Twenty-five years ago, I was in the middle of basic training, listening to world events on my 'illegal' radio (small AM/FM transistor!). Even then, I was a news junkie. I tracked the Nicaragua news. I tried really hard to contain my reaction when I heard the Gates had opened, and held back tears as I heard The Wall was coming down, uncontested. I remember being aware of the Berlin Wall even as a smallish child, as we lived in Europe in the 70s. We would hear stories of people getting shot as they tried to leave East Germany, by any means possible.
Even after The Wall came down, Eastern Europe was still living under Soviet rule. My first duty assignment was in Bavaria, so I saw quite close-up and personal the dissolution of the Soviet Regime. Artificially formed countries like Yugoslavia and the Caucasus regions crumbled into anarchy and revolution. Many of the borders the Stalin so diligently tried to blur and form to his whims reverted to their former political, pre-Soviet state. Some, like Armenia & Azerbaijan, may never fully recover. (Nogorna-Karabakh ring any bells?)
The countries of Central Asia are still littered with the evidence of Soviet occupation, some of which will take centuries to repair. Read the highlights here, starting on page 33 : http://books.google.com/books?id=
All in all, that one commander of the guard in Berlin changed the shape of Europe and the Former Soviet Union. Danke schon, Herr Harald Jager. Even though your opening of the gate, allowing unhindered crossings was called a 'mistake', your move was a bold one. Families were reunited. Freedom rang.