BERLIN — When Angela Merkel grew to become chancellor 16 years in the past, George W. Bush was in the White House and Tony Blair was prime minister of Britain. There was no Twitter and no iPhone. Liberal democracy was in seemingly irreversible growth, with the Orange Revolution having swept Ukraine.
On Wednesday, as Olaf Scholz, Ms. Merkel’s successor, takes over as chancellor, Twitter is a veritable device of diplomacy, Russian troops are gathering on a divided Ukraine’s border, and democracy itself appears far much less sure all over the world.
In the intervening years, Ms. Merkel has stood as much as President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia (even when he tried to intimidate her together with his canine). She bonded with Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama and scolded President Donald J. Trump. She grew to become an icon of hope for refugees and an object of scorn for populists the world over.
It was an extended journey that began behind the Iron Curtain. Born in the western port metropolis of Hamburg, Ms. Merkel grew up because the daughter of a Protestant pastor in the previous Communist East in a small city north of Berlin.
When the Berlin Wall fell in 1989, Ms. Merkel left behind a profession in scientific analysis to throw herself into politics, successful a seat in Parliament in Germany’s first reunified elections. Before she grew to become chancellor, she a number of a number of ministerial posts and served as chief of her conservative social gathering, after ousting her political mentor, Helmut Kohl, in a ruthless show of energy by publicly calling for his elimination. She remained head of the Christian Democratic Union until 2018, when she determined to step down, a transfer that rendered her a lame duck for the ultimate, difficult years of her chancellorship.
Now, at 67, Ms. Merkel’s long political life seems to be coming to an in depth (what’s going to comply with is unsure). She was all the time clear that she wished to go away workplace on her personal phrases and in her personal time. “I want at some point to find the right time to quit politics,” she advised Herlinde Koelbl, a German photographer, in 1998. “I don’t want to be a half-dead wreck.”
She stored this promise to herself. The first chancellor of trendy Germany to go away workplace fairly than be voted out both by lawmakers or the general public, Ms. Merkel is strolling out of the chancellery as her nation’s hottest politician.
Her political profession, which started in an period of hope after the Berlin Wall got here down, is ending at a time of nice uncertainty. It is a journey from the top of historical past and again.