On the Even of the 20th Anniversary of the Revolutions of 1989

Karl Schlögel in Eurozine:

It is almost unbelievable that it is already twenty years since 1989 – that is the span of a generation. There are secondary schoolchildren and students for whom it is all literally prehistory. To us – in whatever way we may have been there – it seems like yesterday. Who still remembers that when we were students in West Berlin the underground trains passed through stations that were walled up and patrolled by border guards? Who even knows now exactly where the wall ran? And who remembers a Polish market in the place where the new Potsdamer Platz now stands – a sandy expanse with parked trailers and a magnetic railway that led nowhere, the Philharmonic Hall and the State Library at its edge like space ships in a border landscape? Everyone can add examples of their own: at the Viadrina University in Frankfurt-on-the-Oder there are now Polish students who were born after Solidarity and not particularly interested in it, but who are also older than the glittering skyline of downtown Warsaw. Another example: once all roads passed through Moscow, but now one flies from Rostov-on-Don direct to Dubai or the Canary Islands. It is just twenty years ago that, in order to make a phone call abroad in the Central'nyj Telegraf, the Central Telegraph Office in Moscow, one still had to fill out forms and queue for hours. That was in the pre-mobile phone age. Shortly after that, at the end of the eighties, there public debates in which, for the first time, something was really at issue; unforgettably, meetings of citizens took place on a semi-sacred square on which previously only military parades had taken place. Or the moment a mayor – Anatoly Sobchak in Leningrad/St. Petersburg – addressed the citizens of his city as “Ladies and Gentlemen”. The spirit of a citizens' revolution was blowing through eastern Europe. Since then much has changed once again. We have already got so used to the new state of affairs that we have forgotten the long agony and the short summer of anarchy. Forgotten, too, that war returned to Europe for the first time.