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Timeline: 1989

Jan 7  Hirohito, 87, dies after 62 years as Japan's emperor.

Jan 20  President Reagan is succeeded by George H.W. Bush. Since Reagan took office in 1981 inflation and interest rates have fallen dramatically, income taxes and unemployment are down, but the national debt has risen from around 32 percent of Gross Domestic Product to around 68 percent. (It rose to 120 percent during World War II.) The United States has become a debtor nation greater than any other nation.

Feb 3  In Paraguay a military coup overthrows Alfredo Stroessner, ending his 35-year dictatorship.

Feb 14  The leader of Iran's theocratic regime, Ayatollah Khomeini, declares a fatwa requiring the execution of novelist Salman Rushdie for his book Satanic Verses and to those involved in its publication. This is a new dimension to classical Islamic law in that Khomeini is claiming jurisdiction over non-Muslims in a non-Muslim country. It is a concept that will be copied by others.

Feb 15  The Soviet Union announces that all of its troops have left Afghanistan.

Feb 16  Investigators announce that the cause of the crash of Pan An flight 103 in Scotland was a bomb hidden inside a radio-cassette player.

Mar 9  The Soviet Union announces acceptance of binding arbitration by the International Court of Justice concerning genocide, trafficking in prostitutes and similar forms of slavery, political rights for women, racism, and torture.

Mar 15  In Budapest, about 100,000 protesters gather and call for democracy.

Mar 24  Gorbachev meets with Hungary's prime minister and tells him that the Soviet Union will not interfere with sweeping political reforms in Hungary and elsewhere in Eastern Europe.

Mar 29  In the Soviet Union, millions of citizens vote for a new parliamentary body that includes non-Communist Party candidates.

Tienanmen Square

Short lasting standoff in Beijing, China

Apr 9  During a peaceful rally in the Republic of Georgia, tens of thousands who favor independence are attacked by a Soviet military force. Twenty are killed and many injured.

Apr 26  The New York Daily News prints a story of a woman jogger "repeatedly raped, viciously beaten and left for dead by a wolf pack of more than a dozen young teenagers who attacked her at the end of an escalating crime spree." These are not facts except for the rape and vicious beating. The rape occurred on April 19. Five black kids (the Central Park Five) are bullied into making confessions by emotionalized police making assumptions and eager to tag the guilty. The jogger is in a coma.

Apr 26  The Soviet Union begins its phased withdrawal of troops stationed in Hungary.

May 2  Hungary begins to dismantle fortified border with Austria – also called the iron curtain.

May 4  At Beijing's Tiananmen Square, a group of students launch a movement they call "the Great Revolution for Democracy against Dictatorship." Deng Xiaoping also believes in democracy, and he is outraged at what he sees as naïve, absolutist and arrogant youth similar to those who had risen during the Cultural Revolution, which he hated.

May 7  In Panama, Manuel Antonio Noriega ignores election results in order to stay in power.

May 8  Slobadan Milosevic becomes president of one of the member states of Yugoslavia: Serbia. He has been rallying Serbs against "enemies [who] are massing against us." He favors Serbia holding onto Kosovo, where around 90 percent of the population is ethnically Albanian and 5 percent Serbian.

May 13  About 400 students begin a hunger strike in Tiananmen Square. Groups of students have been moving through Beijing trying to rally support and dramatizing their cause by disrupting traffic and releasing air from bus tires.

May 20  Crowds are joining the protesters daily in Tiananmen Square. The Chinese government declares martial law in Beijing.

May 22  Saying he hoped that the crisis in China would not turn bloody, President Bush urges the demonstrators in Beijing to follow a nonviolent path and ''stand up for what you believe in.''

May 30  In Tiananmen Square, demonstrators unveil a ten-meter (33-foot) high styrofoam and papier-mâché "Goddess of Democracy."

Jun 3  The Ayatollah Khomeini dies of a heart attack.

Jun 4  China's army takes over Tiananmen Square, demonstrators killing what will be described as "several dozen" soldiers and the soldiers killing between 300 and 5,000, depending upon who is doing the estimating. Leaders of the demonstration will be hunted down and executed.

Jun 5  Solidarity candidates are allowed to run in Parliamentary elections in Poland. Their success ends Communist Party dominance.

Jun 16  A crowd of 250,000 gathers at Heroes Square in Budapest for the reburial of Imre Nagy, the liberal Communist former prime minister hanged by the Kadar regime in 1958.

Jun 22  Since Ireland's independence in 1922, its first two universities open: Dublin City University and the University of Limerick.

Jun 27  The foreign ministers of Hungary and Austria cut through some barbed wire between their two countries, putting a symbolic end to what little there was left to the "iron curtain" barrier.

Jun 30  In Sudan, General Omar Hassan al-Bashir leads a coup d'etat. There will be purges and executions in the upper ranks of the army. Political parties and newspapers will be banned. Politicians and journalists will be imprisoned. General al-Bashir will hand power over to the National Islamic Front, an outgrowth of the Muslim Brotherhood, headed by Hassan al-Turabi.

Jul 9-12  President George H. W. Bush travels to Poland and Hungary. In Poland he speaks of the climb to democracy as "exhilarating but not always easy" and that it will require "sacrifices." In Hungary he promises to open US markets to Hungarian goods and to send Peace Corps volunteers to teach English, useful he says for making international business deals.

Jul 20  In Burma, the ruling military junta asks democracy advocate Aung San Suu Kyi to leave the country. She refuses and is put under house arrest.

Aug 18  In Poland, the results of June elections are implemented. Communist Party rule officially ends. A new cabinet takes power headed by Tadeusz Mazowiecki. Communists retain the interior and defense ministries.

Aug 23 Two million indigenous people of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania join hands and form a 600 kilometer chain across the three republics to demand freedom and independence.

Aug 15  South Africa's president Pieter W. Botha, 73, resigns. Frederick W. de Klerk is sworn in as acting president.

Sep 10  Hungary has been a vacation destination for East Germans, and East Germans have flocked there hoping to migrate to West Germany. An agreement is made between West Germany and Hungary that allows the East Germans in Hungary to leave for West Germany within days.

Sep 13  East Germany demands that Hungary not allow East Germans to flee to the West.

Sep 20  Following a general election on the sixth of this month, de Klerk is inaugurated as South Africa's president. De Klerk will end apartheid and release Nelson Mandela from prison.

Sep 26  The last Vietnamese troops leave Cambodia. Civil war will erupt as the Khmer Rouge, who had been suppressed by the Vietnamese, will try but fail to regain control.

Oct 9  In East Germany, demonstrators demand democratic reforms.

Oct 18 East Germany's Erich Honecker resigns. The reason given is "ill health," but rising discontentment and hostility toward him is considered the real reason. He is succeeded by Egon Krenz.

Oct 23  The People's Republic of Hungary becomes the Republic of Hungary. The ruling Communist Party renames itself the Socialist Party and has a plan for multiparty elections, to be held in 1990.

Dancing on the Berlin Wall

Dancing on The Wall in front of Brandenburg Gate, Berlin.

Oct 28  In Czechoslovakia, thousands chant for freedom and democracy. Authorities crush the demonstration and arrest leading dissidents, including Vaclav Havel. The crowd shouts "gestapo" and "the world is watching." Mikhail Gorbachev urges Czechoslovakia's government to respond to the need for change.

Nov 4  West Germany's embassy in Prague in packed with people fleeing East Germany. They speak of labor shortages in East Germany creating an economic crisis there.

Nov 7 The Communist government of East Germany resigns, but Egon Krenz remains head of state.

Nov 9  East Germany opens checkpoints in the Berlin Wall, allowing travel to West Germany without visas. This makes the Berlin Wall useless.

Nov 10  Celebrating Germans begin tearing down the wall.

Nov 10  Bulgaria's president and party leader, Todor I. Zhivkov, resigns after 35 years in power. He is succeeded by his younger foreign minister, Petar T. Mladenov, 53, who says there is no alternative to restructuring the nation's economy and its political apparatus.

Nov 11  The 10-year civil war in El Salvador continues with what the rebels call a final offensive. It will fail to achieve a military victory.

Nov 17 In Czechoslovakia, police attack another demonstration. People shout "dinosaurs resign" and "communists get out." Arrests are made and at least thirteen demonstrators are admitted to a Prague hospital.

Nov 18  Another demonstration in Prague is larger than yesterday's.

Nov 19  A demonstration in Prague numbers around 200,000.

Nov 24  On the eighth day of huge demonstrations, Czechoslovakia's Communist Party boss, Milous Jakes, resigns.

Nov 25  Encouraged, 500,000 people march for the end of Communist Party rule, and millions engage in a two-hour general strike.

Nov 28  The Communist Party of Czechoslovakia promises free elections within a year.

Dec 3  Gorbachev and Bush meet off the coast of Malta and release statements that the Cold War between their nations may be coming to an end.

Dec 10  In Sofia, Bulgaria, 50,000 people demonstrate and demand that the constitution be changed to eliminate the communist monopoly on power.

Dec 10  In Mongolia, Tsakhiagiyn Elbegdorj announces the establishment of Mongolia's democratic movement, that peacefully changes the second oldest Communist country into a democratic society.

Dec 11  In Prague, public pressure speeds up democratization. Eleven non-communists are given positions in a cabinet of 21. The ten others are communists.

Dec 14  In Chile, following the plebiscite in 1988 that denied President Pinochet continuation in office, elections are held and won by a broad coalition led by a Christian Democrat, Patricio Aylwin. Pinochet's dictatorial rule will end in March.

Dec 17  In Brazil, Fernando Collor de Mello becomes the first democratically elected president in 29 years.

Dec 16  In Romania, security forces shoot protestors.

Dec 20  After months of building up its military on bases within what was previously the Panama Canal Zone, the US responds to Manuel Noriega's nullifying an election, complicity in money laundering and drug trafficking. The Bush administration moves against Panama in an operation called "Just Cause."

Dec 21 In Bucharest, Romania, anti-government protests have increased. Security forces again shoot at demonstrators. Army personnel flee to the side of the demonstrators. The leader of the communist regime, Nicolae Ceausescu, flees in a helicopter.

Dec 22  Ceausescu and his wife, Elena, are captured.

Dec 22  US Secretary of Defense, Dick Cheney, has been maintaining secrecy regarding Operation Just Cause that is annoying to journalists.

Dec 23 Panama Resistance to the US force in Panama is greater than was expected by the US Department of Defense. An additional 2,000 troops are sent from California's Fort Ord. Also not expected is the widespread looting and "lawlessness" that continues in Panama.

Nicolae and Elena Ceausescu

Nioclae and Elena Ceausescu in the 1960s.

Dec 24  The Organization of American States has passed a resolution deploring the invasion of Panama and calls for the withdrawal of US troops. A majority of the fifteen members of the UN Security Council vote in favor of a resolution criticizing the invasion of Panama. The US, Britain and France use their vetos to kill the resolution.

Dec 25  The Vatican announces that General Noriega has taken refuge in its embassy in Panama. He will remain there till January 3 as US troops continue to occupy Panama.

Dec 25  In Romania, a military court convicts Nicolae Ceausescu and his wife Elana of "genocide" and plundering more than $1 billion from the state. On a military base outside the capital, standing before a firing squad, tears roll down the cheeks of Nicolae. Elena asks why and says "I raised you all like a mother."

Dec 29  In Czechoslovakia, parliament elects the playwright dissident Vaclav Havel president. Alexander Dubcek, the liberal Communist deposed by the Russians in 1968, whom the crowds have been cheering, becomes parliament chairman.

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