In an extraordinary quirk of history in 1989, exactly 200 years after the French Revolution, a series of peaceful democratic revolutions transformed the map of Europe, marking the end of the Soviet Union's hegemony and the restoration of democracy in the countries of Central and Eastern Europe, including Poland and Hungary, who were the least compliant of the Soviet Union's vassal states.
At the same time, a similar uprising took place in East Germany, where the fall of the Berlin Wall brought about the collapse of the German Democratic Republic (East Germany) and the end of communist rule in that forlorn state.
On October 3 the following year, the actual political reunification of East Germany and West Germany took place. Last weekend, the German people celebrated the 30th anniversary of that momentous event.
Other European nations have warmly saluted the anniversary and wished the German people well, which is a reversal of their respective governments' positions in 1990, whenever the prospect of Germany's reunion was being considered.
The French, in particular, under President Francois Mitterrand, were unhappy about German reunification, as they feared a resurgence of German militarism that had led to two previous World Wars.
This opposition to German unity was shared by other European countries, including the Dutch, the Italians and, of course, the British.
The then-Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher, was extremely wary of a reunited German state and expressed her opposition privately. At a meeting of European leaders, she declared: "We defeated the Germans twice. And now they're back."
If any reunion was to take place, she wanted it delayed for at least five years, or even more.
One great exception in Europe was Ireland under Taoiseach, Charles J Haughey, who, as the President of the European Community, convened a special meeting in Dublin and won the backing of member states for German reunification. The German Chancellor, Helmut Kohl, saluted Haughey's timely intervention by saying: "Germany will never forgot what you have done for us."
In any event, European and British objections did not prevail, as both the Soviet Union, under President Gorbachev, and the United States, under President George H W Bush, supported German reunification.
Gorbachev believed that it was in the interests of the now considerably weakened USSR to allow a new German state to emerge, because he hoped that it would leave NATO and become a neutral power in Europe.
President Bush simply felt that it was the democratic right of the Germans to unite within one state. President Bush's strong support was the really decisive factor in getting widespread international backing for German unity.
The reunification of Germany was unexpected, almost accidental. Although unplanned by the Germans themselves, the unification process was both peaceful and democratic.
Nonetheless, it was rushed and involved economic and social pain, particularly for those living in the East.
German unity went through a number of stages. There was monetary union, when the deutschemark replaced the East German currency at parity.
Economic and social union was rapidly introduced. Large subsidies for the GDR's budget and social security system were made available by West Germany.
West German laws came into force even before formal reunion. Finally, the East German Volkskammer voted by a two-third's majority to approve their accession to the West German state, thereby the GDR was absorbed into West Germany.
The achievement of German reunification was not just that it was peaceful and democratic, but also it successfully addressed the tricky task of integrating the German people themselves after four decades of separation under ideologically different political and social systems.
There is still some economic imbalance between the East and West and this has given rise to the process of what the Germans have called "inner reunification".
Ironically, the current Chancellor, Angela Merkel, was born and brought up in East Germany, the daughter of a Lutheran pastor. This former East German citizen succeeded in becoming leader of the Christian Democrats, in succession to Helmut Kohl, and also in dominating German and European politics over the past 15 years.
Despite her understated leadership, she has skilfully navigated the new Germany through the financial crash of 2008, the immigration crisis of 2015 and the vexatious issue of Brexit.
Remarkably, she has permitted over a million non-EU migrants to settle legally in Germany. At the same time, she has presided over the building and maintenance of a strong economy, which is the powerhouse of Europe.
The reunification of Germany was a huge demand unexpectedly thrust upon the German people by the unpredictable implosion of the Soviet Union. The positive response by the German people is a testimony to their innate political genius.
Perhaps we in Ireland, both nationalist and unionist, could learn from the German experience of reunification some 30 years ago.