How Did the Fall of the Berlin Wall Affect the World?

Updated on February 8, 2018

The Berlin Wall was more than just a barrier, and a physical division of East and West Berlin. It was a symbolic boundary between communism and capitalism. Its fall in 1989 was joyously celebrated by the free world but why was this? How did the fall of the Berlin Wall actually affect the rest of the World?

Let’s go over the background:

At the end of Second World War, Germany had been divided into four zones controlled by the USA, France, Great Britain and the former Soviet Union. This was the result of the Postdam agreement. Subsequent to this the relationship between the Soviet Union and the West deteriorated and the world would find itself in the Cold War. West Germany would become a thriving capitalist and democratic state whilst East Germany communist. The issue with Berlin was that it was situated in the Soviet Zone as a result of the Postdam agreement; however it was still split into four controlled zones. Thus there was a democratic and prosperous economy within the Soviet controlled area which one could liken to an Island.

There were a vivid difference in living standards between East and West Berliners. West Berlin’s economy was labelled an “economic miracle” thanks to the support it received from the West. This was in stark contrast to the East part of Berlin which the Soviets had little interest in developing and human freedoms were restricted. Furthermore the culture of control created by the Stasi (East German Secret Police) had produced paranoia and neighbours, close friends, were manipulated to inform on one another.

By 1950 many East Berliners were fed up of this restricted way of living. They were aware that West Berliners could travel unmolested. The rapid growth of West Berlin afforded them the ability to buy appliances and build comfortable homes. With West Berlin being so close many would simply abandon the East for West. The result was a mass exodus of skilled labour to the West. This was an issue for the Soviets and it was thought that the Soviets would use military force to take West Berlin.

The Solution for them was to build the Berlin Wall in 1961. The initial “Wall” was remarkably installed over the night of August 12’th and comprised of large concrete pillars and miles of barbed wire. The telephone wires were even severed. This had a massive impact on East Berliners living standards. Many would commute for East to West to take employment with better remuneration. The "Wall" stopped that.

The Berlin Wall itself stretched over 100 miles and was upgraded several times to become more effective at stopping people scaling it. It ran round the parameter of West Berlin making it an oasis of sorts. Such was the initiative of desperate East Berliners the Wall was upgraded and resourced with manned towers, an inner wall and an electrical fence.

In the mid to late 1980’s the Soviet’s strangle hold on Eastern European countries like Poland, Hungary and Czechoslovakia was weakening. East Germans who wanted to leave could easily escape through other borders where communism was faltering. On the 9’th of November 1989, thanks to strong Western pressure, there was an announcement stating the permanent relocation could be arranged at any checkpoint along the East-West border. Many approached the “Wall” tentatively perhaps, after years of misery, not fully believing this was true. A mass of people congregated on both sides and chipped away at the “Wall” with hammers, small tools and East and West Berliners greeted one another to celebrate. Germany was officially reunited on the 3’rd of October 1990.

How did it effect the world?

There was complete reform of politics in East Germany. The Communists ceased to be such an influential party in Germany after reunification. East Germans could look forward to a better life. ”As the Wall came down, the Soviet power structure with its closed borders, economic oppressions and mind control started to fall” (Halligan, Telegraph, 14.09.15). Things, often taken for granted on the West, where now luxuries in the post-Soviet era. Individuals could now be self-employed, climb up the social ladder, travel and enjoy foreign media. However the good life was not going to be immediate. Most employment in the East was through state owned organisations and when, post reunification, they were privatised job losses followed. Unemployment increased and the West Germans were growing bitter about having their taxes increased to develop the former Eastern German economy. East Germans looked back through “rose tainted” lenses and pondered if life was better pre Berlin Wall falling. The Cold War provided a clear and present enemy, “the West’s enemy’s today are more numerous and far harder to identify” (Halligan).

Eastern Europe change dramatically post wall falling. Counties like Poland, who have now become an ally of the West, have established strong ties with the EU and NATO. In 2004 10 states joined the EU along with several former Soviet states; Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Slovakia, Slovenia and Cyprus. Also significantly, was the foundations laid for a common European Currency.

In the short term, the fall of the Wall has not been a prosperous as hoped. The collapse of Yugoslavia in 1991 sparked a series of wars which included acts of ethnic cleansing and genocide. Across the region there are still simmering ethnic divisions. The newly constituted Russian Federation got its first democratically elected President in Boris Yeltsin who embarked upon swift market oriented reforms. In 1998, Russia defaulted on its debts and its economy crashed. The collapse of the Wall ripped through the fabric of Russian society who in 1998 saw a massive increase in corruption and organise crime (www.cfr.org).

To the broader world it symbolised the fall of communism in Europe. It was relief for America who had been taken to the brink of nuclear war during the Cuban Missile Crisis. America would also have to reorganise as they would surely no longer need a military force of that magnitude post cold war. According to Stipes.com, 2003, United States service personal levels in Europe are less than a quarter compared to Cold War times. It left, at the time, America as the only Super power and allowed the US a “free hand” to spread democracy around the globe. Whether this was a positive or a negative will be debated long into the future.

In Africa it allowed the West to be more firm over Apartheid in South Africa as it was previously hampered with the belief that the National African Congress was a communist organisation. Nelson Mandela was released shortly after the Berlin Wall was pulled down. Other states in Africa, which had been supported by the Soviet Union and the West soon found that support removed and descended into civil war. Quintessential of that was Zaire, known now as Congo, who, under Mobutu Sese Seko, was supported by the West. Subsequent to reunification support was less forthcoming and Seko was deposed. This left a power vacuum that descended into conflict which killed many thousands of people.

There has been some other affects to reunification in Africa. For instance, those African states who, economically, were closer to the Soviets ideals, found themselves having to make closer economic ties with the West. This meant reform and benefited more the wealthier Africans. Those who had previously relied on state welfare, however modest that was, found that removed and thus became poorer.


The Night The Wall Came Down

Conclusion

The fall of the wall is undeniable a good thing. Particularly the peaceful way, in Germany, the transition came about should be applauded. Eastern European countries can look forward to growth. Freedom of movement will allow Eastern Europeans to relocate to Western Europe which in turn will help their aging demographics. The Cold War passed without nuclear war which would have had a cataclysmic on our way of life.

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    • profile image

      Jay lockyer 

      5 weeks ago

      Useful , not exactly relevant to my exam question though would add its significance to the decline in soviet relations to communism and mention why it happened eg Sinatra doctrine and w Gorbachev

    • profile image

      ming lee 

      5 weeks ago

      Lost's of information but hard to analyze

    • profile image

      sdfh ;adfhnv;a 

      3 months ago

      For my paper, it didnt really help

    • profile image

      Hi 

      7 months ago

      This did not help at all

    • profile image

      Jeff 

      8 months ago

      Helped very very much

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      hi 

      8 months ago

      thank u

    • profile image

      perl 

      10 months ago

      This was so much good info! It really helped me.

    • profile image

      Jerry Thompson 

      10 months ago

      helped with project use this website alot

    • profile image

      beep 

      10 months ago

      this is great info for my history day project! THANKS!!

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      jamberries 

      10 months ago

      good info for my history day project thanks

    • profile image

      jam 

      10 months ago

      good info for my history day project thanks

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      wyatt 

      3 years ago

      good help full information for a book report

    • profile image

      wyatt 

      5 years ago

      Thanks very good information.

    • Mel Carriere profile image

      Mel Carriere 

      5 years ago from San Diego California

      I think there were many significant results from the fall of the wall. For one thing, it contributed to the fall of the Soviet Union, which had the unforseen effect of destabilizing the Arab world. Before the fall of the Soviet Union Islam extremism was not a powerful force. There were radical, anti-Israeli groups but they were mostly of the left wing variety and not religion based. I am not saying that the fall of the wall was a bad thing, of course it was wonderful. Any time human freedom triumphs over slavery it is a positive thing. But there were also effects that have contributed to our current foreign policy situation and that we will be living with for a while. In other words, the Soviet Union kept the Arabs in line via economic aid, etc., and now they are not.

    • profile image

      Jean Valerie Kotzur nee Stoneman 

      5 years ago from Germany

      Did you get this opinion from those who were not even born when the wall came down?

      What you perhaps don't understand is that the East Germans were not used to hard work (like we are in a capitalist environment) or to think for themselves. They were provided with everything they needed by the East German Government except freedom of speech . I had the job of re-training some of the younger East Germans who came to our Company in Munich in 1989. They said that I was a slave driver and they wanted Communism back. You have to talk to the right people, and these people are the generation who suffered first and then experienced freedom later. These people were not the University generation of 1989.

    • mizwoody profile image

      Heidi Woodruff 

      5 years ago from Clarksville, TN

      It has provided many people with better opportunities, although the wall has fallen, there is still animosity between east and west Germany. I remember when I completed high school and my degree in Germany, that there was separation between belief systems. Many would make stereotypical comments, as they still do here in the US towards other belief systems and/or races.

    • profile image

      Howard Schneider 

      5 years ago from Parsippany, New Jersey

      You are certainly correct that the fall of the Berlin Wall was a symbolic fall of Communism as well as a meeting of the 2 worlds. Unfortunately Capitalism has not lived up to its uplifting of all boats billing. In addition it has helped destroy many lives due to the 2008 financial debacle. Capitalism is still the most advantageous system but it must be saved from its greed and excesses. Great Hub, Academicviews.

    • profile image

      Jean Valerie Kotzur nee Stoneman 

      5 years ago from Germany

      As a Londoner living in Germany (Munich) since 1965 and also married to a German with family in all parts of the pre-war Germany, I agree with most of what you have documented here. However, there has been a great deal of disappointment among those who changed sides and the euphorie is all, but gone. When I get talking to someone from the former Eastern Sector I hear a great deal of regret that they made the decision to relocate to West Germany. One woman said that she was convinced that at last she would be free. Now, she said, I ask myself, free from what, and to do what? You are only as free as your mind and income allow you to be. We thought that the West was second to heaven, but for many of us it has only been second to Hell.

    • Academicviews profile imageAUTHOR

      Academicviews 

      6 years ago from Scotland

      I think most people don't really take the media for face value anymore. No country in the world does not have a crime problem. they need to sell papers, that's the deal. And if you offer cheap beer and any Brit, they'll think very fondly of your country.

    • Pavlo Badovskyy profile image

      Pavlo Badovskyi 

      6 years ago from Kyiv, Ukraine

      As to Berlin wall. Yes it had an effect on me. I could finally travel abroad not because the road was set through the broken concrete :-) but because the Gorbachevs policy helped a little bit to change the world. I mentioned about it in my hub devoted to that year. As to beer. I am not a football fan, but my feeling of national patriotism was filled up to the rim by fact that we have good (at least cheap) bear :-) We should probably advise our government to use it as secret weapon against our enemies. Smth like: oh you do not like Ukraine? come on here and have that bottle of our secret remedy... Still do not like it?? ok, hey bartender double it please :-) lol Seriously I am glad that some hysteria in some massmedia describing Ukraine as a country of crime, whores and ultimate anarchy was not confirmed by those who came here.

    • Academicviews profile imageAUTHOR

      Academicviews 

      6 years ago from Scotland

      thank you, its always challenging to try to fit an event like that into a 1000 word hub. There are just so many aspects to it. I see you're from Ukraine so this probably had a direct effect on you? I hope the recent football event is bring your country a lot of income and potentail future tourists. My Irish friend was over for their games and loved it. Actually he loved the price of beer lol

    • Pavlo Badovskyy profile image

      Pavlo Badovskyi 

      6 years ago from Kyiv, Ukraine

      Good hub, falling of Berlin wall was definitely a great thing!

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