Want to know exactly how ideology and economics shape society? Split a nation in half. Twenty-five years later, what we’re still learning
TWENTY-FIVE YEARS ago this fall, a crowd of thousands gathered along the east side of the Berlin Wall and demanded, with the urgency of people who had spent decades under an authoritarian communist regime, that the border guards let them pass to the other side. That night, the gates swung open and the sledgehammers came out. Soon, the wall was all but destroyed, and the two countries it had kept apart for almost 30 years were finally joined back together.
The collapse of the Berlin Wall, which Germany will commemorate next month with an illuminated display of white balloons where the concrete barrier once stood, was one of the most extraordinary events of the 20th century. Not only was it a crucial factor in the eventual shriveling of communism in Europe, it was also a demonstration of what peaceful protest could accomplish in the face of an oppressive government.
But before it fell, the wall did something that most people never think of: It created a massive laboratory for studying human society.