The Fall of the Berlin Wall: The Revolutionary Legacy of 1989

The Fall of the Berlin Wall: The Revolutionary Legacy of 1989

The Fall of the Berlin Wall: The Revolutionary Legacy of 1989

The Fall of the Berlin Wall: The Revolutionary Legacy of 1989


The fall of the Berlin Wall sent shock waves around the world. It was, quite literally, a world-changing event. Now, more than two decades after the Wall's collapse, this book brings together leading authorities who offer a fresh look at how leaders in four vital centers of world politics--the United States, the Soviet Union, Europe, and China--viewed the world in the aftermath of this momentous event. Jeffrey Engel contributes a chronological narrative of this tumultuous period, followed by substantive essays by Melvyn Leffler on the United States, Chen Jian on China, James Sheehan on Germany and Europe, and William Taubman and Svetlana Savranskaya on the Soviet Union. These historians reinterpret the meaning of 1989 in the context of global history in the late 20th and early 21st century and explore such questions as why communism failed in Europe, why China took a different route following the turmoil of Tiananmen Square, and why the peace of 1989 might well prove illusory.


The world changed in 1989.

At the start of the year, the globe’s strategic map looked much like it had since the end of World War II. Communist leaders in China and the Soviet Union held power. Their American counterparts, skeptical of the sincerity of recent calls for change throughout the Communist world, prepared for a reinvigorated Cold War of unknown duration and ferocity. Europe prepared for another year divided along fault lines imposed by conquering armies nearly a half-century before.

A year later, communism would be dead in Eastern Europe and dying in the Soviet Union itself. China would be once more in the grip of hard-liners wary of reform, and once more on the precipice of isolation. Washington would be looking to capitalize on its Cold War victory. Europe would soon be rejoined. The future—our twenty-first-century present—would be at hand. And no one had seen it coming.

This book recalls the heady days of 1989 and explains how leaders in the world’s four principal strategic centers—Europe, the Soviet bloc, China, and the United States—viewed the reforms and protests that swirled around them and considered the revolutions and suppressions they witnessed, fostered, and even fell victim to. It explores how policymakers in each thought the end of the long-running Cold War, which had marked their entire adult lives, would affect their nations and the world. Ultimately, it reveals how global leaders yearned . . .

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