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Putin Recalls Fall of Berlin Wall in New Documentary

Published: October 30, 2009 (Issue # 1522)



  • Vladimir Putin in 1985
    Photo: First Person

MOSCOW — Twenty years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has publicly recalled how he personally contributed to this turn in history as a Soviet spy in East Germany.

Putin told veteran NTV reporter Vladimir Kondratyev in a half-hour interview how he managed to calm down an angry crowd of East German protesters outside the KGB headquarters in Dresden in late 1989.

Putin rose from obscurity to the country’s most popular politician in 1999, serving as president from 2000 to 2008 and subsequently becoming prime minister.

Kondratyev said Wednesday that Putin had gladly recalled fond memories from his days in Cold War Germany and acknowledged the inevitability of the German Democratic Republic’s demise.

“He was very relaxed and smiled a lot, yet he expressed a very clear opinion about the fall of the wall — that what happened was bound to happen,” Kondratyev told The Moscow Times.

Kondratyev would not reveal how many minutes of his upcoming documentary film “Stena” (“The Wall”) would be devoted to Putin, but he denied that the prime minister was its main theme. “It is about the fall of the wall. Putin is just one of many characters who will appear,” he said.

He said, however, that he would travel to Dresden later this week to shoot the introduction.

Putin’s interview will be aired as part of the 50-minute film at 7:25 p.m on NTV on Sunday, Nov. 8 — one day before the 20th anniversary of the fall of the wall.

Putin served as a KGB officer in Dresden, which was then a provincial outpost so remote that locals could not receive West German television, from 1985 to 1990. His only brush with history there occurred on Dec. 5, 1989, almost a month after the wall fell.

After storming the nearby local headquarters of the East German Secret Police, or Stasi, protesters gathered outside his office building.

Public information about Putin’s ­service in East Germany is scarce, and the only reliable account is in “First Person,” a series of autobiographical ­interviews published in 2000. Here, Putin recalled how he met the crowd personally and told them in German that this was a Soviet military organization. When people replied suspiciously that he spoke German too well, “I told them I was a translator,” he said.

Kondratyev said Putin gave no new account of those events, but the prime minister made it clear that he understood at the time that the Soviet-inspired division of Germany had no future.

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