1989 — Year of Miracles (and Bad Omens)

What other events happened in 1989 besides the Berlin Wall coming down?

January 3, 2004

What other events happened in 1989 besides the Berlin Wall coming down?

How fast things fade into the dark zones of memory. Do you still remember the excitement of 1989? The Berlin Wall came down — and thousands of Chinese students took over Tiananmen Square demanding reforms. However, beyond these two mega events, that year brought other major stepping stones — and dark moments. Our Globalist Factsheet presents the key events of a key year.

February 6, 1989

— East German student, Chris Geffroy, is the last person killed attempting to escape over the Berlin Wall.

May 2

— Tens of thousands march through Warsaw calling for reforms in Poland.

May 4

— Massive demonstrations in Beijing and other major Chinese cities are held to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the 1919 democracy movement.

May 30

— Tiananmen demonstrators erect "Goddess of Democracy," inspired by New York City’s Statue of Liberty.

June 3-4

— Chinese army enters Tiananmen Square, killing hundreds of demonstrators. Thousands more are killed in cities throughout China.

June 28

— Slobodan Milosevic gives speech in Kosovo, marking 600th anniversary of Battle of Kosovo Polje. He calls for creation of "Greater Serbia."

August 19

— Large groups of East Germans and Hungarians manage to flee across the Hungarian border with Austria.

September 11

— Hungary opens border and suspends travel restriction treaty with East Germany.

October 30

— About 400,000 people demonstrate in Leipzig for the establishment of democracy .

November 4

— One million people demonstrate in East Berlin.

November 9

— The Berlin Wall is opened.

November 16

— Czechoslovakia's Velvet Revolution begins. Students march and are attacked by police. In subsequent days, more than one million gather on Wenceslas Square. Communist government resigns on Novemver 24.

December 3

— Slovenia seals border with Serbia.

December 20

— Vaclav Havel is elected the first post-communist president of Czechoslovakia.

December 25, 1989

— Deposed Romanian President Nicolae Ceausescu and his wife Elena are shot by a firing squad, after a secret military tribunal finds them both guilty of crimes against the state.

Adapted from John Shattuck’s Freedom on Fire: Human Rights Wars and America's Response, pp. 315-316 (Atlantic Monthly Press, 2003).