Friday, November 21, 2014

The End of History: The World in 1989

Just weeks ago, the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall was celebrated. The city of Berlin, once split in two and now a single city, marked the occasion with a symbolic wall of 8,000 glowing balloons. Press stories recounted events from political and personal perspectives, and examined their legacy.

A series of fast-moving events in 1989 culminated in the opening and then the destruction of the Berlin Wall which had separated the people of East Berlin and West Berlin for more than a generation.

But this was only one of the titanic events of 1989.  Though the production The End of History may not deal with them directly, here are some of the events of that year that continue to shape our world 25 years later:

The Polish United Workers party votes to legalize Solidarity, the dissident union headed by Lech Walesa.  Elections are held in June, Solidarity candidates triumph and by year's end, Poland leaves the Soviet-dominated Warsaw Pact.

The Velvet Revolution takes to the streets in Czechoslovakia, bringing down the Communist government.  Playwright and activist leader Vaclav Havel is elected president.

The Romanian Communist Party unanimously reelects President Ceausescu, protests erupt, the government is overthrown, Ceausescu and his wife are tried and executed.

Hungary proclaims a new constitution to create a multiparty democracy, and reorganizes as a republic on the 33rd anniversary of the Hungarian rebellion of 1956 that was crushed by Soviet tanks.

France celebrates the bicentennial of the French Revolution.

On October 1, civil unions for same sex couples became legal in Denmark, the first such law in the world.

The Exxon Valdez created the world's largest oil spill to that time when it ran aground in Alaska.  The effects (and litigation) continue today.

President Bush authorizes the allocation of $300 billion in federal funds to prevent the collapse of the savings and loan industry.

Young Chinese protesters gather in Tiananmen Square and erect The Goddess of Democracy.  After a period of tolerance, Chinese troops and tanks crush the rebellion, killing hundreds and perhaps thousands of protesters.

The Dalai Lama wins the Nobel Peace Prize.

Hurricane Hugo devastated the Caribbean and South Carolina.

Terrorists in the Middle East hang an American hostage taken in 1986.

General Colin Powell becomes the first African American appointed Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

The last Soviet troops leave Afghanistan, ending military occupation begun in 1979.

Five Central American countries agree that the U.S. backed "contras" attempting to bring down the government of Nicaragua should be disbanded.

The U.S. and Canada begin negotiations on an acid rain treaty. Twelve European countries agree to stop production of all chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) by the end of the 20th century.

The 7.1 Loma Prieta earthquake hits the Bay Area during a World Series game between the San Francisco Giants and the Oakland Athletics.  It causes significant damage.

Douglas Wilder becomes the first African American elected as the governor of a U.S. state (Virginia.)

Lithuania becomes the first Soviet republic to abolish Communist control of the government.

Chile holds its first free elections in 16 years.

A number of events, some initiated by Soviet president Mikhail Gorbachev in 1989, would culminate in the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991.

The first Global Positioning System (GPS) satellite is placed in orbit.

The first Al-Qaeda cell in the US is reportedly formed in New York City.

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