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The Year That Changed the World: The Untold Story Behind the Fall of the Berlin Wall

4.17  ·  Rating Details ·  315 Ratings  ·  66 Reviews
In this extraordinarily compelling account of the revolutions that roiled Eastern Europe in 1989, Meyer shows that American intransigence was only one of many factors that provoked world-shaking change. He 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 Rev ...more
Published January 15th 2010 by Findaway World (first published September 2009)
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Feb 14, 2015 Caroline rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Excellent overview of events that led to the fall of communism in Eastern Europe in 1989. Meyer's position is that the US had almost nothing to do with these events. Instead he focuses on Gorbachev's reforms and his repudiation of the Brezhnev Doctrine--the USSR would no longer intervene in the bloc's affairs. He also highlights the Hungarian vanguard, young Turks within the Communist party who carefully and secretly engineered the destruction of communism not only in their own country but throu ...more
Dec 27, 2009 Elise rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
Fabulous first hand account of the fall of Communism from the perspective of Michael Meyers. At the time, Meyers was based in Germany for Newsweek covering Germany and Central Europe in the years leading up to and after the fall of the Berlin Wall. We all remember Vaclav Havel in Prague and the "Velvet Revolution" and the Solidarity movement in Poland, but we don't always remember how it all fit together and the lesser known leaders and individuals that put into motion the reform that ultimately ...more
Shawn Brace
Mar 14, 2016 Shawn Brace rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a fantastic book, offering a lot of interesting details and analysis of what led up to the fall of the Berlin Wall and the Iron Curtain. It really provides a needed balance to the common American perspective, which is highly reductionist, of what precipitated these events (and America's role in it all). My two big complaints, which still don't cause me to lower my rating, is that there is absolutely no discussion of Pope John Paul II's role in the fall of Communism. This, to me, is incre ...more
Michael Gerald
Jan 27, 2012 Michael Gerald rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A concise yet great read, this book reveals the events that led to the democratic revolutions that toppled Communism in Eastern Europe in 1989, as seen from a correspondent's eyes. It's like a classic movie with a plethora of characters. Villains like Honecker and Ceausescu. And heroes like Walesa, Havel, and the lesser known Nemeth. On one side, a repressive system. On the other, peoples yearning for freedom, democracy, and prosperity. A thrilling read about those heady days of 1989 and a remin ...more
Meyer was assigned as a Newsweek bureau chief, to Eastern Europe. He recounts his experiences interviewing various Communist leaders and the revolutionists from multiple countries that worked to bring down the Iron Curtain. From Hungary, to Poland, Czechoslovakia and Romania, Meyer's introduces the American public to the real history of the fail of communism... not the dressed up remembrances of popular culture and political agendas.

Why I started this book: I've been on a Berlin kick and when th
Feb 14, 2015 Shanti rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: reviewed, non-fiction
I would never have picked up this book on my own. It was required reading for school. Its format made the font tiny on my screen, but whatever. I would never have read this if not ordered to…and I really liked. I don’t agree with all of Meyers points, but as a fifteen year old I am the ‘ignorant generation” that he wrote this book for. I knew NOTHING about 1989 (my history syllabus is still in the Industrial Revolution, okay). He did presuppose a LOT of, in my case non-existent knowledge of famo ...more
Sumit Singh
Feb 21, 2017 Sumit Singh rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Revolutions are probably never as they seem. They are admixtures of myth, idealism, opportunism, politics, intrigue, exploitation. Good and bad, the noble and the ignoble, the pure and the impure become so entangled as to be almost indistinguishable.
Rupin Chaudhry
Sep 01, 2014 Rupin Chaudhry rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history-military
I grew up thinking that it was America’s unassailable military and economic might that brought end to communism. This book dispelled my theory. Mr. Meyer has beautifully penned down the events and movers and shakers that brought Berlin wall down and spelled the end of communism in east Europe.

The wall came down because of widespread anger and frustration and sense of having had enough. The change was triggered due to some new leaders from communist camp who understood the inherent defects in co
Apr 05, 2012 Ray rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Michael Meyer's "The Year That Changed the World" is an excellent accounting of the dramatic events in Eastern Europe during 1989. It was interesting, informative, and intriguing. I have recollections of most the the events Meyers pulls together, e.g., the Solidarity movement and Lech Walesa in Poland, the opening of the Hungarian border under PM Miklos Nemeth, Vaclev Havel in Czechoslovakia, the collapse of the Berlin Wall under Erich Honecker, and the changes under Soviet General Secretary Mik ...more
Sep 16, 2010 Joyce rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
In the beginning of the book, Meyer talks about the contribution the United States made during the last years of the cold war and how some Americans want to believe that the communist regimes crumbled almost solely because of White House manipulation -- "clever diplomacy backed by raw power." The event he specifically sites is Ronald Reagan's speech "Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall." I especially found his point about George W. Bush's idolization of Reagan and misunderstanding the events to ...more
Jen Well-Steered
But should you read it? If you've kind of heard of this thing called communism but aren't really sure what it was or why some parts of Europe seem so much poorer than say, Sweden or France, this is a great book to walk you through what happened. It's also short enough that it won't take you very long to read it. Although this book was published before the Arab Spring, another interesting reason to read it is parallel between the fates of the countries that broke free of the Iron Curtain and what ...more
May 29, 2010 Karen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a great book on the events of 1989. I was in 8th grade at the time so it was good to understand these events from a more adult perspective. Some parts of the story, like the secret coordination between parts of the Hungarian government and West Germany were kept hidden so wouldn't have been covered even at the time.

Meyer was on the ground covering these events and his enthusiam and personal experiences shine through. The book is not written as an academic, impersonal way. Meyer clearly
Sep 21, 2014 Jocelyn rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Concise, personal description of the events in the soviet bloc of eastern Europe in 1989, from Jaruzelski in Poland un-banning Solidarity, to the Velvet Revolution in Prague, to the kangaroo-court murder of the Ceausescu's in Romania. Some repetition, clumsy foreshadowing, and written by an american journalist for an american readership, but I still found it an exciting, readable history of that amazing year. Meyer was European correspondent for the news magazine Newsweek, which meant he was tra ...more
Oct 16, 2009 Pflentov rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I remember avidly following the unfolding events that led to the fall of the Berlin Wall in the news at the time, but I never realized the pivotal role that Miklos Nemeth, the reform minded Communist Prime Minister of Hungary, played in the collapse of Communism. The description of the events reads more like a Le Carre novel than a book on current event.

Challenges much of the conventional wisdom about the US role in the fall of Communism, and should be required reading for anyone interested in
Mar 13, 2011 Judy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

Okay, I always bought into the idea that Ronald Reagan's insistent challenge, "Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!" precipitated the opening of the iron curtain. While Meyer, a writer for Newsweek stationed in Germany at the time, does give due respect to both Reagan and Gorbachev, he also outlines the escalating revolutions all over Eastern Europe and the various leaders even more responsible for pushing the Soviet Union over the edge, including Lech Walesa in Poland, Vaclav Havel in Czechoslov
Dec 08, 2009 Nicholas rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The Year that Changed the World is an amazing behind the scenes tale of the movers and shakers behind the fall of communism in Eastern Europe. It also serves as a much needed check against American narcisism. Did the United States play a role in the demise of the Wall? Absolutely. A magical statement by Reagan followed by the implosion of communism did not.

Though not spectacularly written, Meyer's personal experiences with every government and dissident group leading up to 1989 serves as an imp
Daniel Kukwa
May 28, 2014 Daniel Kukwa rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
I would have thought this topic would need the length of a Margaret MacMillan epic in order to do it justice...but Michael Myer proves me delightfully wrong. A concise, razor-sharp analysis of who and what was truly responsible for the 1989 fall of Eastern European communism; it certainly opened my eyes to a few key truths that should be more generally publicized. That said, the only thing that keeps this book from true greatness is the final chapter, which decides to hammer home its thesis with ...more
Aug 09, 2013 Tom rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I found this book to be extremely interesting. I might have given it 5 stars except for the author's political sniping at the beginning, and again at the end. Through the crystal clear lens of hindsight American leaders were seen to have failed to understand the events as they unfolded, and were therefore buffoons. If eastern European communist leaders right in the middle of the same events also failed to understand they were given a pass. If only Michael Dukakis hadn't worn that silly tank unif ...more
Robert Bannon
Sep 30, 2011 Robert Bannon rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
As a one time visitor to the Wall in 1981 and having passed through Check Point Charlie to see the "other side," I looked forward to reading this book. I was not disappointed. Mr. Meyer had the inside track on the major players in Eastern Europe of that time. He brings his contacts, intelligence, curiosity and insight to create the real story behind the story. His ability to bring forward into today's world the connections and lessons that we need to be aware of is an added and "spot on" bonus. ...more
Jul 12, 2015 Gavin rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
I recently found Michael Meyer on the Sinica Podcast and decided to start reading. This is a firsthand account of the collapse of communism in several countries in the eastern bloc. This is a great read - especially with the description of some of the reformers and dissidents that are forgotten, especially by people in the west - people like Nemeth, Poszgay, Havel, and others. The description of events brought back vague memories of the chronology of 1989, though I couldn't have known of their i ...more
Nov 14, 2015 William rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I watched this event unfold on CNN in when I was 17. Reading this book revealed the political background from so many different sides. I once again had another tough time putting this book down. For someone who's interested in the Iron Curtain of the Eastern bloc countries specifically East Germany this is a book you should read. I can remember this happening at the time but this book gave me a much better understanding of how the Berlin Wall came down and why. Awesome read!!!!
Juan Manuel Wills
Jan 19, 2016 Juan Manuel Wills rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It's a great story that shows hidden realities and actors that significantly influenced the events that changed the world. The Hungarian leadership, with its low profile and commitment, will certainly have an appreciation of the story better than they have received to date.

Recommended for anyone who wants to know the details of these momentous events that changed the history of twentieth century
Nathan Shepherd
Jun 05, 2010 Nathan Shepherd rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I lived through the tail end of the Cold War, but I was too young to understand what was going on around me. This account provides good details for those of us who know little about communism, about East European politics, and about the remarkable story of how politics, economics, and dumb luck came together to usher in the fall of the Berlin Wall. All that, and it's told in a fun, engaging way. Highly recommended!
Христо Блажев
Майкъл Мейер разказва за "Годината, която промени света".

Майкъл Мейер е бил кореспондент на “Нюзуик” за Източна Европа по време на знаковата 1989 г. Близо 20 години по-късно сяда да пише, защото вижда, че американците живеят с лъжливото убеждение, че САЩ са предизвикали падането на Берлинската стена и сриването на останалите комунистически режими в Източна Европа.
Feb 09, 2010 Bette rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I'm not sure one can beat reading about an historical event written by a Newsweek bureau chief who was there and interviewing all of the right people. Insightful, direct, honest, humorous and illuminating. This ought to be required reading for millions, if only so that they may get a glimpse that luck, follies and the unforeseen unfold even as history is being made. Providence moves on the strength of commitment. Fascinating.
Aug 03, 2010 Leilani rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
What a fantastic book! I would have enjoyed just a basic history of these events, which are so monumental and don't seem to get written about often enough lately, but the author provided an amazing eyewitness account of such huge events - people pouring through the Berlin Wall when it was first opened, the optimism of Prague and the dark, disturbing events in Romania ... He makes you feel what it was like to be there. Completely compelling the whole way through!
Oct 10, 2012 Jenny rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was a great, engaging, readable history. I was in my early teens when the Berlin Wall fell, and I didn't really understand all that was going on behind the scenes or in other Eastern bloc countries. I learned so much by reading this book. Meyer was on the ground as this happened so is certainly qualified to tell this story.
Jan 02, 2010 Jsavett1 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I went on a binge of reading about the fall of the Soviet Union since this year was the anniversary. This one is interesting because the author was a journalist involved in the events. So it's part autobiography/memoir, part straight history. If you don't care about Hungary, don't read this. If you think you want to care about Hungary, dig in.
Abhishek Ganguly
Michael Meyer's analysis of the events leading to the fall of the Berlin Wall reflects his immense experience as a war correspondant. His understanding of the entire scenario is very practical and the writing is never swayed by the cries of 'Wir sind das Volk'; it is sharp and accurate, as history should always be.

The narrative never takes sides which adds on to the beauty of it.
Jan 28, 2017 S.S. rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was a very interesting and informative book. I'm very interested in Cold War era Berlin anyway, so it was nice to learn some extra information about the times. I also learned a lot about cold-war era Hungary and Poland that I didn't know previously.

This will be another book that I'll return to again in the future.
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Michael Ryder Meyer is Dean of the Graduate School of Media and Communications at Aga Khan University's Nairobi, Kenya campus. He was previously the chief speechwriter for the Secretary General of the United Nations, Ban Ki-Moon.

Before his post at the United Nations, Meyer was at Newsweek Magazine for two decades. From 2001 to 2007 he was Europe Editor for Newsweek International, where he also ove
More about Michael R. Meyer...

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