World History 1988- 1989

1988 Gorbechav Announces Unilateral Troop Cuts Soviet Premier Gorbachev announced at the UN that the Soviet Union was unilaterally cutting back its conventional forces in Eastern Europe by 500,000 troops. The cutback was greeted with joy in the West, but was, in fact, forced on the Soviets by their inability to maintain the forces. It soon became academic, as Eastern Europe became independent of Moscow.
1988 Soviets Pull Out of Afghanistan The Soviets agreed to remove their troops from Afghanistan. There was a total of 120,000 troops in Afghanistan at the time. The Soviet losses were estimated at 16,000 soldiers killed during the war in Afghanistan.
1988 Ten Day Siege of Golden Temple Thirty-six were killed during the siege of the Sikh Golden Temple by the Indian Army. During the first part of the year, 750 people were killed in fighting between Hindus and Sikhs.
1988 Iranian Passenger Jet Downed By US In a case of mistaken identity, the USS Vincennes shot down an Iranian passenger plane. The Airbus was carrying nearly 300 passengers, and all were killed.
1988 Longest Underseas Tunnel Opens A railroad tunnel opened between Aomori on the Honshu Island and Hakidate in Hokkaido, Japan. The tunnel, called "Seikan," was 33.44 miles long and was as deep as 787 feet below water at one point.
1988 Free Elections held for Soviet Congress of Deputies Free elections were held in the Soviet Union for the first time in its history. The formation of the new Soviet Congress of Deputies brought many leading dissidents to elected postions in the Congress, including Andrei Sakharov. Boris Yeltsin was also elected. Yeltsin had been ousted from the Central Committee a year earlier.

Despite the fact that the majority of the seats in the Congress were held by members of the Communist Party, the sessions of the Congress held after the election were televised live on Soviet TV, and were free and open. The resulting debates brought home to the Soviet people, for the first time, the potential meaning of democracy. The debates also brought forth many of the secrets held by the Communist regime to the public eye for the first time.
1989 Solidarity Wins Election in Poland On June 5, the Solidarity movement won, by an overwhelming majority, in the first free election in Poland. The elections came after an agreement was reached in April between the government and Solidarity, which called for free elections. Soldarity won 96 out of 100 seats in the new Senate. The overwhelming voice of the people forced Poland's Communists to concede defeat and resign. When the Soviets did nothing to forestall these actions, Communist regimes in the rest of Europe were doomed.
1989 Berlin Wall Comes Down On October 18, the regime of Erich Hoenecker, the Communist leader of East Germany, fell. It succumbed to increasing riots, as well as a flood of East Germans leaving via the open borders of Hungary. On November 10, the new government announced the end of all travel restrictions, and soon thousands of Berliners took part in taking down the Berlin Wall that had divided the city for 27 years.
1989 Havel becomes President of Czechoslavakia The Communist regime of Czechoslovakia yielded to popular demands and allowed free elections. In the election, Vaclev Havel, one of the leading Czech dissidents, was elected President, ending Communist rule in the country.
1989 Ceausecu Ousted in Romania In the only bloody revolt in Eastern Europe, Romanian strongman Nicole Ceausecu was deposed. The Romanian secret service fired on demonstrators, but before long, regular army troops turned on member of the Securiat, resulting in a brief civil war and the ouster of the regime. Ceausecu was tried and executed within days. He was the only former Communist leader of Eastern Europe to meet such a fate.
1989 Japanese Emperor Hirohito dies Japanese Emperor Hirohito died at the age of 87.
1989 Pro- Democracy Rallies in Tiananmen Square In April, students in Peking began a series of demonstrations demanding democratization of China. These demonstrations culminated in the occupation of Tiananmen Square, the central square in Peking. As the student rally continued, a power struggle ensued inside the Chinese government. The hard-liners won, and the order went out to clear the square. This was done with considerable loss of life. Mass arrests of the protesters followed. These events were broadcast live on television throughout the world.
1989 Angola Civil War Halted by Cease Fire Angola declared its independence from Portugal. Two separate governments were proclaimed: the Soviet-backed Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA) and the National Union for Total Independence of Angola (UNITA). A civil war ensued, during which the MPLA accepted Cuban troops to support its cause. UNITA received aid from South Africa, which hurt its cause in the West.
1989 Exxon Valdez Runs Aground The worst oil spill in US history occurred when the super-tanker Exxon Valdez ran aground in Prince Willliam Sound, Alaska. About 730 miles of coastline were affected by the oil spill, and Exxon spent over $1 billion in trying to clean up the damage.
1989 Earthquake Hits San Francisco An earthquake measuring 6.9 on the Richter scale hit the San Francisco area. The quake killed 57 people but caused nearly $10 billion in damages.
1989 US Troops invade Panama When Panamanian strongman, General Manuel Noriega, clamped down on the limited democracy existing in Panama, the US intervened and ousted the Noriega–led government. Noriega was arrested and brought to the United States to face charges of drug trafficking.
1989 Chilean Voters Vote To End Military Rule Elections held in December brought Patricio Aylwin to power as President of Chile. Chileans held their breaths, but Chilean military dictator, Augusto Pinochet, stepped aside at the beginning of 1990 in favor of the newly-elected President.
1989 The first Liver Transplant The first liver transplant, using a live donor, took place at the Chicago Medical Center.