Following the 19th century, the 20th century changed the world in unprecedented ways. The World Wars sparked tension between countries and led to the creation of atomic bombs, the Cold War led to the Space Race and the creation of space-based rockets, and the World Wide Web was created. These advancements have played a significant role in citizens’ lives and shaped the 21st century into what it is today.
1899-1902: The Second Boer War
(See Main Article: The Great Rapprochement)
The Second Boer War (1899-1902) was a costly victory for the British of Boer forces in South Africa. Awareness of the conflict among the people of the United States is evidenced in American popular culture. A Spanish-American War song, “Good-Bye, Dolly Gray,” was revived and became a much bigger hit than it had been just two years before. It was again a hit when it was recorded several times as American boys went off to fight World War I in 1917.
How did two brothers who never left home, were high-school dropouts, and made a living as bicycle mechanics figure out the secret of manned flight? The story goes that Wilbur and Orville Wright were an inseparable duo that were equally responsible for developing the theory of aeronautics and translating it into the first workable airplane.
(See Main Article: The Titanic: Passengers, Crew, Sinking, and Survivors)
The Titanic was a luxury vessel and the largest moveable man-made object of its time. It sank on April 15, 1912, off the coast of Newfoundland in the North Atlantic. Over 1,500 of the 2,240 passengers and crew lost their lives in the disaster. It remains a cautionary tale of the arrogance of builders that their creation could ever be flawless or impervious to harm.
1914: World War One Begins
(See Main Article: World War 1: A Comprehensive Overview of the Great War)
The reason for America to become involved in WW1 was Germany’s unrestricted submarine warfare, which had already sunk several American merchant ships. The U.S. was initially contributed to the war by supplying raw materials, supplies, and money. American soldiers first arrived to the Western Front in the summer of 1918 and by the end of the war, over 4,000,000 U.S. military personnel had been mobilized. 110,000 Americans died during WW1, of which 43,000 lost their lives in the influenza pandemic. How the U.S. contributed to World War 1: Supplying raw materials, arms, and other supplies. The U.S. actually saved Britain and some other Allied powers from bankruptcy by joining the war. Previously, Britain and its allies used to buy supplies from the U.S. amounting to over 75 billion dollars per week. The American Expeditionary Forces were sent to all the campaigns the U.S. got involved in. By that time, the weary French and British troops were badly in need of relief. The first American soldiers reached Europe in June 1917 already, but only started fully participating in October in Nancy, France. The U.S. wanted its forces to be capable of operating independently but didn’t have the necessary supplies and trained troops in Europe yet at the time.
(See Main Article: Who Killed Franz Ferdinand?)
The assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria and his wife, Sophie, was the event that started World War 1. The assassination was planned by a group of six people (one Bosniak and five Serbs) that were part of the Young Bosnia Movement. Danilo Ilic recruited Vaso Čubrilović, Muhamed Mehmedbašić, Cvjetko Popović, Trifko Grabež, Nedeljko Čabrinović, and Gavrilo Princip and coordinated the assassination. The person who however ended up killing Franz Ferdinand, partly by chance, was Gavrilo Princip.
1915: Sinking of the Lusitania
(See Main Article: Sinking of the Lusitania)
The sinking of the Lusitania on Friday, May 7, 1915, during the First World War, as Germany, waged submarine warfare against the United Kingdom which had implemented a naval blockade of Germany.
After the Lusitania disaster, the German government had privately decided to abandon the practice of firing upon passenger liners. But in March 1916, acting against orders, a German submarine fired without warning upon the French steamer Sussex, killing about eighty people. Four of the twenty-five Americans aboard were injured. The ship had not possessed the usual markings that indicated a passenger ship; it was painted black, and its bridge looked like that of a warship. When the German captain spied it traveling outside the routes that the British Admiralty had designated for passenger ships, he suspected it was The Germans had made a mistake, and would certainly have made reparation for the disaster. Wilson, however, took the opportunity to issue an ultimatum to Germany demanding that unless she abandoned submarine warfare entirely, the United States would sever diplomatic relations with her. The result was the Sussex pledge of May 1916, in which the German government made a major concession to Wilson. Although they would not abandon submarine warfare altogether, the Germans would not sink enemy merchant ships, armed or unarmed, without warning and without saving the lives of the people aboard, unless the ship in question opened fire or attempted to flee. This was an enormous concession, since the Germans, in effect, granted enemy merchant ships the opportunity to fire the first shot.
1917-1923: The Russian Revolution
(See Main Article: The Russian Revolutions of 1917-1923)
The Great War is the watershed between the pre-modern and early modern era. As an example, all we have to do is look at Russia. Before World War One, it was an autocracy, very conservative, very religious, and only a few decades away from serfdom, which the rest of Europe abandoned in the Middle Ages. After the war, it was officially atheistic, communist, rapidly industrializing, and becoming one of two superpowers that dominated the 20th century. To Churchill, the Bolsheviks represented a greater threat to civilized Europe than did the reeking tube and iron shard of the Kaiser’s Reich. Bolshevism, he declared in the House of Commons, was “not a policy; it is a disease. It is not a creed; it is a pestilence.”
1918: World War One Ends
(See Main Article: The Hundred Day’s Offensives and The End of WW1)
After Germany’s failed spring offensive, realized the only way to win was to push into France before the United States fully deployed its resources. The French and British were barely hanging on in 1918. By 1918, French reserves of military-aged recruits were literally a state secret; there were so few of them still alive. The British, barely maintaining 62 divisions on the Western Front, planned, in the course of 1918 – had the Americans not appeared – to reduce their divisions to thirty or fewer and essentially to abandon the ground war in Europe. But with the Americans, it renewed the fighting chances for the Allies. They decisively overtook the Germans at the Meuse-Argonne Offensive in September. In November, Kaiser Wilhelm, visiting Spa, was advised that he had no real control over much of the army. While there, he received a telegram from Berlin that read “All troops deserted. Completely out of hand.” Wilhelm decided to go to the Netherlands. There, he abdicated on November 9. The war officially came to an end on November 11, where all troops kept a moment of silence.
(See Main Article: Why Did the League of Nations Fail?)
The League of Nations was the first intergovernmental organization that was established after World War 1 in order to try and maintain peace. It was headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland and designed to be a forum for handling international disputes before they flared up into military action and caused domino effects that pulled ally nations into the conflict (as had happened with the Great War). Unfortunately, the League failed miserably in its intended goal: to prevent another world war from happening (WW2 broke out only two decades later). The idea was for the League of Nations to prevent wars through disarmament, collective security, and negotiation. It was also involved in other issues such as drug trafficking, arms trade, and global health. Although the League disbanded during WW2, it was replaced with the United Nations, which is still going strong today.
(See Main Article: Adolf Hitler: How Did He Come To Power?)
The story really begins back in 1919, when a young Adolf Hitler, fresh out of the German army at the end of World War 1, joins the German Workers’ Party. Having previously been an intelligence officer who was monitoring the German Worker’s party, Hitler found a growing admiration for the party’s nationalistic and anti-Semitic ideas. He became especially fetch by the party’s founder, Anton Drexler, who invited the 30-year-old Hitler to join the party after having been impressed by his oratory abilities. Thus, Hitler became a member of the German Worker’s Party.
It was two years later in 1921, Hitler became the Chairman of the party. Further than that, the German Worker’s Party, called Deutsche Arbeiterpartei or DAP, was renamed the National Socialist German Worker’s Party (or NSDAP).
1919-1939: The Road to War: Germany
(See Main Article: The Road to War: Germany)
WWI fighting ended with the armistice of November 11, 1918. Post-war peace was achieved with the abdication and exile of Kaiser Wilhelm II, the creation of the Weimar Republic, and German acceptance of the Treaty of Versailles. The Weimar constitution created a semi-presidential system in which power was divided between the president, a cabinet and a parliament. The office of chancellor was appointed by the president and was basically the chairman of the Reichstag (the parliament).To secure the peace, the Weimar Republic accepted punishment inflicted on them by the Allies, including mass reductions in the size of their military, payment of war reparations, reduction of territory, and acceptance of the “war guilt” clause. Almost from the start, the Weimar Republic came under attack from within. Right-wing extremists, meanwhile, used their political power to oppose any democratic system and to blame the country’s WWI defeat on a conspiracy between socialists and Jews. Although the moderate government maintained power, violence erupted on the streets between the left and right. It was a rough start for this democracy.
1941: Pearl Harbor
(See Main Article: Pearl Harbor: The Ultimate Guide to the Attack)
The attack on Pearl Harbor ranks as the most successful military surprise attack in the early years of combined naval/aerial combat. On December 7, 1941, the Imperial Japanese Navy Air Service struck the United States naval base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii Territory. The attack directly led to the United States’ entrance into World War Two. Japan quickly followed up the attack with the invasion of numerous Pacific Islands. They held them through several years of gruesome fighting.
(See Main Article: Hiroshima, Nagasaki, and the End of the War)
Between December 1942 and July 1945, a team of scientists, working in secret facilities in various parts of the U. S., researched, built, and tested the world’s first atomic bomb. Japan’s failure to surrender, together with the possibility of hundreds of thousands of casualties, motivated President Truman to drop an atomic bomb on the Japanese city of Hiroshima. Despite the bomb’s destruction of the city, including the immediate deaths of up to 80,000 people, Japan’s leaders still refused to surrender. Three days later, an American bomber dropped a second bomb on Nagasaki, leveling that city and killing nearly as many people as had perished at Hiroshima. Soon after, the Emperor led Japan to surrender. In this episode, James and Scott discuss the Manhattan Project, the dropping of the two atomic bombs, the Japanese surrender, and the end of the Second World War.
(See Main Article: What Was the Truman Doctrine?)
The Truman Doctrine arose from a speech by President Harry Truman, but it has informally become the basis of the U.S. foreign policy during the Cold War and afterwards. Historians often refer to the Truman speech as the day the Cold War started, because the policy was geared towards containing the expansion of the Soviet Union and communism. Previously, the U.S. always had a stance of withdrawing from conflicts that were not directly affecting the U.S., but after Truman’s Doctrine was approved, interventions started to happen more frequently in far away countries.
1947: The Cold War Begins
(See Main Article: The Cold War: Causes, Major Events, and How it Ended)
The Cold War was a geopolitical chess match between the United States, the Soviet Union, and both parties’ allies in which the major power players sought to project their respective ideologies across the globe in the wake of colonialism’s collapse following World War Two. The period occurred between 1947, the year of the Truman Doctrine, and 1991, when the Soviet Union collapsed.
(See Main Article: Marshall Plan in the Cold War)
The Marshall Plan in the Cold War was a strategy to turn former WW2 enemies into allies by rebuilding their shattered economies. One of the enduring myths of early Cold War history involves the so-called Marshall Plan laid out by Secretary of State George Marshall in 1947. With Western Europe in economic ruin, some American policymakers suggested that massive injections of aid were necessary in order to jump-start those economies. An anti-Communist rationale was also offered for the program: Since Communism was thought to thrive amid conditions of poverty and despair, economic recovery in Western Europe would undercut whatever attraction Communist propaganda might hold there.
1950: The Korean War Begins
(See Main Article: The Korean War Begins)
The Korean War was the first and largest major battle of the Cold War, as proxies of the United States and Soviet Union took up arms to defend ideologies that clashed repeatedly over the next several decades. Fought between 1950 and 1953 (and still technically ongoing since the two sides never completed formal peace talks), it was war between North Korea, with the support of China and the Soviet Union, and South Korea, primarily supported by NATO and the United States.
1953: The Death Of Stalin
(See Main Article: De-stalinization: Dismantling a Cult of Personality)
Nikita Khrushchev’s dramatic “de-Stalinization” speech in February 1956 was a watershed moment in the Cold War. After a succession crisis following Stalin’s death in 1953, Khrushchev, as general secretary of the Communist Party, decided to open a box long-closed even to party members. Although the speech before the Twentieth Party Congress was supposed to be secret, leaks soon occurred through the comments of foreign communist leaders who had been present. Its startling contents made headlines in the West.
(See Main Article: How did the Korean War End?)
The Korean War was fought between North and South Korea, between 25 June 1950 and 27 July 1953. The United Nations, with the U.S. at its lead was aligned with the South, while China fought on the North’s side, with help from the Soviet Union. The war started because of the division of Korea, as well as the tension that already existed between countries during the Cold War.
(See Main Article: The Civil Rights Movement: The Surge Forward (1954-1960))
Brown v. Board was a landmark decision of the U.S. Supreme Court that declared state laws establishing separate public schools for black and white students unconstitutional. In doing so, the court overturned the infamous Plessy v. Ferguson decision from 1896, which had legalized and justified such segregation, (although in the area of public transportation), on the merits of “separate but equal.” Brown was a class-action suit named after Oliver Brown, a parent chosen to head the case in part because he was a solid family man with a respectable history of work and service in the community as an assistant pastor at his church. Thirteen parents were involved in the suit, each of them having been rebuffed in their attempts to enroll their children in the closest neighborhood schools for the fall 1951 term. Each had instead been directed to segregated schools. The Brown case had evolved out of a myriad of segregation cases following WWII, and combined 5 other cases that had all been sponsored by the NAACP. The unanimous decision in Brown was handed down on May 17, 1954.
(See Main Article: What was the Warsaw Pact?)
The USSR and seven European countries signed the Warsaw Pact on May 14, 1955 as a response to NATO, to have a similar alliance on the opposition side. Members included Albania, Czechoslovakia, East Germany, Bulgaria, Poland, Romania and the Soviet Union. Through the treaty, member states promised to defend any member that may be attacked by an outside force, with the unified command under a leader of the Soviet Union. The Warsaw Pact ensured that most European nations were aligned in one of two opposing camps and formalized the political divide in Europe that became prevalent World War II.
(See Main Article: Hungarian Revolution of 1956—A Summary)
On October 22, 1956, five thousand students crammed into a hall in Budapest and approved a manifesto that, among other things, called for the withdrawal of Soviet troops from Hungary, free elections, freedom of association, and economic reform. The following day, thousands filled the streets of the capital city, chanting “Russians go home!” and ending up in Hero Square, where they pulled down a giant statue of Stalin.
1957: Sputnik Is Launched
(See Main Article: The Cold War Timeline)
USSR Sputnik II carried Laika the dog, the first living creature to go into space.
(See Main Article: When Did China Become Communist?)
In October 1949, when Mao Zedong proclaimed the birth of the People’s Republic of China, a Bamboo Curtain descended on some 540 million Chinese just as an Iron Curtain had descended across the European continent. In the following decades, two great communist powers, the PRC and the Soviet Union, usually but not always cooperated in advancing Marxism-Leninism while competing for the leadership of the communist world.
In both countries, Marxist-Leninist ideology was an essential element that gave the Communist Party absolute power and ensured its control of domestic and foreign policy. Ideology bred many of the same totalitarian practices in both countries:
1959: The Vietnam War
(See Main Article: The Vietnam War: Background and Overview)
Sometime in late 1957 or 1958, North Vietnam began organizing to support the communist struggle against Diem being waged by Southern communists. Economic improvements in North Vietnam allowed Ho to begin focusing more attention on the South. By 1959, the time was ripe for Hanoi to take the military offensive. In May 1959 a resolution was adopted in North Vietnam.
(See Main Article: Kennedy’s Major Accomplishments)
After the war, Kennedy represented the 11th congressional district of Massachusetts in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1947 to 1953. He was subsequently elected to the U.S. Senate and served as the junior Senator from Massachusetts from 1953 to 1960. While in the Senate, Kennedy published his book Profiles in Courage, which won a Pulitzer Prize. In the 1960 presidential election, he narrowly defeated Republican opponent Richard Nixon, who was the incumbent vice president.
(See Main Article: The Berlin Wall And Günter Schabowski)
In less than an hour, Schabowski had conferred the dreams of Berliners who wanted to unite the city since the wall’s construction in 1961. When he had a moment to breathe, Schabowski tried to call Gorbachev and the Soviet Union’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Eduard Shevardnadze to discuss his comments and the future of Berlin. He was told that both men were too busy to speak with him. After 28 years, Schabowski’s press conference blunder would lead to the end of the Berlin Wall.
(See Main Article: Vietnam War Aircraft: Evolution in Flight)
At the start of 1962, the U.S. had 16,000 military advisors training the South Vietnamese army in its fight against the Viet Cong and the Communist government based in Hanoi. In early February, the Pentagon set up a permanent U.S. military presence in Saigon—the Military Assistance Command in Vietnam (MACV). The U.S. military presence in a country that most Americans knew very little about would only grow from that point on.
(See Main Article: What Happened on November 22, 1963?)
President Kennedy was assassinated during his Dallas trip when Lee Harvey Oswald fired three shots from a sixth-floor window of the Texas School Book Depository. John David Ready had been part of Kennedy’s Secret Service detail that day and was assigned to the right front running board of the presidential follow-up car. Ready, whose job was to observe the crowds and buildings, said, “I heard what appeared to be fire crackers going off from my position.” The vast majority of ear-witnesses heard three shots; many of them believed they were firecrackers.
(See Main Article: Civil Rights Act of 1964)
The Civil Rights Act of 1964 facts was one of the most momentous and far-reaching pieces of legislation in American history. The act prohibited segregation in public facilities and private establishments catering to the public, particularly restaurants and hotels. It also prohibited discrimination in private employment on the basis of race, creed, sex, or national origin. It extended federal authority over private behavior to an extraordinary degree; that power would continue to grow in the ensuing years.
1965: Winston Churchill Dies
(See Main Article: Winston Churchill: His Childhood, Life, and Memorable Speeches)
Sir Winston Churchill died in his ninetieth year, on 24 January 1965. Two generations mourned him; kings, queens, and presidents paid him tribute, and historians acknowledged their debt.
Churchill’s place in history is assured; with Hitler he remains a towering political figure of the twentieth century. His courage, determination, and leadership during Britain’s greatest peril mark him for the ages. However unlikely the success of a German invasion of Britain in 1940 now seems—‘‘Overlord in reverse’’—it did not seem so at the time. When some of his fellow Britons and not a few Americans called for capitulation or accommodation, Winston Churchill chomped his cigar, flashed his V-for-victory sign, and uttered a defiant ‘‘No!’’ that echoes down the ages.
(See Main Article: Operation Beaver Cage)
Operation Beaver Cage was a bloody, but often forgotten conflict held during the Vietnam war. It was a U.S. Marine Corps operation in the Que Son Valley that took place from 28 April through to 12 May 1967.
The operation was formed on Okinawa on 1 March 1967 under the command of Colonel James A. Gallo, Jr. Both the helicopter squadron and the battalion had just finished rehabilitation periods on Okinawa and were at full strength. Operation Beaver Cage was the rich and populous Que Son Valley, 25 miles south of Da Nang, important to the Communists as a source of both food and manpower. Beaver Cage started at 7am on the 28th of April as the first heliborne elements of BLT 1 / 3 touched down. For the next four days, heat caused more casualties than the enemy as operations continued against negligible opposition.
1969 – 1974: Richard Nixon Serves As President
(See Main Article: Was Richard Nixon Impeached?)
Richard Nixon was never impeached, not because there were no impeachment proceedings against him, but because he resigned the presidency at the near-certain prospect of losing the impeachment vote and being removed from office. Nixon served as president of America between 1969 and 1974 and was, to date, the only president to ever resign from office.
1975: The Vietnam War Ends
(See Main Article: End of the Vietnam War)
The Paris accords among Washington, Saigon, and Hanoi took effect on January 27, 1973. They were the diplomatic efforts that signaled the end of the Vietnam War. On that day Commander Harley Hall, a former Blue Angel leader and the commander of an Enterprise F-4 squadron, became the last naval aviator shot down in the long war. His Phantom fell north of the Demilitarized Zone, and though his back-seater survived captivity, Hall did not. Long thereafter his widow learned that he had probably lived two or more years in captivity, abandoned by his government with unknown numbers of other men.
(See Main Article: The 1976 Presidential Election)
The 1976 presidential election was the first held in the wake of the Watergate scandal, which had consumed the Nixon presidency and resulted in Gerald R. Ford becoming president. Ford had first become Vice President by congressional confirmation in the wake of Vice President Spiro Agnew’s own corruption scandal and resignation, resulting in the first American president who had not been elected to be either president or vice president. Ford, the Republican candidate, was pitted against the relatively unknown former 1-term governor of Georgia, Jimmy Carter. Carter ran as a Washington outsider, a popular position in the post-Watergate era, and won a narrow victory.
(See Main Article: The Iranian Revolution: Persia Before, During, and After 1979)
The Iranian Revolution of 1979 is an even that is poorly understood in the West. That is because it is a complex mixture of twentieth-century Cold War politics, a modern strain of political Islam, and both these elements mixed with a Persian culture thousands of years old that predates the great monotheistic religions.
(See Main Article: John Hinckley Jr.: Hunting Carter and Reagan)
John Hinckley Jr. was a lonely college dropout whose life was dominated by two things: the teenage actress Jodie Foster and the movie Taxi Driver, in which the central character, played by Robert De Niro, plans to impress a woman by assassinating a politician. Hinckley saw the movie fifteen times. Desperate to act on his obsession with the Hollywood actress (who also starred in the film), Hinckley sent her letters and stalked her at Yale, where the young star was a freshman in 1980. After Foster rejected Hinckley’s advances, he became more determined than ever to prove himself worthy of her. Hinckley decided that shooting the president would do the job.
(See Main Article: Reagan Doctrine — A Proactive Anti-USSR Policy)
Ronald Reagan would permanently change the global picture, which looked bleak when he took office in 1981. From martial law in Poland imposed by the communist regime and the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan to the Sandinista revolution in Nicaragua and communist rule in Mozambique and Angola, Soviet Premier Leonid Brezhnev claimed victories for Marxism-Leninism. Within a few years he developed the “Reagan Doctrine,” a pro-active foreign policy.
(See Main Article: The Falkland Islands And Its First Battle)
In 1982, British PM Margaret Thatcher ordered the Royal Navy to re-capture the Falkland Islands from Argentina. It only took them 10 weeks.
(See Main Article: Stanislav Petrov: The Man Who Saved The World)
He was not supposed to be on duty that night and would never have been “the right man in the right place” as he later claimed if the officer scheduled for that shift had not called in sick. On such small things have turned so many of history’s greatest events. And so Stanislav Yevgrafovich Petrov, a 44-year-old lieutenant colonel in the Soviet Air Defense Forces found himself the Duty Officer at the command center for the nation’s nuclear early-warning system the night on the night of September 26th, 1983 when that system told him his worst nightmare was coming true.
(See Main Article: Middle East Wars: 1975-2007)
Israel was forced out of most of southern Lebanon except for a buffer region north of its border. Some sixteen years later, Israeli prime minister Ehud Barak pulled out of there too. Hezbollah was able to establish a state within a state in the southern part of the country, and Syrian military forces and intelligence organizations moved back in to dominate much of the country for almost the next quarter-century. Saddam, by contrast, had been unable to hang on to Kuwait for more than six months.
1985 – 1987: The Iran-Contra Affair Begins
(See Main Article: The Iran-Contra Affair)
The foreign-policy scandal known as the Iran-contra affair came to light in November 1986 when President Ronald Reagan confirmed reports that the United States had secretly sold arms to Iran. He stated that the goal was to improve relations with Iran, not to obtain the release of U.S. hostages held in the Middle East by terrorists (although he later acknowledged that the arrangement had in fact turned into an arms-for-hostages swap). Outcry against dealings with a hostile Iran was widespread. Later in November, Attorney General. Edwin Meese discovered that some of the arms profits had been diverted to aid the Nicaraguan “contra” rebels at a time when Congress had prohibited such aid. An independent special prosecutor, former federal judge Lawrence E. Walsh, was appointed to probe the activities of persons involved in the arms sale or contra aid, or both.
1988: End of the Iran–Iraq War
(See Main Article: The Iranian Revolution: Persia Before, During, and After 1979)
Finally, in 1988, even Khomeini was forced to recognize the inevitable and accept a compromise cease-fire. The act of peace-making probably proved too much for him; he died the following year at the ripe old age of eighty-six.
1989: The Berlin Wall Falls
(See Main Article: When Was the Berlin Wall Torn Down?)
The Berlin Wall, often called the “Wall of Shame” and a symbol of the Iron Curtain of the Cold War, was torn down on November 9, 1989, two years after President Ronald Reagan challenged Mikhail Gorbachev to “tear down this wall.”
(See Main Article: Nelson Mandela)
In 1962 Mandela left South Africa without permission. On his return he was arrested and charged. He conducted his own defence and challenged the all-white court with impartialism stating ‘ I detest racialism, because I regard it as a barbaric thing, whether it comes from a black man or a white man’. He was convicted and sentenced to five years imprisonment. While in prison he was further charged with sabotage and sentenced to life imprisonment.
Following his release from prison Nelson Mandela was elected president of the ANC. In 1993 he was awarded the Nobel Peace prize and following the country’s first democratic election in 1994 became President of South Africa. In 1999 Mandela retired from public life.
1991: The Soviet Union Falls
(See Main Article: Fall of the Soviet Union: The Cold War Ends)
A despondent Gorbachev, not quite sure why it had all happened so quickly, officially resigned as president of the Soviet Union on Christmas Day 1991—seventy-four years after the Bolshevik Revolution. Casting about for reasons, he spoke of a “totalitarian system” that prevented the Soviet Union from becoming “a prosperous and well-to-do country,” without acknowledging the role of Lenin, Stalin, and other communist dictators in creating and sustaining that totalitarian system. He referred to “the mad militarization” that had crippled “our economy, public attitudes and morals” but accepted no blame for himself or the generals who had spent up to 40 percent of the Soviet budget on the military. He said that “an end has been put to the cold war” but admitted no role for any Western leader in ending the war.
(See Main Article: Roger Hines: Seeking Fame By Killing a President)
On January 13, 1992, thirty-five-year-old Roger Hines stole a .357 Magnum revolver and fifty rounds of ammunition in Oregon before traveling to Washington, D.C., with the intention of killing President George H.W. Bush. Hines was a six-foot-four-inch, 457-pound man who had been convicted of crimes four times, hospitalized for mental problems five times, and had once entered a hospital with an ax, threatening patients and staff. His psychiatrist said that when Hines was off his medication, he was “dangerous.” Several relatives had received postcards from Hines, one of which depicted a Derringer gun and a newspaper article about the assassination of Abraham Lincoln. Hines said he wanted “to become famous.” He also kept a diary in which he recorded his fantasies about killing George Bush and molesting and killing young boys.
Many tried to kill Bill Clinton during his presidency, including former military officers, white supremacists, and a little-known militant named Osama bin Laden. Most famously, Frank Eugene Corder crashed a Cessna onto the White House lawn. Learn about other attempts on the life of the 42nd president in this episode.
1994: Apartheid Ends
South Africa, despite abolishing apartheid in the 1990s, still stays very fraught with racial tension, making the United States’ experience of 2020 pale in comparison. A series of settlements and wars from over a hundred years ago and over hundreds of years still ripple South Africa today with their effects. But South Africa didn’t become what it is today by accident, though Europeans did settle it by accident … at least at first.
(See Main Article: Northern Ireland Timeline)
Multi-party peace talks began chaired by US Senator George Mitchell. Mitchell proposed that disarmament should begin but this led to a stalling of the talks and the IRA broke its cease-fire and violence resumed.
(See Main Article: Putin’s First Invasion: The 1999 Invasion of Chechnya)
In 1999, the Russian Federation invaded the Chechen Republic of Ichkeria in the Northern Caucasus. While tensions between Russia and Chechnya did not begin with Putin, Putin used the conflict to establish himself as Russia’s supreme leader.
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