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article imageCommunism’s Collapse Began 20 Years Ago

By Christopher Szabo     May 2, 2009 in World
The first rent in the Iron Curtain appeared exactly twenty years ago when Hungarian soldiers began to take down the system of barbed wire, electric fences and minefields now known as the “Iron Curtain.”
According to Figyelőnet, ”shoot to kill” orders had already been withdrawn and firearms could no longer be used to shoot those who wished to leave Communist Hungary and cross into democratic Austria.
The BBC reports the first cut into the wire took place on 2 May. 1989. A Hungarian Interior Ministry spokesman had said:
Not only do we need the world, but the world needs us. An era will be closed with the removal of this fence, and we hope that such systems will never be needed again.
What was then the People’s Republic of Hungary had taken a number of steps to try to liberalise Communism, only to decide, on 10 Feb. 1989, that there was a need to return to a multi-party democracy. The question was, what would the Soviet Union (USSR) do?
The President of the USSR at the time, Mikhail Gorbachev, said the famous words: “Let everyone find his own road to Socialism!” It turned out, the road led not to Gorbachev’s “Socialism with a Human Face” but back to democracy.
The opening of the “Curtain” led to an exodus of East Germans through Czechoslovakia into Hungary, through Austria and back into West Germany. Eventually, the Berlin Wall fell in November, 1989 leading to what the West calls the “Collapse of Communism.”
People in the former Communist Bloc countries make do with the expression “change of system,” as the changes they had hoped for have not taken place quite as they would have liked, although things are much better.
I remember driving through the Iron Curtain in 1984, from Hungary to Austria, along the same route that the East Germans would take five years later. There were high wire fences, guard towers, checkpoints and at one point, the road made hairpin bends with warnings in many languages: “Danger, Mines.” I don’t know if there were mines, but I wasn’t about to find out!
At the time, it seemed Churchill’s sad 1946 comment at Westminster College in Fulton, Missouri: “An iron curtain has descended across the Continent,” would never change. The Soviet colossus and the Iron Curtain seemed permanent, and no-one could imagine a world where they would not last forever. Today, there are Iron Curtain Museums in various former East Bloc countries. Who would have believed it?
More about Communism, Iron curtain, Collapse
 
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