Year
1992

Gorbachev reviews the Cold War

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.

ALSO ON THIS DAY

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.Frenchman Henri Giffard constructed the first successful airship in 1852. His ...read more

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 Mitterand, 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 “Chunnel,” ...read more

Second Battle of Krithia, Gallipoli

After a first attempt to capture the village of Krithia, on the Gallipoli Peninsula, failed on April 28, 1915, a second is initiated on May 6 by Allied troops under the British commander Sir Aylmer Hunter-Weston. Fortified by 105 pieces of heavy artillery, the Allied force ...read more

Students launch nationwide protest

Hundreds of colleges and universities across the nation shut down as thousands of students join a nationwide campus protest. Governor Ronald Reagan closed down the entire California university and college system until May 11, which affected more than 280,000 students on 28 ...read more

Roger Bannister breaks four-minutes mile

On this day in 1954, at the Iffley Road Track in Oxford, England, medical student Roger Bannister becomes the first person in recorded history to run the mile in under four minutes.Roger Bannister was born in Middlesex on March 23, 1929. His parents couldn’t afford to send him to ...read more

FDR creates the WPA

On this day in 1933, 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

Hangman George Maledon dies

George Maledon, the man who executed at least 60 men for “Hanging Judge” Isaac Parker, dies from natural causes in Tennessee.Few men actively seek out the job of hangman and Maledon was no exception. Raised by German immigrants in Detroit, Michigan, Maledon moved to Fort Smith, ...read more

Final episode of Friends airs on NBC

At 9:00 p.m. Eastern and Pacific times on this day in 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 ...read more

Hindenburg explodes in New Jersey

On this day in 1937, the German airship Hindenburg, the largest dirigible ever built, explodes as it arrives in Lakehurst, New Jersey. Thirty-six people died in the fiery accident that has since become iconic, in part because of the live radio broadcast of the disaster.The ...read more

The theft of Duchess of Devonshire stirs interest

Thomas Gainsborough’s painting Duchess of DevonshireAdam Worth, whom Scotland Yard later called the “Napoleon of Crime,” and upon whom Sir Arthur Conan Doyle eventually based Sherlock Holmes’ arch nemesis Dr. Moriarty, stole the artwork in order to come up with the bail to ...read more