Twenty years ago in Moscow, especially at night, when the city's daytime roar turned to a steady rumble, I thought I could sense the earth's axis turning. Yes, yes, I know what was happening in Russia was not an isolated event. Solidarity had already triumphed in Poland, the Berlin Wall had been breached, and the US had won the cold war. Still, it was the fall of communism in Moscow—the capital of the country where the "real twentieth century" began back in 1917—that carried enough political and symbolic weight to tilt the world's axis towards the new century. And so they began to sway and tumble down—the entrenched authoritarian modernizing regimes, the "old regimes" of the waning century. Not all of them and certainly not all at once, but by now, the trend is palpable.
Notwithstanding the differences, there is, then, a kinship between what is going on in Cairo today and happened in Moscow in August 1991. With the hindsight of Russia's experience over the last two decades, we can expect more similarities in the future. But for the moment, one can rejoice at the fall, imminent, of Egypt's last Pharaoh.
Nothing suggests the deep similarity between the two revolutions better than the photos my daughter Anna emailed to me today, with the subject heading "When you know a regime has fallen..." One of the two, with little Anna on the tank, was taken by me on 21 August 1991 in Moscow, the other, of an Egyptian girl, by someone in Cairo today or yesterday. Guess which is which...
Do you sense the tilt, as the world keeps tumbling into the future?