I vaguely remember watching news about the fall of the Berlin Wall which divided Germany into two countries, one communist, and the other capitalist. I was only 10 years old and knew it was important, but didn’t know that much about why it came down. “The Year That Changed The World” by Michael Meyer is a great lesson in history. As a reporter covering the area for many years he got to see the domino effect of how the end came to be.
The drama unfolds through accounts of leaders and revolutionaries such as Egon Krenz who helped overthrow East German leader Erich Honecker, Miklos Nemeth the prime minister working for reform in Hungary, Vaclav Havel the outspoken playwright and future president of Czechoslovakia, and the fall of the terrifying and out of touch Ceausescus of Romania.
Along with other historical figures he brings to life the struggle of the heroes and the mistakes of the ruling party who changed Eastern Europe politics. I especially liked his take on USSR leader Mikhael Gorbachev as someone who believed in communism, but knew it needed changes. Gorbachevs stance never seems quite clear to his comrades, but his actions seem to show how at odds they were with what communism had built. I also enjoyed reading about the exodus the citizens of East Germany took after Hungary opened a whole in the wall, well really a fence, allowing movement out of the Eastern Bloc.
It’s a fascinating look at history that I highly recommend.
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