The Wall’s Long Shadow

Is there life after Communism in Eastern Europe?
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Ten years ago, on November 9, 1989, the Wall came down. Swinging sledgehammers and anything else avail able, the hands of the people reintegrated East Berlin with the free world. Experts stood with mouths agape, and the peoples of the entire Soviet bloc cheered as the hated symbol of oppression crumbled.

Just one month before, the prayers of thousands of believers gathered at Leipzig's Nikolaikirche had turned a potential massacre into a peaceful confrontation that came to be called the Candlelight Revolution (see CT, January 15, 1990). This was die Wende, the turning point. And the church was there at the center of change.

How has the church fared since then? In recent interviews with several Christian leaders in the post-Communist world, CT explored what we had learned from the past ten years that will help us serve better when the still-Communist world begins to dissolve.

Exploded economic dreams
One of the biggest disappointments in the Eastern bloc was the failure of new economic dreams. The tales of corruption, organized crime, and failed attempts at privatization of industries are well known. But, says Croatian theologian Peter Kuzmic, the economic disappointment was due to more than greed and power-grabbing.

First, Kuzmic says, the dreams were unrealistic: "There is a saying in Kosovo: 'You cannot jump out of the sandals and into a Mercedes.' " Second, "Communism stifled, in some places eliminated, creativity and initiative. You need a change of mindset for a free-market economy." Third, "you need the kind of legal framework that will prevent corruption and dubious privatization." Because those elements were missing when the state-controlled economies were dismantled, what followed was not a free market but a vacuum. ...

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