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The 1980s (The Eighties) was the decade that ran from January 1, 1980 to December 31, 1989.

The time period saw social, economic and general change as wealth and production migrated to newly industrializing economies. As economic liberalization increased in the developed world, multiple multinational corporations associated with the manufacturing industry relocated into Thailand, Malaysia, Mexico, South Korea, Taiwan, China, and new market economies in eastern Europe following the collapse of communism in eastern Europe. Japan and Germany are the most notable developed countries that continued to enjoy rapid economic growth during the decade.

Developing countries across the world faced economic and social difficulties as they suffered from multiple debt crises in the 1980s, requiring many of these countries to apply for financial assistance from the International Monetary Fundmarker (IMF) and the World Bank. Ethiopiamarker witnessed widespread famine in the mid-1980s, resulting in the country having to depend on foreign aid to provide food to its population and worldwide efforts to address and raise money to help Ethiopians, such as the famous Live Aid concert in 1985.

Major civil discontent and violence occurred in the Middle East, including the Iran-Iraq War, the ongoing Soviet-Afghan War, major conflict and violence in Lebanonmarker from 1982 to 1983, U.S. military action against Libyamarker in 1986, and the First Intifada in the Gaza Stripmarker and the West Bankmarker.

In the eastern world, hostility to authoritarianism and the failing command economies of communist states resulted in a wave of reformist policies by communist regimes such as the policies of perestroika and glasnost in the USSR, along with the overthrows and attempted overthrows of a number of communist regimes, such as in Poland, Hungary, the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989marker in Chinamarker, the Czechoslovak "Velvet Revolution", and the overthrow of the dictatorial regime in Romaniamarker and other communist Warsaw Pact states in Central and Eastern Europe. It came to be called the late 1980s "purple passage of the autumn of nations". By 1989 with the disintegration of the Warsaw Pact, the Soviet Unionmarker announced the abandonment of political hostility to the western world and thus the Cold War ended. These changes continued to be felt in the 1990s and into the 21st century.

The 1980s was also an era of tremendous population growth around the world, surpassing even the 1970s and 1990s, thus arguably being the largest in human history. Population growth was particularly rapid in a number of African, Middle Eastern, and South Asian countries during this decade, with rates of natural increase close to or exceeding 4% annually.

During the 1980s, for the first time in world history, transpacific trade (with East Asia, such as China, and Latin America, primarily with Mexico) equaled that of transatlantic trade (with Western Europe or with neighboring Canada)., solidifying American economic power.

Zeitgeist and characterization

The 1980s saw a revival of capitalism and laissez-faire economics. Consumers became more sophisticated in their tastes (a trend begun in the '70s), and things such as European cars and designer clothing became fashionable. The financial world and the stock market were glamorized in a way they had not been since the 1920s, and figures like Donald Trump and Michael Milken were widely seen as symbols of the decade. Widespread fear of Japanese economic strength would grip the United States in the '80s.

The kitsch of the 1970s, while itself rejected, influenced the fashion of the 1980s – in the beginning of the decade marked by the New Romantic movement and later by fashion inspired by heavy metal bands, including teased hair, ripped jeans and neon clothing.

Michael Jackson was a popular entertainer of the 1980s and his leather jacket, glove and Moonwalk dance were often imitated.

The keyboard synthesizer and drum machine, introduced in the 1970s, were among the most popular in music in the 1980s, especially in New Wave music. After the 1980s, electronic instruments were no longer popular in rock but continued to be the main component of mainstream pop.


  • The Reagan Administration accelerated the War on Drugs, publicized through anti-drug campaigns including the Just Say No campaign of First Lady Nancy Reagan. Drugs became a serious problem beginning in the '80s. Cocaine was popular among celebrities and the young, sophisticated "yuppies" (a trend that also had started in the '70s), while crack, a cheaper and more potent offshoot of the drug, turned the inner cities into war zones.
  • Political correctness in the 1980s & increasingly in the following 1990's, was a trend of opposing, condemning, fighting and preventing racism, discrimination or other forms of prejudice against minority groups in societies like the United States, Canada, Western Europe and Australia/New Zealand.
  • The role of women in the workplace increased greatly. Continuing the 1970s' trend, more and more women in the English-speaking world took to calling themselves "Ms.", rather than "Mrs." or "Miss." A similar change occurred in Germany, with women choosing "Frau" instead of "Fräulein" in an effort to disassociate marital status from title. In most western countries, women began to exercise the option of keeping their maiden names after marriage; in Canada, legislation was enacted to end the practice of automatically changing a woman's last name upon marriage.
  • National safety campaigns raised awareness of seat belt usage to save lives in automobile accidents, helping to make the measure mandatory in most parts of the world by 1990. Similar efforts arose to push child safety seats and bike helmet use, already mandatory in a number of regions.
  • Rejection of smoking based on health concerns increased throughout the western world.
  • Increased awareness and opposition to white-minority apartheid rule in South Africa occurred in the western world.
  • Counterculture in the eastern world revolved around "pro-democracy" stances in opposition to multiple communist states perceived as authoritarian.
  • Opposition to nuclear power plants grew, especially after the catastrophic 1986 Chernobyl accidentmarker.
  • Environmental concerns intensified. In the United Kingdom, environmentally friendly domestic products surged in popularity. Western European countries adopted "greener" policies to cut back on oil use, recycle most of their nations' waste, and increase focus on water and energy conservation efforts. Similar "eco-activist" trends appeared in the U.S. in the late 1980s.
  • Gay rights became more widely accepted in the Western world, particularly with suspected gay figures such as Boy George and Holly Johnson of Frankie Goes to Hollywood. The discovery of AIDS however, allowed the Christian Right to condemn homosexuals, claiming AIDS was God's punishment for homosexuals' "loose morals".
  • There were numerous protests demanding that the government take action against AIDS, which were fueled by the AIDS-related deaths of celebrities such as Rock Hudson and Liberace, and by the case of Ryan White, a child who became infected by the HIV virus through contaminated blood supplies.



  • The 1980 Summer Olympics in Moscow were disrupted by a boycott led by the United States and 64 other countries in protest of the 1979 Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.
  • The 1980 Winter Olympics are forever remembered for the Miracle on Ice, where a young United States hockey team defeated the heavily favored Soviet team for the gold medal.
  • The 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles were boycotted by the Soviet Union and most of the communist world (China, Romania, and Yugoslavia participated in the games) in retaliation for the 1980 boycott.
  • The 1984 Winter Olympics are held in Sarajevomarker, Yugoslavia (now Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovinamarker). Yugoslavia becomes the second communist country to host the Olympic Games, but unlike the Soviet Unionmarker in 1980, there were no boycotts of the Games by western countries.
  • The Jamaica national bobsled team received major media attention and stunned the world at the 1988 Winter Olympics in Calgarymarker, Canada for its unexpected good performance. It overcame the stereotype that northern countries were the only efficient competitors in winter Olympic Games due to their experiencing an actual winter. The events surrounding the Jamaica bobsled team in 1988 would lead to the creation of the Disney movie Cool Runnings five years later which was based on Jamaicamarker's 1988 bobsled team.
  • The 1988 Summer Olympics are held in Seoulmarker, South Korea. Attempts to include North Korea in the games were unsuccessful, and it boycotted along with six other countries, but with 160 nations participating, it had the highest attendance of any Olympics to date.
  • FIA bans Group B rallying after a series of deaths and injuries take place in the 1986 season.
  • Canadian hockey player Wayne Gretzky rises to fame as a dominant player in the North American National Hockey League (NHL) during the 1980s.
  • In the US, basketball player Michael Jordan bursts onto the scene in the 1980s, bringing a surge in popularity for the sport and becoming one of American culture's most beloved icons.
  • On November 26, 1986 Mike Tyson became the Youngest Heavyweight Champion of the world.


See also 1980s in music, Timeline of musical events#1980s
  • The decade began with an anti-disco backlash in the US, and '80s music would be characterized by the widespread use of synthesizers and keyboards.
  • In the United States, MTV was launched and music videos began to have a huge effect on the record industry. Pop artists such as Duran Duran,Prince ,Madonna, Queen, and Michael Jackson mastered the format and helped turned this new product into a profitable business.
  • New Wave and Synthpop were developed by many British and American artists, and became popular phenomena throughout the decade, especially in the early and mid eighties.
  • Hard rock, heavy metal, and glam metal experienced extreme popularity in 1980s, becoming one of the most dominant music genres of the 1980s.
  • 1985's Live Aid concert, featuring many artists, promoted attention and action to send food aid to Ethiopiamarker whose people were suffering from a major famine.
  • The hip hop scene continued to evolve, gaining recognition and exhibiting a stronger influence on the music industry.
  • Punk rock continued to make strides in the musical community; it gave birth to many sub-genres like hardcore, which has continued to be moderately successful, giving birth in turn to a few counterculture movements, most notably the Straight Edge movement which began in the early era of this decade.
  • Techno is a form of electronic dance music that emerged in Detroit, Michigan, USA during the mid to late 1980s.
  • House music is a style of electronic dance music that originated in Chicago, Illinois, USA in the late 1970s and early 1980s. It was initially popularized in mid-1980s discothèques catering to the African-American, Latino and gay communities, first in Chicago, then in New York City and Detroit. It eventually reached Europe before becoming infused in mainstream pop & dance music worldwide.
  • College Rock caught on in the underground scene of the 1980's in a nationwide movement with a distinct D.I.Y approach. Bands like the Pixies, REM, The Replacements, Minor Threat, Sonic Youth, etc. experienced success in this genre.



Electronics and computers

Arcade games and video games had been growing in popularity since the 1970s, and by 1982 were a major industry. But a variety of factors, including a glut of low-quality games and the rise of home computers caused a tremendous crash in late 1983. For the next three years, the video game market practically ceased to exist in the US. But in the second half of the decade, it would be revived by Nintendo, whose Famicom console had been enjoying considerable success in Japan since 1983. Renamed the Nintendo Entertainment System, it would claim 90% of the American video game market by 1989.

Computers experienced explosive growth in the '80s, going from being a toy for electronics hobbyists to a full-fledged industry. The IBM PC, launched in 1981, would become the dominant platform in less than a decade, although 8-bit machines such as the Ataris and Commodores also enjoyed great success in the home and educational markets. Meanwhile, Applemarker was committed to resisting the PC juggernaut at all costs by launching the first Macintosh in 1984, which popularized GUIs, 3.5" floppy disks, and mice.

Space exploration

After a five-year hiatus, manned American space flights resumed with the launch of the space shuttle Columbia in April 1981. The shuttle program progressed smoothly from there, with three more orbiters entering service in 1983–1985. But that all came to an end with the tragic loss of the Challenger on January 28, 1986, taking with it seven astronauts, including Christia McAuliffe, who was to have been the first teacher in space. In full view of the world, a faulty O-ring on the right solid rocket booster burned through the external fuel tank and caused it to explode, destroying the shuttle in the process. Extensive efforts were made to improve NASA'smarker increasingly careless management practices, and to make the shuttle safer. Flights resumed with the launch of Discovery in September 1988.

The Soviet manned program went well during the decade, experiencing only minor setbacks. The Salyut 6 space station, launched in 1977, was replaced by Salyut 7 in 1982. Then came Mir in 1986, which ended up operating more than a decade, and was destined to be the last in the line of Soviet space stations that had begun in 1971. One of the Soviet Union's last "superprojects" was the Buran space shuttle; it was only used once, in 1988.

Planetary probes continued in the '80s, the Voyager duo being the most famous. After making a flyby of Jupiter in 1979, they visited Saturn in 1980–1981. Voyager 2 reached Uranus in 1986 (just a few days before the Challenger disaster), and Neptune in 1989 before the probes exited the solar system.

No American probes were launched to Mars in the 1980s, and the Viking probes, launched there in 1975, completed their operations by 1982. The Soviets launched two Mars probes in 1988, but they failed ignominiously.

The arrival of Halley's Comet in 1986 was met by a series of American, Soviet, Japanese, and ESA probes.


The American auto industry began the 1980s in a thoroughly grim situation, faced with poor quality control, rising import competition, and a severe economic downturn. Chrysler and American Motors (AMC) were near bankruptcy, and Ford was little better off. Only GM continued with business as usual. But the auto makers recovered with the economy by 1983, and in 1985 auto sales in the United States hit a new record. However, the Japanese were now a major presence, and would begin manufacturing cars in the US to get around tariffs. In 1986, Hyundai became the first Korean auto maker to enter the American market. In the same year, the Yugoslavian-built Yugo was brought to the US, but the car was so small, cheap, and primitive that it became the subject of countless jokes. It was sold up to 1991, when economic sanctions against Yugoslavia forced its withdrawal from the American market.

Cars were generally straight and boxy in the 1980s, but Ford set a trend starting in 1983 with the arrival of new designers who favored aerodynamic styling. By the end of the decade, Ford was the number one American make, with sales winners such as the Taurus and the most efficient corporate structure in the industry. GM began suffering significant losses in the late-1980s, partially the result of chairman Roger Smith's restructuring attempts, and partially because of increasingly stale and unappealing cars. For example, "yuppies" increasingly favored European luxury cars to Cadillac. In 1985, GM started Saturn (the first new American make since the Edsel), with the goal of producing high-quality import fighters. Production would not begin until 1990, however.

Chrysler introduced its new compact, front-wheel drive K-cars in 1981. Under the leadership of Lee Iacocca, the company turned a profit again the following year, and by 1983 paid off its government loans. A seemingly endless succession of K-cars followed. But the biggest success was the arrival of the minivans in 1984. These proved a huge hit, and despite competition, they would dominate the van market for more than a decade. And in 1987, Chrysler purchased the Italian makes of Lamborghini and Maserati. In the same year, Chrysler bought AMC from Renault laying to rest the last significant independent U.S. automaker, but acquiring the hugely profitable Jeep line and continuing the Eagle brand until the late 1990s.

The DeLorean DMC-12 was the brainchild of John DeLorean, a flamboyant former GM executive. Production of the gull-winged sports car began in Northern Ireland in 1981. John DeLorean was arrested in October 1982 in a sting operation where he was attempting to sell cocaine to save his struggling company. He was acquitted of all charges in 1984, but too late for the DeLorean Motor Company, which closed down in 1983. The DMC-12 gained renewed fame afterwards as the time machine in the Back to the Future motion picture trilogy.

The imposition of CAFE fuel-mileage standards in 1979 spelled the end of big-block engines, but performance cars and convertibles reemerged in the 1980s. Turbochargers were widely used to boost the performance of small cars, and fuel injection began to take over from carburetors. Front-wheel drive also became dominant.

The eighties marked the decline of European brands by the end of the decade. Renault, Citroen, and Peugeot ceased importation by the end of the decade. Alfa Romeo would continue until 1993. Fiatmarker also ceased imports in the eighties.

International news

  • Militance against communist governments in Europe and Asia, collapse of the Warsaw Pact precipitates the end of the Cold War.
  • International debt crisis in developing countries, reliance of these countries on aid from the International Monetary Fundmarker.
  • Spread of neoliberal economics in developed world.



  • Ten thousand Cubans stormed the Peruvianmarker embassy in Havanamarker seeking political asylum on April 6, 1980. On April 7 the Cuban government granted permission for the emigration of Cubans seeking refuge in the Peruvian embassy.
  • Perumarker faced the beginning of internal conflict by the communist Túpac Amaru Revolutionary Movement in 1980 that would continue until the end of the 1990s.
  • Famous former Beatles musician John Lennon was assassinatedmarker in 1980 in the United States.
  • Political unrest in the province of Quebecmarker, which, due to the many differences between the dominant francophone population and the anglophone minority, and also to francophone rights in the predominantly English-speaking Canada, came to a head in 1980 when the provincial government called a public referendum on partial separation from the rest of Canada. The referendum ended with the "no" side winning majority (59.56% no, 40.44% yes).
  • Ronald Reagan was elected U.S. President in 1980. In international affairs, Reagan pursued a hardline policy towards preventing the spread of communism, initiating a considerable buildup of U.S. military power to challenge the Soviet Unionmarker. He further directly challenges the Iron Curtain by demanding that the Soviet Union dismantle the Berlin Wallmarker.
  • Mexico suffers from a debt crisis starting in 1982.
  • Argentina invaded the Falkland Islandsmarker, sparking the Falklands War. It occurred from 2 April 1982 – 14 July 1982 between the United Kingdom and Argentinamarker as British forces fought to liberate the Falkland Islands. Britain emerged victorious and its stance in international affairs and its reputation as a great power increased substantially. Argentina, on the other hand, was left humiliated by the defeat; its dictator Leopoldo Galtieri was deposed three days after the end of the war.
  • Ronald Reagan was shot in Washington, D.C. on March 30, 1981 by John Hinckley, a mentally disturbed young man. Reagan's press secretary James Brady was also shot, along with a police officer and a Secret Service agent. The latter two recovered, along with Reagan himself, but Brady used a wheelchair thereafter and would become an advocate of gun control.
  • Canada gained official independence from the United Kingdom with a new Constitution on April 17, 1982, authorized by the signature by Queen Elizabeth II. This act severed all political dependencies of the United Kingdom in Canada (although the queen remained the titular head of state).
  • The United States engaged in significant direct and indirect conflict in the decade via alliances with various groups in a number of Central and South American countries claiming that the U.S. was acting to oppose the spread of communism and end illicit drug trade. The U.S. government supported the government of Colombiamarker's attempts to destroy its large illicit cocaine-trafficking industry and provided support for right-wing rebels in El Salvadormarker which became controversial after the El Mozote massacremarker on December 11, 1981 in which U.S.-trained Salvadoran paramilitaries killed 1000 Salvadoran civilians. The United States, along with members of the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States, invaded Grenadamarker in 1983. The Iran-Contra affair erupted which involvee U.S. interventionism in Nicaraguamarker, resulting in members of the U.S. government being indicted in 1986. U.S. military action began against Panamamarker in December 1989 to overthrow its president, Manuel Noriega.
  • Air India Flight 182marker was destroyed on June 23, 1985 by Sikh-Canadian militants. It was the largest mass murder involving Canadians in Canada's history.
  • The Space Shuttle Challenger broke apart during takeoff off the coast of central Floridamarker on January 28, 1986, killing all 7 crew members onboard.
  • Haitianmarker dictator Jean-Claude Duvalier was overthrown by a popular uprising on February 6, 1986.
  • The 1986 World's Fair, Expo 86, was held in Vancouver, Canada. It was the last fair held in North America and was considered a great success in comparison to the then-recent American Expositions.
  • Enactment of the Canada-United States Free Trade Agreement in 1989.
  • Military dictatorships give way to democracy in Argentina (1983), Uruguay (1984–5), Brazil (1985–8) and Chilemarker (1988–9).
  • Independence was awarded to Antiguamarker, Belizemarker, (both 1981) and Saint Kitts and Nevismarker (1983).
  • The Exxon Valdez oil spillmarker occurred in March 1989.


  • The Iran-Iraq war took place from 1980 to 1988. Iraqmarker was accused of using illegal chemical weapons to kill Iranianmarker forces and against its own dissident Kurdish populations. Both sides suffered enormous casualties, but the poorly equipped Iranian armies suffered worse for it, being forced to use boys as young as 15 in human-wave attacks. Iran finally agreed to an armistice in 1988.
  • Serious conflicts erupted in Lebanonmarker in the 1980s. The 1982 Lebanon War occurred when Israelmarker attacked Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) forces inside Lebanon, in which Israel faced war with Lebanesemarker and Syrianmarker armed forces inside Lebanon. The controversial Siege of Beirut by Israeli military forces resulted in enormous damage to the infrastructure and significant civilian casualties in Lebanon's capital and was internationally condemned, even by the United States, a traditional close ally of Israel.[6099].
  • Vietnammarker continued to occupy Cambodiamarker and battle the Khmer Rouge throughout the entire decade. Relations with China remained hostile, and there were frequent border skirmishes, although none were comparable to the 1979 conflict. The country remained one of Asia's poorest and was totally dependent on Soviet economic assistance. Mikhail Gorbachev began reducing foreign aid to the communist bloc in the late '80s, and this combined with the deaths of elderly Vietnamese leaders such as Le Duan brought about the gradual adoption of a free market system similar to that of China.
  • The Bhopal disastermarker occurred in 1984 when a toxic gas leak occurred in Bhopalmarker, India, killing, poisoning, or blinding thousands.
  • Indian prime minister Indira Gandhi was assassinated on October 31, 1984 by Sikh militants.
  • The Soviet army became bogged down in the Soviet-Afghan War during the '80s, suffering heavy losses at the hands of US-backed Islamic militias. Mikhail Gorbachev began the process of withdrawing from Afghanistan, which was completed in 1988.
  • Under the leadership of Deng Xiaoping, China embarked on extensive reforms in the 1980s, introducing market economics and downgrading ideology. Increasing demands for political freedom culminated in the Tiananmen Square Massacre in June 1989, when tanks and troops of the People's Liberation Army crushed student protesters who were camped in the square, killing or injuring 3000 or more people. Hardliners took over the government afterwards, and China ended the '80s as an international pariah.
  • In the Philippines, after almost 20 years of dictatorship, Philippine president Ferdinand Marcos left his presidency and was replaced by Corazon Aquino through a peaceful revolution called the "People Power Revolution" from February 22 to 26, 1986. This has been considered by some a peaceful revolution despite the fact that the Armed Forces of the Philippines issued an order to disperse the crowds on EDSA (the main thoroughfare in Metro Manila).
  • Benigno "Ninoy" Aquino, husband of the 11th and the first female president of the Philippinesmarker was shot dead at the Manila International Airport on August 21, 1983. The killers were never identified.
  • South Korean president Chun Doo Hwan came to power at the end of 1979 and ruled as a dictator until his presidential term expired in 1987. He was responsible for the Kwangju Massacre in May 1980 when police and soldiers battled armed protesters. Relations with North Korea showed little sign of improvement during the 1980s. In 1983, when Chun was in Burma, a bomb apparently planted by North Korean agents killed a number of South Korean government officials. After leaving office, he was succeeded by Roh Tae Woo, the first democratic ruler of the country, which saw its international prestige greatly rise with hosting the Olympics in 1988. Roh pursued a policy of normalizing relations with China and the Soviet Union, but had to face militant left-wing student groups who demanded reunification with North Korea and the withdrawal of US troops.


  • The Solidarity movement began in Poland in 1980, involving workers demanding political liberalization and democracy in Poland. Attempts by the communist government to crush the Solidarity movement failed and negotiations between the movement and the government took place. Solidarity would be instrumental in encouraging people in other communist states to demand political reform.
  • The United Kingdommarker was governed by the Conservative Party under Margaret Thatcher for the entire decade. Under her rule, the party introduced widespread economic reforms including the privatisation of industries and the de-regulation of stock markets echoing similar reforms of U.S. President Ronald Reagan. The closing down of unprofitable coal mines by Thatcher was met by fierce resistance from the miners' unions.
  • President Reagan's decision to station intermediate-range nuclear missiles in Western Europe provoked mass protests involving more than one million people.
  • In November 1982, Leonid Brezhnev, who had led the Soviet Union since 1964, died. He was followed in quick succession by Yuri Andropov, the former KGB chief, and Konstantin Chernenko, both of whom were in poor health during their short tenures in office.
  • Mikhail Gorbachev became leader of the Soviet Union in 1985, and initiated major reforms to the Soviet Union's government through increasing the rights of expressing political dissent and allowing some democratic elections (though maintaining Communist dominance). Gorbachev pursued negotiation with the United States to decrease tensions and eventually end the Cold War.
  • The European Community's enlargement continued with the accession of Greece in 1981 and Spain and Portugal in 1986.
  • At the end of the decade, the fall of the Berlin Wallmarker in 1989 would be followed in 1990 by the German reunification. During the course of 1989, most of the communist governments in Eastern Europe collapsed.

Wars and Conflicts

  • The First Intifada (First Uprising) in the Gaza Stripmarker and West Bankmarker began in 1987 when Palestinian Arabs mounted large-scale protests against the Israeli military presence in the Gaza Strip and West Bank, which the Palestinians claim as their own. The Intifada soon became violent as the Israeli army and Palestinian militants fought for control over the disputed territories. The First Intifada would continue until peace negotiations began between the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) and the Israeli government in 1993.
  • Israel bombed an Iraqi nuclear reactor that was under construction in 1981, and invaded Lebanon the following year, to drive out entrenched Palestinian militants. Throughout the decade, Lebanon was engulfed in civil war between Islamic and Christian factions.
  • Soviet-Afghan war ended on February 15, 1989, ending almost ten years of warfare between the two countries and would be the last war that the Soviet Unionmarker fought.
  • The Tiananmen Square protests of 1989marker occurred in the People's Republic of China in 1989, in which pro-democracy protestors demanded political reform. The protests were crushed by the People's Liberation Army.
  • Argentina invaded the Falkland Islands, sparking the Falklands War in 1982. British forces successfully recaptured the islands.


  • In May 1981, there was an assassination attemptmarker on Pope John Paul II in Saint Peter's Squaremarker. The assassin was a Turkish man named Mehmet Ali Agca, who was subsequently sentenced to life in prison, but would be pardoned in 2000. At the time, it was widely believed that he was an agent of the Soviet Union or Bulgariamarker, due to the Pope's vocal anti-communist stance. Agca himself told dozens of conflicting stories over the years, and his motive remains unclear.
  • In 1984 there was an assassination attemptmarker on the Britishmarker Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher and the Conservative Government by the IRA.
  • Swedish prime minister Olof Palme was assassinated in February 1986. The assassin has never been identified.
  • The Rome and Vienna airport attacks take place on December 27, 1985 against the Israeli El Al airline. The attack was done by militants loyal to Abu Nidal, backed by the government of Libyamarker.
  • The European Community's enlargement continued with the accession of Greece in 1981 and Spain and Portugal in 1986.
  • Significant political reforms occurred in a number of communist countries in eastern Europe as the populations of these countries grew increasingly hostile and politically active in opposing communist governments. These reforms included attempts to increase individual liberties and market liberalization, and promises of democratic renewal. The collapse of communism in eastern Europe was generally peaceful, the exception being Romania, who's leader Nicolae Ceaucescu tried to keep the people isolated from the events happening outside the country. While making a speech in Bucharest in December 1989, he was booed and shouted down by the crowd, and then tried to flee the city with his wife Elena. Two days later, they were captured, charged with genocide, and shot on Christmas.
  • In Yugoslavia, following the death of communist leader Josip Broz Tito in May 1980, the trend of political reform of the communist system occurred along with a trend towards ethnic nationalism and inter-ethnic hostility, especially in Serbia, beginning with the 1986 Memorandum of the Serbian Academy of Sciences and Arts followed by the agenda of Serbian communist leader Slobodan Milošević who aggressively pushed for increased political influence of Serbs in the late 1980s, condemning non-Serb Yugoslav politicians who challenged his agenda as being enemies of Serbs.
  • There was continuing civil strife in Northern Ireland, including the adoption of hunger strikes by Irish Republican Army prisoners seeking the reintroduction of political status.
  • Military movement in Turkey



Natural disasters

Non-natural disasters

  • In 1984 the Bhopal disastermarker resulted from a toxic MIC gas leak at the Union Carbide plant in Bhopal, Indiamarker, killing 3,000 immediately and ultimately claiming 15,000–20,000 lives.
  • On Sept. 1, 1983, the Soviet Union shot down Korean Air Lines Flight 007marker, which was carrying 269 people including a sitting U.S. congressman, Larry McDonald.
  • Japan Air Lines Flight 123marker, carrying 524 people, crashed on August 12, 1985 while on a flight from Tokyo to Osaka killing 520 of the people on board. This was the worst ever single-plane crash.
  • In 1986, the NASA Space Shuttle Challenger disintegrated after launch, killing all of the crew onboard. This was the first disaster involving the destruction of a NASA space shuttle. A faulty O-ring was the cause of the accident.
  • In 1986, the Chernobyl disastermarker, a large-scale nuclear meltdown in the Ukrainian SSR, Soviet Unionmarker, spread a large amount of radioactive material across Europe, killing 47 people, dooming countless others to future radiation-related cancer, and causing the displacement of 300,000 people.
  • In 1989 the Exxon Valdez oil spillmarker occurred in Alaska. Although not among the largest oil spills in history, its remote and sensitive location made it one of the most devastating ecological disasters ever.

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