A Day Not Yet Living in Infamy

Here's a history pop quiz: What event took place 10 years ago today that led to the end of the cold war?

Answer: a TV announcement by Hungary's then-foreign minister, Gyula Horn, that East German "tourists" in Hungary could freely cross into Austria.

And cross they did, by the thousands, in what became the opening puncture of the Soviet empire's communist balloon. It was a TV announcement heard round the world.

Two months later, the Berlin Wall fell. Two years later, the Soviet Union collapsed. The cold war was history.

Hungary's courage in opening its border at midnight on Sept. 10, 1989 - despite 80,000 Soviet troops on its soil - came out of decades of quiet resistance to its own Soviet-imposed authoritarian rule.

On this anniversary, it's worth remembering how wars end as well as how they begin.

Hungary's role in ending the cold war will be more than a question on a quiz. It deserves enduring credit for a 20th-century turning point.

(c) Copyright 1999. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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