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Belarus and Hong Kong Are Building the 21st Century’s Berlin Walls

3 38 1
13.08.2021

Sixty years ago on this day, the world’s most iconic wall suddenly appeared. During the night, soldiers had begun erecting a wall and barbed-wire fence stretching through the divided city of Berlin, and when Berliners woke up, those on the Eastern side discovered it was too late to make their way to the West. That was, of course, the East German leaders’ intention. Today, authoritarian regimes face population flight similar to that of East Germany. These regimes, too, may well resort to forcibly keeping their citizens home by force.

“Moses and Aaron went in, and told Pharaoh, Thus saith the Lord, God of Israel, Let my people go,” the Book of Exodus recounts. Pharaoh refused, but led by Moses and Aaron, the enslaved Hebrews left anyway. From ancient Egypt to the Soviet bloc, it’s a similar story.

Sixty years ago on this day, the world’s most iconic wall suddenly appeared. During the night, soldiers had begun erecting a wall and barbed-wire fence stretching through the divided city of Berlin, and when Berliners woke up, those on the Eastern side discovered it was too late to make their way to the West. That was, of course, the East German leaders’ intention. Today, authoritarian regimes face population flight similar to that of East Germany. These regimes, too, may well resort to forcibly keeping their citizens home by force.

“Moses and Aaron went in, and told Pharaoh, Thus saith the Lord, God of Israel, Let my people go,” the Book of Exodus recounts. Pharaoh refused, but led by Moses and Aaron, the enslaved Hebrews left anyway. From ancient Egypt to the Soviet bloc, it’s a similar story.

In the 1950s, the East German regime led by Walter Ulbricht faced a similar exodus. Every year, hundreds of thousands of East Germans, especially well-educated ones, left their country for the freedom of West Germany. About half of the leavers were under 25, and East Germany lost a dangerous number of physicians, engineers, and dentists to the brain drain.

Today, authoritarian regimes face population flight similar to that of East Germany. These regimes, too, may well resort to forcibly keeping their citizens home by force.

By the end of the 1950s, the country had lost an estimated one-third of its university-educated population to West Germany. By July 1961, it had lost 2.7 million people. Although fences had been erected along East Germany’s border with West Germany proper, some 1,000 East Germans were permanently leaving their country each day by simply taking the subway to West Berlin.

That summer, the average East German doctor........

© Foreign Policy


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