Last updated: 15 october, 2009 - 14:03 GMT


John Simpson Returns to 1989

Twenty years ago, on November 9th, the Berlin Wall came tumbling down.

The greatest symbol of the Cold War, which many never dreamt they would see disappear, was overwhelmed by people power.

This momentous event precipitated largely peaceful revolutions across Eastern Europe as people shook off 40 years of communism.

The BBC’s World Affairs Editor John Simpson, experienced it at first hand.

Berlin Wall

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The speed of what happened took almost everyone by surprise.

In fact, it became clear that the opening up of the check points that night, allowing East Berliners across the barrier, happened by mistake.

John was travelling with the West German Chancellor Helmut Kohl, in Poland at the time and like Mr. Kohl, he rushed to Berlin to experience and report on the euphoria.

Soon it was the turn of Czechoslovakia to join in the tide of demonstrations sweeping across the Soviet Union’s European satellites.

Once again John, who had reported on Czechoslovakia years before and become a target of the notorious secret services there, was able to see developments for himself.

A few weeks later he was back in Ceausescu's Romania, from where he had reported earlier in the year, giving a rare insight into this most closed of states.

He was able to follow the demonstrators who stormed Ceausescu's Palace and in the chaos, even wrote one of his TV reports with the dictator’s own pen - handed to him by a 15-year-old demonstrator in Ceausescu's office.

Listen to John as he tells the story of 20 years of post-communist life. Through personal stories, he traces the different roads that East Germany, the Czech Republic and Romania have taken since 1989.

First broadcast on click BBC Radio 4 and aired on BBC World Service on 16 October 2009.

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  • John Simpson relives the moments the Berlin Wall fell

  • The bloody overthrow of the Ceausescu regime

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