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21 September 2014


  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.

September 17, 2014
Returning to Putorana
Returning to Putorana
By Ivan Kobilyakov

We asked Ivan Kobilyakov, whose story on filming wild wolves in Putorana appeared in the Sep/Oct 2014 issue of Russian Life, to give us an update on the project and how filming has gone this summer. He also supplied new photos.

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Tags: nature, siberia
September 15, 2014
A Soviet Leader in the US? Preposterous!
A Soviet Leader in the US? Preposterous!
By Eugenia Sokolskaya

When you're a Soviet dictator, it's rare that you get the chance to tour the US, visiting movie sets, meat freezers, and steel mills, being featured on TV, and laughing at angry farmers. Nikita Khrushchev got that chance 55 years ago. And he made the most of it.

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Tags: eisenhower, khrushchev, united states
September 1, 2014
For Better or Worse
For Better or Worse
By Paul E. Richardson

What with downed passenger airlines, war in Ukraine, trade embargos and rapidly worsening US-Russian relations, why in the world is there a picture of a giraffe on the cover of Russian Life magazine? 

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Tags: war, Ukraine, animals
September 1, 2014
The Many Days of September 1
The Many Days of September 1
By Eugenia Sokolskaya

Did you know September 1 is more than just Labor Day? Read on to find out how Russians celebrate September 1, the Day of Knowledge, the first day of school.

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Tags: education, school, russia, holidays
August 14, 2014
1741: The Year Russia Discovered America
1741: The Year Russia Discovered America
By Eugenia Sokolskaya

You probably know that Alaska was bought from Russia well over 100 years ago. But do you know how Russia came to lay claim to the territory in the first place? Hint: they were after furs.

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Tags: russia, united states, alaska, colonization