In the summer of 1961, the Russian-controlled East Germany started erecting the Berlin Wall to keep people from crossing over to West Berlin. This would be the start of over three decades of cold war between Russia and the World. The East German (GDR) border guards were permitted to shoot anyone trying to flee. It is estimated that 600 people were shot while trying to escape. In some places the wall was 12 feet tall and 4 feet thick. It seemed that it would never be broken. Below are images of the wall being erected.
Then something bizarre took place. This is from an excellent article from https://www.worldhistoryedu.com:
Additionally, the 1980s came with hopes of relative peace between Soviets and Americans. Due to change of leadership, U.S. President Ronald Reagan of the United States and Mikhail Gorbachev of the Soviet Union had several meetings to lessen tensions between the two countries. Gorbachev wanted to revive his economy; so he had to welcome liberal changes by extending a warm hand to the West.
During a press conference on November 9, 1989, Günter Schabowski of East Germany answered questions about emigration reforms. His answers appeared to have given the go-ahead that the Berlin Wall would be opened that day.
As rumors of the Wall opening spread throughout the nation, larger crowds went and gathered at the checkpoints and demanded border security to allow them entry. At about 10:30 pm on November 9, a guard stationed at the Wall – Harald Jäger – out of anger, frustration, and security concerns, controversially disobeyed orders by opening the Bornholmer Straße border to traffic.
Hell broke loose to redefine German history; 30 years down the line, pundits still question whether the fall of the Berlin Wall was accidental or a well-thought-out strategic decision.
I distinctly remember seeing the interview re-aired and translated. Günter Schabowski was very casual when he said, “Das tritt nach meiner Kenntnis … ist das sofort … unverzüglich.”
(To the best of my knowledge, that occurs…is that immediately…immediately.)
Even the interviewer paused to recover when he heard his answer. Below, one of many groups tearing down the wall.
As the Soviet Union collapsed, Mikhail Gorbachev and Ronald Reagan became close friends and even spent time at the Reagan Ranch.
Here is a story I love. When we lived in Moscow, Terese had the job of finger-printing applicants for visas. One day when all the applicants had finished, her Supervisor asked her to stay a little longer. After a few minutes, in walks Mikhail Gorbachev! The hairs on my neck still rise when I think of that, yet as I write this, sadly I realize the Millennials today have no idea who he is, so allow me to explain. Mikhail Sergeyevich Gorbachev was the eighth and final leader of the Soviet Union, having been General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union from 1985 until 1991, when the party was dissolved.
(Wikipedia). There is a famous speech by Ronald Reagan, when he profoundly stated, “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!” The Berlin Wall divided West and East Berlin since 1961. This was an astounding moment in History, and the man who dissolved the USSR to become Russia stood before Terese to be finger-printed! Terese usually spoke the process in Russian for those who did not understand English, but her natural diplomacy asked Mr. Gorbachev if he wanted the instruction in English or Russian, thus acknowledging his proficiency in our language. He smiled and said, “English, please.” Afterwards, as a show of respect, she complimented him on his excellent language skills. A few months later, Terese finger-printed Irina Mikhailovna Virganskaya, Mr. Gorbachev’s daughter.
I would have loved to see Terese’s reaction when he walked in. He was always a man I respected deeply, as well as Ronald Reagan himself. There were many people who made the world a little better, and sometimes, a great deal better. Mikhail Gorbachev was one of them.
Leigh Ann said:
I love this!
Thank you for the article. We have had great leaders in the past. Ronald Reagan was my favorite president. He launched the Star Wars program in 1983 to counter the Soviet Union.
When I was at the Los Alamos National Labs in New Mexico, where our advanced weapons are designed, I heard that Russia was stealing DEC VAX’s for their advanced weapons systems. We were using Cray Supercomputers. At that point, I knew the Soviets couldn’t win.
Jim Pittman said:
Thanks for the walk through history! Two strong leaders that brought peace through strength. Sad to see what we have now in this country.