20 Years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, a new divide [Article]

From the Toronto Star:

The Berlin Wall created a fault line across Europe, with cracks that spread across the world

But although eastern Europe found new stability and prosperity after the crumbling of communism, the post-Wall landscape is jagged and uneven. A new fault line between democracy and authoritarianism zigzags through the former Soviet republics, where poverty and dictatorship often go hand in hand.

“The Berlin Wall has gone, but the split has moved east,” says Jim Rosapepe, co-author of Dracula is Dead, on Romania’s progress since communism crumbled. “What defines the new order is the European Union and NATO.”

Rosapepe says the EU has created a kind of socio-economic club that “promotes democracy by example,” while nurturing trade, travel and trust. The rules of membership sharpen differences with the former Soviet republics.

For former East Bloc countries, NATO membership adds a level of military security, reassuring those that still fear the reach of Russia.

But history and geography also prepared the ground for the new East-West divide.

In spite of their takeover by Communist regimes after World War II, those countries had retained their sense of Europeanness. Their bond with Moscow was largely sealed by Soviet troops.

But five years later, says Puddington, the beginnings of a two-tiered post-Communist world were already visible.

“All of the Baltic and Central European countries were designated as free, and most Balkan countries (after) years of bloody conflict were partly free,” he says. “By contrast, one non-Baltic former Soviet country, Ukraine, was designated as free, four were ranked partly free and seven not free.”

When Russian leader Vladimir Putin took power in 1999, the odds on democracy lengthened. Russia’s rollback of human rights gave Central Asian leaders encouragement to continue their own repressions.

The effects of democracy – and its lack – are reflected in the UN’s human development index, which considers life expectancy, literacy, education and standard of living.

A recent survey of nine eastern European countries shows sliding approval for democracy and capitalism, with Ukraine and Bulgaria experiencing the sharpest drops.

A majority of subjects also said people were worse off now than under communism, with only those in the Czech Republic and Poland largely believing otherwise. Paradoxically, many more people said they were more satisfied with their lives than those asked in 1991.

Meanwhile in Palestine, those who are trying to repeat the fall are receiving a different fate.

Edit: Also check out Nash Holos‘ post on Prime Minister marks 20th anniversary of fall of Berlin Wall

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