The Year That Changed the World: The Untold Story Behind the Fall of the Berlin Wall

The Year That Changed the World: The Untold Story Behind the Fall of the Berlin Wall

by Michael Meyer
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The Year That Changed the World: The Untold Story Behind the Fall of the Berlin Wall by Michael Meyer

'Mr Gorbachev, tear down this wall!' This declamation by president Ronald Reagan when visiting Berlin in 1987 is widely cited as the clarion call that brought the Cold War to an end, The West had won, so this version of events goes, because the West had stood firm. American and westen European resoluteness had brought an evil empire to its knees.

Michael Meyer, in this extraordinarily compelling account of the revolutions that roiled Eastern Europe in 1989, begs to differ. Drawing together breathtakingly vivid, on the ground accounts of the rise of Solidarity in Poland, the stealth opening of the Hungarian border, the Velvet Revolution in Prague, and the collapse of the infamous wall in Berlin, Meyer shows that western intransigence was only one of the many factors that provoked such world-shaking change.

More important, Meyer contends, were the stands taken by individuals in the thick of the struggle, leaders such as poet and playwright Vaclav Havel in Prague, Lech Walesa, the quietl determined reform prime minister inBudapest Miklos Nemeth, and the manwho realized his empire was already lost and decided, with courageand intelligence, t let it goin peace, Soviet president Mikhail Gorbachev.

Michael Meyer captures these heady days in all their rich drama and unpredictability. In doing so he provides not just a thrilling chronicle of perhaps the most important year of the 20th century but also a crucial refutation of American mythology and a misunderstanding of history that was deliberately eployed to lead the United States into some of the intractable conflicts it faces today.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781416558484
Publisher: Scribner
Publication date: 04/07/2012
Pages: 272
Sales rank: 358,970
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.70(d)

About the Author

Michael Meyer is currently Director of Communications for the United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. Between 1988 and 1992, he was Newsweek's Bureau Chief for Germany, Central Europe and the Balkans, writing more than twenty cover stories on the break-up of communist Europe and German unification. He is the winner of two Overseas Press Club Awards and appears regularly as a commentator for MSNBC, CNN, Fox News, C-Span, NPR and other broadcast network. He previously worked at the Washington Post and Congressional Quarterly. He is the author of the Alexander Complex (Times Books, 1989), an examination of the psychology of American empire builders. He lives in New York City.

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Year that Changed the World: The Untold Story Behind the Fall of the Berlin Wall 3.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 13 reviews.
Barbu More than 1 year ago
I dream of a time when the author of a book starts his endeavor with a short paragraph about his ideological leanings. It would be a great service for the readers if they could begin the experience of reading without false hopes of unbiased analysis. This book needed such a disclaimer from the author, Michael Meyer. The fact that the author presents himself as a journalist does not diminish his ideological leaning towards left and his writing follows the slide without a second thought. In the first few pages Michael Meyer shows his distaste for America daring to claim credit for pushing Communism over the brink and celebrating the victory on behalf of liberal democracy and capitalism. The author evidently mourns the demise of Soviet Union, and as many of the Western's left intelligentsia, goes to great pains to deny the importance of Anglo-American alliance in pressuring the communist totalitarian system into the ground. Little it is said of the fact that Gorbachev, marred in Afghanistan and conscious of the weakness of his armed forces, had little choice but to let the communist satellites go. The fact that Russia was allowed to walk away from the long history of ethnic and ideological genocide it perpetuated on other people was not only unjust but a mistake. The Americans as well as Western Europe are great at providing forward looking plans but not so good at giving punishment for past crimes. Once Soviet Union was dismantled the millions of victims of living and breathing criminals and decisions makers were eradicated from the history. Moreover, shedding the Soviet Union liabilities, Russia has returned as the bully in the region - a danger not only to the little people but to the stability of European Union as well. Michael Meyer has a political ax to grind. At the beginning and at the end of the book he states that the triumphalism of the first President Bush administration in considering America as the victorious party has been the root for the second President Bush and the neo-cons belief that America can intervene to help a people free themselves from a totalitarian regime. In the epilogue Meyer contrasts Carter's presidential library, "a sober and respected center for scholarly research," to first President Bush presidential library which felt like a "huckster's carnival." (Meyer, p. 211) Evidently, Meyer would have preferred Carter's vision of the world to prevail and the totalitarian communist system, albeit in a softer and more benevolent image, survive. Throughout the book there is a feeling of regret that the unabashed and forceful anti-communism, pro-capitalism of Reagan and Thatcher prevailed. As with many leftist intellectuals in the West, the author feels betrayed by those pesky East Europeans who wanted to consume and to travel instead of being thankful of their uncomplicated and pre-ordained lives. I recommend reading the book if you keep handy some other books on the subject and the other authors are not of the same political persuasion as Mr. Meyer. Reading only this one book, you are left with the impression that a great loss for humanity happened 20 years ago when the illusion of successful social engineering was shattered by the subjects of the experiment through revolution.
Doppelganger More than 1 year ago
This book tells the story of the events that led to the fall of the Berlin Wall and the communist regimes in Eastern Europe in 1989. It's a very compelling and engaging book, written by a journalist who was in the thick of the action and interviewed the protagonists of those changes when they were happening. As a European, I can say that Mr. Mayer's book brings back memories of hours spent in front of the TV watching those events unfolding. More importantly, this book gives credits for the change to those who actually deserve them. First and foremost, to Gorbachev, who declared that the USSR would not intervene in the internal affairs of its satellite Countries anymore. No more Hungary 1956, no more Czechoslovakia 1968. This commitment removed the Soviet protection to the communist regimes and encouraged reforms or revolutions in all the Countries of the Eastern block. Many Americans will not like this book because it dispels the propagandist myth that ascribes mostly to Pres. Reagan, but also to Pres. Bush Sr. the merit for this change. When Reagan said his famous line - "Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this Wall" - Gorbachev had already sparkled the change. Reagan's great merit is that he finally understood that Gorbachev was not the enemy, but a possible partner in peace. He stopped confronting him, and engaged him in peace talks. Bush administration was slower in recognizing the change, mainly because of people like Cheney, Rice, Wolfowitz (yes, they were already screwing things up with Bush Sr.) that, as we saw under Bush Jr., were unable to understand the world. It's only when Bush finally stopped listening to them that he started working to support the change happening in Europe. America played an important role in what happened in 1989, but not the primary role. The change was brought about by people who were tired of living under regimes that were sucking the life out of them.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I received this book as a gift and had high hopes. These hopes were dashed quickly when Mr. Meyer revealed that the editors of Newsweek were to be thanked for helping him. So disappointing. Naturally Reagan stumbled through his presidency. Naturally he laid the groundwork for the inept Bush I and II. No, he had nothing to do with the collapse of Communism. It was an accident!
Dag-Stomberg-Scotland More than 1 year ago
This was one book waiting to be written and published. Michael Meyer, formally Newsweek magazine bureau chief for Germany, Central Europe and the Balkans between 1988 and 1992 has written a scrupulous and honest book utterly without illusions... the events that led to the fall of the Berlin Wall and collapse of the USSR are documented in a very readable prose. THE YEAR THAT CHANGED THE WORLD is a must read, helping us to interpret the past, but also our understanding of our future and for the generations to come! Dag Stomberg, St. Andrews, Scotland
SFlibres More than 1 year ago
I was old enough to know that something momentous was occurring during the fall of the Berlin Wall and the break up of the Soviet Bloc, but not quite able to piece it all together. Growing up during the Cold War, when the bad guys in movies and even cartoons always had Russian accents, I couldn't believe the threat we feared for so many years was finally falling apart. Mr Meyer was in a unique and fortuitous position as the bureau chief assigned to the East Bloc countries for Newsweek during these years. He does a beautiful job of explaining just how this all came to pass, making it an understandable but fascinating read. A history book that's hard to put down??!!! The Velvet Revolution, Vaclav Havel, Lech Walesa, glasnost- Mr Meyer witnessed it all. He makes a strong case that the US and Ronald Reagan did not have the huge role in bringing about these remarkable events that we Americans have always thought. Many internal forces and individual personalities helped change the world as we knew it, and we Americans didn't even see it coming. Truly an eye opening, exciting book about events we all should understand, as it affected our nation in ways that led us into the war in Iraq today.....
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
You are an amazing author it doesnt need to be shorter if you ask me and its much better than i could do. To all of the people who said it needs to be longer there is a series.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A good start, but lengthening it would be good...
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Hiya Frost! Your story was good, with the slight exception of a few grammatical errors and-- VERY IMPORTANT-- tense shifts. You should try to either stay in present tense or past tense. Aside from that, great job!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Not th story, but rather the fact that that was basically the exact same beginning of a story i working on in rl. Its good, but my loss.
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PFlentov More than 1 year ago
As someone who followed the fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of Communism in Eastern Europe in 1989, I was fascinated by the real story about the events that led up to these events. I was surprised to read about the pivotal and deliberate role played by Miklos Nemeth, the reform-minded Communist Prime Minister of Hungary and his inner circle in engineering the fall of the wall. They inherited a country on the verge of economic collapse, and decided that rapid liberalization and re-alignment with the West was the only way forward for Hungary. They saw the fall of the Berlin Wall as an important and symbolic step towards their goals; that is why the Iron Curtain was first breached in Hungary when Nemeth and senior Politburo member Imre Pozsgay covertly worked with the West German government to engineer a mass exodus of East Germans through the Hungary-Austria border. Nemeth and Pozsgay wanted Hungary to be the first Communist country to align itself with the West, thus giving their economy a boost in foreign investment. Hungary was also instrumental in the fall of Ceausescu in Romania. The book is gripping and informative, reading like a Le Carre novel. Nemeth, Pozsgay,and others like Istvan Horvath and Gyula Kovacs would have been deserved winners of the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize, for without them it is doubtful that Communism in Central Europe would have fallen is 1989.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago