Born Israel Isidore Baline, the composer better known as Irving Berlin was 101 years old when he died. His family came to America in 1893, fleeing the anti-Jewish pogroms of Russia. They settled on the Lower East Side of New York City, where the family got involved in music and Irving’s talents as a musician first came to light.
Over the course of his life, he wrote more than 1800 songs, which included the scores for 19 Broadway shows and 18 Hollywood films, including songs such as “White Christmas” and “There’s No Business Like Show Business” and such classic musicals as “Annie Get Your Gun”. His music was nominated for Academy Awards on eight separate occasions, but he never won one.
It doesn’t seem to have bothered him much, although he did retire from songwriting in the Sixties and spent the rest of his life in relative obscurity in his beloved New York City.
The Velvet Revolution was a non-violent revolution in Czechoslovakia, following on from the fall of the Communist regimes of East Germany, Hungary and Poland. It began when police suppressed a protest march on November 17. The suppression led to a range of other protests across the country, starting from November 19. Some of the strikes became permanent, and even the state controlled media could not hide the mounting chaos.
After ten days, the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia came to the conclusion that they could no longer hold power. They gave up their monopoly on power, and the following day, the constitution was amended to remove their leading role in the state. Although free elections were not held until June of 1990, it was on this day that Communist rule ended in Czechoslovakia.
Like the Communist Parties of all the Eastern European states, the Bulgarian Communist Party found its power and authority undermined by the reforms made by Mikhail Gorbachev in the Perestroika era. The immediate cause of the fall of the Communists was the break up of a demonstration in Sofia in October 1989. Public outcry led to the replacement of Todor Zhivkov, the ruling autocrat, with Petar Mladenov, but this was too little too late.
As the people of Bulgaria remained restive, and as other Communist states in Eastern Europe fell (notably the fall of the Berlin Wall in East Germany and the Velvet Revolution in Czechoslovakia that November), demands for similar reforms mounted. Finally, Mladenov complied. On December 11, he announced on national television that Communist Party would relinquish power, and in June of the following year, the first free elections since 1939 were in held.
Merry Christmas Romania! Have a free democratic state, a dictator’s corpse and a happy new year!
One of the most vicious dictators of the Communist era, Nicolae Ceauşescu is perhaps second only to Stalin in sheer numbers of his own people that he had executed. He was the President of Romania for more than 22 years, and in that time, he made a lot of enemies, chiefly among his own citizens.
The 1989 revolutions across Eastern Europe gave inspiration to Romanians, and on December 16, an uprising began in Timişoara in response to yet another attempt by the Ceauşescu regime to stamp out religion. By December 22, Ceauşescu and his wife Elena were attempting to flee the country, but to no avail. On Christmas Day, they were tried and sentenced to execution. The Ceauşescus were killed by a three member firing squad. They were not much missed.