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This Happened

This Happened — August 13: Construction Of Berlin Wall Begins

The construction of the Berlin Wall began on this day in 1961. It was constructed by the German Democratic Republic (East Germany) to prevent residents from escaping to West Berlin. It was intended in particular to halt the mass exodus of skilled laborers, professionals, and intellectuals from East to West, which was causing economic and political problems for the East German government.

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How was the Berlin Wall constructed?

The Berlin Wall was initially a barbed wire fence that was quickly replaced with a more substantial structure. It consisted of concrete walls, guard towers, anti-vehicle trenches, and a "death strip" made out of sand, gravel, tripwires, and other obstacles. Over time, the wall was reinforced and expanded, becoming more fortified and difficult to breach.

What were the consequences of the construction of the Berlin Wall?

The construction of the Berlin Wall had profound consequences on the city of Berlin and the German people. It physically separated families, friends, and communities, and symbolized the ideological divide between East and West during the Cold War. It led to increased tensions between the United States and the Soviet Union and solidified the division between East and West Germany.

How long did the Berlin Wall stand?

The Berlin Wall stood for nearly 28 years, from 1961 until its fall in 1989. It became a powerful symbol of the division between East and West and a focal point of international politics during the Cold War.

What led to the fall of the Berlin Wall?

The fall of the Berlin Wall was the result of a combination of factors, including widespread public discontent, mass protests, and political changes in East Germany and other Eastern Bloc countries. The opening of the wall on November 9, 1989, marked a significant moment in history and paved the way for the reunification of Germany in 1990.

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How WeChat Is Helping Bhutan's Disappearing Languages Find A New Voice

Phd candidate Tashi Dema, from the University of New England, discusses how social media apps, particularly WeChat, are helping to preserve local Bhutanese languages without a written alphabet. Dema argues that preservation of these languages has far-reaching benefits for the small Himalayan country's rich culture and tradition.

A monk in red performing while a sillouhet of a monk is being illuminated by their phone.

Monk performing while a sillouheted monk is on their phone

Source: Caterina Sanders/Unsplash
Tashi Dema

THIMPHU — Dechen, 40, grew up in Thimphu, the capital city of Bhutan. Her native language was Mangdip, also known as Nyenkha, as her parents are originally from central Bhutan. She went to schools in the city, where the curriculum was predominantly taught in Dzongkha, the national language, and English.

In Dechen’s house, everyone spoke Dzongkha. She only spoke her mother tongue when she had guests from her village, who could not understand Dzongkha and during her occasional visits to her village nestled in the mountains. Her mother tongue knowledge was limited.

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However, things have now changed.

With 90% of Bhutanese people using social media and social media penetrating all remotes areas in Bhutan, Dechen’s relatives in remote villages are connected on WeChat.

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