New Internationalist

Action Replay

Issue 211

new internationalist
issue 211 - September 1990

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ACTION
REPLAY

The NI plays back the past 12 months, highlighting the events that have changed the political shape of the world
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A U G U S T

Protests and violence are escalating in the outlying Soviet republics of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia, challenging the authority of Moscow.

Meanwhile Hungary, having demolished its own Iron Curtain with Austria is now for the first tine beginning to let East Germans cross that border to get to the West.


S E P T E M B E R

This is Europe's biggest migration since the end of World War Two, with about 60,000 East Germans 'on holiday' in Hungary, poised to flee to West Germany. The West German embassy in Prague is packed with East Germans voting with their feet.

Meanwhile, in Poland, non-Communists gain power for the first time in 40 years. A cabinet is formed consisting of Solidarity. Communists, democrats and members of the peasant party.

On the other side of the world the last Vietnamese troops are pulling out of Cambodia - leaving citizens tearful that the Khmer Rouge might regain power.


O C T O B E R

The Communist Party in Hungary votes for its own death sentence, turning back 40 years of Marxism-Leninism. They now call themselves the Social Democrats and are paving the way for multi-party elections next year. They proclaim a new republic and Eastern Europe's first post-Stalinist constitution.

In East Germany protests are rocking cities all over the country. There are violent clashes in Leipzig and Potsdam.

In Czechoslovakia riot police break up a crowd of 10,000 people gathered in Prague's Wenceslas Square demanding reform.

While in the USSR the Russian Parliament approves a law that gives workers the right to strike but bans stoppages in key areas.


N O V E M B E R

One million people march for reform in East Berlin. The East German government resigns, the Politburo is replaced and Hans Modrow becomes Premier. All the border points are suddenly opened on 9 November and the next day the Berlin Wall itself is opened. Parties, celebrations and joyful reunions occur for several days as people knock holes in the Wall. Two million visitors from East Germany flood West Berlin. The European Community agrees aid for Poland and Hungary.

In Bulgaria the longest-serving communist boss in Eastern Europe, Todor Zhivkov, resigns and 100,000 people in Sofia take part in the largest political demonstration the country has seen since World War Two.

In Czechoslovakia, the entire politburo resigns five days after a 50,000-strong demonstration demanding free elections and the dismissal of the Communist Party leader Milos Jakes. Alexander Dubcek, the premier deposed by the Russians when they invaded in 1968, returns to a hero's welcome in Prague.

And in the USSR over 150,000 Christians march demanding the legalization of the Ukrainian Catholic Church.


D E C E M B E R

Photo: CAMERA PRESS The end of the Cold War is declared at 5pm, 3 December 1989, after the Malta summit where USSR President Mikhail Gorbachev and US President George Bush agree to sign arms controls pacts in June.

East German head of state Egon Krenz is ousted - just six weeks after replacing Erich Honeker.

In Czechoslovakia a new government, the first with a non-Communist majority, is sworn in. Alexander Dubcek is elected Chair of the Parliament. Vaclav Havel is elected President.

Meanwhile in Romania up to 2,000 anti-government protesters are reported massacred in the city of Timisoara. Bloody street fighting rages in Bucharest after a Ceausescu rally erupts into a protest demonstration. Ceausescu flees. He and his wife Elena are captured, tried by revolutionary court and executed by firing squad.

While all this is going on, President Bush has ordered US troops to invade Panama, ousting President Manuel Noriega.

 

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J A N U A R Y

East German demonstrators storm the Stasi secret police headquarters in East Berlin, smashing windows, rifling through files and daubing walls with graffiti.

In Romania there are clashes between 3upporters and opponents of the National Salvation Front which has taken over the running of the country since Ceausescu's death. Demonstrators protest about the Front's decision to participate in the May elections.


F E B R U A R Y

At the USSR Communist Party's Central Committee plenum in Moscow, President Gorbachev points the way to a multi-party system and the end of the Communist Party's monopoly of power. The plenum also approves the creation of a new-style presidency, the replacement of the Politburo with a 30-member Presidium and the appointment of a Party Chairperson.

In Nicaragua, national elections unexpectedly result in the defeat of the Sandinistas and victory for the US-backed coalition party, UNO, led by Violetta Chamorro.

In Ethiopia the Eritrean People's Liberation Front captures the strategic city and deepwater port of Massawa from the Soviet-backed government in the largest battle to have taken place in Africa since World War Two.

M A R C H

The first free election ever held in East Germany brings to power the conservative Alliance for Germany, backed by West German Chancellor Helmut Kohl. Lothar de Maiziere is appointed Prime Minister.

Hungary goes to the polls for the first free elections since November 1945. After a second round of voting the centre-right Hungarian Democratic Forum, led by Jozsef Antall, emerges as the clear winner.

An attempted coup by army officers against Afghanistan's President Najibullah fails.

US starts beaming anti-Castro Television Marti at Cuba.

A P R I L

Four years after the Chernobyl nuclear accident in the USSR experts reassess the radiation levels and decide that as many as 100,000 more Byelorussians must be relocated. Nearly half a million more will receive income supplements to buy decontaminated food.

M A Y

In Romania the National Salvation Front wins a landslide victory in the country's elections, under the leadership of Ion lliescu.

There is an attempted coup from within the armed forces against Ethiopia's Soviet-backed leader, Mengistu Haile Mariam. It fails and 30 Officers are executed.

J U N E

The US and USSR each agree to cut their nuclear arsenals by 30 per cent and to cut chemical weapons by 5,000 tons on each side.

Pro-democracy Chinese exiles protest on the 4 June anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre where 2,600 died and 10,000 were injured. The commemoration is suppressed in China itself.

In Czechoslovakia, a combined force of Civic Forum - the movement founded by writer Vaclav Havel and friends - and Slovak allies Public Against Violence gain a large election majority.

Bulgaria, however, departs from the continental trend by voting the Communist Party back to power. Opposition groups stage protests, claiming election irregularities but this is not supported by independent foreign observers.

Anti-Government riots in Romania are suppressed by the army and 11 people are killed. President lliescu calls upon miners to put down protests. They come in from the countryside and roam the streets beating protesters with clubs. lliescu retains power.

J U L Y

It's a month of surprises. First, Soviet radical reformer Boris Yeltsin suddenly announces at the 28th USSR Communist Party Congress that he is leaving the Party and taking fellow radicals with him. This could create a separate power centre in Soviet politics.

But Gorbachev has an even bigger surprise up his sleeve when he announces a sudden U-turn in the Soviet policy towards a united Germany. Yes, he says, the united Germany could be within NATO - with certain safeguards. It must not possess atomic, biological and chemical weapons.

Meanwhile, in Zambia, an attempted coup against the single-party rule of President Kenneth Kaunda fails. And Kenyan leader Daniel arap Moi responds to protests in his country by imprisoning opponents.

The US suddenly announces that it is withdrawing support from the Kampuchean coalition (which includes the Khmer Rouge) and will instead open a dialogue with its old enemy, Vietnam.

Meanwhile, South and North Korea start talking about opening their equivalent of the Iron Curtain.

 

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