Year
1992
Month Day
May 06

Former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev reviews Cold War in speech at Westminster College

In an event steeped in symbolism, former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev reviews the Cold War in a speech at Westminster College in Fulton, Missouri—the site of Winston Churchill’s “Iron Curtain” speech 46 years before. Gorbachev mixed praise for the end of the Cold War with some pointed criticisms of U.S. policy.

In 1946, Winston Churchill, former prime minister of Britain, spoke at Westminster College and issued what many historians have come to consider the opening volley of the Cold War. Declaring that an “iron curtain” had fallen across Eastern Europe, Churchill challenged both Great Britain and the United States to contain Soviet aggression. Forty-six years later, the Soviet Union had collapsed and Mikhail Gorbachev, who had resigned as president of the Soviet Union in December 1991, stood on the very same campus and reflected on the Cold War.

Gorbachev declared that the end of the Cold War was the “shattering of the vicious circle into which we had driven ourselves” and a “victory for common sense, reason, democracy, and common human values.” In addressing the issue of who began the Cold War, Gorbachev admitted that the Soviet Union had made some serious mistakes, but also suggested that the United States and Great Britain shouldered part of the blame. He decried the resulting nuclear arms race, though he made clear that he believed the United States had been the “initiator” of this folly. With the Cold War over, he cautioned the United States to realize the “intellectual, and consequently political error, of interpreting victory in the cold war narrowly as a victory for oneself.”

Gorbachev’s speech, and particularly the location at which he delivered it, offered a fitting closure to the Cold War, and demonstrated that scholarly debate about those years would continue though the animosity had come to an end.

READ MORE: Cold War: Summary, Combatants & Timeline

Tags
terms:
Cold War

FACT CHECK: We strive for accuracy and fairness. But if you see something that doesn't look right, click here to contact us! HISTORY reviews and updates its content regularly to ensure it is complete and accurate.

ALSO ON THIS DAY

Ohio kidnap victims rescued after years in captivity

On May 6, 2013, three women are rescued from a Cleveland, Ohio, house where they had been imprisoned for many years by their abductor, 52-year-old Ariel Castro, an unemployed bus driver.The women—Michelle Knight, Amada Berry and Gina DeJesus—went missing separately between 2002 ...read more

The Hindenburg disaster

The airship Hindenburg, the largest dirigible ever built and the pride of Nazi Germany, bursts into flames upon touching its mooring mast in Lakehurst, New Jersey, killing 36 passengers and crewmembers, on May 6, 1937.  Frenchman Henri Giffard constructed the first successful ...read more

Roger Bannister runs first four-minute mile

In Oxford, England, 25-year-old medical student Roger Bannister cracks track and field’s most notorious barrier: the four-minute mile. Bannister, who was running for the Amateur Athletic Association against his alma mater, Oxford University, won the mile race with a time of 3 ...read more

English Channel tunnel opens

In a ceremony presided over by England’s Queen Elizabeth II and French President Francois Mitterrand, a rail tunnel under the English Channel was officially opened, connecting Britain and the European mainland for the first time since the Ice Age. The Channel Tunnel, or ...read more

FDR creates the Works Progress Administration (WPA)

On May 6, 1935, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signs an executive order creating the Works Progress Administration (WPA). The WPA was just one of many Great Depression relief programs created under the auspices of the Emergency Relief Appropriations Act, which Roosevelt had ...read more

John Steinbeck wins a Pulitzer for “The Grapes of Wrath”

On May 6, 1940, John Steinbeck is awarded the Pulitzer Prize for his novel The Grapes of Wrath. The book traces the fictional Joad family of Oklahoma as they lose their family farm and move to California in search of a better life. They encounter only more difficulties and a ...read more

Final episode of "Friends" airs on NBC

At 9:00 p.m. Eastern and Pacific times on May 6, 2004, that familiar theme song (“I’ll Be There For You” by the Rembrandts) announces the beginning of the end, as an estimated 51.1 million people tune in for the final original episode of NBC’s long-running comedy series Friends. ...read more

The theft of “Duchess of Devonshire” painting stirs interest

On May 6, 1876, Thomas Gainsborough’s painting, Duchess of Devonshire, causes a stir when it goes up for auction at Christie's in London. It sells to a London art dealer, William Agnew, for $51,540, the highest price ever paid for a painting at auction. Two days later, Agnew ...read more

Harry Gant is oldest NASCAR winner—again

On May 6, 1991, 51-year-old race car driver Harry Gant racks up his 12th National Association of Stock Car Auto Racing (NASCAR) Winston Cup career victory in the Winston 500 in Talladega, Alabama. In doing so, Gant bettered his own record as the oldest man ever to win a NASCAR ...read more

All American forces in the Philippines surrender unconditionally

On May 6, 1942, U.S. Lieutenant General Jonathan Wainwright surrenders all U.S. troops in the Philippines to the Japanese. The island of Corregidor remained the last Allied stronghold in the Philippines after the Japanese victory at Bataan (from which General Wainwright had ...read more