BERLIN — Angela Merkel has been chancellor of Germany and unofficial leader of Europe for 13 years.
When she was first appointed, George W. Bush was still in the White House and Tony Blair ran Britain. There was no Twitter and no iPhone. Liberal democracy was in seemingly inexorable expansion mode, with the Orange Revolution having recently swept through Ukraine. Mariah Carey had topped the charts for months with “We Belong Together.”
On Friday, Ms. Merkel’s conservative party will choose her successor as party leader, marking the beginning of the end of her long political life. She is on her third American president, her fourth French president and her seventh Italian prime minister. Democracy seems increasingly under threat. “Solo,” by Clean Bandit, is playing on the radio.
[Who will replace Angela Merkel as the conservatives’ leader, and what will it mean for her party?]
Over the years, Ms. Merkel has put President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia in his place (even when he tried to intimidate her with his dog). She bonded with President Barack Obama and stood up to President Trump. She became an icon of hope for refugees and an object of scorn for populists. As Europe’s most powerful leader, she became an inspiration to women in a world dominated by men.
Her political career, which began in an era of hope after the Berlin Wall came down, is ending at a time of great uncertainty. It is a journey from the end of history and back.
Ms. Merkel, right, and Joachim Sauer, who would become her husband, in Poland in 1989.CreditBogumil Jeziorski/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
Ms. Merkel, then 36, was sworn in as the minister for women and youth in 1991.CreditMartin Gerten/Picture-Alliance, via Associated Press
Ms. Merkel, left, with students at an International Youth Festival in 1992.CreditStefan Kiefer/DPA, via Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
The Christian Democratic Union party leader, Helmut Kohl, with Ms. Merkel at a conference in 1991.CreditThomas Imo/Photothek, via Getty Images
A campaign rally for Ms. Merkel in 2005, before she became chancellor.CreditAndreas Rentz/Getty Images
The chancellor with President Barack Obama in Berlin in 2016.CreditAlexander Koerner/Getty Images
Ms. Merkel with President Trump and other leaders at the Group of 7 summit meeting in Canada this year.CreditJesco Denzel/German Federal Government, via Reuters
The chancellor and President Emmanuel Macron of France in a reproduction of the wagon where the World War I armistice was signed in 1918.CreditPhilippe Wojazer/REUTERS, via Associated Press
A migrant from Syria with a picture of Ms. Merkel as he and approximately 800 others arrived in Munich in 2015.CreditSean Gallup/Getty Images
Ms. Merkel at a school for street children supported by a German charity in Ethiopia in 2007.CreditAxel Schmidt/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
The German leader and Mr. Obama with the Holocaust survivors Elie Wiesel, left, and Bertrand Hertz, right, at the Buchenwald concentration camp in 2009.CreditStephen Crowley/The New York Times
A protest in Athens against austerity measures, which Ms. Merkel pushed for, in 2012.CreditAngelos Tzortzinis for The New York Times
Touring a German Navy frigate in 2006.CreditAndreas Rentz/Getty Images
President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia brought his dog to a 2007 meeting in Sochi, Russia, with Ms. Merkel, who is known to be afraid of dogs.CreditAxel Schmidt/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
With President Xi Jinping of China in front of the Brandenburg Gate in 2017.CreditGuido Bergmann/German Federal Government, via Reuters
In Saudi Arabia in 2010.CreditPool photo by Guido Bergmann
The chancellor and Mr. Obama at the G-7 meeting in Germany in 2015.CreditPool photo by Michael Kappeler
Cheering for the German national soccer team at the World Cup in 2014.CreditPixathlon/SIPA, via Getty Images
With the Bavarian governor, Horst Seehofer, left, and the Social Democratic Party chairman, Martin Schulz, after exploratory talks on forming a new German government in January.CreditMarkus Schreiber/Associated Press
Ms. Merkel attending the Christian Democrats’ congress as party leader for the last time in Hamburg on Friday.CreditFabian Bimmer/Reuters