By: Michael Meyer
'Mr Gorbachev, tear down this wall!' This declamation by president Ronald Reagan when visiting Berlin in 1987 is widely cited as the clarion call that brought the Cold War to an end. The West had won, so this version of events goes, because the West had stood firm. American and Western European resoluteness had brought an evil empire to its knees.
Michael Meyer, in this extraordinarily compelling account of the revolutions that roiled Eastern Europe in 1989, begs to differ. Drawing together breathtakingly vivid, on-the-ground accounts of the rise of Solidarity in Poland, the stealth opening of the Hungarian border, the Velvet Revolution in Prague, and the collapse of the infamous wall in Berlin, Meyer shows that western intransigence was only one of the many factors that provoked such world-shaking change. More important, Meyer contends, were the stands taken by individuals in the thick of the struggle, leaders such as poet and playwright Vaclav Havel in Prague; Lech Walesa; the quiet and determined reform prime minister in Budapest, Miklos Nemeth; and the man who realized his empire was already lost and decided, with courage and intelligence, to let it go in peace, Soviet president Mikhail Gorbachev.
Michael Meyer captures these heady days in all their rich drama and unpredictability, providing a thrilling chronicle of perhaps the most important year of the 20th century.