Synopses & Reviews
ON THE TWENTIETH ANNIVERSARY OF THE FALL OF THE BERLIN WALL, MICHAEL MEYER PROVIDES A RIVETING EYEWITNESS ACCOUNT OF THE COLLAPSE OF COMMUNISM IN EASTERN EUROPE THAT BRILLIANTLY REWRITES OUR CONVENTIONAL UNDERSTANDING OF HOW THE COLD WAR CAME TO AN END AND HOLDS IMPORTANT LESSONS FOR AMERICA'S CURRENT GEOPOLITICAL CHALLENGES.
Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall President Ronald Reagan's famous exhortation when visiting Berlin in 1987 has long been widely cited as the clarion call that brought the Cold War to an end. The United States won, so this version of history goes, because Ronald Reagan stood firm against the USSR; American resoluteness brought the evil empire to its knees.
Michael Meyer, who was there at the time as a Newsweek bureau chief, begs to differ.
In this extraordinarily compelling account of the revolutions that roiled Eastern Europe in 1989, he shows that American intransigence was only one of many factors that provoked world-shaking change. Meyer draws together breathtakingly vivid, on-the-ground accounts of the rise of the Solidarity movement in Poland, the stealth opening of the Hungarian border, the Velvet Revolution in Prague and the collapse of the infamous wall in Berlin. But the most important events, Meyer contends, occurred secretly, in the heroic stands taken by individuals in the thick of the struggle, leaders such as poet and playwright Vaclav Havel in Prague; the Baltic shipwright Lech Walesa; the quietly determined reform prime minister in Budapest, Miklos Nemeth; and the man who privately realized that his empire was already lost, and decided -- with courage and intelligence -- to let it go in peace, Soviet general secretary of the communist party, Mikhail Gorbachev.
Reporting for Newsweek from the frontlines in Eastern Europe, Meyer spoke to these players and countless others. Alongside their deliberate interventions were also the happenstance and human error of history that are always present when events accelerate to breakneck speed. Meyer captures these heady days in all of their rich drama and unpredictability. In doing so he provides not just a thrilling chronicle of the most important year of the twentieth century but also a crucial refutation of American political mythology and a triumphal misunderstanding of history that seduced the United States into many of the intractable conflicts it faces today. The Year That Changed the World will change not only how we see the past, but also our understanding of America's future.
"I thoroughly enjoyed The Year That Changed the World. It is a gripping, colorful account of the rush of events that led to the fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of the Soviet empire. It is also a convincing reappraisal of where credit lies and what lessons should be drawn for U.S. leadership." -- JAMES HOGE, FOREIGN AFFAIRS
" A coolheaded reconsideration of the revolutionary fervor that tore down the Iron Curtain in 1989...Meyer skillfully g rasps the crux of these events and ably conveys their remarkable significance. Meyer 'liberates' the record with sagacity, precision and remarkable clarity." -- KIRKUS REVIEWS (STARRED REVIEW)
"The twentieth century ended with a bang in 1989 and Michael Meyer has vividly captured the drama, import and energy of that fascinating year....This is a riveting, rollicking read with many surprises along the way." -- FAREED ZAKARIA, AUTHOR OF THE POST-AMERICAN WORLD
Twenty years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, many still believe it was the words of President Ronald Reagan, Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall! that brought the Cold War to an end. Meyer disagrees, and in this compelling account, explains why.
A riveting, eyewitness account of the collapse of communism in Eastern Europe and the end of the Cold War from the Newsweek Bureau Chief in that region at the time.
Twenty years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, many still believe it was the words of President Ronald Regan, “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!,” that brought the Cold War to an end. Michael Meyer disagrees, and in this extraordinarily compelling account, explains why.
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 how American intransigence contributed little to achieving such world-shaking change. In his reporting from the frontlines of the revolution in Eastern Europe between 1988 and 1992, he interviewed a wide range of local leaders, including VÁclav Havel and Lech Walesa. Meyer’s descriptions of the way their brave stands were decisive in bringing democracy to Eastern Europe provide a crucial refutation of a misunderstanding of history that has been deliberately employed to help push the United States into the intractable conflicts it faces today.
About the Author
Michael Meyer is currently Director of Communications for the United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. Between 1988 and 1992, he was Newsweek
's Bureau Chief for Germany
, Central Europe and the Balkans, writing more than twenty cover stories on the break-up of communist Europe
and German unification. He is the winner of two Overseas Press Club Awards and appears regularly as a commentator for MSNBC, CNN, Fox News, C-Span, NPR and other broadcast network. He previously worked at the Washington Post
and Congressional Quarterly
. He is the author of the Alexander Complex
(Times Books, 1989), an examination of the psychology of American empire builders. He lives in New York City.