30 years since the fall of the Berlin Wall – only history?

laine uudised-laine
6. Nov 2019

A conference at the end of this week in Tallinn will mark the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall in the late autumn of 1989, which meant the end of the Iron Curtain and reunited Eastern and Western Europe.

On 8 and 9 November, the Konrad Adenauer Foundation’s Estonian office, the Estonian Institute of Historical Memory and the Open Estonia Foundation will hold a conference dedicated to remembering the event and thinking about the lessons of this ground-breaking event for the present day. The two-day conference will bring to Tallinn a wide range of speakers, including historians, sociologists and NGO representatives from Estonia, Germany, Poland, Belgium and the US. On the first day, 8 November, discussions will analyse the salience of the events of that year, drawing parallels with the past. We will ask how to reduce cleavages in the current world, stand up for democratic values and take judicious decisions in conditions of technological “arms race”.

“The Konrad Adenauer Stiftung wishes to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall with this event, which aims to showcase a piece of German history while exploring similarities to other independence movements and to apply the lessons learned to today´s challenges,” said Elisabeth Bauer, Head of the office for the Baltic States of the Konrad Adenauer Stiftung.

The Estonian Institute of Historical Memory’s public relations manager Sergei Metlev added that 1989 was the year it became totally clear that regimes built on a violent communist ideology were economically unviable and moral failures. “The fall of the Berlin Wall and the Baltic Way are the events that were made possible by bold citizens who believed in freedom, and whose inspirational contribution deserves more study and documentation. The conference will help to understand the actual historical scale of these events and analyse what has been achieved over 30 years,” said Metlev.

The second day of the conference, 9 November, will feature the Open Estonia Foundation’s annual headline event – the Open Society Forum. The 23rd forum will centre on a discussion between former Estonian president Toomas Hendrik Ilves and the Yale University professor Timothy Snyder, one of the foremost experts on Russia and Eastern European relations. Ilves and Snyder will philosophize on the current world order, and building and dismantling walls between walls and societies. Their conversation will be moderated by the director of the Open Society European Policy Institute, Heather Grabbe.

The director of Open Estonia Society Mall Hellam said that the fall of the Wall was one of the most seminal events for all of civil society in the 20th century. “This year’s keynote speaker, Timothy Snyder, has drawn attention to changes in society that divided Europe over a short time period during WWII and one of the symbols of which would later be the Berlin Wall. Snyder has said that history serves as a warning. At the forum, we will compare the events of that period with today and discuss people’s need and responsibility to participate in dialogue over developments,” said Hellam.

Timothy Snyder is a recipient of the Estonian state decoration, the Cross of Terra Mariana third class. Three of his works have also been translated and published in Estonian: The Red Prince (2015), Bloodlands (2016), and Black Earth (2017; all from the Varrak publishing house).

The conference is by invitation only but it can be streamed live and on-demand on Postimees and Estonian Public Broadcasting websites. The feed can be watched in either Estonian or English. In the attachment/enclosure to this press release, please find short CVs for the speakers in Estonian, English and German.

The organizers would like to thank the Estonian Government Office, the US Embassy in Estonia and the Estonian business community for their support.

More information:

Sergei Metlev, Estonian Institute of Historical Memory, sergei.metlev@mnemosyne.ee, +372 5335 9639
Sveta Pääru, Konrad Adenauer Stiftung, sveta.paaru@kas.de, +372 528 1351
Mari Roonemaa, Open Estonia Foundation, mari@oef.org.ee, +372 5645 4598