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Address by Ambassador Dr. Wolfgang Manig on the occasion of the exhibition and series of lectures „30 Years of Freedom“

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30 years ago, the lead singer of the famous German rock band „The Scorpions“ wrote a song reflecting a new spirit which threatened the autocratic communist regimes in Central and Eastern Europe. 

                                                                                   Kapellhaus Baku, November 11, 2019

 

Dear Milan,

Excellencies, dear Ambassadors and Heads of International Organisations,

Members of the Diplomatic Community,

Dear Tahmina Aslanova of the Baku State University,

Dear Team of the Kapellhaus,

Dear guests,

30 years ago, the lead singer of the famous German rock band „The Scorpions“ wrote a song reflecting a new spirit which threatened the autocratic communist regimes in Central and Eastern Europe. Klaus Meine’s song „Wind of Change“ expressed exactly the feelings of millions of people between Szczecin in the Baltics and Koper in the Adriatic – the line of the „Iron Curtain“ which divided Europe and the World during the long decades of the Cold War.

Although the song was eventually published only in November 1990, it became the hymn of the peaceful revolution in Central Europe. It was the beacon of freedom – freedom of expression, freedom of assembly, freedom of gaining information, and freedom of traveling. Today, I am proud and honored to be in a position to open a series of lectures dedicated to 30 years of freedom. In the years before 1989, in the old Federal Republic of Germany, events like this had been of a special character: We tried to convince ourselves that Europe may be still divided but one day the partition of our continent will not last forever. Our hope that we will live to see the re-unification of Europe was, however, very modest. In 2019, we can discuss the forms of freedom in Baku – unthinkable in Cold War times when Baku had been the capital of the Azerbaijan Socialist Soviet Republic.

Why I am proud of this event? What did happen 30 years ago? In Klaus Meine’s words: [cit.] „The future is in the air“. The miracle of the year 1989 certainly found its culmination of the fall of the Berlin Wall on November 9, 1989. But on November 9, 1989, the future has already begun. Since the strikes of the workers in East Berlin in June 1953 and the uprising in Budapest in October 1956, the then Soviet satellite regimes kept all movements of freedom in Central Europe silent. It happened in then Czechoslovakia in 1968, when the first wind of change of a new era swept through Europe. While in the early and mid-50s the memories of World War II and the War in Korea, the confrontation of the Super Powers USA and USSR were too present, for the first time after the division of Europe people dared to ask for a change. It had been the Czechs and the Slovaks who led the beacon of freedom again – not only demanding but proving that change is possible as long as people and leaders are committed to a common cause. Unlike 1953 and 1956, the experience of change, of reform, did never disappear. Only two years later, in Gdansk, Szczecin and Gdynia workers went on strike – and again in 1980. Still the autocratic regimes prevailed but they were forced by their own people to justify their claim to rule as the avant-garde of the working class. The working class did no longer believe its masters.

Again a few years later, in spring 1989, the Germans living in the GDR openly put the legitimacy of the rule of the Socialist Unity Party into question when the municipal elections had been too obviously rigged. When the East Germans dared to express their dissatisfaction more and more, it had been again the Hungarians and particularly the Czechs who supported the Germans. By opening the fence to Austria, by allowing the Germans to cross the German-Czechoslovak border and finally by agreeing that a train to freedom from Bohemia via Saxony to Bavaria could carry the Germans who found shelter in Prague, our neighbors’ courage set the tone of the peaceful revolution in Germany. On the other hand I am sure that the solidarity shown by the old Federal Republic of Germany to the Czechs and Slovaks who sought and found protection in the dark months after August 1968, gave a signal that Germany will support a change in the CSSR, too. The Velvet Revolution is – as the other following revolutions in Central and Eastern Europe – a common endeavor of our people to take their fate in their own hands and to show responsibility for their societies and states. Thus, the European call for freedom celebrates the European civil society – and of European unity.

There is another fact which underlines the importance of these revolutions in Central Europe: Unlike in former decades, the security forces refrained from using violence. The example was set by the peoples in the Baltic states of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia with a singing revolution; the names of the other revolutions were programmatic: Round Tables took place in Warsaw and in East Berlin; the smooth transition of power in Prague was labelled as „Velvet Revolution“. When in 1953, 1956, 1968, 1970, and 1980 tanks and soldiers also from the so-called „brother states“ stopped every attempt to let the freedom in, Klaus Meine in his song „Wind of Changes“ said: [cit.]: „August summer night soldiers passing by listening to the wind of change“ – and: „distant memories are buried in the past forever“ [end of cit.]. Our European revolutions had been revolutions of all citizens – including the citizens in uniform. Thus, we are grateful to the security forces with their solidarity with their brothers, sisters, mothers, fathers, friends, and neighbors. And we pray that they will never forget the feelings they had when they let freedom in!

Today, however, we observe with growing concern a trend of nationalism and even chauvinism in many parts of Europe. Old authoritarian ghosts – which we thought are buried in the past forever – make attempts to leave their graves. Therefore, we cannot under-estimate the importance of events like today’s opening of 30 Years of Freedom. My special thanks are addressed to Kapellhaus, State University, the German Academic Exchange Service, the German Press Agency dpa, and to our friends of the Czech Embassy in Baku. I would like to invite you to throw a close look to the exhibition which reflects – in my view – the spirit of 1989. Before inviting my Czech colleague Milan Ekert to address our valued guests, I may cite again Klaus Meine, because he found the right words for tonight: [cit.] „Take me to the magic of the moment on a glory night where the children of tomorrow dream away in the wind of change!“ [end of cit.]

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