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Stories related to the Berlin Wall

19/11/2014

Following on from my previous post here is a list of stories somewhat related to the Berlin Wall and its era in the wake of the recent 25th anniversary.

1. I have been reading In times of fading light by Eugen Ruge. The book is a story featuring four generations of East Germans living through different eras of the regime and its ultimate demise. It is a really a story about identity and how we define ourselves and our sense of being by contrasting against philosophies, ideas which we reject. In this spirit In times of fading light charts Alexander’s (Sasha’s) teenage angst turning to rebellion and a desire to move west after feeling constrained by his socially conservative and stultifying parents who are dedicated people of the system (his father Kurt is an official historian for the GDR). The generational clash is apparent when the hippy Sasha brings his vegetarian girlfriend to Christmas. I wouldn’t highly recommend this one as I have actually found it a bit disjointed and not really offered great insights into the historical era in question.

2. Foreign Affairs has an excellent essay by Andrei Schleifer and Daniel Treisman, two economists who outline the many ways in which the post socialist transition in former Soviet states has brought about a significant improvement in quality of life. This ranges from levels of democratic accountability to cellphone subscriptions (now higher than the west) and consumption of fruits and vegetables (Ukrainians ate 58% more vegetables and 47% more fruit in 2011 than 20 years earlier). Remarkably, in notoriously heaving drinking Eastern Europe, Schleifer and Treisman note:

Average alcohol consumption inched downward, too, from 2.1 gallons of pure alcohol a year in 1990 to 2.0 gallons in 2010. There have been exceptions: drinking rates rose in Russia and the Baltic states. But even Russia’s 2010 average of 2.9 gallons was lower than that of Austria, France, Germany, or Ireland.

3. American National Public Radio (NPR) has an interesting story on Harald Jaeger the East German border guard who let people through after a politburo member had mistakenly announced at a press conference that East Germans would be allowed into the West effective immediately.

4. The Economist reviews a new history book detailing how random and chaotic the collapse of the wall really was and the good fortune that it happened peacefully.

5. The Economist also reprises their 1989 leader on the event itself.

6. Buzzfeed has 42 inspiring pictures of the collapse.

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