Joe McCarthy was a shameless political hack who hitched his wagon to that never-failing engine of conservative vote winning: the United States’ phobic response to the word Communism. It all began with one speech, given before the Republican Women’s Club of Wheeling, West Virginia on February 9, 1950. It hit all the notes he’d later become famous for: unsubstantiated accusations, specific numbers of people without anything resembling names, and the constant insistence that Communists in the USA (who numbered somewhere around 1% of 1% of the population) were imminently about to overthrow the government.
Over the next few years, McCarthy would go after the Reds under America’s beds, no matter where those beds might be. When he decided to take on the Red threat in the US military, he went too far. His meteoric career came to a screaming halt, and he died a pathetic alcoholic in 1957. But between 1950 and 1954, he changed the world – unfortunately, not for the better.
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.