Kohl’s Revivalist Vision

Mary Elise Sarotte is a professor at the University of Southern California in their International Relations department. She focuses on Cold War history and especially the post-Cold War period, immediately following the destruction of the Berlin Wall. In her piece, In Victory, Magnanimity: US Foreign Policy, 1989-1991, and the Legacy of Prefabricated Multilateralism, Sarotte discusses the alternative structures that were proposed following the collapse of the Berlin Wall. She discusses four main possibilities, the second of which was proposed by Helmut Kohl, and deemed a revivalist vision. Kohl was the West German Chancellor and upon witnessing early American consent to Gorbachev’s attempted restoration of quadripartitism he created a different plan ((Sarotte, Mary. In Victory, Magnanimity: US Foreign Policy, 1989-1991, and the Legacy of Prefabricated Multilateralism. 2011.)) .

The revivalist vision was focused on recreating the ideas of German statehood, that is, recreating a confederation of German states. If it had been implemented, East and West Germany would have had independent social and political policies, however they would have been united under a single, national roof ((Sarotte, Mary. In Victory, Magnanimity: US Foreign Policy, 1989-1991, and the Legacy of Prefabricated Multilateralism. 2011.)). This architecture would have been successful in diffusing tension between East and West Germany, as they would be technically reunited under one German name, however, they would be allowed to have their own politics and remaining communist influence would have had the opportunity to be present in East German politics. It would have restored the self-governing capabilities to East Germany; however, it would not have created the strongest German state possible. By 1990, Kohl realized that his vision of a divided Germany under a united roof was not possible and switched towards advocating for American involvement in extending prefabricated institutions to Eastern countries.

Many of these possible architectures for restructuring took into account American involvement. Did American’s have the right to be so heavily involved in the restructuring of Europe or should they have been able to do it on their own? How would the outcomes have differed if Americans were not involved?

The Treaty of Maastricht – Unity for Europe?

Signed in 1992, the Maastricht Treaty established a supranational body comprised of countries, which would be known as the European Union. The Treaty dictates that the Union will help keep peace in Europe and will help facilitate good economic relations amongst member nations. Moreover, it will assert itself as an important body of interdependence. Essentially, the Treaty was signed almost immediately (a year or so) after the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991. Following this logic, it would be reasonable to assume that members would comprise of all regions of Europe. This is a false assumption to make; the Treaty signers were primarily from Western Europe.[1] Founder nations included the likes of Belgium, France, Italy, West Germany, Denmark, the U.K., Spain, and others. It left out much of Eastern Europe, who had just collapsed along with the Soviet Union. In fact, many of these nations would not join until 2004, when ten primarily Eastern European countries joined the European Union. It is questionable to consider why the Treaty was not extended into these nations immediately. Perhaps it had to do with the still lingering fear of communism or the thought that these nations would bring the Union down. Moreover, perhaps the Eastern European nations were still in fear of those leaders in Moscow.

What do you think? Why was Eastern Europe excluded initially from the Treaty of Maastricht and the European Union?

Also, here’s a map:

Map showing the member states of the European Union (clickable)



[1] “European Union.” Wikipedia. Accessed April 21, 2015. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/European_Union#Member_states.

The Magic Lantern: 3,2,1…

This book is a composition of 5 essays; the first four are Timothy Ash’s first- hand accounts of the East European “Revolutions” in in Poland, Hungary, East Germany and Czechoslovakia, and the fifth and last essay is his conclusions based on the observations he made in the first four essays.

Main points:

■ As a historical observer, Ash describes meeting opposition leaders, and the evolvement of the Solidarity movement as an opposition to the Eastern Bloc (AKA Soviet Bloc). This was a social movement in Poland that used methods of civil resistance to promote cause such as workers’ rights as well as social change.

■ Ash shows how the democratic movements succeeded one another in a way that proved inevitability. He gives perspective on the natural procession of movements throughout Eastern Europe and uses experiences from individual accounts to depict the events. He tells a story of a German who crossed the border several times just for the hell of it after the wall was taken down. He also includes narratives of East Berlin residents picking up their 100 Deutschmarks (“greeting money”), and going shopping.

■ Ash reveals his small contribution to the revolutions after meeting Václav Havel in the backroom of a pub he frequented. He had told Havel “In Poland it took ten years, in Hungary ten months, in East Germany ten weeks: perhaps in Czechoslovakia it will take ten days!”, to which Havel responded by summoning over a camera team. This opened up the doors for Ash to the “Magic Lantern” theater; the headquarters of the main opposition coalition in the Czech lands, the Civic Forum, and therefore the revolution. This allowed Ash inside access to decisions in regards to the revolutions.

■ Although Ash gives the reader a variety of plausible theories as to the cause of these revolutions, he proposes his own explanation  in three words–“Gorbachev, Helsinki and Tocqueville”; the amalgamation of Soviet liberalization, a global understanding of human rights and the absence of a rational right to rule were all factors that caused the revolutions in Eastern Europe.


■ How did Ash’s political involvement in the revolutions affect his historical account and interpretation?

■ Ash’s presentation of the natural procession of the movements makes them seem logical, even obvious. How come these changes to Eastern Europe weren’t predicted?


■ Ash never produces a complete comprehensible theory of the political shift in Europe or pretends to know the answers to the many questions it raises. He does, however, substantially articulate the questions that need answering.

The Magic Lantern

Three Points:

1) Timothy Ash’s accounts begin in Warsaw, Poland. He describes the progression of the Solidarity movement, and how it came to replace communism. With Hungary, the end of communism came with the funeral of Imre Nagy, thirty one years after his death. However, this did not result in any type of extensive mobilization on the behalf of Hungarian society. Ash names several traits as being distinctive of Hungary’s government at this time. Its government contained multi-party politics, composed of members of the old-new party, and the economic crisis had worsened as a result of the “refolution” occurring.

2) Ash goes on to relate his experiences in Berlin, explaining the factors that led to the dismantling of the Berlin Wall. Some of the most important of these include the system that the Wall represented and upheld, and the Gorbachev Effect, which explains East Germany’s reliance and proximity to the Soviet Union. Ash mentions that East Germany’s youth were raised upon the saying that “To learn from the Soviet Union is to learn to win”, an expression that accurately explains the Gorbachev Effect. Ash describes the rush of people into West Germany as a threat to the politics and economy. The only solution to resolve this threat was to unify the German economy as fast as possible.

3) Finally, Ash writes on his experiences at The Magic Lantern, where the Civic Forum has its headquarters. The Civic Forum had democratic values, and was considered the headquarters of the revolution. Ash goes on to explain the events that unfolded over the next few weeks in Prague. The defining factor in the revolution that occurred in Czechoslovakia was the speed at which it developed. It’s noted that Czechoslovakia had what was called “advantages of backwardness”, as it could learn from its own mistakes and also from the examples of others.

2 Questions:

1) Towards the beginning of his book (page 22), Ash speaks of the importance of television at the time. Do you think television is still important to the documentation of history? Has social media replaced television in this sense?

2) At the end of the book (page 145), Ash talks about how Poland considered a “nation” to be different from a “society”. Is a nation different from a society?


What sets this book so far apart from any other book about 1989 is the proximity in time that Ash wrote to the events that occurred- early 1990. I’m curious as to what compelled Ash do this, instead of waiting a few months or years to write.