Now for a limited time: FREE GIFT to New Subscribers!       
May/June 2015 Current Moscow Time: 12:56:51
27 April 2015


  The world’s biggest country, in a magazine. Since 1956.

Saturday, December 18, 1999

The Walls Came Tumbling Down!

by Linda DeLaine
The Walls Came Tumbling Down!

Over ten years ago (Nov. 9, 1989), the wall came tumbling down. As a baby boomer, I grew up with bomb shelters, weekly bomb attack drills in school and the deeply embedded impression that they could destroy us at any moment. Who was they? They were the Communist nations of the world, especially the Soviet Union and East Germany.

At the end of WWII, the allies divided up their spoils. The U.S., British and French sections of Germany became known as the Federal Republic of Germany or West Germany. The Soviet sector became the Communist Germany Democratic Republic or East Germany. These two sections were separated by a wall, in 1961. The wall had various check points manned by soldiers. Passage from one side of the wall to the other was, generally speaking, prohibited. The Berlin Wall divided families and separated friends; much as the fears and distrust of the Cold War divided the world into them (Communists) and us (the West).

On November 9, 1989, the wall came down. It happened so suddenly that the only American TV news reporter on the scene was NBC's Tom Brokaw (go to report). I remember watching the emotional scene on TV and feeling like I was watching a movie, not live news. The Wall had become a given in our world and the significance of its destruction was almost too much to grasp.

The tangible wall was not the only thing to come down. With it, went the Iron Curtain; a non-tangible wall which kept the Soviet Union closed off and separated from Europe and the rest of the world. This event marked the beginning of Russia's transformation to democracy, movement towards the sovereignty of the former Soviet States and the official end of the Cold War.

It may be no mistake that the fall of the Wall occurred around the same time as the anniversary of the October Revolution in Russia (November 7, 1917). The 1917 event ushered in the Soviet era; the 1989 event ended it. Ironically, both events had to do with the peoples' resistance against oppression.

The leaders and key players, in 1989, were U.S. President George H.W. Bush, German Chancellor Helmut Kohl and Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev, who received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1990. Ironically, it was Gorbachev's economic and political reforms, known as Perestroika (1986), that set the wheels of international events in motion. While we watched in amazement as the Soviet Union gradually became more open, Perestroika was a very controversial issue inside the Soviet Union. Ultimately, another wall came down. The August 19, 1991 Coup marked the beginning of the end of the Soviet Union and the eventual election of Boris Yeltsin as the first president of the Russian Federation, the establishment of a parliamentary form of government and adoption of a constitution.

Bush, Gorbachev and Kohl are honored on the tenth anniversary of end of the wall, in Berlin; but, note that the goal of a free and unified Europe is yet to be completely realized. Russia's distrust of NATO, the ongoing conflict in Chechyna, the deadlock between the U.S. and Russia regarding the ABM Treaty/START, and Russia's economic problems are of great concern.

There is much to be done, regarding the West's relations with Russia. This each anniversary of the fall of the Wall, Iron Curtain and end of the Cold War reminds us of where we have been and the progress that has been made.

April 17, 2015
How Well Do You Know Russian Fairy Tale Characters?
How Well Do You Know Russian Fairy Tale Characters?
By Eugenia Sokolskaya

Sure, everyone knows the name Baba Yaga. But do you know where she lives? Do you know Koschey the Immortal, or Zmey Gorynych? How well do you know the spirits of the forest? Read up on these key characters of Russian fairy tales!

Read More
Tags: fairy tales
March 28, 2015
Smoktunovsky: Portrait of an Actor
Smoktunovsky: Portrait of an Actor
By Eugenia Sokolskaya

A generation of Soviets grew up seeing the face of actor Innokenty Smoktunovsky in his varied roles, both on screen and on stage. But what was his actual life like? In this snippet, he gives a taste of the trials he underwent as a soldier fighting the Nazis.

Read More
Tags: world war ii, smoktunovsky, memoir
March 8, 2015
International Women's Day: A Look Back
International Women's Day: A Look Back
By Eugenia Sokolskaya

Tired of having to do Valentine's Day and Mother's Day separately? Try it the Russian way and combine them into International Women's Day! A closer look at this convenient holiday's socialist origins and not-so-socialist present form.

Read More
Tags: russia, holiday, women, socialism
March 2, 2015
Dizzy with "Success": The Horrors of Collectivization
Dizzy with "Success": The Horrors of Collectivization
By Eugenia Sokolskaya

Collectivization in the Soviet Union was a time of hunger, suffering, and massive death tolls – even as the papers proclaimed phenomenal success. One former peasant's memoirs give us a window on that terrible time.

Read More
Tags: soviet union, collectivization, stalin, dekulakization
February 28, 2015
Boris Nemtsov
Boris Nemtsov
By Paul E. Richardson

On Friday night, just steps from St. Basil's Cathedral, one of the bravest and most vocal opponents of the Kremlin was gunned down by unknown assailants. How are Russians reacting?

Read More
Tags: politics, Kremlin, Putin, murder
February 23, 2015
Decoding Leviathan
Decoding Leviathan
By Diana Bruk

Leviathan is not, as virtually every mainstream critic has presumed, “anti-Russian.” I watched the movie resolutely prepared to intensely dislike it. I fully believed it would shamelessly pander to an American public eager to see a film that demonized Putin and made the country seem like a hellish landscape of unsalvageable bleakness. But that was not at all the case. 

Read More
Tags: leviathan, film, oscars, zvyagintsev