Timeline: 1978

Jan 1  The Soviet economy is in crisis. Its growth rate for 1977 having been around 1-2 percent per year, down from over 5 percent in the 1960s. The Soviet economy is burdened by military spending. Investment is bureaucratic rather than interested in new ideas. People still lived in cramped housing and are seeing little material progress for themselves. Cynicism is high and alcoholism prevalent. People are taking little pride in their work. The massive effort in education is producing people with talent that will go unused.

Jan 10  The owner of Nicaragua's leading newspaper, La Prensa, Pedro Chamorro, is assassinated. He was a critic of the Somoza dictatorship, and many believe that the Somoza dictatorship is responsible. Nicaraguans demonstrate in the streets and set fire to buildings owned by Somoza.

Jan 23  Sweden becomes the first nation to ban aerosol sprays that are thought to damage earth's protective ozone layer.

Jan 1-31  In Iran, Shah Pahlavi's steps at liberalization has emboldened his opponents. An organization of writers and publishers has called for freedom of thought. Lawyers have joined together and called for the abolition of military tribunals and an end to torture by the Shah's police, SAVAK. Teachers and academics have joined students in demanding academic freedom. This month, January, 4,000 religious students demand restoration of freedoms. The police arrive and point their guns at the demonstrators. The demonstrators dare the police to shoot and the police do, killing between 10 and 72. A new surge against the rule of the Shah begins.

Feb 15  Serial killer Ted Bundy is captured in Florida.

Mar 18  In Pakistan, former Prime Minister Zulficar Ali Bhutto (father of Benazir) is charged with ordering the assassination of a political opponent. He is sentenced to death by hanging.

Apr 7  President Carter postpones production of the neutron bomb which kills people with radiation but leaves buildings relatively intact.

Apr 7  The United Nations forms the World Health Organization.

Apr 18  In a close vote, after months of political wrangling, the US Senate ratifies the Panama Canal Treaty.

Apr 19  At the funeral of a prominent, murdered leftist, Mir Akbar Khyber, an estimated 10,000 to 30,000 listen to speeches by Nur Muhammad Taraki, Hafizullah Amin and Babrak Karmal – members of the People's Democratic Party of Afghanistan. President Daoud is alarmed by the gathering and orders the arrest of Communist leaders.

Nur Taraki

Nur Taraki, amateur poet and new president of Afghanistan

Apr 26-8  Claiming an anti-Islamic coup has begun, President Daoud has mobilized his military. He has had Taraki arrested and Amin put under house arrest. Karmal has escaped to the Soviet Union. Using his family as messengers, Amin orders an uprising against Daoud. Rebel soldiers win against troops loyal to Daoud. At the presidential palace, Daoud and most of his family are assassinated.

May 1  Afghanistan is renamed the Democratic Republic of Afghanistan and Nur Mohammed Taraki is named president.

May 11  China is engulfed in discussion over a newspaper article that disseminated a new Communist Party slogan: "Practice Is the Only Criterion for Judging the Truth." The article argues that science and Marxism are amenable to revision, supplementation, and development in practice. It is considered a rejection of Mao-like formulations and declarations. Mao has been dead since September 1976.

May 18  In the Soviet Union, a nuclear scientist and political dissident, Yuri Orlov, is sentenced to 7 years hard labor for distributing 'counterrevolutionary material'.

Jun 6  In California a tax revolt led by Howard Jarvis results in voter approval of a ballot initiative, Proposition 13, which cuts property taxes nearly 60 percent.

Jul 17-8  At an economic summit meeting in Bonn, Germany, there is talk of relatively low gasoline prices in the United States encouraging waste and stalling exploration for more supplies. Interested in less dependence on foreign oil supplies, President Carter tells the conference of discontinuing price controls and letting gas prices rise to world levels.

Aug 19  In Iran, a movie theatre in the capital city, Tehran, catches fire, killing more than 400 patrons. The fire may have been set by religious zealots, who are known to oppose attending such movies, but many blame the Shah and SAVAK. A more intense wave of demonstrations erupt.

Begin, Carter and Sadat

Begin, Carter and Sadat at Camp David

Jean Paul II

Jean Paul II

President Carter and Bill Clinton

President Jimmy Carter and Governor-elect Bill Clinton

Jim Jones

Jim Jones, temple leader

Sep 3  In the Bush War in Rhodesia, insurgents using surface-to-air missiles shoot down a Rhodesian airliner, and they massacre the crash survivors. Thirty-eight are killed.

Sep 8  The Shah sends troops, helicopter gunships and tanks against crowds of protesters in Teheran. Barricades rise around the city. People arm themselves with Molotov cocktails. The day is to be known by opponents of the Shah as Black Friday.

Sep 17  The Camp David Accords are signed by Menachem Begin of Israel and Anwar Sadat of Egypt, witnessed by President Carter. The Accords allow self-government in the West Bank and the Gaza strip, promise a withdrawal of Israeli forces and 4,500 Israeli civilians from Egypt's Sinai region.

Oct 6  From Iraq the exiled Ayatollah Khomeini has been urging actions against the Shah, including work stoppages that have swept Iran. The Shah has asked Iraq's acting president, Saddam Hussein, to expel Khomeini. Saddam has accused Khomeini, a Shia, of fomenting rebellion in Iraq. Syria allows Khomeini refuge but Khomeini heads for France. From France Khomeini will urge rebellion against the Shah and also rebellion in Iraq.

Oct 16  Cardinal Karol Wojtyl becomes the 264th pope, Pope John Paul II – the first Polish pope.

Oct 24  President Carter speaks to the nation about inflation, which he describes as having increased from an average of 6.5 percent in the last ten years to an average of eight percent during his administration. He speaks of uncertainties but that his administration "will slash Federal hiring and reduce the Federal work force... restrain Federal pay... delay further tax cuts [to reduce the budget deficit] ... and use Federal policy to encourage more competition."

Nov 5  Fifty-six white American teachers of transcendental meditation arrive in war-torn Rhodesia. They plan to travel through the country to train whites and blacks in techniques to reduce violence.

Nov 7  In the US, Republicans gain 15 seats in the House of Representatives and the Democrats maintain a 277-158 majority. The Republicans gain three seats in the Senate, where the Democrats remain a majority: 58 to 41. In Arkansas, Bill Clinton, 32, is elected governor. Twelve out of sixteen anti-tax initiatives on state ballots pass.

Nov 7-8  The Shah recognizes that his power is diminished. He is losing the support of ordinary soldiers. He still has Iran under military rule, which he says is only temporary to restore order. On television he promises not to repeat past mistakes and to make amends. He has thirteen prominent members of his regime arrested and says he will continue his efforts to form a coalition government.

Nov 18  At Jonestown in Guyana, a visiting US congressman, Leo Ryan, is shot and killed while departing with people who want to leave the settlement. Jim Jones recognizes that he is now in trouble. His solution is mass suicide. Followers drink poisoned Kool Aid, and a few shots are fired, killing 918, including more than 270 children and "Father" Jones.

Nov 24  President Carter has cut supplies to Nicaragua's dictator, Somoza (President Anastasio Somoza Debayle). Venezuela is aiding Nicaragua's rebels, the Sandinistas. The US is seeking a democratic alternative in Nicaragua and has proposed a nationwide plebiscite to decide whether Somoza should stay in power.

Nov 1-31  In the Soviet Union, Mikhail Gorbachev, 47, has had a few years of success and innovation as a Communist Party governmental functionary. He is appointed Central Committee Secretary in charge of agriculture.

Dec 5  After two days of talks in Moscow, Taraki of Afghanistan and Brezhnev of the Soviet Union sign a treaty that commits their countries to 20 years of friendship and cooperation. Article 4 of the treaty allows for Soviet intervention to protect Afghanistan from an armed invasion.

Dec 11  In China, the Communist Party, now led by Deng Xiaoping, chooses a major reversal in economic policy. Agricultural is to be decollectivized.

Dec 25  In Cambodia, the Khmer Rouge has been hostile toward the Vietnamese. Relations between Cambodia's Khmer Rouge regime and Vietnam has been further aggravated by refugees fleeing from Cambodia into Vietnam. The Khmer Rouge has crossed the border into Vietnam. Vietnam launches a military offensive against the Khmer Rouge.

Dec 27  The Spanish people approve a new constitution, a referendum that officially ends 40 years of military dictatorship. Spain has become one of the world's stable democracies.

Dec 29  The Shah asks an old opponent, Shahpur Bakhtiar, 63, to become prime minister and to form a new civilian government.

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