Barriers May Crumble, but Psychological Borders Remain





BERLIN — During his childhood, Lutz Braun could see the Berlin Wall from his home in Blankenfelde, a village south of the city that was part of communist East Germany.

The wall snaked along, cutting through fields, yards and gardens. But Mr. Braun’s family did not talk about the wall. “As children, we did not see borders,” said Mr. Braun, 56. “They played no role.”

When Mr. Braun was conscripted into the East German People’s Army in the mid-1970s, he had no choice but to acknowledge the border that divided his country, and Europe. He was dispatched to a border guard unit that patrolled the area north of Berlin. The unit’s task was to prevent East Germans from scaling the wall and escaping to the Western part of the city...

... The fall of the Berlin Wall did destroy borders between countries, at least physically. Millions of people who had been raised in communist Eastern Europe had for the first time in their lives the possibility to see the West. But the idea of borders, mental or physical, across Europe, was not eradicated.

“The West had preoccupied our imagination for so long,” said Ivan Krastev, chairman of the Center for Liberal Strategies in Sofia. “We had talked about destroying the borders. It was about the physical act of crossing. No constraints.” ...

... Now that Mr. Krastev can travel and lecture anywhere he chooses, he can see what opportunities the end of the Cold War and globalization have created.

“Yet for many, globalization is seen as a threat because there is no protection,” he said. “Borders have become important again, but this time it is the West that wants to put them up, not the East.”

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