“The best year in European history”?
Throughout the 1980′s the best reporting on events and movements in Eastern Europe was done by Timothy Garton Ash in the pages of The New York Review of Books. In the same journal’s latest issue (not yet available on-line), he reviews a number of books on the revolutionary events of 1989. His elegiac penultimate paragraph reads:
The year 1989 was one of the best in European history. Indeed, I am hard pressed to think of a better one. It was also a year in which the world looked to Europe–specifically to Central Europe, and, at the pivotal moment, to Berlin. World history–using the term in a quasi-Hegelian sense–was made in the heart of the old continent, just down the road from Hegel’s old university, now called the Humboldt University. Twenty years later, I am tempted to speculate (while continuing to work with other Europeans in an endeavor to prove this hunch wrong) that this may also have been the last occasion–at least for a very long time–when world history was made in Europe. Today world history is being made elsewhere. There is now a Café Weltgeist at the Humboldt University, but the Weltgeist has moved on. Of Europe’s long, starring role on the world stage, future generations may yet say: nothing became her like the leaving of it.