspicion and paranoia. From 1961 till 1989, as the Berlin Wall
became a symbol of suppression and denial of freedom to the people of East
Germany, West Berlin became a symbol of defiance and resistance against the
communist order during the Cold War.
LED TO THE FALL OF THE WALL?
the late 1980s, Gorbachev's policy of reforms to liberalise communism - such as
Perestroika and Glasnost - gave an impetus to popular sentiments in the GDR for
tearing down the wall. At the same time, Erich Honecker, secretary general of
the German Socialist Unity Party (1971–1989), was forced to quit when he failed
to suppress the rising tide of democracy in East Germany. On August 23, 1989,
two million people of Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania formed a 675.5 kilometres
long 'human chain' demanding freedom from the Soviet Union. Moscow did not
prevent the massive popular defiance because, by that time, Moscow had given up
the Brezhnev Doctrine of November 1968, which warned of Soviet intervention in
case of reformist movement in any communist country.
President Ronald Reagan gives a historic address in front of the Brandenburg
Gate in Berlin, June 1987 | Deutsche Welle
1989, the crumbling economy of the then USSR and the strengthening of a
pro-reform lobby, led by Secretary General Mikhail Gorbachev in the ruling
Soviet Communist Party, gave a clear message to the forces of democracy and
change in the Warsaw Pact countries, including the GDR, that state retaliation
in the wake of popular uprising was not possible, unlike the crushing of
popular revolts of 1956 in Hungary and 1968 in Czechoslovakia.
worker's movement in Poland called Solidarity - launched under Lech Walesa - had been crushed by the military, and martial law had been imposed by General
Jaruzelski on December 13, 1981. But under popular pressure, Solidarity was
also later legalised by the Polish regime and it won multi-party elections in
OF THE FALL OF THE WALL
fall of the Berlin Wall and its implications in today's world need to be
analysed from three angles. First, the defeat of undemocratic and authoritarian
regimes, that sustained brutal systems of oppression, received an impetus with
the dismantling of the Berlin Wall. But, even after the passage of three
decades, it seems that democracy, tolerance and multiculturalism have not been
able to take root in former communist societies. In former GDR, the surge of
right-wing ultra-nationalism and neo-Nazism is a dangerous sign and a major
threat to German democracy.
2013, the far-right political party Alternative for Germany (AfD) emerged as a
cogent political force with an agenda focusing on anti-migration rhetoric, and
a sizeable electoral strength in the former GDR.
Warsaw Pact members, such as Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary and Poland,
despite being members of the European Union, refused to accept migrants
according to the standards set by the European Union (EU). In all the four
countries one can observe a surge of right-wing and xenophobic groups who are
intolerant to non-white immigrants, particularly Muslims. This means that
despite the collapse of the communist regimes of Eastern Europe, the mindset of
those in the opposition and in the government has not changed because
transformation from authoritarian to a democratic political culture takes time.
On the positive side, on August 24 this year, thousands of people marched in
the East German city of Dresden to express their opposition to the AfD.
Demonstrators raised slogans against the neo-Nazis and right-wing extremists.
group of builders fill the cracks in the newly installed concrete segments of
the Wall. Border patrol monitors the construction, while a US military
policeman watches from the West | Deutsche Welle
the collapse of the Berlin Wall and German reunification gave a thrust to the
process of European integration. Without united Germany, it would have been
difficult to transform the European Economic Community (EEC) into EU. The
elimination of restrictions on the free movement of people, goods, services and
capital in the EU only became possible when Germany emerged as an economic
powerhouse of Europe. Germany was officially united as a single state on
October 3, 1990, a year after the fall of the Berlin Wall. During this time,
the West German Chancellor Helmut Kohl held crucial negotiations with Mikhail
Gorbachev, the Soviet president and secretary general of the Soviet Communist
Party, the French President Francois Mitterrand and the Polish President
Mazowiecki for their support for the reunification of Germany. Without the
endorsement of Moscow, Warsaw and Paris, it would have been impossible for the
West German leadership to give a final shape to the reunification of East and
West Germany. The US President George H. Bush also rendered his country's
support to reunify Germany.
the post-reunification period, France and Germany have emerged as pivotal
states of European Union, as their unity has so far worked to keep EU together
against all odds. The transformation of EEC to EU on November 1, 1993,
according to the historical Maastricht Treaty, was only possible because of the
collapse of Berlin Wall. The expansion of the EU, from 12 members in November
1993 to 27 in 2019, has much to do with the reunification of Germany, the
collapse of the Warsaw Pact and Franco-German unity.
the euphoria which existed in Germany after the collapse of the Berlin Wall and
reunification disappeared with the passage of time. Despite the German
government's investment of around 100 billion euros to end economic and
infrastructure asymmetry between the eastern and western parts of the country,
feelings of uneven economic development and wages still prevail over the former
June 30, 2019, Herbert Knosowski from the Reuters news agency reported that
Frauke Hildebrandt, a member of the centre-left Social Democratic Party of Germany
(SPD) and professor of early childhood education at the University of Applied
Sciences in Potsdam, suggested that an employment quota should be introduced
for the residents of East Germany. A study by the German Centre for Integration
and Migration Research in April shows that more than 50 percent of East Germans
polled said they backed the proposal. In March this year, the SPD introduced a
motion in the Bundestag (German parliament) calling for an East German quota,
arguing that the German constitution mandates proportionate representation of
civil servants from all states.
is often argued by the supporters of the reunification that a sense of
deprivation in the former GDR is exaggerated, because German Chancellor Angela
Merkel is from the former East Germany and the level of development in that
part of the country in the last 30 years is unprecedented. Even then, the AfD
has been able to take advantage of the frustration and anger, particularly
among the youth of the eastern part of Germany, to emerge as a major political
force - taking 25.5 percent and 19.9 percent of votes in Saxony and Brandenburg
in the European parliament elections held in May this year.
to a 2016 study, "Who Rules the East?" compiled by the Dusseldorf-based Hans
Bocker Foundation, while East Germans constitute about 17 percent of the
population nationwide, they hold only 1.7 percent of the top jobs. In the areas
of the former GDR, 87 percent of people are East German but they only fill 23
percent of high-level positions such as judges, generals, presidents of
universities, CEOs and editors-in-chief among others. Of some 200 generals and
admirals in the military, for example, only two are East German while there are
no East German university presidents anywhere in the country.
E. Gropp, president of the Halle Institute for Economic Research, in Halle, an
East German town states: "A lot of us thought, admittedly somewhat naively,
that people between 30 and 50 - the generation that was already working during
reunification - would be affected. But that was a mistake. The effects are
transferred through generations and we still see it today."
the quality of life in the GDR was quite low compared to their counterparts in
the Federal Republic of Germany, the state was responsible for providing jobs,
housing, health facilities and public transport to citizens of East Germany.
After the reunification, they lost all such facilities as state enterprises
were replaced by a capitalistic economy.
the world has not significantly changed after the collapse of the Berlin Wall,
at least Europe has been transformed with free connectivity, and minimum travel
and trade restrictions. The Franco-German and German-Polish borders, hard to
cross freely during the Cold War, are now a thing of the past as every year
millions of people cross these borders without passing through security
checkposts and stringent visa controls. Even the sneaking in of more than one
million migrants in Europe in the autumn and winter of 2015 has not led to the
transformation of soft borders to hard ones. Populists and right-wing political
parties and groups in Germany and other EU countries demanded the imposition of
strict border controls in order to prevent further influx of migrants but,
despite their demand, the EU borders are generally open.
fall of the Berlin Wall emerges as a source of inspiration for those who are
living under severe restrictions that deprive them of basic freedom. The
unification of Jammu and Kashmir has been a long-standing demand of the
beleaguered people of that unfortunate territory partitioned since August 1947.
But the disappearance of the LoC that separates the people of Jammu and Kashmir
and the connectivity of people from both sides is yet to be seen. Like the
Germans, Kashmiris living on both sides of the LoC must decide their future and
tear down the wall. After decades of suffering, they deserve a better future.