Historic Documents of 1989


Edited by: CQ Press

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    Publication of Historic Documents of 1989 carries through the eighteenth year the project Congressional Quarterly started with Historic Documents of 1972. The purpose of this continuing series is to give students, librarians, journalists, scholars, and others convenient access to documents of basic importance in the broad range of public affairs.

    Each document is preceded by an introduction providing background information and, when relevant, an account of following developments during the year. We believe that these introductions will become increasingly useful as memories of the current times fade in future years.

    The year 1989 was exceptionally newsworthy, with epochal events occurring in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe. At the year's beginning, few experts would have dared predict the speed with which political, economic, and social liberalization would take place in that part of the world. By the year's end, some scholars were calling 1989 the “Year of Revolution.” Not since 1848, they said, had so many European countries been caught up in a wave of revolution. The salient features in 1989 as in 1848 were a quest for democracy and a reassertion of nationalism.

    The transforming changes that Soviet president Mikhail S. Gorbachev initiated often appeared to race beyond his control in the Soviet Union itself, as well as in Eastern Europe. Poles, Hungarians, East Germans, Czechs, Slovaks, Romanians, and Bulgarians achieved measures of self-determination that were unthinkable only a short time earlier. Moscow made big concessions to the Baltic republics of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania but could not still their demands for outright independence. Those demands, together with ethnic strife on the Soviet empire's southern rim, seemed to threaten the USSR's very existence.

    However, no event was more dramatic than the razing of the Berlin Wall, which for more than a quarter-century had symbolized the East-West divisions of the Cold War. Once the Wall and other physical barriers were punctured along the length of the Iron Curtain, people and ideas and money flowed freely into once forbidden territory. German reunification became a foregone conclusion.

    In the United States, the bicentennial year of the American federal government was still new when George Bush took over the presidency from the retiring Ronald Reagan, the man he had served for eight years as vice president. Bush quickly charted a political course that differed in style from his predecessor's. The new Republican president stressed pragmatism instead of ideology and bipartisan teamwork instead of confrontation. He negotiated with a Congress that remained under Democratic control to reach a budget accord and to reconcile large areas of disagreement over America's involvement in Nicaragua.

    Other news highlights of the year that are portrayed in this volume include: Congress's rejection of a key Bush nominee, John Tower, a former Texas senator, as secretary of defense; the trial and conviction of Oliver L. North for his involvement in the Iran-contra affair; lawmaking to deal with the savings and loan crisis; the Alaskan oil spill and its consequences; the Supreme Court's ruling that moved the longstanding fight over abortion mainly to the state legislatures; and the U.S. invasion of Panama that resulted in the capture of military strongman Manuel Noriega.

    Such topics of national and international significance are presented in texts of official statements, Supreme Court decisions, reports, presidential news conferences, speeches, and special studies. In our judgment, the documents chosen for this volume will be of lasting interest. Where space limitations prevent reproduction of a full text, excerpts provide essential details and the flavor of the material.

    HoytGimlin, Editor Washington, D.C., February 1990

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