Czechoslovakian Communist Party gives up monopoly on political power

Confronted by the collapse of communist regimes in neighboring countries and growing protests in the streets, officials of the Czechoslovakian Communist Party announce that they will give up their monopoly on political power. Elections held the following month brought the first noncommunist government to office in over 40 years.Czechoslovakia, led by the communist hard-liner Gustav Husak, tried to ignore the signs that the political winds were shifting in east Europe. Mikhail Gorbachev was in power in the Soviet Union, calling for political and economic reforms. Old-line communist officials, such as Erich Honecker in East Germany, were falling from power. Husak and his supporters tried to retain their base of power in Czechoslovakia by bringing new communist faces into the government, but these cosmetic changes did not quell the growing demands from the nation’s people for dramatic political restructuring. In November 1989, tens of thousands of protesters took to the streets of Prague and other Czech cities calling for the removal of the Husak regime. Though police responded with vicious beatings, this violence only hardened the resolve of the protesters. Husak, with no hope of receiving assistance from the Soviet Union, announced on November 28 that the Communist Party would agree to eliminate the nation’s one-party political system. A few days later, Husak resigned. A coalition government was established, with the communists a distinct minority. On December 29, Vaclav Havel was elected president, becoming the first noncommunist leader of Czechoslovakia in more than 40 years. The success of the “Velvet Revolution” in Czechoslovakia (so-called because of its relatively peaceful nature) was another sign of the ebbing fortunes of communism in eastern Europe. The fact that the Soviet Union refrained from action (unlike 1968, when Soviet tanks crushed protesters in Prague) signaled the waning power of the communist giant, as well as Gorbachev’s commitment to economic and political reform in the eastern bloc.


Lady Astor becomes MP

American-born Nancy Astor, the first woman ever to sit in the House of Commons, is elected to Parliament with a substantial majority. Lady Astor took the Unionist seat of her husband, Waldorf Astor, who was moving up to an inherited seat in the House of Lords. Born in Danville, more

Jeffrey Dahmer murdered in prison

Serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer, serving 15 consecutive life sentences for the brutal murders of 15 men, is beaten to death by a fellow inmate while performing cleaning duty in a bathroom at the Columbia Correctional Institute gymnasium in Portage, Wisconsin. During a 13-year more

Magellan reaches the Pacific

After sailing through the dangerous straits below South America that now bear his name, Portuguese navigator Ferdinand Magellan enters the Pacific Ocean with three ships, becoming the first European explorer to reach the Pacific from the Atlantic. On September 20, 1519, Magellan more

Johnson advised to bomb North Vietnam

President Lyndon Johnson’s top advisers–Maxwell Taylor, Dean Rusk, Robert McNamara, and other members of the National Security Council–agree to recommend that the president adopt a plan for a two-stage escalation of the bombing of North Vietnam. The purpose of this bombing was more

FDR attends Tehran Conference

On this day in 1943, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt joins British Prime Minister Winston Churchill and Soviet leader Joseph Stalin at a conference in Iran to discuss strategies for winning World War II and potential terms for a peace settlement. Tehran, Iran, was chosen as more

Plane crashes over Antarctica

A New Zealander sightseeing plane traveling over Antarctica crashes, killing all 257 people on board, on this day in 1979. It was the worst airplane accident in New Zealand’s history. During the 1970s, air travel to Antarctica became more popular, as tourists sought to view the more

Battle of Cane Hill, Arkansas

On this day in 1862, during the Battle of Cane Hill, Union troops under General John Blunt drive Confederates under General John Marmaduke back into the Boston Mountains in northwestern Arkansas. The battle was part of a Confederate attempt topush the Yankees back into Missouri more

John Adams replaces Silas Deane

After the judgment and loyalty of Silas Deane is called into question, Congress appoints John Adams to succeed Deane as the commissioner to France on this day in 1777. Deane had been recalled to America by Congress after fellow diplomat Arthur Lee accused him of misappropriating more