“The fall of the Berlin Wall was the end of 20th Century”
On the eve of the twentieth anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, RT's Sophie Shevardnadze caught up with Lotha de Mazziere - the last Prime Minister of East Germany.
Mr. Mazziere gave us his take on the reasons behind the historic events of 1989.
RT: Lothar de Maiziere, thank you very much for being with us today. How important is for you what happened 20 years ago today in Berlin?
Lotha de Mazziere: In retrospect, the 9th of November was, as I see it, the end of the 20th century, the end of the cold war, the “bloc” confrontation, and although the extent of the impact was not then known, at least it was the day on which the German process of reunification began.
RT: It's often said, that the Berlin wall came down because Soviet Union didn't have enough money to go on with the Cold War, is that the only reason?
LM: No, I think that the people of Germany no longer wanted to live in such a system, as they were leaving the country in their thousands, and they were constantly protesting, plus they told the GDR government, “You are not the people, we are the people”…
RT: How hard was for East Germans to accept the fact that they were a part of bigger Germany?
LM: I think that the vast majority of the East Germans wanted this reunification – and at the demonstrations they were shouting, “We are one nation”, so there were few that didn't want it, but there were many East Germans who couldn’t comprehend how difficult the process would be, in terms of the economic transformation.
You have to understand that an entire nation had to, within a short period of time, fully grasp a new political system, a new economic system, a new legal system and a new education system, and this was of course a very difficult affair.
RT: Now 20 years on, do you think that the German people are psychologically freed from the block mentality, in other words, wall in their heads?
LM: The division of Germany took more than 40 years, the equivalent of 2 generations, and I think that this coalescence will take just as long. There is a wonderful story in the Bible, where Moses was freeing his people from Egyptian slavery and leading them home through the desert, when after 20 years half of the people wanted to turn back, saying it was better back then, when they had something to eat and a place to live. It will be a similar situation with us – we will need some time.
RT: Sir, how do think the fall of the Berlin wall influenced the collapse of the Soviet Union?
LM: At least it meant the end of the Soviet empire in Eastern Europe – if you can recall, in the few weeks after the fall of the wall, similar circumstances in Czechoslovakia and Hungary occurred, and just before Christmas came the fall of Ceausescu, who was brutally gunned down in Romania – this was of course expected, but that the fall of the wall would also signal the beginning of the end of the Soviet Union was not foreseeable at that time.
And in the following year it was clear that the Soviet Union was no longer able to organize trade relations as they did before, the RGB (Rochlitz Geringswalde Burgstädt) trade broke down, and with it a disengagement, in economic terms, from the then leading power.
You will recall, that in December Eduard Shevardnadze stepped down as foreign minister and in the following summer there was the coup against Gorbachev and this was ultimately the end.
The attempt to create a new Russian or Soviet Federation failed, but I also believe that this was the end of Stalin’s nationality politics, which was the cause of the inner conflicts in the Soviet Union.
RT: Do you think the collapse of the Soviet Union happened too quickly, should it have been done differently?
LM: In Germany we say that history comes from happening, not from doing. I believe that such revolutionary movements are the expression of too long a suppression of evolution. The process should have begun much earlier – what is suppressed for so long can suddenly burst – and things like democracy and the autonomy of the federal states were not thought about enough.
RT: Now that we've lived past 20 years with the unified Germany and Russia without communism, how do you see the geopolitics of the world from now on, let's say in the next 10 years?
LM: Firstly, I should say that I am not a prophet. If I was, I’m sure I would be doing things differently. First of all, I think that in the next 10 years the relationship between Germany and Russia will become more stable. The German and Russian governments have agreed on a modernization partnership. Germany wants to help Russia on the way to building new industries, in the area of health, but also state structure improvement – I am pretty well informed on this matter, as I am leading the talks on this in St. Petersburg, I am the German Speaker for the St. Petersburg dialogue.
I think that these two relationships will become closer, ultimately reaching the consensus that Germany needs Russia as much as Russia needs Germany.
On a global political level, I believe the focus will be on the Asian countries’ development. We are seeing a dramatic escalation in China’s economy – the Chinese economy is one of the only economies which is not affected much by the current downfall – I think we as Europeans, and by this I include Russia, will have to hold ourselves together if we want to weather and compete with the Asian challenge.