The man who pulled the Iron Curtain





The 1989 revolution has its unforgettable images, such as the fall of the Berlin Wall, and its famous figures - Lech Walesa, Vaclav Havel and Mikhail Gorbachev.

But the man who made a crucial first breach in the Iron Curtain which divided Cold War Europe has received far less attention in the West.

He is Miklos Nemeth, an economist who became Hungarian prime minister in November 1988 and proceeded to tear up the rule book for leaders of communist bloc countries.

His assault on the Iron Curtain began, strangely enough, as he considered his country's budget for 1989.

He spotted a mysteriously large sum listed under interior ministry spending. When he was told it was in fact for renewing the barbed wire on the border between Hungary in the Cold War "East", and Austria in the "West", he "erased it immediately", he recalls.

Nonetheless, as the barbed wire began to come down and border controls were gradually reduced, he half expected an angry phone call from Moscow, and was relieved when it did not come.



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