I would have posted this yesterday, on June 4, but found myself enmeshed in what is sometimes called “a real goat rope” involving one of our online projects. So, this post is appearing a day later than it should, as will be apparent when you read what it’s about…
Historians and pundits are fond of “turning points” – moments after which everything, or at least lots of things are substantially different. Of late, it has become more fashionable to refer instead to “tipping points”. Whichever term one prefers, June 4, 1989, certainly seemed to be one of those historical moments.
On that one day a series of events that helped shape the world we live in today rattled the globe. Communism in Eastern Europe suffered a body blow when Polish voters repudiated the regime in the first free elections in any of the Warsaw Pact countries since the late 1940s. By the end of the year almost all of the Communist regimes in the region, regimes that at the beginning of the year seemed just as entrenched as ever, had fallen and were replaced by democratic governments and the Cold War was on its way to a close.
Earlier on that same day Iran’s official news agency reported that the Ayatollah Khomeini had died, leaving many inside and even more outside Iran to wonder what would happen to the revolutionary regime he had established a decade earlier.
Perhaps most shocking of all were the events on Tiananmen Square—the events that began the day—where the People’s Liberation Army rolled its tanks into the Square and soldiers fired indiscriminately on the demonstrators who had been assembled there for weeks. In sharp contrast to the hopeful results from Warsaw, China’s pro-democracy movement ground to a halt that day and has yet to emerge from the bloody aftermath of June 4.
And so, given that this one day encompassed so many different and important, I’m going to begin work on a brief book that examines this day like no other and what it meant to have so many things happen on one day. The book, as I envision it right now, will include chapters on each event, and then analysis of what all three (plus a number of other less significant but still interesting events of that day) meant for the world that evolved after June 4, 1989. In this way I hope to be able to make some sense of the connectedness of world history in the late 20th century.
My plan is to blog the book as I’m writing it, so watch for the separate blog for this part of the project in the weeks to come. Once the blog is up and content begins to appear, I hope you’ll take some time when you have it to read what I’ve written and tear it apart. In other words, I’m hoping it will be open source history in the making.