To mark the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin wall we’ve made several articles from Prospect’s archive free to read online.
For an overview of the complex cross-currents that fed into the collapse of the Soviet Union see historian Victor Sebestyen’s profile of its last leader, Mikhail Gorbachev, in “The accidental hero of 1989”. A man of huge and fascinating contradictions, Gorbachev, and his particular form of communism, played a far greater role in the end of the USSR than the western powers of the time may have cared to admit. And while he is revered in the west as a hero, this reputation is based on failure: his failure to reform the system he passionately believed in.
The political legacy of anti-communism is examined in “How we got the Soviets wrong,” in which former Sunday Telegraph editor Peregrine Worsthorne considers why he, and so many others, overestimated the attractiveness of Marxism. Worsthorne argues that America’s anti-communist foreign policy was just as dangerous a threat to international relations as communism itself.
Meanwhile Anne McElvoy has gone back to Berlin, 20 years after she first reported from the city as a young journalist. Talking to a variety of individuals who worked for and against the GDR, she asks what they make of the East German legacy today.
And for an alternative take, read Ben Lewis’ “Hammer and Tickle,” about the comedy of communism. Lewis argues against the widely-accepted view that communist jokes were a form of resistance; instead, they worked as a safety valve for the regimes. Even Stalin told some good ones, apparently.
Read David Goodhart’s recollections on being in Berlin when the wall came down