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The Picnic: A Dream of Freedom and the Collapse of the Iron Curtain

Matthew Longo(Autor*in)
W. W. Norton & Company (Verlag)
Erschienen am 7. November 2023
320 Seiten
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978-0-393-54078-9 (ISBN)
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A New York Times Book Review Editors' Choice
A Kirkus Reviews Best Nonfiction Book of 2023

The gripping story of a collective passion for freedom that shook the world.

In August 1989, a group of Hungarian activists organized a picnic on the border of Hungary and Austria. But this was not an ordinary picnic?it was located on the dangerous militarized frontier known as the Iron Curtain. Tacit permission from the highest state authorities could be revoked at any moment. On wisps of rumor, thousands of East German ?vacationers? packed Hungarian campgrounds, awaiting an opportunity, fearing prison, surveilled by lurking Stasi agents. The Pan-European Picnic set the stage for the greatest border breach in Cold War history: hundreds crossed from the Communist East to the longed-for freedom of the West.

Drawing on dozens of original interviews?including Hungarian activists and border guards, East German refugees, Stasi secret police, and the last Communist prime minister of Hungary?Matthew Longo tells a gripping and revelatory tale of the unraveling of the Iron Curtain and the birth of a new world order. Just a few months after the Picnic, the Berlin Wall fell, and the freedom for which the activists and refugees had abandoned their homes, risked imprisonment, sacrificed jobs, family, and friends, was suddenly available to everyone. But were they really free? And why, three decades since the Iron Curtain was torn down, have so many sought once again to build walls?

Cinematically told, The Picnic recovers a time when it seemed possible for the world to change. With insight and panache, Longo explores the opportunities taken?and the opportunities we failed to take?in that pivotal moment.

Matthew Longo is Assistant Professor of Political Science at Leiden University and award-winning author of The Politics of Borders: Sovereignty, Security, and the Citizen after 9/11. A native New Yorker, he lives in the Netherlands.
  • Intro
  • Title
  • Contents
  • Prologue: Freedom's Promise
  • Part I: Just Kids
  • Chapter: One
  • Chapter: Two
  • Chapter: Three
  • Chapter: Four
  • Chapter: Five
  • Chapter: Six
  • Chapter: Seven
  • Part II: Europe's Prison
  • Chapter: Eight
  • Chapter: Nine
  • Chapter: Ten
  • Chapter: Eleven
  • Part III: Breach!
  • Chapter: Twelve
  • Chapter: Thirteen
  • Chapter: Fourteen
  • Chapter: Fifteen
  • Chapter: Sixteen
  • Chapter: Seventeen
  • Part IV: The Road to Berlin
  • Chapter: Eighteen
  • Chapter: Nineteen
  • Chapter: Twenty
  • Chapter: Twenty-One
  • Chapter: Twenty-Two
  • Chapter: Twenty-Three
  • Part V: Democracy Now
  • Chapter: Twenty-Four
  • Chapter: Twenty-Five
  • Chapter: Twenty-Six
  • Chapter: Twenty-Seven
  • Chapter: Twenty-Eight
  • Chapter: Twenty-Nine
  • Epilogue: Freedom's Price
  • Acknowledgments
  • Notes on Sources
  • Illustration Credits
  • Index
  • Copyright

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